May 29, 2014

Let's Talk About: Fallout Tactics - The Beginning of the End

Before I can even begin to talk about Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, I need to talk about its history. This is because the nature of this game is not easy to figure out without knowing said history, and when given the context of its conception and creation, you will probably feel a lot more merciful towards it. So, you may remember in my last article I brought up my feelings on Interplay as a company post-Fallout 2. I was not exaggerating for the sake of the joke, Interplay changed in a dramatic, awful way when the company went public to save its sorry ass from certain bankruptcy. They still wanted to make games, and so they came up with an admittedly good idea: They would keep Black Island on its development of Project Van Buren (The Fallout 3 that never was, which will be discussed later.), while at the same time they would have other development teams make spin-offs. It makes sense, in my opinion, or rather it made sense. This way they could still keep their promise to fans with a third Fallout game that could somehow trump Fallout 2, all the while keeping them entertained and their pockets lined with spin-offs taking place in the robust world the first two games created. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!

O right, THAT could go wrong.
Turns out, self-sabotage is all you need to ruin a good idea. Enter Micro Forte, a company that ,like Interplay, inexplicably still exists. ZING! To say Micro Forte was unqualified is a bit unfair, but what is fair to say is that Interplay handled the entire situation like insane slave drivers. The head of the team in charge of Tactics would say that Interplay allowed them much less money and time than was sufficient to deliver the game they wanted to. As such, the plot and how the game fit into the canon suffered. To make matters worse, the team attempted to merge Real Time Strategy elements into the game, even though they originally planned to do Turn Based only, just like the original games. The overall package suffered for it. He would also go on to claim that the game got only FOUR DAYS to test and run QA sessions, and that he was repeatedly denied by Interplay to have more time to work. Now, normally I would not take this all as fact, or even bring it up, but this is pretty much all the information on the development of Tactics that is readily available, and when you consider what Interplay would do next....Well it just seems more plausible. What I do know for sure is that Interplay blatantly lied about the true nature of the game, claiming that the funds the game produced for Interplay would speed up Fallout 3's release. So it became the most pre-ordered game in Interplay's history...The players would only realize they'd been duped when that other spin-off reared its hideous head. With all this now in your mind, let's talk about Fallout Tactics.

The game is never this exciting, sorry to say.
Fallout Tactics takes place in the time between the first two games. Now the Brotherhood of Steel, when it was introduced, was a clan of pretty badass dudes. They all had Power Armor, Energy Weapons (Which were THE best weapons in Fallout 1, bar none.), and a lone wolf attitude. But then in Fallout 2, they are hardly even mentioned. After finally meeting one, the literal only member of the Brotherhood that you meet in Fallout 2, he explains the the Brotherhood has largely broken apart. How did this happen? Airships...Yeah. Suck it in. See, Tactics explains that after what happened with The Master, there was a split in opinions in the Brotherhood.  Some of them wanted to start recruiting outsiders to expand, while most of them wanted to stay the course. To get rid of this discord, the majority leadership sent the minority on an expedition to destroy the remains of The Master's Army. Ummm, why did the minority agree to this? The Master's Army had dissipated across the West by this point, clearly no longer a threat, yet the people that you are actively disagreeing with who want you gone tell you to haul into newly reinvented rigid airships on a wild goose chase. This raised no suspicion whatsoever? Wonderful, the game hasn't even started yet, and I already loathe it. So, they load up into their airships. Oh yeah, airships, you know those things that would never appear in another Fallout game despite being incredibly useful. Hell, the Brotherhood rides them all the way to the Midwest before they crash from a storm! AND MOST OF THEM SURVIVE SAID CRASH! Anyway, the Brotherhood members, now stuck in my own neck of the woods, Illinois, are forced to set up shop. They then decide to fuck over their superiors, like they should have before being sent on a certain one-way death trip, by recruiting locals to join them in exchange for protection from raiders. Thus, the game begins, with your character, The Warrior, securing the Midwest for the Brotherhood, wiping out anyone who disagrees, and forcing everyone else into servitude. And you are supposed to be the good guy in this game!

I found this meme appropriate for....Some reason.
Though don't be fooled into thinking there's some manner of roleplaying and choice in this hot mess, because that would be expecting too much. The game is absurdly linear, and the wonderful variety of simple things like becoming a Prizefighter or Slaver or what have you from the old games is gone. There aren't even any formal towns to visit. Gameplay is as follows: You go to a place with enemies in it, you walk along a premade path, killing all enemies along the way, you complete some stupid objective that is superficially always the same, and you get to the end. You do a certain number of those, then fight a boss. Rinse and repeat about 20 times. Sometimes, you get to drive a vehicle, and it suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. Oh, it sucks so very much. See, as I mentioned before, the game wrestles between Real-Time and turn based. Controlling a vehicle in an isometric perspective in turn based combat is like trying to push a lawn mower sideways. It only gets worse when you add in the removal of the grid that made traversing land in Fallout 1 and 2 good and simple.

That's not to say controlling normal combat is easy; I found it much easier to just have all my guys right click one enemy, rather than try out any actual "Tactics". Only a few enemies react to being attacked at a time, when logically an entire raider camp would be on your ass the moment they heard gunfire, but the Real Time also made your teammates dumb as dirt, only attacking when they were themselves attacked, forcing you to keep Aggressive stance turned on at all times. Now I know what some of you are thinking, and yes, you could turn off Real Time whenever you wanted. The thing is Real Time was clearly intended as a big focus, and the game incidentally controls much better in Real Time. If you turn it off...You are going to have a bad time. As for actual plot, The Warrior and whatever poor expendable lugs you bring along with you on missions eventually uncover an army of hyper advanced robots; We're talking full on Star Wars-style battle tanks and mechs. As if this couldn't be silly enough, you must then find their HQ and nuke it, whereupon you meet The Calculator. The Calculator is a super computer running on a combo of human brains and computer chips. You literally get the only meaningful option in the game at this point, which is smash fancy computer, put brain in fancy computer, or put jerk's brain in computer...Insert joke about Mass Effect 3 endings here.

The game does take in height advantage and cover,
but that's as strategic as it gets.
Fallout Tactics is lame, simply put. Lame story, with lame characters, lame locations, literally no music, and a lame attempt to make one of the most boring factions relevant. Why not Fallout Tactics: NCR? Maybe there was going to be something like that. Tactics apparently already had a sequel lined up when fans demanded its destruction, and it was so. It's a shame too, since a second game could have improved on the old one, which had serious potential. This was the first Fallout game to take place outside of the Midwest, and the second one was supposed to be in Florida! Can you imagine how awesome that would be? Shooting Radioactive gators in the Nuclear Everglades? Running Jet shipments in New Miami? GHOUL DISNEYLAND?! The list goes on! I would only recommend Tactics to those with curiosity; It's not so terrible that I would say to stay away, and I suppose it has important details about the Universe to take in. Otherwise, don't bother.

That doesn't look like it should be in a Fallout game, does it?
...Now, lemme just say, this next game I will be talking about...It's gonna hurt. Part of me wants to skip it, but part of me knows it's gotta be done. You know? People need to know about this game. It's a cautionary tale, a show of how low a series can truly fall. A testament to artistic incompetence and corporate greed. Next time on Let's Talk About, we cover the worst Fallout game of them all as well as the worst disaster of a game I've ever had the misfortune of playing...Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel.

More Let's Talk About:

Fallout 1, 2 Tactics, Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4