The Brotherhood of Steel is the only faction to appear in every single Fallout game. From charming isolationists in Fallout to conquering warlords in Fallout: Tactics and then xenophobic isolationists in New Vegas, the Brotherhood of Steel has served as the lighthouse of the Fallout franchise. Despite their strong presence, the Brotherhood perhaps the most inconsistent and controversial faction. This inconsistency has led many fans to see the Brotherhood as little more than techno-raiders, rather than knights of knowledge.
To better understand the Brotherhood and their changing mission, I want to unpack the canonical forms of the Brotherhood of Steel in two parts. First from Fallout 1-Tactics and then from Fallout 3-4.
In the first game, the player’s interaction with the Brotherhood of Steel was entirely optional. The faction existed as the end-game hub. The Lost Hills bunker contained S.P.E.C.I.A.L upgrades, energy weapons, power-armor, skill bonuses, and temporary companions.
Yet entry came at a price and this is where the faction earned a negative reputation in the eyes of many. “New recruits” to the Brotherhood had to travel several weeks southeast to a hostile radioactive dungeon called The Glow. No one was expected to return. Brotherhood soldiers died inside at the Glow. Corpses of “new recruits” litter the surface.
Although many have died trying to join the Brotherhood, it is important to remember that Fallout is a world where a handful of pills can make someone completely immune to radiation for 24 hours.Additionally, although the Brotherhood sent the Vault Dweller on a suicide mission, they were true to their word and admitted the player character to their ranks.
In their first incarnation, the Brotherhood is complex. They’re isolationist, they’re militaristic, they’re bureaucratic, and they’re scientific. Librarian Vree conducts a thorough autopsy of a super mutant, the report of which is literally used to save the world. Overall, the Brotherhood acts like the military they spawned from: they engage in routine training, paperwork, scientific study, and they keep a tight fist on their toys, particularly power armor.
There are a few small details hidden in the original incarnation of the Brotherhood that are often ignored.
The first is the singer of Junktown, who reveals that despite his only marketable skill being his voice, he is still allowed to perform within the Lost Hills bunker (he actually shows the player where the bunker is).
The second is that Vree mentions she built a new laser pistol. This shows that the Brotherhood isn’t just collecting technology (as The Outcasts do in Fallout 3) they are manufacturing it.
Third, both the Gun Runners and Jake’s Weapons sell the super-sledge. The item’s description states that the super-sledge was invented by the Brotherhood of Steel. This would imply that the Brotherhood is trading their new technology, rather than protecting it. This is further reinforced by the good (canon) ending which states that knights drove the mutants away (with minimal loss of life), joined the NCR (but stayed out of the power-structure), and reintroduced technology into the wasteland while also engaging in research and development. .
Surprisingly, the Brotherhood all but disappeared in Fallout 2. Their bunker remained the end-game hub as it contained S.P.E.C.I.A.L. upgrades, but it lacked structure and only had one quest. Since the formation of the NCR, the Brotherhood established a handful of business offices across the wasteland. It is worth nothing that these bunkers are empty, manned only by a guard at the front door.
Indeed, there are only two Brotherhood operatives in the whole game. The first is a knight who says that you’ve “come a long way” then refuses to talk to you again. The second is Matt at the BoS bunker in San Francisco, who gives a small amount of backstory before asking the player to steal vertibird plans from the Enclave.
Matt tells the player this cryptic phrase: “The Brotherhood of Steel is not the power that we once were. We believed ourselves to be the sole source of technology left to mankind. Secure in this belief we have let our order decline over the years.”
The player is never told exactly what happened to the Brotherhood between Fallout and Fallout 2, but it is implied that the Enclave overtook them as the technological powerhouse. The game’s cover and main menu reflects this. The antiquated T-51b has been replaced by the advanced Enclave armor. This still leaves one question unanswered, what ever happened to the Brotherhood’s work with the NCR, “reintroducing technology into the wasteland and becoming a powerhouse for research and development”?
Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel is considered semi-canon. Only the most pivotal events effect the overall Fallout storyline. It likely would have been cut altogether had Fallout 3 not put the Brotherhood of Steel on the east coast, 3000 miles from their home bunker.
Tactics attempts to fill the gap between Fallout and Fallout 2. The Brotherhood was split in two. Those that wanted to keep outsiders from their ranks remained in California and the rest were sent on blimps (somehow) over the Rocky Mountains. It seems as though a single line of exposition from the opening narration of Fallout Tactics is meant to explain the fall of the BoS from research powerhouse to xenophobic technology hoardes. The Brotherhood who remained in California would split again between Fallout 2 and Fallout 3, prompting a separate subfaction to head east. Surely these divisions left the organization weakened.
In the actual game, the Brotherhood act as Space Marines from Warhammer 40,000. All across the Midwest villages are wiped clean of any hostiles. The survivors can either offer their strongest children as Brotherhood recruits or be wiped out. At the same time, this incarnation of the Brotherhood of Steel takes in tribals, ghouls, super mutants, talking deathclaws, dogs, robots, and even Vault Boy.
The story of Fallout Tactics hardly deals with the Brotherhood’s quest to preserve technology (there are a few missions but the majority of the story is about facing the next threat). Instead, the mid-western Brotherhood is on a great crusade to capture villages and eliminate hostiles.The ending is an exception. The player is given the ability to decide if the Midwest will expand on existing technology (in a Mass Effect 3 type ending) or start from the ground up. I believe that your perception of this BoS incarnation really depends on whether or not you like Warhammer.
Even in the original games, the developers never seemed sure exactly how the Brotherhood of Steel should be perceived or what their role is. Yet, the Brotherhood has appeared in every Fallout game. Indeed, if you count the non-canon “Brotherhood of Steel”, they are in the namesake of two titles. However, there are still unanswered questions. When Bethesda got their hands on the Brotherhood, their tone changed again and then again two years later when the franchise returned to the hands of Fallout 2 writer Chris Avellone. Next time, we’ll be looking at the 3D incarnations of the Brotherhood of Steel.