Since its debut in late 1997, the “Fallout” action-RPG video game series has left the gaming world fascinated by its unique blend of 1950s retro-futuristic cheese and post-apocalyptic horror trappings. Set in an alternate timeline where the world was destroyed by nuclear war during the late 21st century, players take on the role of various survivors in the 22nd and 23rd centuries. Travelling across the irradiated wasteland that is what’s left of North America, they hope to find other pockets of humanity in the destruction. In a world where bombs have left the land barren and empty — barring several hundred horrifically mutated abominations — the terror and lifelessness can only be penetrated by upbeat swing music from eras past that is echoing from your character’s radio.
But that’s not what we’re here talk about. A major part of the “Fallout” world is that of the Brotherhood of Steel — a centuries-old American military organization with quasi-religious elements. Founded by U.S. Army captain Roger Maxson during the war that destroyed the world in 2077, the Brotherhood tries to act as a source of order in the wasteland, but its efforts are constantly rebuffed by the majority of the land’s citizens, who prefer to live out their lives in the irradiated chaos without interruption.
In their attempts to preserve pre-apocalypse technology and eradicate mutants worldwide, the Brotherhood of Steel can come off as both harmful and helpful, depending on which game or faction in which they are encountered. For instance, the East Coast Brotherhood seems to place more of an emphasis on helping survivors, while the West Coast faction tends to focus its efforts on recovering technology. Those who have played “Fallout Tactics” will likely recall that the Midwestern faction of the Brotherhood turned the land into a borderline Fascist state in one ending, while a different ending closed with them bringing the world into a post-apocalyptic utopia. Once the events of “Fallout: New Vegas” take place, the Brotherhood has become increasingly paranoid and aloof, seeking to save technology by actively separating it from survivors. Their devotion to preserve technology is so strong, that it has shown that they are willing to go to war for it, even against much larger organizations, such as the NCR.
It can be argued that the Brotherhood of Steel is the main reason why the “Fallout” series falls under the science-fiction label. Due to the their obsession with futuristic technology, their bases act as high-tech bunkers — pieces of the future hidden away in the pseudo-1950s-era ruins of the United States of America. The Brotherhood owns many pieces of technology otherwise lost to the world, such as computers, turrets, energy weapons, power armor, and other military technology.
That’s not to say they aren’t sometimes willing to share it, however. The Brotherhood has been known to trade its technology with frontier communities for basic supplies such as food and water. However, it should never be assumed that their motives are altruistic, as they commonly place the value of technology far above that of a human life. After all, humans are replaceable. Technology is not.
Despite their dwindling presence in later games, the Brotherhood of Steel is one of the major elements responsible for giving the “Fallout” series its unique atmosphere. Secretive and enigmatic, the Brotherhood will be a major source of fan debate for years to come.