Fallout Shelter guide - Everything you need to know for a happy vault

It’s safe to say Fallout Shelter has been a runaway success. Since its initial release during E3 2015, it has gone on to amass over 120 million players and been ported to every console under the sun. It features on our lists of best iPhone games and best Android games, and it doesn’t stop there. Bethesda have continued to support the game over the last few years, adding all sorts of cool, new Fallout-themed rooms and activities to enjoy.

So we thought we’d take another look at the game and give you some our best tips on how to successfully manage your vault and keep your inhabitants safe. The following will not only bring you up to date with some of the basics, like keeping raiders out and ensuring you have enough resources, but will also brief you on some of the latest features to appear. Surviving in the wasteland is a difficult task, so it goes without saying you’ll need all the help you can get.

Special stats

Just like the inhabitants of full-sized Fallout, the dwellers of Fallout Shelter all have a SPECIAL rating, which constitutes their stats. Each stat governs a different aspect of life in the vault, and making the best use of your dwellers’ abilities is key to their ongoing happiness.

Strength: Dwellers with high strength stats are perfect for physically intensive jobs, and are best suited for work in power plants.

Perception: Perceptive dwellers pick up on nuanced information with ease, and are best suited for work in water treatment plants.

Endurance: Dwellers with high endurance can withstand a lot of punishment, and are best suited for exploring the wasteland or for manning Nuka-Cola production plants.

Charisma: Charismatic dwellers are your most charming citizens and are best suited for work in radio stations. They are also better flirters and will sweep other dwellers off their feet faster, so they're your best bet for growing the population of your vault in a hurry.

Intelligence: Intelligent dwellers pick up on complex subjects quickly, making them perfect for work in medical bays or science laboratory.

Agility: Dwellers with high agility are nimble and quick on their feet, and are best suited to work in restaurants.

Luck: Lucky dwellers can fit just about anywhere, since rushing production is more likely to succeed with them around. They're also more likely to find rare objects in the wasteland if you send them out for a spell.

Once you’ve added enough dwellers to your vault, you can build training rooms that will increase particular stats, and you can also dress your dwellers in different stat-boosting outfits.

The right dweller for the job

As mentioned above, each dweller has stats that correspond to the different rooms of the vault, and aligning the best worker with the right room not only adds to overall happiness, it makes your production more efficient. Upgrading production rooms increases their output as well as their storage capacity, meaning you can make and hang on to more resources. You’ll also want to plan ahead so that you can expand production rooms by placing them next to each other, though they’ll only combine if they’re the same level. Expanded production rooms allow for more workers, which speeds up production.

You can check a dweller’s stats to see what room they’re best suited for, or simply drag them to the room in question to see what number they’ll add to its overall production rating. If you see a plus or minus next to the number, that means the dweller under your finger will swap out for one already in the room, thus raising or lowering the overall stat by the indicated amount.

Happiness rating

You’d think that your dwellers would simply be happy to be out of the wasteland and away from yao guais, but nope! They want a certain amount of comfort and contentment in their underground home, too, so you’ll need to attend to their happiness. The good news is that so long as nothing’s on fire, there are no corpses lying around, and the rad roach population is low, your dwellers will have a happiness rating of at least 50%.

You can raise that by putting them to work - particularly in a job they enjoy, breeding them (hey, nookie makes everyone happy), and putting in a radio room. The happier your dwellers are, the larger production bonus you get for food, power, and water. You can track your dwellers’ individual happiness either by tapping on them directly in the vault, or by tapping the cog in the upper left hand corner.

Power up

Nothing can happen in your vault without an ample supply of power, but not everything goes dark at once if your levels drop below the guideline. Rooms furthest away from your power stations go dark first, so make sure you place your most vital locations - diner and water plants - close to the juice. Going too long without the essentials can cut into your dwellers’ happiness, so if you find that you’re suffering too many brownouts, destroy unnecessary luxuries like training rooms or the radio station until you’ve got a better handle on your electricity needs.

Keep the big three resources in ample supply

While every room has its function, power plants, water treatment rooms, and restaurants/gardens are the most critical for a healthy vault, because a deficiency in their production lines can have devastating effects. A lack of power will leave rooms non-functional (starting with those farthest away from the plant), a lack of clean water causes radiation poisoning (represented by red in your dwellers' health bars that can only be healed with Radaways), and a lack of food will decrease your dwellers' health until they starve to death. To make sure none of that happens, prioritize the rooms that create those resources, ensure they're stable before you build out further, and make it a priority to set up more as you dig down deeper.

Complete objectives for caps and lunchboxes

You’ll always have three objectives, such as earning a certain number of caps or arming a set number of dwellers, and completing them will earn you rewards; the harder an objective, the more loot you receive for completing it, with the really good ones netting you a goodie-stuffed lunchbox. You can delete one objective a day if you’ve been given something that’s just beyond your ability at the moment. Don’t forget to claim your reward once you’ve finished an objective so that you can make room for a new one.

On top of this, you can now also send teams of vault dwellers out on specific quests if you have a constructed overseer’s office in your vault. These objectives are a bit more involved than the other ones available, forcing you to exterminate irradiated creatures in the wasteland, rescue characters, or locate more information on the wasteland. There is a long list of quests to choose from, including daily and seasonal events. So don’t miss out! Each one of these comes with its own special rewards, including blueprints, special weapons, and outfits. Just bear in mind that you will need to be at a certain level to attempt some of them.

Critical hit

While out completing quests, you will often get into scraps with some of the wasteland’s nastier inhabitants, and will need to take advantage of Fallout Shelter’s version of VATS in order to survive. Therefore, whenever you are in the midst of a battle, click on your character and drag a line over to your target. This will not only decide who they are attacking, but will also give you a slight chance of activating a critical attack. 

When this occurs, a small icon will appear above your target, which you can then press to activate a small mini-game where you need to stop a cursor inside of a circle. The closer you get to the centre, the bigger the damage bonus will be. A vault dweller’s SPECIAL will determine the frequency, the speed, and the rate of VATS, so try to pick your most well rounded character for the best results.

What’s in the box?

Caps are the in-game currency you’ll use to purchase and upgrade rooms in your vault, but lunchboxes are really where it’s at. Each lunchbox contains at least one rare or uncommon item, which could be anything from a fat wad of caps or even a high-level dweller. (We snagged a level 37 dweller and a legendary piece of power armour from our lunchboxes!) You’ll earn lunchboxes for completing particularly difficult challenges, or you can simply buy them from the Shop tab. You don’t need to purchase anything in order to succeed at and enjoy Fallout Shelter, but the weapons, outfits, and resources you’ll find in lunchboxes will certainly give you a boost when it comes to getting your vault up and running.


Don’t feel like waiting? You can rush for immediate resources and a slight XP bonus for your crew at the risk of setting the room on fire or bringing on the rad roaches. It’s worth a go if your chances are under 40%, but note that each time you rush, the chance for things to go wrong will go up.

Keep it in your vault suit

One of the biggest mistakes people will make in Fallout Shelter is to rapidly increase their population, before actually securing the means to support their blossoming community. So while it is tempting to put a bunch of your most attractive vault dwellers in a room together and let them make babies, you’ll find it far more beneficial to keep your birth rate steady. After all, children can’t perform tasks until they’re fully grown, so they’ll just be taking up room and using up all your precious resources in the meantime.

Get mothers-to-be back on the job

It’s not particularly chivalrous to put super-pregnant women back to work, but hey, this is the post-apocalypse and everyone has to do their bit. As soon as a lady has finished making smiley faces with the male companion of your choice, she can head right back to whatever job suits her best. Rushing her back into the workforce isn’t just about equality, though, it’s about keeping your resources at their peak levels; pregnancy lasts for a very long time in-game (roughly 3 hours), and going without her contribution can quickly put you into a shortage that you’ll have even more trouble getting out of once that deadbeat kid comes along. 

Another thing to consider too is that mothers can’t deal with rad roaches or fires, and that they won’t be able to use weapons. So remember to pair them up with another dweller who can act as a helping hand and protect them from a grisly fate.

Explore the wasteland

You may have the power, water, and food situation handled, but unfortunately your vault isn’t entirely self-sustainable. You’ll also need weapons and stat-boosting outfits if you’re to have any chance of surviving raiders and rad roaches, and those are out waiting to be found in the wasteland. Gear up your dweller with the best endurance and send them out to search for loot, but be sure to keep an eye on their health. They won’t take any damage or absorb any radiation on their way back to the vault, so push them to the brink and then bring them home. Just make sure you have stimpacks and Radaway ready to treat them, or else they’ll not only be vulnerable to attack from raiders or roaches, but they’ll also be pretty miserable. (Which is fair, really.)

Become a crafty bugger

Another advantage of heading out into the wasteland is finding scrap. To begin with, you won’t really be able to do anything with this, other than sell it to make room for extra storage and earn a couple of caps. But once you start making workshops to craft new weapons, outfits, and themes, scrap becomes essential. So try to save some of the rarer scrap you find early on to prepare for this eventuality. It will help save time later on, and will prevent you from having to search all over the wasteland for a single component.

What to do with Raiders

So, here’s the bad news: raiders are going to come and try to take your stuff. The good news is that you can fight back! The first step is the easiest: Upgrade your vault door to make it harder for them to break it. If you only have a handful of weapons, equip dwellers with your best two and station them in the vault entry as guards. If you’ve got plenty of guns, arm every dweller you have, giving special preference to those on the rooms to the right of the entrance (raiders pretty much take the same route every time). This way, even if the raiders make it past your foyer, they’ll be met with aggressive resistance. You can also drag dwellers to the necessary location so that they’ll fight, but remember that a room can only hold as many dwellers as it can when it’s not under attack, so you won’t be able to send your entire community after the invaders.

If you don't have enough guns to arm everyone, keep a few spares

You'll want to give your best weapons to any dwellers you have exploring the wasteland, but when you're first starting off, you may not have enough peashooters left to arm everyone in the vault. However, since rad roach infestations can happen anywhere and the dwellers closest to the door might change between raider attacks, it's best to keep a few guns tucked away for anyone to use. That way, when a surprise disaster happens, you can arm the dwellers near the source the moment after it happens. That'll save your dwellers from trying to punch a sword-wielding bandit into submission.

Use elevators in case of an emergency

A single elevator shaft going through the heart of your vault is nice and neat and clean, but it also means longer travel times for any dwellers on the outer fringes of your society. An extra bit of a walk is fine if they’re just heading up to the barracks for a bit of hanky panky, but in the case of a raider attack or rad roach invasion, those few seconds can mean the difference between dead comrades and a nice, quick burst of XP. So remember to plan for several different routes around levels to facilitate quick travel in event of an emergency. I found what worked best for me is to have two separate elevator shafts covering the first floor, before increasing the number on the subsequent levels. This way my dwellers could get around the vault efficiently, and multiple personnel could also make journey to other floors at the same time (vault occupants are assholes and won’t hold the lifts for others).

Raise the stats of dwellers with middling abilities

While some dwellers may have obvious talents in one area or another, those who stagger in from the wasteland won't always be adept at any one specific thing. Thankfully, there's a solution in the form of stat-boosting rooms like the armory and classroom. Once you have 24 dwellers, you get access to the strength centre, and an additional room meant to boost each of the SPECIAL stats as your population increases. After you set them up, send dwellers to train in any one of the rooms, permanently boosting the associated stat and making the dwellers better suited to a place in your vault.

Rooms aren’t the way to boost a dweller’s stats either. You can also play dress up with the different costumes found around the world. Armoured vault suits are good for increasing a character’s perception, for example. While swanky lab coats don’t just look good, but raise a character’s intelligence to make them better suited to more scientific pursuits. 

Radio, radio

You may jump at the chance to build a radio station when you read that it increases your dwellers’ happiness, but don’t be so hasty. It’s true that tuning into the wireless cheers up your underground nation, but not by a dramatic amount, so weigh whether you want to spare the power and the people to man it. You can also use the radio station to attract wasteland wanderers to your vault, but it’s very hit and miss, even when you’ve upgraded your station a few times. The radio room is certainly a good addition to your vault, but make sure you’ve mastered the basics before spending the caps on it.

Locate the mysterious stranger

Every so often, the mysterious stranger (the elusive figure that has stalked the Fallout universe for years) will appear in your vault. He doesn’t do much, truth be told, basically just standing around. But if you manage to find him and click on him before he leaves you will be rewarded with a sudden influx of caps. The highest amount I ever received from this was around 1300 caps, but usually the amount is significantly less. Still, it’s free money and shouldn’t be sniffed at, so try and keep an ear out for his music plays when it plays then quickly scan the rooms of your vault. You will usually have around 5-7 seconds to find him, before another theme plays announcing his departure.

Pets at home

Pets are another addition made to the game post-launch. You can find them through completing quest objectives out in the world or uncover them inside of lunchboxes, but they are incredibly rare.

All you need to know about them is that each type can be designated to a single vault dweller and has its own unique buff, like increasing health or the number of caps that you can find in the wasteland. Much like assigning clothes to specific vault dwellers, therefore, you’ll want to equip these to the people who will benefit from them the most.

Looking for more Fallout? Then take a look at the best Fallout 4 settlements players have built.

Freelance writer

Jack Yarwood is an experienced freelance writer and investigative journalist, with bylines on a variety of publications which include GamesRadar+, PC Gamer, Polygon, IGN, Fanbyte, and more. Jack specializes in reporting around the tech, arts, and entertainment sectors.