What a Waste (Land): Looking Back On 15 Years of 'Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel' - Bloody Disgusting
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What a Waste (Land): Looking Back On 15 Years of ‘Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel’

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It’s without a doubt that Fallout has become one of the most popular series in all of gaming. From the original turn-based RPGs to that of Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, Fallout 3, New Vegas, and 4, the western RPG has forever been impacted by the post-apocalyptic wasteland. With that said, it’s a shame that Fallout 76 hasn’t done all that well; from game breaking glitches, to an open world that feels far too devoid of life (even by Fallout standards), 76 has been a letdown for fans.

That said, there’s plenty of ways the developer can fix the game; whether it’s through updates and compensation, there are still means to provide an enjoyable experience to those who want to continue playing the game. It’s also fair to say that Fallout 76 is not the worst entry in the series, for that recognition goes to Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel.

Given that it was recently the 15th anniversary of Brotherhood of Steel, I thought it would be a good idea to look back on this unfortunate stain in Fallout’s history, reminding ourselves that things could be worse (and maybe finding something to learn from moving forward with Fallout 76).

Soulless Immersion Meets A Disappointing World

Released only for Xbox and PlayStation 2, as well as developed and published by Interplay Entertainment, Brotherhood of Steel is the fourth game set in the Fallout universe. The entry centers around that of the titular establishment, with the player choosing between three characters to control. One character may be good at combat but a bit slower, whereas another character is more mid-ranged.

For a series so well known for character building and role-playing, having to pick a character with specific stats is a bummer. While you have some ability to distribute stats as you progress, the majority of control and imagination is stripped away, removing a large part of Fallout’s immersive element. The game focuses more on constant action, taking away the great narrative and role-playing elements that are associated with Fallout. This issue is also in Brotherhood of Steel’s linear narrative; rather than give players the opportunity to explore an open world, they are kept to one particular location at a time depending on where they are in the story. What’s a Fallout game if there’s no means of exploration and experimentation? The game’s narrative is a grind through monotony, lacking the emotional depth found throughout other Fallout experiences.   

In general, Brotherhood of Steel contains next to nothing of that unique Fallout vibe. For one thing, the music doesn’t work for the game. While there’s nothing wrong with the music itself (it’s by Strapping Young Lad’s Devin Townsend), the inclusion of heavy metal takes away from the unsettling nature that Fallout has always had in its 50s aesthetic.

The setting is also your most generic post-apocalyptic world; Fallout has always been a series about environmental storytelling, and Brotherhood of Steel is just that of bland chaos, offering players nothing rich to gain beyond the action-driven gameplay. There’s also this odd product placement with the once popular soft drink Bawls; having product placement in Fallout is already weird, but completely removing all mentioning of Nuka Cola is downright wrong.

Another one of the game’s insults to the series comes in the form of its NPCs. Brotherhood of Steel’s characters are brutally dull, providing as much interest as a wet piece of paper. In an attempt to fit a general apocalyptic tone, the NPCs come across as foul-mouthed, empty shells of emotion. The character design also looks atrocious with how awkward and robotic their movements are. Enemy designs are also bland; waves of baddies may swarm at times, coming off as blobs of gray trying to attack you.

On a technical level, Brotherhood of Steel is a dumpster fire. Players have mentioned issues with the shooting mechanics, saying that it’s easier to go into combat hand-to-hand (and even that isn’t guaranteed to work all the time). Graphically it’s also a clunky looking experience; environments come with the most general of designs, leaving out the detail and atmosphere found in other Fallout games.

Upon its release Brotherhood of Steel received mixed reviews; over time, it has shown to age horribly, making for an immense disappointment in an important game series. It’s interesting how much the game departed from the Fallout gameplay players at the time had come to know and love, but it also makes for an interesting perspective on the current issues Bethesda is dealing with regarding Fallout 76.

What’s To Learn Moving Forward With Fallout

From the lack of emotional narrative to the empty landscape devoid of NPCs, many are looking at Fallout 76 as a significant disappointment in the series. Fallout 76 is more of a shift regarding gameplay, rather than departure; the great Fallout atmosphere is still present, it just takes on a different form while traveling through Appalachia. It’s apparent Fallout 76 has problems that need to be addressed, but I also feel that the issues are possible to fix, and those adjustments may lead to a much more enjoyable game.

What makes Fallout 76 stand above Brotherhood of Steel is the fact that the latter comes off as more of a game that’s just borrowing the Fallout name (rather than be a Fallout game). Both these games have taken directions in ways that differentiate themselves from the previous titles before them; of the two, however, Fallout 76 is the only one that holds onto a majority of traditional Fallout elements. Brotherhood of Steel only places the player in a post-apocalyptic world; hundreds of video games are set in such environments, but Fallout has a particular style to it that allows it to stand out. Brotherhood of Steel comes across as your most generic action game, offering little to no depth in its characters and story.

So looking back at everything Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel failed to accomplish, what can we (and Bethesda), learn moving forward with Fallout 76? While many are upset with the approach of Fallout 76, it’s important to note that this is Bethesda attempting to experiment and expand the gameplay of Fallout. What is essential for Bethesda at this point (besides listening to the concerns of gamers), is that they make sure Fallout 76 is a Fallout game. Incorporate your spins on traditional mechanics, make your game an online experience, but when it comes to building upon a series with a legacy, make sure you honor the core of what makes that game special.

Michael Pementel is a pop culture critic at Bloody Disgusting, primarily covering video games and anime. He writes about music for other publications, and is the creator of Bloody Disgusting's "Anime Horrors" column.


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