I just finished my first play through of Shelter 2 and I’m almost afraid to play it again. It’s a good game, but it hit me emotionally hard and made me cry enough that I don’t want to repeat the experience again too soon. In this game from Might and Delight you play the role of a lynx, and specifically a mother lynx trying to raise her cubs to adulthood. The premise is simple, the game is short, and it’s fairly easy to play, as well, but you will probably at some point find that one or more of your four kittens dies.
I lost 2 of them.
That really hit me hard, especially the first one. I thought I had been doing well – I dutifully hunted rabbits and fed my babies, and when they were old enough to follow me outside, I took them to the river where they could feast on eggs from the nests of ground nesting birds. Everything seemed to be going so well! But I didn’t understand the time scale of the game. I thought I could afford to take a moment to just sit and relax in the sun and watch my precious kittens playing. Then one of them started meowing loudly. I didn’t know what was going on, but I figured we’d had a long day, and I thought the game was about to give us a night cycle, so I started us walking slowly back to our den.
Then one of the kittens collapsed on the ground and could not move. And she was meowing so pitifully! That’s when I realized that she was starving. I panicked! I picked her up by her scruff and started running back towards the den. Then a second kitten collapsed! I didn’t know what to do! I put the first kitten in the den and then ran back to get the second one, and while taking her to the den, a third kitten collapsed. Now I was frantic. With the kittens safely in the den I tore across the fields to where there were rabbits and managed to bring one down quickly and grabbed it to take back to the den, but before I arrived a kitten had died!
I was mortified. I brought two more rabbits to back to feed the rest of the kittens and get them back to health, but after that I was shaken and I had to log out for the night.
Losing that kitten really hurt!
It was a couple of days later before I could bring myself to play the game again, and when I did I was determined to hunt continuously to ensure my familys survival. Unfortunately, the season in the game had cycled back to winter and I chose the wrong place to go hunting. There was no food to be found, and a kitten collapsed from hunger. I picked it up and began racing over to the rabbit fields again where I knew there would at least be something to eat, but on my way there a second kitten collapsed. I could not carry two kittens at once, so I had to make the decision to abandon one of them and hope that I would be able to catch a rabbit and get back to it in time to save it’s life. I failed.
Now I was down to only two kittens, with two of my babies dead. At this point, though, I was surrounded by rabbits, so I began stalking and hunting furiously. I became a killing machine, reaping the lapine community for my own survival and the survival of my family. My remaining kittens grew into cubs. And then they grew more into young adults, which immensely helped, because now they were able to participate in the hunting and help gather food. Together the three of us walked among the rabbits as goddesses of death until one fall day, my cubs grew to maturity. They looked at me with confidence in their eyes, and gratitude, and then they walked off into the wilderness to lead lives of their own.
I returned to the empty den, but I was restless that night, and went in search of a new mate to begin the cycle once again.
This was a short game, but it was really intense! It gave me a sense of the desperation and determination that must come from being a wild animal, constantly struggling to survive. I do look forward to playing again – you get to continue the story by playing your own offspring in the next generation – but the emotional intensity is something that I need to step back from for a bit. I need a breather before I take on the struggle of motherhood once more.