The original Shelter cold-opened on a mother badger and her litter of cubs. It was a game of survival, but more than that, a game of protecting non-player characters in need of near-constant vigilance. Sometimes this was thrilling—Telltale’s The Walking Dead, but with badgers!—and at other times it felt more like a game-length escort quest, replete with dodgy pathfinding and undue (though thematically consistent) harshness.
Shelter 2 iterates on that idea in a number of fairly smart ways. First and foremost, this time you’re not a badger but a lynx. You’re able to hunt right from the start, occupying higher place on the food chain despite definitely not being at the top of it. You have a bigger environment to explore, and more to do in it, and the folks at Might and Delight have doubled down on the low-angled patterns-and-patchwork graphical style of the first game. At moments it’s literally breathtaking to look at.
But no, that’s not what’s first and foremost. More importantly, the game opens with you as the mother lynx, alone, pursued by wolves, pregnant and seeking a place to give birth. There’s some unnecessary expositional text, some magical realism, fine fine, but you make it through and then you’re in the den with your litter, and your children all have names that you can change. And you can begin your next playthrough as one of your cubs, now all grown up, and continue your family tree. It’s remarkable how much those little touches do for my connection with my lynx family.
Seasons change, and you teach your cubs to roam and hunt. They’re better at following you, and eventually better at self preservation, than I remember my badger charges being. It’s still a game about exploration, survival, and most of all, taking on the role of a fierce and tireless protector. If the previous game left you cold, then the elaborations and iterations here might not win you over. But if the landscape above seems worth roaming, and if the little lynxes below conjure maternal feelings in you, then you’re likely to find some joy in Shelter 2.