So the themes are a mess, the setting is nonsense, and the most important character is a dumbass with a really intelligent sounding voice. But Dad isn’t the only man in this world who would lose to a wooden signpost in a thinking contest…
The Enclave are all dumb jerk idiot heads.
To be fair, they were never very bright. But at least they were dummies with a goal. Let’s just hand-wave the massive avalanche of contrivances and coincidences needed to explain how they somehow knew what Dad was doing and showed up five minutes after we turned on the power at the purifier, even though this place was free for the taking for the last 18 years. Fine. They’re here. Let’s talk about why.
Let me ask you about the Enclave in Fallout 3: What do these clowns want? At the end of the day, how are they hoping to improve their lot in life? What do they need? Land? Not likely, and this land is worthless anyway. Food and water? These people don’t have any. Slaves? The Enclave has a doom fortress of robots and magical technology to do their work for them, so the last thing in the world they need is a bunch of hungry, disease-ridden, irradiated slaves stinking up their nice clean base. And besides, what work needs to be done?
Sure, you can invent some reasons if you like. It’s not like pointless wars are some anomaly in human history. But in the game we’re not even given an excuse for why President Eden would launch the war, why the soldiers would give their lives, or why the people at home would support it. Nobody in this circus even has a notion of what they might get out of it. I’m not even asking for the bad guys to be smart at this point. I’m only asking that they have some basic inkling of motivation for why they’re doing the things they’re doing.
Here in the game, there is no reason given why the Enclave would invade the capital wasteland and seize control of a broken water purifier. The inhabitants have no resources, no technology, no power, and the land they’re on is a lifeless poisoned hellscape overflowing with mutants. It’s a waste of lives and ammo for the Enclave to come storming in here and gunning down civilians, and the purifier itself would be useless to them even if it worked.
Even if the Enclave wants to control the populace, they already have the power to do so by simply pointing their guns at people. And even if the guns weren’t enough, the purifier wouldn't help control people because people seem to be doing well enough with the water they've got.
The Brotherhood of Steel are all idiots with stupid brains.
The chapter of Brotherhood of Steel in this game has supposedly gone off-mission. They’ve abandoned their quest for technology and instead are trying to help the locals. I am okay with this. In fact, this is one of the points in the story where the “200 years later” idea actually works. 200 years is a long time for a single group to adhere to a set of ideals, and it’s not surprising at all that eventually some people would try to shake things up. Maybe this doesn’t “feel” like the Brotherhood to Fallout fans. You can make an argument that rather than trying to justify the Brotherhood crossing the continent it would have been more expedient story-wise to simply make up a new faction. But whatever. That’s not the kind of argument we’re here for.
My problem with the Brotherhood isn’t their change in mission and mindset. My problem is that nothing they do makes any sense. They spend most of their time downtown fighting super mutants, and the rest of their time helping a radio DJ. (Who is himself an idiot and an asshole of dubious value.) If they actually wanted to help people, they could share technology, or guard towns, or escort traders. Instead they’re mounting assaults on entrenched forces that aren’t a threat to anyoneAny HUMANS, anyway..
Part of the problem is that it’s hard to help people who don’t seem to need anything. The people of Megaton do no work, have no income, and produce no goods. They’re not thriving, but they seem to be getting by. It’s not clear how you can help people that have no goals.
We can hand-wave and say that without the BoS, the mutant problem would run out of control and threaten the surrounding towns. It’s pretty hard to justify fighting them so inefficiently. From the perspective of the player, it looks like Brotherhood could just camp the subway exits and keep the mutants bottled up in the city rather than fighting them in the open. But whatever. In broad strokes, this works well enough: We can just pretend the BoS is solving a mutant problem and the game is just careless about portraying it.
This could actually work, story-wise. There’s a lot you can do with the idea that a fighting force is really bad at doing humanitarian aid. This would put them out of their element, and would even help justify their usual practice of not getting involved. The game even seems to be trying to do this. Sort of. AwkwardlyIt kind of falls through because the BoS guys that stayed on-mission are even MORE dumb and useless..
But in a world where everyone else is also a moron, it doesn’t give us any payoff. They aren’t a great army turned into a poor peacekeeping force. They’re not being contrasted against a more competent foe. They’re just another group of swaggering dunces, wandering around shooting shit instead of being useful.
President Eden is a numskull who can’t think.
Like the Brotherhood of Steel, it’s actually okay if this guy is a bit of a screw-up. He’s a computer, and having computers go crazy and fail in absurd ways is a staple of the genre. In a smarter story, it might be cool to have this one super-intelligent but slightly broken computer causing some kind of ridiculous havoc, and it would be interesting to imagine an Enclave that was ruled by an insane computer that thought it was helping them. It could be a nice riff on the themes of Paranoia. But when the entire Enclave is made up of even bigger morons, Eden’s stupidity kind of gets lost in the noise.
Eden wants you to add FEV to the purifier and turn it on, thus filling the Potomac with “clean” FEV water. Then… what? Point guns at everyoneIncluding all the wildlife. in the Capital Wasteland, march them all to the bank of the river and make them drink?
Doesn’t the purifier… you know… purify the water? Wouldn’t the purifier turn around and remove the FEV? And if not, what do we need the purifier for? Why do you need to fix the purifier first? Couldn’t we just pour the FEV into the Potomac directly? Yes, you can easily come up with a reasonable explanation for this, but the game can’t be bothered. It’s all sloppy and hand-waving nonsense that you’re not allowed to think about.
But fine. For the sake of getting this over with, we’ll just go with it.
Let’s assume everything works the way Eden wants. Every single living creature in the Capital Wasteland will die of FEV, because it’s all slightly mutated. Great. Then what? The land is still an irradiated ruin. Now it’s an irradiated ruin with corpses all over it. Who cares? The Enclave doesn’t want or need the real estate, technology, housing, or clothes these people have.
Also, why would the player agree to this? This is the big moral choice in the game, because someone at Bethesda heard that moral choices were a big deal these days. But this choice is loopy. You can exterminate every single human, beast, and mutant you’ve encountered since you left vault 101I mean, the ones you didn’t ALREADY kill. Heh. or you can… not?
This choice could work in a dumb “LOL EVULZ” kinda way. In the same way they gave you the option to blow up Megaton just for laughs, they could let you genocide the entire wasteland for laughs. But since your character is also tainted by radiation, you’d be among the victims. It’s like a version of Hitler that wants to kill all the Jews, but he is a Jew, but he’s willing to go through with it anyway because he’s willing to give his life for the cause. So the moral choice here lets you chose between being a “selfless” genocidal maniac who gives his life to kill everyone else, or a… sane person?
Really Bethesda? This is the moral conundrum you have for us?
And the really painful thing is that they could have fixed about a dozen serious problems with the plot if they had just swapped Eden’s and Autumn’s goals: If Autumn wanted to poison the water, then the Brotherhood (and the railroaded-to-be-good player) would have a reason to oppose the Enclave at the end. The game portrays Eden as the “nice one” of the two, but he’s actually Hitler-evil and your “nemesis” Autumn isn’t really that bad by the standards of the world. He’s not all that worse than the Vault 101 Administrator, or that dipshit that runs the vampires, and he’s a good bit less evil than Roy, Burke, and Mr. Tenpenny. In the long run, Autumn is just another mean asshole trying to get what he wants with violence. We’re never given any indication that he wanted to do anything besides fix the purifier and turn it on, and he’s willing to murder people to make that happen. Sure, the game TELLS you he’s evil, but based on what we’re shown, he has the exact same goals (fix the purifier) and methodology (murder) as the player.
And if you get the DLC that lets you play past the end of the game, you’ll find out the FEV doesn’t work anyway. Or it’s really slow? I have no idea. The whole thing is so muddled I can’t even argue with it because I can’t tell what it’s saying. The moral compass of this game is a weathervane in a windstorm. It has no idea what point it thinks it’s making.
But no matter how it works, President Eden is still an idiot with no coherent goal.
So basically every single character is a drooling dum-dum, nobody has logical motivation, and the player’s goal is to help people that neither want nor need their assistance. We’ll see how it all comes together next time…
 Any HUMANS, anyway.
 It kind of falls through because the BoS guys that stayed on-mission are even MORE dumb and useless.
 Including all the wildlife.
 I mean, the ones you didn’t ALREADY kill. Heh.
Steam Summer Blues
This mess of dross, confusion, and terrible UI design is the storefront the big publishers couldn't beat? Amazing.
The Best of 2015
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2015.
A video discussing Megatexture technology. Why we needed it, what it was supposed to do, and why it maybe didn't totally work.
Crash Dot Com
Back in 1999, I rode the dot-com bubble. Got rich. Worked hard. Went crazy. Turned poor. It was fun.
Shamus Plays WOW
Ever wondered what's in all those quest boxes you've never bothered to read? Get ready: They're more insane than you might expect.