Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel - Retro Reflections

In the late nineties some great role playing games were produced, such as Baldur’s Gate or Icewind Dale, and Fallout (1997) was one of the best. Its graphics alone did not win any prizes but its original plot, rich character development system, a world full of dangers and unexpected discoveries, tactical, violent battles, variety of weapons, climactic ending, incredibly detailed dialogues and immersive atmosphere made it a timeless example of ingenious game design.

Fallout Brotherhood of Steel (BoS) is an action/adventure taking place in the same post-apocalyptic world. After millions of people died during the Great War the survivors had to deal with hostile environmental conditions, raiders and monsters. You are the new recruit of an elite team of warriors dedicated to bringing peace to the wastelands, the BoS (I still remember how awesome it was to wear their metal armor in Falllout). Strangely, although the tutorial begins in one of their bases, afterwards you are taken to a small town, searching for the rest of them. The action consists of using melee and ranged weapons to kill raiders, ghouls, huge scorpions, mutants and robots and explore every place to find caps (they function as money), ammo, equipment and health items (called stimpacks). This is stuff that has been done before, so, with such great source material you might expect BoS to be an excellent experience. Alas, it is not.

First of all, the story is practically non existent. Fragments from the Fallout games are used but the plot is surprisingly thin and the way it is developed shows a serious lack of effort and inspiration. People who have played the original role playing games will find nothing new here and those who have not will wonder why they were famous. In addition, the game is incredibly tedious. Just to go from one place to another takes hours of fighting the same monsters in locations that barely change or stimulate your imagination and when I finally reached my destination I realized it was not worth the effort.

I will describe my course in the game to better explain my opinion. The game begins outside a bar attacked by raiders. You kill them and ask the mayor if he has seen any BoS soldiers in the vicinity. He says he will tell you if you get rid of all the radscoprions in a nearby warehouse. It is funny how people who ask you to eliminate all monsters in an area know exactly how many they are. Did the mayor enter the warehouse, count the scorpions and then waited for some poor sucker to come and exterminate the ugly critters? Anyway, after clearing the various levels of the warehouse, which is huge for such a small town, the mayor tells you that some BoS soldiers went down a crater a few days ago. I don’t understand why the hero does not try to communicate with their base or use a radio to find them; instead, he walks from place to place, hoping to bump into them. So, you go down the crater, which has two tiresome levels full of bugs (one level is never enough for a dungeon) and when you reach the end, guess what: the mayor appears and says he tricked you and he wants you dead because he cooperates with the raiders secretly. After taking care of the miserable traitor, you return to town, which is overrun by more raiders. Surprisingly, when you try to enter the warehouse for protection the local doctor does not let you in because she is afraid. This is the thanks you get for helping her people. After going to all parts of the town (south, north, east and west!) to kill all raiders you decide to face their matron, a woman with a foul mouth and clothes that barely cover anything.

The matron waits in a mill outside the town but if you thought you could just go there immediately you are naive. No, you must cross minefields and confront more raiders. Then you reach the mill and… still don’t fight the matron. Before having that privilege you should activate the mill’s generator, which is located after a huge warehouse and a series of rooms and corridors. Subsequently, you pass through office buildings and only then do you meet the matron. A huge mutant talks to her but he leaves before the fight. Defeating the matron requires no skill, you just exchange bullets with her until she collapses. Before dying you learn of a ghoul city, your next destination.

So far you realize the plot structure is completely basic and predictable. You just fight monsters and thugs until you reach someone who gives you new directions only to repeat the same procedure. It does not feel rewarding at all, instead I thought I was wasting my time. This is also due to the combat system: no matter how many times I leveled up I never felt I was actually strong because all enemies deal lots of damage (at normal difficulty) and it is impossible not to get hit countless times. The reason you survive is the use of stimpacks and abundance of deadly tools: you progress from a pair of metal gloves to a spiked club, a torch, a cleaver, a sledgehammer and powergloves (nice!), concerning melee weapons, and from a Beretta to a hunting rifle, double Desert Eagles and a laser rifle (note that your aim is pathetic without the “eagle eye” skill). You also find better armor, which decreases the amount of damage you take.

Continuing with my story, I arrived in a ruined city inhabited by ghouls, humans hideously
deformed by radiation. As in the human town before, you meet a merchant and a couple of characters who provide side quests. Then you set out to investigate a ghoul cult which is connected to the presence of mutants and a vault. Mutants are humanoids of immense strength which were created when humans were violently exposed to an artificial virus called FEV. Vaults are underground shelters constructed to protect a small percentage of the population from the atomic bombs. I had to search in docks and other places, which are unnecessarily complicated (as all locations in the game), with obstacles blocking the way constantly, forcing me to find my way around. At last, I discovered a paladin of the Brotherhood. This was great!  I mean, this is why I played, to see how cool the Brotherhood is and to prove my valor by saving the world. I fought a huge ghoul in an epic battle among pools of radioactive waste (thankfully, I had a skill that heals the hero by touching radiation), got the keys for the paladin’s chains, released him and… he got killed three minutes later like an idiot. This was the third time I played the game, yet this plot twist remains terribly disappointing.

The paladin gave me a key before he died, which opened a locked door of a nearby warehouse. Because you may be able to carry tons of firepower and decimate small armies but you need a key to open a simple door. The warehouse supposedly led to an underground vault where some advanced experiments were conducted, so, you might think the game became interesting at last. It didn’t. The warehouse was another complex set of rooms where you simply kill monsters and break crates, without learning or seeing anything new. Frankly, I had better things to do. So, I quitted. After all, I had found the vault a couple of years ago (on PS2) and it was nothing special. As for what transpires later in the game, I have no idea and I don’t care either.

Despite my disappointment, initially I was ready to give the game credit for its graphics and world. There are some good scenery here and there, e.g. ruined houses in the crater, rusty cars and green pools of toxic liquid. Moreover, the appearance of mutated creatures and references to secret technologies and hidden villains make you think that what follows will be exciting. However, most of the game consists of warehouses and bland outdoor areas with containers, railways and crates. Quests fail to deliver new experiences and the level design is tiresome. If you add the lack of music, an impractical top-down camera and a weak skill system that barely upgrades your abilities you end up with a game that leaves a lot to be desired. I gave it a second (and third) chance, mistaking its playability for quality but I wasted my time. Interplay was responsible for some masterpieces, however, BoS is an average game and a poor exploitation of Fallout’s name.

One last note: Concerning any differences between the PS2 version and the XBOX version I didn’t spot any. They are identical in terms of graphics, sound and gameplay.

Game Information

Single Player
Other Platform(s):
PlayStation 2


Article by Dimitris
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