I have no idea what happened to Five; best guess is that my thrilling escape from the bird stalking our merry little troupe didn't go off as swimmingly as I'd hoped. I've seen enough David Attenborough specials to know better than to assign these critters a name, but Shelter's adorable little badger family has admittedly started to grow on me.
But I'm a terrible mother. My inner pragmatist chants let Darwin's work be done, and I leave the slower cubs to their fate as we push onwards through brush and field. Five cubs and I set out from the safety of our little cavern through dangerous woods to parts unknown; the game doesn't offer up any exposition, the only tutorials coming in the form of minute pictorials as new tasks or abilities surface. Just you and instinct: hide from things that're bigger than your cubs, pounce on things that are smaller, and keep your eyes on your pack at all times.
Might and Delight has a stunning world on their hands here, proud of its jutting polygons and boasting a simple, stunning color palette. The world is divided into stark, contrasting stages: the first sees you marching through sunny fields, getting a feel for the terrain and wrapping your badger brain around simple survivalist concepts. Fetch food like turnips or small rodents for your cubs, whose pelts will fade from brown to grey as they grow weaker--they're greedy little suckers so you'll want to plant snacks directly in front of the cub who needs it most, lest their siblings gobble it up. You'll learn how to stalk through the tall grass, avoiding predators and getting the jump on prey--though I've yet to nab a frog. Most importantly, you'll learn to keep pace with your younglings, perpetually making a quick headcount and doubling back when curiosity or fatigue gets the better of them.
I lost Four in the game's second stage. Night fell, and a cracking twig sent my brood scurrying in terror out into the dark: by the time I'd caught up I could hear the telltale growl of some sort of canine, and a whimper in the dark. When Three succumbed to raging rapids a short while later, I knew it was probably time to take a break. Why can't I tell them all to hide? Assign waypoints, or maybe direct them, Pikmin-style, out of harm's way?
Because that wouldn't be... real? Shelter is the purest of badger simulators: no quest givers or achievement points, just you and your maternal instincts shuffling your progeny across its exquisitely foreboding landscape. I didn't know I needed a badger simulator, but it turns out I do and hey, this'll do quite nicely. It can be yours too for $10--grab it from Might and Delight's website or pick it up on Steam.