FALLOUT TACTICS / Interplay / PC
 
 
"The trudging .... the trudging" - Joseph Conrad

Fallout Tactics is essentially a hack of the engine from the first two Fallout games to turn it into a squad-focused RTS that is kinda like the early Jagged Alliance games. It retains the character creation process, most of the statistics and perks, the inventory system, the same basic way of moving around the world. The only changes are that the world is divided up into self-contained sequential missions, and that combat takes place seamlessly in real time instead of freezing and going into a turn-based mode. There's still AP needed to fire weapons and use items, but it simply recharges on the fly rather than forcing all the combatants to go through a turn first. But in between missions you can still wander the world map freely, return to old locations and get into random encounters / battles as you wander about, so it really feels more like a traditional Fallout game than you might think.

The story exists in its own little self-contained universe, though, with very little connection to the rest of the series. You play as a squadron of the Brotherhood of Steel who got separated from HQ when their dirigible crashed in the mountains, so they used their technology to basically set themselves up as a little fiefdom with the local tribes as their labor force. You start out just running off raiders from the local farms, but eventually a bunch of other eeevil factions get involved.

And it's ... slow. Characters can run, but can only do so in certain situations. Otherwise, they're just trudgin' around slow as hell, often through very big maps. Finish a mission and for some reason the game forces you to leave via the "exit grid", which is inevitably all the way back where you started from. Trudge trudge trudge.

Oh, that leads into another issue with the game - funnel-style level design that isn't very good. Generally maps are big, but herd you through a long, spiraling series of corridors with guards who are often just posted up at chokepoints waiting for you, giving you no option but to run facefirst into battle and trade close-range shots in SNES Shadowrun style. The designers seemed to realize this was a limitation, but instead of fixing it they just chucked dozens of Stimpacks into each map to compensate.

You begin the game in the midst of a battle against some raiders, but after that you're kinda dumped off with no clue what to do next other than return to the Brotherhood base. You're free to go outside and wander the wastes, but this just leads to constant ambushes by packs of wild dogs who chew you up before you can get anywhere. It turns out you have to return to the pointlessly huge Brotherhood base and trudge around it until you find R. Lee Ermy, who gives you your next mission location. Aside from him, all there is to do at the base is store stuff in a locker, buy medical supplies from the doctor, and buy weapons/armor from the quartermaster, so I don't know why it needs to be so sprawling and huge. Condensing it down would have been nice.

The movement issues are compounded by the AI pathing - it's terrible. They can't figure out how to get anywhere that's farther than about half a screen length away and will just ignore the command if told to move too far. There's no way to tell them to wait until they're in appropriate range with their weapon to attack an enemy - you click on the enemy and they try to attack from wherever they currently are, even if they have a shotgun equipped and are like 2 miles away. So you have to manually walk them into position before attacking. Which wouldn't be a big deal if the enemies didn't always move, draw and fire so much faster than you. There's no way to tell a melee or shotgun guy to just stick with an enemy at appropriate range regardless of what they do, and once engaged at close range the enemies love to sprint backwards and fire until you close, then sprint away again. Also seriously complicates trying to give group orders while you're being fired on.

The ability to have non-combat abilities seems to have been retained just because it filled out the character stats screen. Many of them have little to no purpose in a game that's entirely centered around combat. Lockpick can be helpful as a shortcut here and there, but the game always leaves a key about to any lock that you run across. Stealth is buggy as guards can sometimes see through walls, let alone your sneak roll. Melee, unarmed and throwing are all not very viable builds as enemies have almost always have guns from the first mission and only get better ones as the game goes on. You do 90% of your buying in the game from the Brotherhood quartermaster, who doesn't seem to ever reduce their prices regardless of how high Barter goes. There's extremely few opportunities to Gamble and not a whole lot of point to it anyway. One new skill is on offer - Pilot, as this was the one game in the series where vehicles finally came into play. But the vehicles are glitchy and weird - you find them on missions, you can bring them back and stash them at the Brotherhood base ... but only certain missions are coded to tolerate them, and if you bring one out to one that isn't, the vehicle just mysteriously teleports back to the base and leaves you on foot for the fight.

The combat in Fallout 1 and 2 was already very similar to that of a hex-grid strategy game, so it's kind of bizarre that they'd take that engine and then try to cobble it into RTS somehow. This general awkwardness combined with a seeming lack of plotting a lot of aspects out properly ends up sinking the game. Only for the most super-hardcore of Fallout fans who have to play everything in the series.
 
 
 
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