Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel
Having transformed computer role-playing and laid the ground for games such as Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment to appear, it's little wonder the Fallout games are revered by the RPG community. It seems strange then that the next Fallout game won't follow the same tried and tested route that would guarantee it big sales, but full marks to the developers for being brave enough to try something new. What Brotherhood Of Steel actually is won't become clear until we've played the game, but at the moment it's being described as a squad-based semi turn-based strategy in the vein of X-COM: Apocalypse. What this means is that you have the option to use the traditional turn-based system as in the original games or a real-time option that still uses a point system to determine how far you can go and the damage you make. Don't worry. It's not as complicated as it sounds.
But Brotherhood Of Steel is still very much a Fallout game, and anyone who's played either of the first two games will be immediately familiar with the stats and skills system. There are perks, drugs, adult violence and a similar dialogue system to the original, ensuring the spirit of Fallout remains intact.
So much in fact that any obvious differences between the RPG that was and the strategy game that will be are not at all clear. The most glaring difference is bound to be a greater emphasis on combat, meaning the RPG elements are peripheral rather than the core of the game. Among the features announced for these tactical battles are the traps, demolition charges, targeted shots, darkness affecting aim and a pretty nifty heartbeat detector.
In true X-COM fashion you'll be able to select a squad of six soldiers from a pool of 30, then you'll have to make your way through 20 missions.
How you complete a mission and the things you do (or fail to do) affect the following missions and the storyline. This deals with a group of Brotherhood Of Steel soldiers intent on tracking down the mutant army, sparking a war where you play a confused, but all-important, character. However, If the single-player story doesn't do it for you there's enough multiplayer action to look forward to.
Along with all the pre-made characters from the single-player game you'll also be able to make up your own to pitch against other people's creations. If that wasn't enough, the game will include an editor so you can create your very own missions. It remains to be seen whether Fallout Tactics will appeal to all the role-players out there or whether it will have to find its audience exclusively among RTS-heads. On the other hand, there are enough people hungry for X-COM-style games to make this a success in a market full of formulaic games.
The first ten minutes you spend with Fallout Tactics go something like this. Install the game. Watch cheesy intro complete with awful voiceovers. Create characters, watch mission briefing. Start mission. Stop... stare... think... Haven't you seen this game somewhere before? Answer: yes. Remember Fallout 1 and 2. Suffer deja vu. Contemplate whether to continue. Remember you must continue, after all you've paid good money for this, right?
Welcome to Fallout Tactics, which is basically Fallout 3 by any other name. We can only assume it's not called Fallout 3 because the game's developers felt it was not sufficiently different to the first two games to merit putting a 3 at the end of it. They're not wrong. As long as you accept this basic premise and you want to know how the latest game in the Fallout series has been refined (as opposed to what's 'new'), you will not be disappointed in what it has to offer. There are elements of Fallout Tactics that make it a different playing experience to the first two titles, but they are by no means an improvement. If anything, the major changes in the new game are a big step backwards. For example...
Traditionally, the Falloutsenes has been heavy on NPC interaction and dialogue, and freedom of exploration in the game zones. Not anymore. Fallout Tactics takes the combat missions from the first two games, and more or less dumps everything else. In other words, it's low on atmosphere and high on combat. Depending on the type of player you are, this will be good news or bad news. If you liked the turn-based combat from the previous games, and would rather dispense with atmosphere-creating formalities and get straight into the thick of the action then Fallout Tactics is the game for you. Each of the game's missions is introduced with a quick briefing from your commanding officer, then you're straight into the battle zone to get on with it. Complete the mission and it's back to base to repeat the whole process over again.
Presumably in an attempt to add a degree of variety to the proceedings, the game's developers have introduced a real-time mode to complement the turn-based mode that Falloutveterans have become accustomed to. Simply put, it doesn't work. All the missions are clearly designed for the turn-based mode, and rather than redesign the missions for real time, the developers seem to have simply taken the 'turns' out and allowed the game to flow freely. You have to wonder if they actually tried playing the game in real time before releasing it.
With missions that require stealth and careful planning, you need time to think. This is not a traditional RTS: you can't just run in with all guns blazing and hope to succeed. Try playing Fallout Tactics in real time and you'll find your squad gets 'spotted' every time they move and are quickly overwhelmed, raising alarms that alert all the enemies in the area to your presence, which in turn forces you to retreat and fight with your back to the wall. It is possible to play the game in real time, but it's a slow and laborious process. The quick-save key is going to see more action than you will when you realise how quick the enemy is to get on your case after you've been spotted from what are often incredibly long distances. Much sneaking and creeping around is necessary if you are to stand any chance of completing the missions in real time. To make things worse, your squad's pathfinding techniques are unforgivably bad at times. Click on a spot you want your crew to move to then watch in horror as half of them get stuck in walls or worse still, walk into the wrong room and get wasted by three or four enemies. In this respect, Fallout Tactics is reminiscent of some of the early real-time strategy games, which were notable only for the awful AI of your units. Most of you, I suspect, will wind up dumping this mode quickly and revert to traditional turn-based combat which, it appears, is how the game was meant to be played in the first place. Back we go then to familiar ground.
After You Sir
Turn-based strategy is not exactly the most popular genre around these days, given that the whole world seems to be playing the latest RTS they can get their hands on. If Fallout Tactics proves anything, it's that in the right hands, turn-based strategy can be just as engrossing as an action-based strategy game. It's very reminiscent of X-COM in more ways than one. Many hi-tech weapons and items come into play as you make your way through the missions, and your squad members improve after every mission, providing, of course, they don't die along the way. Each member gets experience for every kill, and when they get enough experience they gain a level and earn skill points. There is a wide variety of skills to put your skill points into, and you can customise your squaddies to a large degree by concentrating them in different skill areas, eventually helping them to become 'experts' in their chosen field. To the credit of FTs creators, you can easily see the effects of your background skill-tinkering on the battlefield. For example, it's vital to have at least one crew member with a high skill in doctoring or first aid, otherwise you'll spend a fortune on stimpaks (health packs) before every mission. Lock-picking is very handy too if you don't want to miss out on some of the better items on the battlefield. The sneak skill is not only useful, it's absolutely essential on missions where you need to get a squad member into a heavily guarded area undetected, unless you want to spend an age breaking down the enemy front line.
The actual missions, while perfectly playable and enjoyable, eventually begin to feel linear and predictable, and you will find yourself playing the game not so much for the sake of the game itself, but to get new and better items and also to see how the story progresses. Despite the wealth of items to be found and the ability to customise your units, Fallout Tactics still seems to be lacking that certain something needed to both hold the missions together and give you the incentive to push further and deeper into the heart of the game. X-COM had basebuilding and research, which acted as a convincing and enjoyable diversion to its tactical combat. Fallout Tactics has, well, nothing. Also, it's questionable how many people still want to play a game that defines the movement of its characters with 'action points'. It's a bit frustrating to say the least to get one of your squaddies close to the action, ready to perform whatever task you had in mind, only to discover the silly sod is low on action points and can't do anything until his next turn comes around. This style of gameplay was perfectly acceptable before real-time strategy games came of age, but Fallout Tactics (and other games of its ilk) really need to make a convincing move to real time if they are to survive in today's highly competitive market. That entails designing the game in real time from the ground up, as opposed to designing it in turn-based mode then taking the 'turns' out in an attempt to fool the player into thinking they're playing a 'proper' RTS.
In its favour, FT is one of the better-looking turn-based strategy games. The graphics are clear, sharp and detailed, and high resolution is introduced to the series for the first time. It's unlikely to be the kind of game you will play for weeks on end (the missions are too repetitive for that), but there's enough in it to challenge you and keep you amused and off the streets for a few days at least. Fallout Tactics is no great revolution for the series but rather more of the same with some bits taken out. It's still as playable, but it may prove too linear for diehard turn-based fans, and RTS fans will most likely just lose patience with it and go back to Red Alert 2 and co.
Fallout Tactics is a good-looking turn-based game. In a perfect world, all turn-based games would look this good. Specifically, X-COM Apocalypse could really do with a remake with much better graphics. Were this to happen, the turn-based genre, which is slowly decreasing in popularity would suddenly be given a new leash of life and RTS would once again have healthy competition. Probably.
Download Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel Screenshots and Media
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