All combat and tactics, no strategy, some extremely bad interface design... at times tedious
Plenty of lattitude in character design, almost all the traits, perks, and skills require some sort of tradeoff. The wide variety of weapons and ammo available can be overwhelming... There are DOZENS of weapons in the game... From spears and throwing knifes all the way up to rocket launcher and gauss gatling gun, and each of them have different pros and cons. The graphics are quite detailed and interesting. Availability of both "real-time" vs. "turn-based" combat modes is good.
The sheer number of weapons makes choosing the right one quite difficult. Tradeoff among the different character decisions are unclear at times. The bartering interface needs a LOT of work, as it's extremely cumbersome. Inventory management is a REAL PAIN. Graphics have occasional glitches that distracts from the overall detailed look. Random encounters can become quite tedious as it gets extremely repetitive. The plot encounters can be extremely long as you're essentially forced to travel every corner or the map (though the map designers tried their best to provide multiple paths in some of the maps). The story does not really fit into the Fallout universe according to Fallout "purists"
The Bottom Line
Fallout Tactics is essentially The tactical combat of Fallout, strapped to a random mission generator and a overall plot that spans 20 campaign missions, with updated graphics. For those of you who haven't played Fallout, think XCOM with a ton more weapons and no research, with possibility to improve your characters in more detailed manners.
I have NOT played the two Fallout RPGs, so I would not know how faithful the game is to the universe. This review, in any case, is about FOT itself.
The graphics of FOT is quite good... For a 2D isometric viewpoint game. However, it has several glitches here and there that distracts from the details. The nitty-gritty look is good, but then you realize a lot of the maps are identical. It also has problem handling multiple levels, as it struggles to redraw just the objects that are visible from your viewpoint. It has problem handling slopes and how to render vehicles on a slope. The tiled-look is quite obvious on slopes as characters don't walk down smoothly... They walk a bit, fall down a bit, and so on.
The sound and music are average and adequate, nothing special to them.
The tactical missions are quite impressive. The interface is VERY similar to the XCOM, except you can't reserve "action points". Instead, you must reserve ALL action points for "overwatch" mode where the chanacters will shoot if they see a target with good chance of hitting. You can do unarmed, melee (hand-to-hand), small guns, big guns, traps, mines, grenades and thrown weapons, and more.
The tactical approach are varied and is all up to you. Do you do a frontal assault? Sneak through the backdoor? Clear the room with shotgun or go for sniper attack? How about lure enemy into ambush or minefield? There are even some maps where you can sneak through tunnels and perhaps hit the enemy from behind. There are even a mission or two where you need to rescue hostages and defend a town from attack.
A lot of the equipment comes from salvage after battles, and the process can be quite tedious, as you must manually salvage individual bodies for leftover ammo, drugs, weapons, and so on. An "auto-salvage" like XCOM is sorely needed.
Some parts of the game are quite automatic while other parts requires too much hands-on. One of the activity in the game is barter with the various merchants and the BOS Quartermaster (who's in charge of all the equipment), and he drives a VERY hard bargain. To afford some of the fancier items, expect to find and give up a LOT of weapons, and the prices are dependent on the negotiator's bartering skill. So you end up transferring a LOT of equipment around. You basically end up using other characters as mules, as they haul the surplus to the quartermaster's room, then transfer all the equipment to the designated negotiator (who has the highest barter skill), and let the negotiator do the dealing. Then you need to redistribute the equipment (that you choose to buy from the quartermaster). Repeat for the medical officer (who sells drugs and first-aid related supplies)... And perhaps other merchants that you run across. Don't be surprised if you end up spending 30 or more minutes just to manage inventory at every visit back to the bunker. A far more streamlined bargaining process is needed.
The actual combat is quite well done, as the variety of weapons, who can use what, and so on. As new equipment become available (both on the field and in the bunker) and you struggle to afford them, and constantly changing ammo situation forces you to switch weapons, you'll develope a nice stash of weapons and matching ammo. The tactical line of sight is important, as scouts are needed to locate the enemy, and proper tactics used to flush the enemy out of cover. Most enemies use cover effectively, though they don't really attack you. Most of the time you're on the offensive as you simply clear the entire map of enemy presence. This makes a lot of missions quite tedious as you move carefully from corner to corner, maintaining overwatch and firing lanes to prevent friendly fire, only to find nothing there.
Some times the battle sure gives you a great sense of satisfaction. In one engagement, I need to kill three bandits in the first burst without them raising the alarm to the rest of the compound. I decided to sneak three people near them (they're behind a bar), then have all three pop-up, weapons blazing at point-blank range. When your plan unfolds perfectly, and the three bandits fell to the floor, spraying blood all over, perforated with bullets and birdshot, you sure felt as if you accomplished something.
The game also left the final ending up to you... There are actually FOUR different endings, depending on what you chose at the very end.
All in all, Fallout Tactics is NOT a classic. It is a very decent isometric squad tactical combat game with a random mission generator and some plot missions. It reminds me a lot of XCOM, but some of the interface issues needs serious work, and thus, it is only an average title overall. If you need your XCOM fix, give Fallout Tactics a try.