Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel (Windows)

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Written by  :  Jacques Guy (55)
Written on  :  Aug 15, 2004

5 out of 9 people found this review helpful

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Much Steel, little Brotherhood, even less Tactics.

The Good

Having played Fallout 1 and Fallout 2, and greatly enjoyed them, I had kept on the look-out for a copy of Fallout Tactics and eventually found one in a bargain bin, sans manual alas. The lack of a manual was annoying, but the familiar interface made up for it. You soon figure out what's what, and the designers are to be commended for having stuck with what worked, with only minor changes, easily guessed without having to turn to a manual.

I had read that the game was so buggy as to be almost unplayable. Not so in my experience, and mine is version 1.13. In perhaps 20 hours of play it might have crashed four or five times on me, not enough aggravation to have me try and download the mammoth patch, an impossible task for someone like me with only a snail-pace copperwire connexion.

So there I was, happy with my purchase, eager to play.

The Bad

It takes a while to figure out the three combat modes in practice, and that the individual-turn mode is quite useless: you must spend all of an NPC's action points before you can issue your orders to another NPC.

It is exceedingly easy to make a wrong move. I discovered that in my first encounter with wasps. I clicked on the target-like icon beneath a wasp. Silly me. Instead of shooting at the wasp, I found myself running towards it. Even armed with this dearly acquired knowledge I made the same mistake again and again even against more obvious opponents. You have to watch the cursor very carefully: am I going to shoot that, or to run towards it? It is a matter of a few pixels off. And a matter of life and death. Worse: there is a dead Raider there, and you want to move there where he lies in a pool of blood. If you are not careful, if you do not pay close attention to the mouse pointer, you will likely find yourself running and looting the corpse, and wasting precious action points. Once again, death for a fistful of pixels. In the excitement of the action, who is going to engage in pixel hunting? I even managed to destroy our Hummer twice, clicking the wrong mouse button.

Keeping your NPCs in formation is also impossible but in the most trivial of circumstances and on plain terrain. For instance, I had Farsight standing behind Stitch crouching, weapons at the ready. When I instructed them to move ahead, Farsight ran ahead of Stitch! Then Stitch slowly crawled ahead of her. Another time I had Farsight, Stitch and Buffy (shades of Fallout 2!) in a room encumbered with benches. The paths they took to move to the other end of that room... rats in a maze, and very dumb rats too. Formation is not conserved either when the lead NPC goes to loot a corpse or to activate a switch. You have to manually return him or her to the proper hex. Do not even ever consider moving your squad up or down stairs or ladders, even a three-men squad. More often than not, one will end up stuck under the stairs, another half-way up, and you will have to re-group them manually.

All this makes for difficult, tedious play. I have seldom been successful in catching enemies in a cross-fire. It is all hit-and-miss pixel hunting, and you never quite have a clear knowledge of how many action points you will have left after your carefully planned move. This is unacceptable for a game that calls itself "Tactics". Soon, you find that you are often much better off trusting the computer with your moves by switching to CTB mode.

Fallout 1 and 2 suffered from incomprehensible line of sight. You had to pace to and fro past a window until you hit a line of sight that allowed you to shoot that ghoul inside. You could see the ghoul, but you could not draw a bead on it. Fallout Tactics suffers from the same flaw. Again, this is unacceptable for a game that calls itself "Tactics".

Fallout 1 and 2 had engaging NPCs. Think of Sulik and his Grampy Bone! You had many ways of dealing with each "mission", rather, each location. You could become a slaver in Den, you could... I have even seen walkthroughs were you did not kill anything, not even a rat. No such choices here. In Osceolla I was hoping to join up with Gimmon. I was thinking in terms of Fallout 1 and 2. No such opportunity here. The game is linear. No choice anywhere. You cannot even get out of a location before you have completed your mission. In Macomb you meet a Raider who offers you information in exchange for food. You have none. There is none to be had in Macomb. So what do you do? You cannot leave Macomb and get some, as you would have done in Fallout 1 and 2. When you roam the wilderness you will never, ever, come across any town. Their locations have to be revealed unto thee by General Barnaky or General Dekker when and only when thou hast completed thy assigned mission. Grotesque. And roaming the wilderness is a pain in the... yes. Random encounters galore, over which you have absolutely no control. I got so sick of it that I downloaded an editor and pumped Buffy's outdoorsman skill up to 100%. Even so, every few millimetres on the world map, I had to click "No" to every encounters. I tried hitting Escape, but the wretched thing misunderstood it as "Yes" :-(

The Bottom Line

Compared to Fallout 1 and 2? A disaster. You might enjoy it otherwise, but the only half-interesting way to play it is through the trainer by NM!LS/EYM. You don't have to resort to God mode. Ctrl-W (W for "Warp") will save you enough boring running around when, your mission completed, you have to wend your way to evacuation point. And don't forget to pump yourself up to 100% outdoorsmanship using a character editor. Otherwise you will die of anger and frustration moving from town A to town B on the world map.