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Spoilers for the Battle of Bunker Hill, the conversation with Shaun afterwards, and what happens if you pick the Institute over the Brotherhood when you go to get that fusion thingie 


A break up letter to the Brotherhood of Steel: (Cue some soft Adele music in the background)

Dear Elder Maxson:

Our relationship has always been complex, it’s true. We’ve always had communication problems. I think now that it’s over, we can come clean. I wasn’t always honest with you. In fact, I lied all the time. But then, you never trusted me. You were always going behind my back. Reading my texts, checking my emails, sending spies into my settlements, flying vertibirds over my head. Really, neither of us should be mad.

But communication aside, I’ll always be a little confused about how it ended. I mean, we had a pretty open relationship. I knew you were trying to kill my friends, sure, and I was ok with that, mostly. I thought you were just as cool. I mean, you knew I was working with three of your sworn enemies for months. You knew I was giving all the gifts you were giving me to my friends. You must have known that I brought not one but TWO synths home to the blimp, and a Railroad sniper who’s probably a synth, too. And yet, this….this is what ends it. I teleported to a building. That’s it. Just one, simple, innocent teleport. That’s what did it. That’s what failed all of our quests. That’s what ended our moonlight blimp rides, the killer robot we were going to make together, the nights spent admiring your winning hairdos.

Now, I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say “But you were poking around valuable tech!” But darling, you know that’s what I do. I poke around. Poking around stealing stuff is part of who I am, it’s part of ME. I’ve poked around about 245 locations already. Sure, sometimes that’s so I can bring you a haptic drive to show I care, but you know, and I know you know, that most of the time I take the prewar tech you love so much back home to Concord where I turn it into disco balls and copper lions to set the mood for the lesbian sex I have with my synth lover. I thought you didn’t care. I thought it was ok, and, for that, I am truly sorry.

So I guess this is goodbye. Well, goodbye in the sense that I’ll likely kill most of your knights, now. But we’ll always have that vertibird ride. We’ll always have memories of bratty little squires. We’ll always have Cambridge.


PS I’m keeping the disco balls.



Yeah, that’s what ended it for me too. Only I hadn’t even gone so far as to start building the giant robot.

We had some good times: admiring Danse’s hair, fetching haptic drives for Scribe Haylen, tracking down guys who were trying to feed ghouls, admiring the view from the Prydwen…ah, the Prydwen…

I’ll forever regret that I never got Danse to idolize me and tell me the rest of his story. And I’ll miss the Prydwen.

Last night I did…stuff. Terrible, horrible stuff.

The part you’ve also done was when I went and dropped off weapons for Z1’s rebellion, and then killed the guards. It was strangely unsettling. The way the guards kept asking “are you sure you want to do this to us?” and the way the non-guard synths swarmed them when they fell down, stabbing away with knives. I mean, if all you’ve got is a knife and you need to defeat a guard with a gun, that’s how you’ve got to do it, and I’ve cast my lot with these folks so you go, everyone! But unnerving. Shooting from a distance is so much easier!

The good, or at least decisive, news is that I’ve reached the point where I basically have to wipe out the factions I haven’t sided with, presumably leaving only one standing. Which is less fun than killing things with a wounding combat shotgun usually is, because I KNEW a lot of these people. Did quests for them. Chatted with them about this and that.

I…respect the fact that the game doesn’t make the ending easy. But it’s kind of hard to play cheerfully.

As usual with Bethesda, it’s not a straight up “finally, we face the villain!” endgame: even though I never agreed with the BoS and have, as your letter says, been lying to them all along, there were individual characters in the organization who seemed decent and sincere, and whom I liked or at least bore no ill will. The same with the Institute. I don’t really enjoy having to kill all these people now…and maybe I shouldn’t.

War never changes, and it always means decent people dead.


That was an odd choice. I mean, ok, but I really did find myself saying “really? Here? Uh….ok….” But hey, gotta be sometime.

Indeed. I’ll miss the pretty blimp.

I shot the guards from a distance. Tossed grenades, actually. Better that way. But yeah, watching the synths hack their oppressors to death was pretty powerful.

Hard to play cheerfully…so it’s going to be like that then.

I’m not really surprised. I mean, the logical extension of all this “us/them” stuff is to make the player finally decide who us and them are, and the results of that. Which should be hard.

And, really, I keep reminding myself of this when things get lighthearted, FO3 was fucking depression. REALLY depressing. Fallout games in general are not always light hearted romps. There’s no reason to think this game wasn’t gonna get depressing. Fast.

Deep, man. And depressing. And more reason to look forward to Uncharted, which I hear is more lighthearted.


To be fair, the alternative, flying to the building on a vertibird with the BoS, would have righteously angered the Institute to the point that THEY would never speak to you again…but at least in their case, you hadn’t spent so much time building a lovely relationship (built entirely on a foundation of lies, but still).

I think this “killing everyone” ending is especially tough for us, because we’ve spent so much of the game being all charming and persuasive. Talking people into things is what I do! I’m “Charmer”! I kill hordes of nameless foes, but when people have names, I TALK to them! And they come around, because I’m so convincing!

And yet with all my charm, I can’t talk these different groups into working together or even tolerating each other. There’s no persuasion check anywhere. They are going to clash, they were always going to clash, and in the end the only thing I can do is decide which one of them I want to side with. (More to the point I suppose, given how awesome I am, the “only” thing I can do is decide who wins, which is hardly a small thing…but it doesn’t change the FACT of the the war, only the outcome of this particular conflict.)


Ah, see, yet another reason to stick with the hottie WITHOUT A FACTION. Cait and I will just go off, me dressed as the Shroud and her as Grognak (seriously, she’s still rocking that. It’s hot), watch the world burn. She won’t care.

Come to think of it, Morrigan is out for herself…..Triss was kind of a renegade…… a new part of the pattern! Hotties without affiliations!

I’ve made a breakthrough here.


Well, most of the romanceable companions don’t have strong ties to any faction, do they?

Garvey’s the Minutemen (but they’re the least faction-y of the lot so far, in that they haven’t yet demanded that I side with them over anyone else), and of course Danse is the Brotherhood (siiiigh…Danse…the one that got away, and then tried to kill me…), but Curie and Piper and Cait and MacCready and Hancock are all basically free agents.

So you still have plenty of options.


It’s true. And Piper will practically do anything for me once I kill the Institute.

Cuz I’m going to kill the Institute. Fuck the Institute. Fuck them. I mean, shit. Shaun is all ‘It was an experiment. I didn’t expect you to survive.” Like, dude. I would have WCSed him right then and there if he a) hadn’t been my son and b) been integral to the plot. You gotta be kidding, dude.


Ooh, you got that touching conversation?

Yeah, that was…weird.

Um, thanks, son. Glad to know you…didn’t actually kill me yourself? I guess? I mean, you cared enough to thaw me, I suppose, although by ‘cared’ I apparently mean more ‘were mildly curious’ than ‘felt any personal connection,’ and then you just left me to roam around the Waste becoming a hardened killer while I followed up on clues you made sure to leave for me…

But did he tell you his plan for what you should do next yet?

I mean, that KIND OF makes it seem like he has some personal sentiment. Shaun kind of confuses me, to be honest.

Did you do the Battle of Bunker Hill, or not yet?


I did do the battle, and beyond. I’m getting the fusion thingy, so I went to the meeting, and he said he was dying, and he wants me to lead the Institute.

I said no. He said I’d change my mind.

He’s batshit.

But speaking of current mission, weirdness with companions.

So usually when you hop in and out of the Institute your companion just kinda shows up wherever you pop out, right? (How do they KNOW?) So I was with Cait, then I was with scientist, and when I pop out of the Institute and piss off the brotherhood…..no Cait. This is bad. So I reload and go alone. No Cait. Very bad. So I reload and get the person and go, thinking Cait will show up when this quest is over…..I hope. So I fight through the top bit, I power up the elevator, I go down the elevator, and IN THE ELEVATOR Cait pops up. RIght there, in the elevator.

Whatever. If a hottie’s gonna materialize, that’s cool.


That’s what I thought–that conversation was after the Battle.

Did you retrieve the synths? I let them go, had to kill the courser when he (understandably) turned on me, and assumed that was going to cause a break with the Institute, but no…instead, I just told Father “we lost–does it matter why?” and he was like “yes it does, damn it, but never mind, let me tell you about how I had you thawed and left to roam the Wasteland, and how I plan to make you the Director after me now that you’ve bothered to actually find me.”

I accepted the directorship, thinking “well, maybe in a position of power I can change the Institute’s policies.”

That was really why I decided to teleport to the building instead of vertibird there. I mean, I had a longer relationship with the Brotherhood, and don’t really care for either of the groups’ ideals or long-term goals, so it was a genuinely tough call, but I thought I might be able to do more good as the leader of the Institute than as a cog in the Brotherhood’s machine (because Maxson never made any noises about making me leader, that’s for sure).

So I sided with the Institute when it came time to get the fusion thing. It was HARD to kill all those youthful Brotherhood initiates and scribes, though. We were on friendly terms yesterday! I might have escorted some of you to get data from terminals!

And now we’re killing each other over some random thing some higher-up decided was important.

War. War never changes.


It was after the battle. It was the “what the fuck happened?” bit.

I THINK I freed the synths there. See, I went and told Desdemona. So when I got there, the courser was all “Let’s go,” and, five steps later, was all “Things have changed. More hostiles.” And he didn’t attack me, but I thought “Well, he will soon enough, and courser and all, so I shot him in the back with the WCS to get him out of the way. The firefight was already in full swing anyway. But I did fire when he was still “green” as it were.

So then I went to the basement, killed that which needed killing, and there are the four synths with the squares over their heads. I try to talk, and all I get is “Thank you!” and “Not everyone would have saved us!” and “You saved us!” and shit. But the quest doesn’t update. They just stand there, all thank you thank you, with quest markers. Maybe cuz I killed the courser so soon? I dunno. They were still there when I left. I never got a “failed” bit, so I hope they’re ok.

As for the directorship, No way, man. I was all “Um, no,” because I had decided he was batshit crazy.

I teleported to the building cuz I figured that if I burned the bridge with the Institute there was no way I could get back in and help the synths. I mean, I still have that RR quest open. And I have no particular love for the BoS, especially as I have seen their bigassed death robot. I figure Jessica, who actually SAW a nuclear bomb go off and ruin her life, would not be cool with that. (and with a soldier husband she had heard of it) She was equally uncool with the Institute’s reactor, and told them they were crazy and no good would come of it. But still. Main stories march on.

The Brotherhood peoples’ little death gasps are kind of guilt inducing, they are.


That’s almost what I did with Bunker Hill. I met the courser, and he seemed all suspicious because it had taken me so long to get there, and said “stealth is no longer an option, I’m calling in backup.” OK, whatever. Call whoever you want, man.

We proceeded, and found a fierce 3-way battle in full swing when we reached Bunker Hill. I didn’t kill the courser at that point, we both just crept through the fighting. I was trying not to pick sides and EVERYONE was marked in green, so I basically just let them all shoot at each other and I didn’t shoot at anyone…no one seemed to be actively shooting at me either, although I took a bit of damage from grenades, so I just dodged people and made my way down the tunnel to the four synths.

They were all “please don’t hurt us, I’ll give you money, don’t make us go back,” so I said “fine, you’re free to go.” I just…they were saying they didn’t want to go back. Using the shut-down code on a murderous raider is one thing. These were just some people who weren’t hurting anyone (as far as I know) and didn’t want to be dragged back to a place they’d escaped. Father can say “they’re machines, they don’t ‘want'” all day long, but: they wanted. I couldn’t deal with forcing them on the say-so of an organization I don’t trust anyway.

Then the courser started shooting at me, I killed him, and they all stood around saying “thank you, that’s so great” or whatever, as you found. They never did go anywhere or say anything else, so like you I eventually just left, and hope they made their way to safety.

Then I met Father, heard his bizarre explanation, took the directorship, teleported to the building, blah blah.

And seriously, Shaun, what is your thinking here? You kind of want to meet me, but not enough to actually make sure it happens: first I have to prove my worthiness or something by surviving the Waste and tracking you down. OK, fine: maybe it seemed like a good idea to make sure I really, really wanted to meet you.

But now that I DID track you down, you decide, based purely on my badassedness (which, granted, is extreme), that I should be the next leader of the organization you’d worked to build for however many years (to the point that you are everyone’s honorary Father, which is also kind of weird). That is not logical, Shaun.

By what metric are you assessing my fitness to lead here? Because I’ll tell you, the other people in the Institute who are skeptical of your choice? Who doubt the level of my commitment to the project? They’re kind of on to something.

If I were to give you some wise motherly advice, I would tell you “do not trust the hardened killer and synth-sympathizer who has formed loose ties with every agency in the area and seems perfectly happy to play them all against each other for her own benefit. And to whom you’ve just revealed the fact that you left her frozen for 60 years and then thawed her without explanation and led her a merry chase across the wasteland fighting for her very life in search of the child she thought might still need her, because that might have come across as a bit off-putting.”


Yeah, that happened to me with the courser calling backup.

I Was GOING to just creep through the battle, but I talked to Desdemona and she was all “Leave no synths behind or your cover will be blown” so I went full auto on the synths. Left everyone else alone. Had to be sure.

So we got to the same place, though. Ok.

Exactly. Used. By him. Fuck that. Fuck his Institute. I didn’t like Institute guy in 3, I don’t like this either. Give me my tough ex slave lesbian.

Ok, I’d abandon my son for the ex slave lesbian. What does THAT say about me?

Don’t answer that.

Maybe there’s a trick. Maybe Shaun’s lying. Everyone else does.


And you went there a lot sooner than I did, so maybe it wasn’t actually about how long it took you to get there, maybe that’s just how it went. I wandered around with Hancock for ages before finally making it to the meeting, so I thought maybe that’s why he called for backup, because he didn’t trust me. But maybe not if he called it for you too.

I didn’t talk to Desdemona about this mission, so she hadn’t given me any warning about synths. I just left everyone shooting everyone else. The only thing I shot at was the turret, which somehow hadn’t gotten the memo that I was still everyone’s good friend at that point. (I’m just glad they didn’t throw in any NPC dialogue like “it’s the one Danse sponsored! she’ll save us!” or “hey, it’s our good pal Charmer! she’ll help us out!” followed by cries of “why, why didn’t you help?” and choking death noises when I ignored them all.)

Yeah, I don’t trust the Institute. I don’t trust Shaun. Many of the people I’ve met in the Institute seem perfectly fine, going about their business, and I’m sorry they’re probably all going to wind up hacked to death by rebelling synths, but…I have to follow the path I’ve chosen.


One does trust one’s path.

It is very interesting how they made Shaun all sympathetic, the reason for the game, and then this. My reason for playing (which I said I lost a couple days ago) is now “Stop Shaun.” Nice.

It’s also a weird callback to FO3, in which you were looking for YOUR father, only to find you barely knew him at all. Here you’re looking for a son and finding a father. Hmm.


It’s true, it’s an interesting turnaround. I spend the whole game just trying to FIND my son, then when I find him I have to work against him and possibly kill him. (Do you suppose we’ll have to personally kill him if we don’t side with the Institute? Man, now I wish we’d just unwittingly married him and had him put out his own eyes when he learned the truth.)

Also an interesting parallel to 3, you’re right. In both cases, you’re looking for someone based on a connection that isn’t nearly as strong as it seemed.

I find it notable that Shaun frequently refers to me as ‘mother’ or ‘my mother’ (to other people). HE’s stressing the relationship for some reason, trying to remind me of the connection (perhaps aware of how tenuous it is, and hoping to convince me to join his side).


That and when you go to talk to him you sometimes say son.


True, you do. Which is also odd. I mean, me personally, if let’s say there was some time travel and I ran into my mother as a 20-year-old, I would not call her ‘mother.’ (Not that I call her ‘mother’ now, but you know what I mean.) Nor would I expect her to call the much-older-than-her me ‘daughter.’ It would be TRUE, but it would be weird.

And yet we seem to be trying it in the game. Trying to convince ourselves and each other that there IS a tie there, even though there really isn’t anything strong enough to hold us together in any meaningful way.

Or, I guess, if you played as a different character, you could read this as evidence that, in fact, there is something, and maybe that WOULD be enough to side with the Institute for…family is the most important thing, and all.

That’s not the character I’m playing, but I could see going that way.