Long before Fallout 3 there was the Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, the game that most Fallout fans chose to ignore. When I was little, I thought that it was the blotfly's knees. Real-time(ish) combat, an entire squad to control, and you belonged to the coolest faction in the entire Wasteland, the Brotherhood of Steel. What's not to like? That's why I started an LP about one and half years ago, to remember the game and to finish it once and for all. It turned out to be worse than I remember; tedious and bugged in some non-obvious ways, the game eventually devolves into a bullet sponge-filled slog. Plus, it kind of robs power armor of its invincibility, though not to the point of making it useless, unlike certain later 3D games (looking at you, Fallout 3).
Throwing weapons will never fail to disappoint
The story of Tactics begins with the Brotherhood of Steel, a group of military survivors of the nuclear apocalypse. They managed to maintain the technological edge of the pre-Fall civilization, which, coupled with their military training and tactics, let them carve out their niche in the wasteland. That niche is "providing the player character with power armor" with a sprinkling of "dying to show that the enemy is a serious threat". However, it was a fairly insular organization that only accepted plot-mandated outsiders and never shared their technology with others. In time, a faction arose that wanted to open recruitment - even to ghouls and other mutants - and go out into the world. The conservatives said "no", and the tolerance faction got exiled in a huge airship fleet. Said fleet got wrecked by a storm and crashed somehwhere around Chicago. However, the survivors hit the ground running and immediately started recruiting people from the local tribes, engaging in protection schemes and building civilization. You are one of these fresh recruits. Welcome to the Brotherhood!
Instead of an open-world, character driven RPG, you get a fairly linear tactical combat TBS. Or you can choose to utilise the shiny new continious turn-based mode, which is the closest pre-3D series got to real time combat. Naturally, I only ever played it in CTB. Being more combat oriented than any of the previous Fallout games, it has several other new things. You character can change stance and crouch or go prone (which restricts the use of heavy and melee weapons), as well as have a behaviour modifier, which is important in CTB. For most of the game, you'll probably have everyone except for sneaky scouts set on shoot-on-sight when you have a 33% chance of hitting (you can set it to three other values, but why bother). A great tool you can use to lure enemies into your firing line (a vital tactic in the late the game). Other than that, there is really little subtlety or fun to combat situations: there are no crazy tactics, fun tricks or flashy combos to be pulled off. The combat becomes a real chore when the final enemy group is introduced, as the game's idea of a difficulty curve is raising enemy HP and armor to sometimes ridiculous levels. If you have ever played Silent Storm, you'll remember all the crazy stuff you pulled in that game (shooting at sound contacts through the floor, using MGs as both lockpics and mine detectors) and cry. One other persistent issue with the game is that they never patched out the "burst bug", which makes burst fire make increasingly more damage to secondary, tertiary and so on targets. Image what it does to your usually clumped-up firing line!
This is your life from now on
Unlike the previous Fallout games, the game is entirely linear. You get the mission, travel the world map to the location (random encounter rate is insane due to old games interacting with new computers in fun ways), maybe have a special encounter on the way (thank God those still exist, though at least one can TPK your squad), then murder-snake your way through a usually-linnear map. The game is roughly separated into different chapters depending on the enemy group you're facing, and all quality tanks once you face the last one. Usually, missions have some variety in some unique challenges (that range from key-card fetching to hostage rescue) and the characters you talk to, but the end game is a horrible same-y grind through linnear levels that would make Skyrim dungeon planners proud. You won't really have to make choices along the way and your actions in missions usually don't carry over. You will be using quick-save quite often, however!
Companions (and their talking heads, and quests) used to be an important part of the Fallout experience. Here, your six man/ghoul/monster squad never gets more characterization than some flavor text in their character screen. What little dialogue (well, monologue that's said towards your mute characters) exists in the game is voiced, but that's a small consolation. Tactics still uses the SPECIAL system for character generation and the skill tree largely survives, though both it and the perk system has several trap skills. One of the most annoying things is how Small Arms skill becomes increasingly useless the nearer you are to the end of the game and how you are basically forced to switch to Energy or Big Guns. Not that those sections are filled with varied weapons and interesting choices. And God help you if you go Melee, Unarmed or Throwing. The further you go in game, the less interesting loot gets, to the point where you basically stop checking corpses altogether. Bigs Guns is also kind of a trap, because the game is really shy on ammo for the good weapons. Meanwhile, the end-game enemy will be armed with stuff your threw out missions that will be fluctuate between doing no damage to cutting through power armor like it was tissue paper. It's bizzare and annoying.
The Humwee only appears in this mission. The barricades that VIOLENTLY EXPLODE FROM ANY SORT OF DAMAGE? Those are a staple in the entire game.
So this game has little in the way of the gameplay we liked (i.e. supermutant NPCs friendly-firing Sulik in half) and absolutely nothing of RP in this G. But what about the art style? Well, aparently, they cared little about that, too. While they didn't really mess up the ruins (hard to do that), most pre-war architecture is this weird alien stuff that's not retro-futuristic at all. The ghouls, the super mutants and deathclaws are totally different, though having played BoS before any other Fallout games, I still prefer these designs to the classic ones. As a bizzare choice, guns are mostly real life, from Berettas to M249 to even Brens and MP40s- maybe they felt they needed some more realism in this military tactics game? Most of them are crammed into the early game to create some sort of illusion of choice, and the further you go into the game, the more obvious the "new gun -> better gun" the trend becomes. Armor styles have also changed considerably, though I can't say that I dislike they power armor as it looks in this game. The design was resurrected - poorly - for the Enclave power armor in Fallout 3, the game that stripped all the joy and feeling of power from these late-game artefacts. And while Tactics is the first game where you actully get to drive vehicles, their style is a little bonkers, with the basic Humwee (totally out of place in Fallout aesthetics) rolling next to a Sherman tank.
Of course, vehicles are the other big missed opportunity of the game, because you only get to use them in the mission you encountereted them for the first time. After that, they only appear in random encounters and in your base. Gee, nice to see that the tank is only useful as a mode of transport! It's great that you wasted artist and programming resources to give it a (bugged) turret and ammo that won't be useful even during the mission you can find it in!
Found your mom's spirit animal!
Wasted potential and disappointment is all you will encounter in Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel. There's no Fallout-y roleplaying, the art is a little strange, the bugs have not been ironed out, the combat turns into a slog, the levels are as linear as the campaign, the vehicles are useless, the loot game peters out eventually and the end game is a horrible mess. I used to like it when I was little, but that's probably because I didn't know better. As Brotherhood of Steel never gets to play a super-cool and important role in the main series, so is their dedicated game crappy and not well though-out.