A squad uses high ground to attack deathclaws and human Beastlords
Unlike the previous two Fallout games, Fallout Tactics emphasizes tactical combat and strategy. Players have much more limited interactions with non-player characters, but they can still trade with them, and some missions include dialogue. Instead of towns, Fallout Tactics centers around Brotherhood bunkers and missions. The bunkers serve as a central point for the Brotherhood, and players can obtain the services of quartermasters, mechanics, personnel yeomen, and medics. Characters from completed missions occasionally visit the bunkers.
After receiving a mission briefing from the general in charge of the bunker, the player's squad can then move to the area where the mission will take place. Although this is usually a town, it can also be a factory, military encampment, or a Vault. There, the player is given a map of the area marked with objectives and notes.
Combat in Fallout Tactics is more complicated than in the previous two Fallout games. Unlike those, which featured an individual turn-based system, Fallout Tactics features three modes of combat: Continuous Turn-Based (CTB), Individual Turn-Based (ITB), and Squad Turn-Based (STB). In CTB, everyone can act at the same time, and action points are regenerated at a rate based on Agility. ITB is the system used in the original games. STB is a variation of that; each turn is given to a squad. Other changes include the ability to change stance, modifiers for height, and setting sentry modes, which let characters shoot automatically in CTB upon encountering an enemy.
Fallout Tactics is the first Fallout game to feature a multiplayer mode. In this mode, each player controls a squad of characters and faces off against opposing players. During game setup, players are granted a number of points with which to purchase squad members and gear.
Although the main character on the single player game has to be human, recruits from the brotherhood and characters in multiplayer matches can be of any of the six races featured in the game:
- Humans: Humans are the most common race on the wastelands. They do not excel in any particular area, but they do not suffer in any areas either. Humans gain perks every three levels.
- Super Mutants: Modified by the Forced Evolutionary Virus, super mutants are hulking beasts that are excellent at combat but lacking in intelligence and agility. Unfortunately, they can't use small weapons such as pistols or rifles. Super Mutants gain perks every four levels.
- Ghouls: Ghouls are humans who have mutated due to the radiation of the wastes and have extremely long lifespans. Although not as strong as humans, ghouls are luckier and more perceptive. They gain perks every four levels.
- Deathclaws: Deathclaws are massive beasts that use their bodies' size and strength to tear their enemies apart. Unfortunately, they can't use most items or wear armor and can only use melee weapons (brass knuckles, etc.), though most of their strikes will commonly knock opponents down, preventing retaliation. Although lacking in intelligence and charisma, the bodies of deathclaws are far more durable than humans. They gain a perk every four levels.
- Dogs: Dogs are canines that have adapted to life in the Wastelands. Their main strengths are perception and agility, but they cannot use weapons or other tools. Dogs gain perks every two levels.
- Humanoid Robots: Robots are machines created to fight. Although they always have an average amount of luck and no Charisma, Robots are strong and tough, resistant to most attacks, and immune to poison and radiation. Robots never gain perks.