This isn’t intended to turn into a “trash Bethesda” post – honestly, there’s enough of those out there and I doubt there’s much more to be added to that conversation that hasn’t already been covered more thoroughly by YongYea or more hilariously by HBomberGuy so I’m not even going to try.
No, this is…personal.
Not personal like that (though when it comes to that a discussion can totally be had about “Voice Actors That Make Me Make Bad Decisions,” but that’s for another day). No, this is personal in a deeply, overwhelmingly obnoxious nerd way. A lore fiend way. A, “Jesus Christ, nobody cares, please stop,” way.
My dear friends, Bethesda has no idea what the fuck to do with the Brotherhood of Steel or why anyone likes them, and I am going to go into excruciatingly pedantic detail why I believe this.
In the interest of not having a hundred paragraph blog post, I wrote up a Brotherhood of Steel timeline here that you can view at your leisure, or you can view the whole Fallout universe timeline here, either way give it a good once-over (or don’t, if you’re here you probably already know most of the timeline anyway).
The timeline is only a brief glimpse at the care of continuity – ultimately, since Bethesda bought the rights to the Franchise, they can do whatever the fuck they want with the lore, but the problem is their own inconsistencies with how that lore is changed and the reasoning behind changing it.
There’s little timeline issues that just do not make sense (like the lore of Tactics being defunct while simultaneously acknowledging the existence of a Midwest BoS) but there’s much bigger picture things that just do not make any sense at all and I imagine that the only excuse is that they simply do not give a shit:
- The Outcasts returning to Arthur Maxson when he’s doing the exact same shit that Lyons did (open recruitment, aiding wastelanders, picking fights with assholes to destroy their tech not to take it) only harder, faster, and with way weirder justification. Why, exactly, was this a better idea coming from a shithead sixteen year old than a respected Elder with decades of leadership experience? Like, I get that he has a sweet haircut (I’m a little biased, it’s my haircut too), bitchin’ face scar, and a cool jacket but no amount of debate team charisma would convince a true zealot to abandon their principles that absolutely.
- In addition to the Outcasts, why are the Western BoS on board with Maxson’s agenda? They cut Lyons off! If anything you’d think they would say, “a sixteen year old? Yikes. He’s still recruiting and is actively leaving the designated location of the mission to start a war with an unknown force and destroy their technology? Don’t answer the phone for a few years, let them ride this one out. Maybe functionally establishing a monarchy was dumb anyway. Hopefully there will be something left of the tech for us to go back and collect in a couple of decades. Christ.”
- The idea that Roger Maxson started a radio station to share “Brotherhood ideals” or whatever the fuck nonsense in Fallout 76 is incredibly stupid when by all accounts in his diary (in both Fallout and Fallout 3) he seems to be pretty remorseful of how things turned out at Mariposa and there is zero established lore that the Brotherhood had ANY contact with outsiders prior to the 2150s ish. The Codex likely wasn’t fully fleshed out at that point and there’s basically zero reason a survivor of The Great War would take the word of a deserter who was underground and across the country anyway (even given they were cool beforehand). Any remaining functioning satellite would have almost certainly been under the control of the Enclave/Poseidon Energy and even if it wasn’t, why would some random Captain have complete control of a satellite? Lore aside it’s a question of logic. I understand the core of Bethesda’s most loyal accept this wholeheartedly, even heralding it as a way “Brotherhood can be all over the US in future games!” (ugh) with this explanation. Those people are the reason these games are actively getting worse, don’t excuse this shit, there was absolutely no reason Bethesda couldn’t have had another new (!!!) faction, shoehorning in BoS was unjustifiable and a ploy to sell merch and pander to the lowest common denominator. Make something original for fucks sake, when you have an established world with heavy regional tribalism there’s no reason for all places to have all the same factions, especially in different centuries. Literally I think merch is the only reason they were part of FO76, it’s not an artistically sound decision, but it is a financially sound one. Power Armor merch sells, goddamn it! If they had to have a recognizable faction with power armor, why not just expand the role the Enclave had in the game beyond a hard to find secret faction? “Poseidon Energy totally had a converted mine bunker here,” is way more easily justified and it’s not like they didn’t already have Greenbriar (Whitespring) in the game. Maybe even play them as “good guys” since at that point the fuckery going on at the oil rig certainly wouldn’t have been known in Appalachia, take the player base off-guard a bit.
- The inclusion of FEV in Fallout 4 does not make any sense (it barely made sense in 3, but since Enclave was there you could kind of sort of go along with it) and the fact that it was present and the BoS didn’t give a shit about it is inexcusable. Finding the source of the Commonwealth FEV and the Institute’s FEV work should have been paramount, shit, as soon as they found out Virgil had a viable cure recruiting him at all costs should have been more important than getting Doctor Li back onboard. Paladin Danse should have been on a personal fucking crusade to find this out as soon as Gladius got to the Commonwealth, like report #1 100% should have been, “there is a massive unexplained volume of Super Mutants here, possibly indicating there may be an unaccounted for source of FEV experimentation on a local human populace. Also there’s a weird ass radio station, if it’s not related that can probably wait since we can’t decode it anyway, this Mutant population is at crisis levels to a point is is a formidable threat to any Brotherhood tech recovery activity in the area.” This isn’t just lore inconsistency from game to game, it’s internal within 4, you cannot establish a major personal vendetta of a companion and his faction and then ignore what that vendetta implies as far as lore urgency. I mean…you can but that sucks.
It isn’t just a lore problem though, it’s a major tone issue that really bothers me and has troubling implications for future inclusion of the Brotherhood in any upcoming Fallout game. Here’s a big point, if it’s the only thing you take from this post I hope it’s this:
THE BROTHERHOOD OF STEEL ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE FASCISTS, YOU SHITLORDS
Enclave is. A new, unique faction can be too. I mean yeah this does kind of go back to lore but at no point in the establishment of the Brotherhood were Roger Maxson’s actions remotely pro-strong authoritarian government, he straight up deserted the army and killed a bunch of government contractors for losing their humanity in the name of just following orders. No Nuremberg defense was going to fly at Mariposa, no “we have to do this to defeat China, it is a necessary evil!” his guiding principle was the preservation of morally upstanding humanity, and was willing to give up everything for that. Had the bombs not dropped days later, Maxson and his detachment would have been executed and he surely would have known as much, and yet he acted anyway.
The Brotherhood of Steel is closer to monks acting as vanguards for technology humanity is still too brash to hold than they are a power-hungry military force. Tim Cain fucking said as much, they’re based on A Canticle for Leibowitz. Not some fucking Zack Snyder-esque power fantasy.
Roger Maxson noted in his diary, “I convinced the men that we should bury the scientists. I don’t know why…perhaps it was to ease my conscience. I finally started to believe their stories when the last one was dying. My God, what have I become?” That’s not the words of a man who wants power and control, that’s a guy filled with regret feeling the crushing weight of terrible duty. Fallout fans loved the Brotherhood because of that sense of duty and honor, in our minds we want to be the noble lodestar faithfully carrying out our duty in the face on a world that will never appreciate us, see us, or know our names outside of our order of compatriots. Secret dignified societies aren’t cool when they start stomping on people like assholes, and semi-secretive douchebag factions literally already exist in the Fallout world so there’s no reason to contaminate a much cooler and nuanced faction with that fuckery.
It’s a slap in the face to why the Brotherhood of Steel was established at a fundamental level to turn them into jackboots invading and flexing on other factions, it’s unconscionable to have them kill the Railroad, the Minutemen, and sentient ghouls that are doing exactly nothing to threaten them or keep them from obtaining and sequestering technology (and no, freeing synths does not count as interference, since both the Brotherhood AND the Railroad had the ultimate end goal of ending synth production, the only difference is what was to be done with the existing synths which is an entirely different can of worms). Their goal from day one was to protect humanity from mankind’s worst justifications so Arthur Maxson making the case for completely arbitrarily deciding who lives and dies in Boston with, “turning your weapons on the very same people that you’re trying to save can be a bitter pill to swallow,” is such an insane perversion of what Roger had to do I’m shocked someone wrote that line of dialog with a straight face (that, and “the Brotherhood is here to prevent a war by starting one of our own,” are so WTF inducing I struggle to see how this dude could have been well-spoken enough to be elected to flag football team captain at age sixteen, much less an Elder of the BoS).
Bethesda’s turned the BoS into the West Tek Scientists with Enclave ambition, a group of mindless followers just obeying orders and ignoring the immorality of their actions for a stated but never seen “greater good” that is ultimately way more harmful than if they’d done nothing at all. They could have had a moment of true brilliance with the Institute and Brotherhood as foils – the former sacrificing their own humanity in the name of saving mankind, the latter sacrificing their own kind in the name of saving humanity – but taking it to sacrificing mankind in the name of saving humanity just makes them look like morons. Between the wholesale slaughter of the Institute, Railroad, and possibly Minutemen (depending on how you played it) plus the nuclear detonation of the Institute with a force implied to be of a magnitude similar to what the Sole Survivor felt during The Great War, Brotherhood presence easily halved the human population of the Commonwealth. Congratulations, you short sighted assholes, you’ve managed to fail at collecting and containing technology AND preserving humanity! You’ve used technology as irresponsibly as you possibly could have! You have actively made everything worse for yourselves (as far as expenditure of your own meager forces and loss of equipment) and the territory you invaded!
Blowing up the Synth lab in the Institute and killing of the scientists involved, yes, totally in line with the core tenants of the BoS codex and a mirror of the destruction of FEV human experimentation, but destroying the entire facility FULL OF WEAPONS AND ENERGY TECH not to mention the research facilities having to deal with, y’know, the cure for FEV they forgot to give a shit about, with the force of a large nuclear warhead is so fucking batshit and out of line with literally everything the Brotherhood has ever done ever if Fallout 5 doesn’t have a half-assed terminal entry about Arthur Maxson being stripped of rank and sent to work shining panels at HELIOS I will keel over dead. You never see any of the Institute “survivors” post detonation (and it’s unlikely they would have gotten out of the blast radius anyway even if they’d made it through the escape tunnel in the sewer) so the Brotherhood was totally on-board with murdering children and scientists not involved with synth production (some were even against it!). What a goddamn shame. Roger definitely would not have been completely horrified by your actions.
At least they had the sense to scrap the, “challenge Maxson for the throne,” post Blind Betrayal quest since conceptually the idea any Elder could be stripped via a combat challenge is super stupid for a multitude of reasons, not limited to:
- Most Elders are actually, uh, elder, and would get the everloving shit kicked out of them in a combat trial
- New Vegas – which was under Bethesda rule – already established the ways in which an Elder could be removed and that sure as shit wasn’t one of them
- You already could have challenged Maxson for giving you direct orders prior to being given the Sentinel rank and violating the Chains That Bind…you know, had Bethesda bothered to be consistent WITH THEIR OWN LORE
Don’t get me wrong, on a personal level they did my Buzz Lightyear bro wrong, but holy shit that would have been a misguided remedy (why the fuck you couldn’t have gotten him to join the Minutemen after is beyond me, they clearly would have appreciated the help and it would have given him some goddamn purpose and direction again ugh I’m getting distracted). So one point to Gryffindor for that I guess.
TL;DR Bethesda please repair the relationship with Obsidian. Obsidian please repair the relationship with Chris Avellone. Bethesda please hire Chris Avellone to fix this shit.