Sunday, 5 January 2014
Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel (PC)
They're both combat driven spin-offs that break with tradition and take the series into a new genre, but one is focused on refining the battle system to be more tactical and involving to the exclusion of everything else, while the other has a Slipknot song on the soundtrack.
Uh, this is the tactical one by the way.
(Clicking screenshots may re-inflate them to their full 800x600 majesty.)
Still pulling back. I can confirm that the abandoned ruined shop is indeed abandoned and ruined.
The camera is continuing to pull back. I'm still looking through a shattered window at a book, sitting on a broken rack. Still.
Yeah, this isn't actually as interesting as the developers apparently thought it was. I realise they were trying to set a mood but there's no point in slowly moving the camera backwards like this if it's not going to reveal anything new about the scene.
Oh hang on, here comes a car!
This is the first game in the series that wasn't made by a division of Interplay; instead an Australian developer called Micro Forté was handed the reigns of the most American of RPG franchises and straight away I can tell that they've taken a slightly different approach with it. It's traditional to start a Fallout game with a song by 40s vocal group The Ink Spots, but this is playing some bluesy rock tune instead.
In the mid 21st century the United States was growing paranoid over the increasingly likely possibility that they'd get nuked right off the map, and built a network of massive underground bunkers called Vaults. Decades later, the descendants of those that had taken sanctuary in the Vaults found themselves facing a new life outside in an inhospitable wasteland.
Some survivors formed communities, others figured they'd raid those communities and steal all of their shit, but a few decided that their new mission in life was going to be to strut around in powered armour suits, hoarding all the pre-war tech they could get their hands on in their fortified bunkers while generally behaving like a smug elitist cult of quasi-religious jerks. Those people called themselves the Brotherhood of Steel and after showing up in the last two games as a minor guest star, this time around they've been given the leading role.
Fallout game, a fleet of Brotherhood airships was sent out across America on a mission to wrap up some unfinished business. But their intrepid journey was cut short by a touch of bad weather.
With their airship shredded by a storm, the Brotherhood force found themselves stranded near the ruins of Chicago and forced to accept outsiders from the local tribes into their ranks for the first time. Which is where I come in.
I had an option to play through a few tutorials first, but I decided to throw caution and common sense to the radioactive wind and jump right into the first mission.
Fallout 1 and 2 so far, though hey I've been given a face for once! The Skills and Traits lists are very familiar as well, though there is one concession to the more combat focused gameplay, as the Speech skill has been replaced with a new Pilot skill. Plus they've put in a tiny little 'Tough Guy' checkbox which activates Ironman mode and disables saving during levels.
You might be looking at this thinking "Hang on, this looks like a 640x480 window of character stats surrounded by a bit of wasted space to pad it out... they've just straight reused Fallout 1's menu artwork again like the last game haven't they?" But nope this is actually all new artwork this time around; it just looks really similar.
It's possible you've also noticed there's a 'Human' button at the top there. Well it doesn't actually do a damn thing. You can only ever play as a human character in the game...
Okay I'm going to put all my points into Intelligence (for extra skill points), Agility (for extra action points) and maybe an extra point into Luck (for luck). Then I'll tag 'Small Guns' because I want to be able to kill things, 'Sneak' because I don't want the things to know I'm coming to kill 'em, and 'First Aid' because I live in hope that it'll actually help in some way this time.
Okay there's a whole wall of text coming up next, but don't whatever you do actually read any of it... unless you want to. I'm just putting it here because I'd like to mention something about it.
It's funny how similar this interface is to the one in Fallout 1 and 2, despite being a different genre. I wouldn't have imagined it'd be a good fit for a strategy game, but I guess I'll find out.
Right, I can actually select and command everyone in my party directly for once in the series, so I'm going to round up my crew and move them eastward into the tribe's stolen village. I clicked their names on the HUD panel, then clicked where I wanted them to go and off they went walking up there in real-time.
The gameplay seems straightforward enough. I click on the floor to make my selected character walk there and I click on enemies to shoot them. To reload I click the picture of the gun and if I want to stab someone instead I click the picture of the knife to swap my active weapon. It's almost exactly like the last two Fallouts, but just different enough to throw me off. For one thing, events occur in real-time.
I've figured out how to get my squad to keep their heads down (using the new stance buttons added to the interface) but I'm still working on getting this switched to over to turn-based combat instead so that I have a second to think.
Also I've got Stimpaks in here! Glorious life-restoring Stimpaks! Suddenly I think I'm in with a chance here after all.
Though, uh, I'm having a bit of trouble with this lock here. Maybe I blinked and missed some instructions but it doesn't seem like my tutorial character has the skill needed to open the tutorial door. You know, I think he actually did unlock the door, but then immediately re-locked it again in a way that he can never open. Man, I suck at tutorials!
I can save the game at any time so I can continue playing as Cate if I want, but I think I'll create a new character this time around. A new character with almost exactly the same stats, save for an additional point in Agility to get me an extra action point during turn-based combat.
BACK AT THE START OF LEVEL 1, JUST OUTSIDE OF THE TRIBAL VILLAGE.
The overwatch can be set to different accuracy thresholds, so if I set it so that he only pulls the trigger when he's pretty much certain not to miss... well, it makes for an excellent ambush that's for sure.
Alright my second attempt is working out a lot better than the first one. I haven't got my lead character killed for one thing and the rest of my team is in good health. Or at least they will be when I get this First Aid skill to work. Dammit man, you're a doctor! Physician heal thyself already.
A FEW KILLS LATER, ALL THE WAY UP AT CIRCLE #4.
Thankfully the game doesn't share the previous games' problem of nearby civilians slowing down combat by taking their own turns one by one. In fact there are two turn-based modes in the game: sequence based, where individual units take turns in order of their speed, and squad based, where each side gets to move all their pieces at once. Which is amazing really, I've never seen another game do this.
I decided to switch it to squad based combat though. It's less realistic, but it lets me coordinate my attacks easier. Not that it's a big deal what mode I go with, as I can switch between them AT ANY TIME I WANT. Fallout Tactics, you have impressed me sir.
LATER, JUST AFTER CIRCLE #6.
I would go through the play by play of how each of these encounters is going down, but this level is dragging on so damn long that I have to keep it brief or else I'll never see the rest of the game. I shouldn't even say that they're 'dragging' as I am enjoying it so far; I just find it uncomfortable to concentrate on a game for so long.
Basically what I've been doing at each encounter is try to get my people out from behind the walls and onto the ground in a position to open fire at the enemies while they're still a fair distance away. A sniper that's lying down and using all of their points to take single accurate shots is going to destroy a guy still on his feet, spraying his submachine gun around on burst fire, and they get even more deadly the closer the enemies get.
EVENTUALLY AT CIRCLE #7.... THE FINAL CIRCLE.
I had a plan to send Rockatanski to climb the ladder out on the left side of the building and rain down righteous gunfire upon them from above, but that plan kind of failed when I discovered that from up their he was mostly just seeing a whole lot of roof. I can't find a button to switch the floor I'm looking at, and even if I could switch, the enemies only appear on screen if my character has noticed them.
Each character gets a few skill points (based on their intelligence) to distribute between skills, with the ones I tagged earlier getting double value per point. Stitch started off a level above the others, so he's already gotten to choose his first Perk as well. Perks were one of the most innovative and interesting things about levelling in the first two Fallouts and it's nice to see them making a return.
And then after my epic victory at circle #7, I had to go and backtrack all the way out to the start of the level again to reach the exit grid. Overall it took me about an hour I reckon to clear out the whole map. To put that into perspective, it takes around 15 minutes maybe to clear the first proper level of Final Fantasy Tactics. Though on the other hand it'll take you around three hours to finish reading through this whole article, so I guess it's not actually so bad.
I probably could go off on an adventure into the wilderness, fighting random encounters and stumbling into places I'm not supposed to be yet, but I'm tired and I just want to get back to base and take a break already.
I was going to load up on Stimpaks with the cash I'd made from trading broken bottles, but they ain't cheap so I'll just grab a few shells instead. I'll be giving each character a scavenged double barrel shotgun in their second slot to bring out if anyone gets too close.
MUCH MUCH LATER ON LEVEL 3.
Fortunately I already know the secret to efficient bomb disposal: shoot them until they blow.
Right, I've got a new plan here: I'm going to very carefully walk around the land mines and then I'm never coming back this way again.
I just wish that I was getting any better at breaching houses. No matter what I do or who I bring, someone on my team always gets blasted coming in through the door. A flashbang, that's what I need.
I thought this was just an empty store room! I sent my squad leader in here looking for more shelves to loot, not a bloody boss fight! If he ends up dying here it's all over and I have to load a save. Not a great hardship I know, but I didn't quick save after doing all that tedious inventory management.
What's with these boss characters on this level anyway? They're all trying to turn my squad into sex slaves or yelling that they're going to stuff them down their pants.
I suppose I should free this guy while I'm here. I know General R. Lee Ermey's probably going to shout at me for throwing away potentially valuable intel again, but the poor prisoner seems like he's been through hell.
Fallout 2 liked to joke around for sure, but this seems to have turned things up to 11. Every other line coming of a character's mouth is either a joke or a reference to something and they're not overly concerned about keeping the fourth wall intact.
Anyway I've got this key now, so I can go all the way back around, across the minefield, and finally get that massive door open.
I've sent my squad leader around the walls to the bottom corner to draw their attention and keep them focused, while Flashlight and Brian creep in from above using the sneak skill. I'm sick of having drawn out gunfights with rifles now, this map's dragging on WAY too long, so I'm going to pop up behind them on the next turn and take them all out in one glorious close range surprise shotgun assault.
What about that Casio keyboard there, does that count as an artefact? No? I guess I'm going back through that minefield again then.
I can't imagine many Fallout fans back in 2001 were crying out for a tactical spin-off of their series, especially when it'd been three years since the last Fallout RPG with no successor in development. I know companies occasionally like to go crazy and switch genres, but it still seems weird to me.
The weirdest thing about Fallout Tactics though, is how a game exclusively focused on what's been the weakest part of the series so far could've turned out so good. I don't feel like I understand the combat well enough to judge it properly yet, but signs point to it being pretty well implemented. It's definitely way closer to the classic X-COM/UFO style of combat that inspired Fallout 1's action point driven gameplay in the first place, in a good way. For one thing it helps a great deal that you can control your entire party this time, allowing you to use some actual strategy instead of just bringing up the called shot screen and clicking on the enemies' eyes over and over.
It's definitely not a flawless game and the interface in particular is very dated now, but my main complaint with the game is actually that the levels are just too huge. They're uncomfortably massive for me, at least in turn-based mode. I imagine they're more bearable playing it in real time, but they're also a whole lot less survival so I've found it hard to test that. I really need to figure out how to bait enemies into coming out into my ambushes for a change.
I gotta admit, out of the three Fallouts I've played so far, this is the one that's grabbed my attention and made me want to keep going with it. The other two have their charms for sure, but I was left waiting for the good bit to start and for the awesome story and characters I'd heard about to show up, but they never really did for me. This on the other hand gets right to the point.
I'm too tired to think up much to say here so... leave a comment maybe if you feel like it.