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Year of Fallout: Fallout Tactics


Context, Feel Free to Skip

In late 2020/early 2021 I decided to replay/play the entire Fallout franchise, starting with 3. I'm reaching the finish line! Play order is as follows, along with links to previous posts:

FO3 > FO1 > FO76 > FO2 > FO4 > FOT > FONV

With history out of the way, onto my shortest post yet:


I have been defeated

So might as well lead with the confession.

I did not finish Fallout Tactics.

I didn't even get particularly far.

I managed to get through Fallout 1, an old but ultimately timeless game. I got through Fallout 2, an also old and far less timeless game with a lot of frustrating moments. I got through the infamous Fallout 76.

But I just can't finish Fallout Tactics. I got to mission 5 and about 6 hours of gameplay and I just couldn't anymore. On one hand, I feel like I betrayed my own mission this year, to get a fully formed opinion on every game. But at the same time my free time is somewhat precious, and when I was dreading every time I sat down with the game, with no end in sight, I just threw in the towel.

What about Fallout Tactics defeated me? Well…


All the bad, none of the good

Ultimately what killed my interest in Fallout Tactics is the simple fact that it has all of the worst parts of the series, with none of the good.

It's old enough that it has the dated combat and gameplay mechanics of Fallout 1 and 2, but at the same time doesn't have the strong world building of 1 (and occasionally 2).

It has the weak and inconsistent worldbuilding and writing of Fallout 3 (and to a lesser extent 4), without the modernized gameplay or roleplaying of either.

It just doesn't really do anything right for the most part.


Half way to nothing

The gameplay is either a squad or classic turn based mode, which is interminably slow but reliable; or a new "real time" mode to the game, which is a nightmare to exercise any control in. You basically choose slow boredom, or barely controllable chaos where your squad will die often randomly and to friendly fire.

The idea, I think, is to have a fast paced Fallout battle experience where positioning and pre-planning are key, but it doesn't deliver. I don't feel like my "tactics" are really rewarded in any meaningful way. Even when I try and get creative, like finding different ways into an enemy base, I run into walls or other annoyances that, turns out, can only be cleared if you specifically brought certain items you have to spend money on back at base. Or if you try and set up ambushes, enemy NPC's are happy to just sit in one place for hours on end and not chase intruders.

It's not like I hate tactics/strategy games either. I love both the original and rebooted Xcom series. I dumped and embarrassing amount of time into Fire Emblem Three Houses this year. The Total War series is one of my favorite of all time. I love strategy games. But instead, Fallout Tactics feels like someone couldn't decided whether to make a tactics game, or a roleplaying game. So they made half of both, and did neither well.

Speaking of which, yeah, this is still a roleplaying game. The skills and SPECIAL from Fallout 1 and 2 are here mostly, but it feels pointless. Most of the time the best answer is to stock up on recruits like its Xcom, and preserve yourself while they die in droves. Your squad/companions have no character or personality, and are utterly exchangeable, but you still have to fiddle with stats. You make your own character, but beyond being the "main" character, there's nothing special about them.

Since it's a roleplaying game, you also have to fiddle with inventory. Much like past Fallouts, there's still random loot and looting. But it never feels good. Ignoring the fact that its an old and slow interface, and as such trading items between team members and managing each ones inventory is slow and painful, it just doesn't feel good in general. There's a reason that Xcom and the like don't have you fiddling with intense inventories for every single soldier between missions beyond some basics. (Minus Fire Emblem I guess, but the inventory management is my least favorite part of that game too, so, common theme).

Take this mismatch of genres, and add on frustrating bugs and a wonderfully dated interface, and it just becomes a hectic slog (somehow) of boredom. I rarely found myself enjoying the raw gameplay of Fallout Tactics, and when I did, all I could think was "there are other games that do this way better."

But it has vehicles I guess. Yay.

And as for the story? Yeah about that.


Todd was right to decanonize this

Now admittedly, I didn't play the whole story. I played the first 5 levels, out of 22, and then looked up gameplay and walkthroughs of the rest of the game. So to be clear, my opinion here is not nearly as well informed.

But, that said, how people complain about how "Fallout 3 and 4 don't adhere to canon" but give Fallout Tactics a pass is bewildering to me. Basic lore like where the brotherhood of steel (a staple of franchise) freaking come from is wrong, the world isn't really retro futuristic, how the brotherhood looks and feels is…off. The fallout "feel" is barely here. It's generic post apocalypse.

Plus the story, such as it is, is mostly passed through really poorly written late 90s/early 2000s dialogue and mission briefing screens. There's no dialogue choices and trees, exploring the world, nothing. It's basically "Go to mission, do mission, go back to local base, stock up, get new mission." Occasionally interspersed with "eh" cut scenes.

It barely feels like Fallout, and as I commented recently on my Fallout 4 post I am very loathe to say something like that, but it just doesn't. It all feels "off."

Todd Howard apparently said Fallout Tactics isn't canon. And honestly, that was the right call. It looks like the lite canonized parts of it, like a brotherhood contingent getting lost near Chicago, and that's probably for the best. Leave the general ideas alive in canon for exploration, but just purge the worst of this.


Conclusion/TL;DR

Out of all the Fallout games in the past year I've played, Fallout Tactics is the only one to just, defeat me. I can't and won't finish it.

The gameplay is a mismatch of RPG and Isometric Tactics game that does neither particularly well with the added bloat of an ancient interface on top of it. It's not saved by its story at all which is mediocre and does nothing to grab the player. It's just not a great game. I rarely find people defending it online, and of those that do I honestly think nostalgia is what drives their liking of this game.

While I hold the controversial opinion that Fallout 2 is overrated, I nonetheless wanted to see it to the end, and it did have good bits. The only good part of Fallout Tactics for me was reminding me that good tactics games like Xcom exist.

So. How am I wrong? How did I miss the hidden brilliance of this often maligned game? Or am I actually right, and Tactics is just the weakest part of the franchise (minus that other one we don't talk about). Genuinely curious what I missed here.

Thankfully, I only have one game left on this mission. And it's Fallout: New Vegas. My excitement is palpable.

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