Indie Gems: Shelter Feeds Its Young

Indie Gems is an ongoing feature in which we highlight indie games that are worth your time and attention. Think of this as your weekly Indie Game Playlist.

Surviving as an animal is a tough proposition, especially when you’re a child.

This is the premise behind third-person adventure game Shelter. Confusingly enough, it’s a game about survival, but it’s not a survival game. Rather, it’s an adventure game – where you control the protagonist directly, rather than through pointing and clicking – that makes survival its core premise. By weaving a minimalist tale about a badger mother and her cubs, it creates a stirring and easy-to-understand narrative with beautiful art and methodical pacing. You won’t be challenged, because Shelter is not a game to challenge you. It’s a game about the journey, not the result, and all the little hardships along the way. Hardships that nobody can truly overcome.

Developer: Might And Delight

In Shelter, you play a momma badger as she protects and feeds her cubs. Gathering apples, catching frogs, and picking turnips are your initial tasks, but as you progress through the game you are given more difficult and emotionally tumultuous goals, such as protecting your children from birds of prey. It’s a slow descent into sadness, but it’s a heartfelt one, and there’s a fundamental hope for the future. Shelter manages to convey a downer atmosphere without actually being depressing, and part of that is due to the unique art style.

Shelter uses a minimalistic, desaturated, lo-fi watercolor art style to convey a sense of softness to the events of the game. Environments and animals feel like a dream, and models are all very low-poly without looking like an awkward PSX game. Rather, objects tend to be geometric and angular, while the soft texture helps to soften (hah!) the blow. Despite the more depressing aspects of Shelter, it helps to keep the game from getting too sad. It’s like watching a nature documentary as created by a watercolor artist. The music and sounds are equally well-used and simplistic, which keeps you engaged with the badger and her cubs on their journey of survival.

Shelter is available on Steam.

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