Fallout: The Brotherhood of Steel

Way back when talking about the Hub I mentioned that you can find out about more locations than I’d mentioned to that point. In fact, let’s look at the map again:

At this point, if you’ve been doing everything in plot order, you won’t know where the mutants are. But if you’ve been gathering information everywhere you can, you will know that there are a couple of promising communities we haven’t met yet. Today, we’ll be looking at the Brotherhood of Steel.

If you’ve played later games, it takes an active effort to understand how the Brotherhood of Steel would look to someone encountering them here for the first time. From talking to NPCs, you don’t hear much except:

  • There’s a trade route to their bunker
  • They have the most advanced tech anyone knows about
  • You aren’t allowed in

That is enough temptation by itself, but then the player who does wander up to the bunker to chat up the guards may notice they’re wearing that sweet power armor from the box cover, something else that is now old hat but back then was still one of the game’s tucked-away mysteries.

I didn’t really set this up on purpose, but showing up at the Brotherhood bunker at night makes it look even more appealing against the darkened desert.

Trying to get into Brotherhood of Steel gets you a quest to retrieve an artifact from a facility that suffered a direct hit from a nuclear missile. They don’t actually expect you to succeed more than they just figure that it’s a win-win (either you surprise them by getting what they want, or you die and can’t bother them anymore)

Now, Fallout is a WRPG. But I haven’t spoken much about the “dungeons” in this game because there just aren’t that many. Almost everything comes in the form of random encounters or quests finished in town, or a single-chambered cave. All of the exceptions are pre-war facilities, and The Glow is this game’s idea of an optional bonus dungeon. It’s bigger than nearly everything else in the game, it has robot enemies that don’t appear anywhere else outside of the endgame, and it has some of the best gear you can find outside of the Brotherhood itself. But bring a rope because you need one to get in and the game doesn’t tell you this. Oh, and thanks to a direct hit from a nuke it’s also full of background radiation and can ruin your save.

Thankfully, companions are rad-immune. That’s one of the last mercies they’ll get in this game.

This is another time where verisimilitude took priority over player experience. You can take fatal doses of radiation without dying immediately, which means it’s possible to take a lethal amount of radiation in The Glow and save without realizing your character is already doomed. On the bright side, this gives the whole place the sense of danger the designers clearly wanted, even if they were a bit heavy-handed in forcing it. Not that the danger stopped anyone. The item the Brotherhood wanted is on the very first floor of the dungeon. You can grab it, turn around, and ignore the rest of the dungeon…but who would do that?

Pressing on is duly rewarded; not only do you find powerful and rare weapons, but you also get to discover more lore-revealing holotapes than in the rest of the game combined. You get hints of the Brotherhood’s origins (soldiers that banded together after the war destroyed their command structure), as well as the FEV (an experimental virus that created the Super Mutants and other monsters in general), and some random explanations of Fallout technology if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s even an AI offering exposition of its own on the way down.

This is one of the game’s most critical plot twists and it’s buried deep in a dialogue tree with a computer. I wonder how many people saw this and missed its significance.

For lore nerds, this is the real reward of these sidequests. For everyone else, the loot here is the best in the game and that’s before we meet the people we came here to curry favor with.

Once you meet the Brotherhood of Steel themselves, you realize why they’re so reclusive; they’re the only people in the entire game whose living conditions even approach that of your own Vault. In continuing with the WRPG metaphor, these guys are either the elves who keep to themselves in the forest and try not to meddle in human affairs at all, or possibly a very haughty, judgmental religious order. They even use titles that would be right at home in high fantasy (Elder, Scribe, Knight, Paladin)

One thing the modern gamer would find jarring is the way that the Brotherhood existed without you before the game started and can continue to do so. If you didn’t already figure out that they didn’t particularly want you to survive The Glow, they’ll gladly rub it in your face even after letting you join. Trying to negotiate payment for a request from Elder Maxson can get you banished without appeal. And getting your hands on that sweet Power Armor from the box cover? That’s another sidequest, after the one where you just trudged through one of the most dangerous areas in the game!

That having been said, the Brotherhood bunker is still a reward in itself. Several characters drip-feed even more lore and intel about the world, and one Scribe you the important endgame plot twist, just in case you didn’t find that out in the Glow on your own. There’s also a quartermaster to make sure you’re getting endgame gear if you need it.

For fans of the later games, you also get to talk to the original Elder Maxson here. But Scribe Vree is my favorite of the original Brotherhood NPCs.

The biggest downside to this quest is the same as in the Deathclaw quest; it’s deflated by future games and franchise exposure. It’s hard to express that forbidden fruit feeling these guys give you if you already know they slowly turned into the series mascot. I’ll have a lot more to say about this when it comes time to talk about Fallout 3.

Next time: On to the endgame.

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