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More ending spoilers. Finishing up with the Brotherhood.

Butch:

So I shot my way through the BoS, blew up the blimp, and now I’m shooting my way through the Institute and I’m about to go up to the terminal and have what I think will be a Momentous Conversation with Shaun.

I could tell you a detail, but you’ll feel awful about yourself. So I won’t.

Ah, who am I kidding? Of course I will.

So I’m shooting my way through killin’ everyone. Indeed, everyone. So I’m going through, looting, as one does, and all of a sudden PEOPLE so I pull my gun and….they’re sleeping. I approach and….shit….the squires. Three of them. So I talk to them hoping that there’s a dialog option for “Why don’t you leave? Now. Seriously.” But nope. They’re all bright eyed, “I can’t WAIT to help the BoS! I don’t CARE if I’m a soldier or a scribe! I’m going be a knight someday!” So I gave them a half hearted pep talk. They were all ” The chatter on the radio said that the vertibird was taken….” and I lied and was all “It was raiders…but we showed them!” All the while pleading with the game to give me a chance to tell them to bolt.

But I got no such chance.

And the conversation ended, and they went back to sleep, and I woke them up like 27 times trying to get them to talk again, but no. Only the canned one liners and back to bed.

So I left.

And the blimp blew up.

Far and away the most upsetting bit of game I’ve played in a long, long time. But then, war never changes, right?

What’s even more interesting is this in light of how you felt, being all stealthy. You were all “They weren’t there…I guess they left.” You were trying to convince yourself you didn’t kill, you know, kids. And you were able to do so, even when you pretty much knew they were there. Games. Making you the metaphor. Why we love them.

That was interesting/awful bit one. The other bit we can talk about when you’re finished feeling awful is the Z1.

Z1’s trying to help everyone. He’s there saying over and over that the RR should teleport anyone who isn’t violent out. He’s not being all “Kill ’em all! Death to the Institute!” Desdemona is. What do you make of that?

Feminina:

Ah, man…damn non-fleeing, going-back-to-sleep squires. Welcome to monsterhood! Thanks for sharing, dude.

I think it’s probably easy for Desdemona to be all “destroy the Institute! burn everything to the ground!” It’s been her enemy since forever, and she doesn’t have any counter evidence for it not being the incarnation of pure evil. For Z1, on the other hand, it’s been home, even if a home he wants to escape from. He knows people (like Patriot) who aren’t pure evil, who are willing to help. His position could reasonably be a bit more moderate.

And speaking of Patriot, I certainly wouldn’t classify Z1 as a pacifist: he knows people will die and he’s basically fine with that, and with concealing the more extreme plan from his former ally because he knows it would be going too far. When you meet him in the relay room, he just sort of smiles and says “OK, now I need the room clear so I can work.” He knows that means “now I need you to kill everyone in this room for me,” and doesn’t seem especially bothered by it.

I was somewhat bothered by it. Just strolling on in, the scientists greeting you cheerfully with their usual “I hear that synth in Libertalia was a handful! Good work!” comments, and then you just kill them all. Um…sorry guys. Nothing personal. Drinks on me in the afterlife?

Enjoy that conversation with Shaun.

Butch:

You know, I thought about not telling you. I did. Indeed, once it became clear that they weren’t leaving, my first thought was “Do I mention this to Femmy?” So I did.

If I were to feel very charitable to Bethesda, I might think this moment was why they had the damn BoS headquarters on a blimp in the first place. I mean, they COULDN’T flee. There’s no way off except our vertibird, or some other vertibird. What are they going to do, jump? I mean, the game kind of forces you into this desperate round of dialog and persuade checks probably knowing that you’ll want to get them off the damn blimp, only to have it sink in later that your dialog was irrelevant because you can’t get off a blimp even if you wanted to.

It’s also a strange, awful twist of the knife that here are three squires who you went out with on a mission. Indeed, your mission was to KEEP THEM ALIVE. Right? Show them the ropes. Show them how to BE soldiers.

I have a feeling this is going to be that moment/decision that I keep coming back to in my head from Fallout games. Indeed, the one in 3 with the kids (Tranquility Lane) is STILL the most haunting “I still think about it” piece of game I’ve ever played. Kids in games, man.

But again, here we have the “helpful outsider,” the white woman, the human, being far more zealous about the others she’s saving than said other. Happened with Linet or whatever his name was, now Desdemona. “We’re going to save you! Whether you like it or not! And we’re going to CARE more about saving you than you care about being saved!”

Yeah I was more than a little bothered by killing the scientists. I even opened my pip boy to make sure that was an unavoidable thing. I mean, they were just standing around, unarmed. Like, can I ask them to leave? Telling that the objective was “Kill everyone in the room” and not “Clear the room” or something that would leave some option. Nope. Kill them. Have to.

Man, this game. I was SO mad at this game for losing emotional punch, now it’s back. Is there any developer out there more inconsistent hour to hour of game than Bethesda?

Yeeeeeaaaaaah……conversation with Shaun…

That’s gonna be a thing, isn’t it? Why I saved there. Mrs. McP was on her way, figured that would be a bit I didn’t want interrupted.

Also, forgot to mention, the squires were placed in such a way that they were between the charges and the way out. It was almost certain that, if you were going to find them, you would AFTER you planted the bombs.

Level design, that.

Feminina:

That’s weird…I wonder how I didn’t see them? I did kind of go out a roundabout way, what with avoiding bumping into people and spoiling my stealth. Maybe I just didn’t go past the right door.

Or I was in a big hurry because Stealth Boys don’t last that long, and I wasn’t stopping to look around. That was definitely true.

Good point that they couldn’t have evacuated anyway. I guess the only thing you really could have done was convince them to come with you, and they were all gung-ho about the Brotherhood so they would probably have preferred to die rather than leave with the traitor who killed everyone they know. Although you could have spun an elaborate lie (“raiders killed everyone! I’m the only survivor! Quick, flee with me and we’ll get revenge later!”).

It’s interesting that you didn’t get the chance to even try.

Here, and with the scientists in the relay room: I mean, again, we’re Charmer! We could have at least TRIED to say “hey, as the new Director I want a few minutes alone in this room to reflect on the great responsibility that’s been placed on my shoulders–everyone take a half hour coffee break” or whatever.

We could have tried! But we didn’t. Because in fact we couldn’t.

Which is saying, I guess, that beyond a certain point violence is locked in: you’ve come too far to talk your way out? The course is set, and people are going to die?

Because war never changes, no matter how charming one person is.

Butch:

Well, the squires weren’t moving. They were asleep. Maybe that was the out. Let them sleep through it. Eww.

And you kinda did try to convince them. There wasn’t one for “flee” but there was a couple about raiders. I picked one. Weird that they were all red options. I even succeeded. No dice. So even if you TOLD them that there were raiders, they were in danger, they stayed put.

Probably it’s the “violence is locked in” thing. I mean, fallout games are depressing. That balance between silly bobbleheads and fancy lads snack cakes that hides a terrible, terrible undercurrent.

I’m gonna do a 180 here and put some praise on the endgame. The squires and the RR bits changed my mind (some. The Danse thing was still a fuck up). It’s a mirror, some, of FO3. That game was depressing. Like, from the load screen. It starts with your mother dying and gets worse and worse and worse. Like, TLOU bad. But….at the end there’s a bit that’s optimistic (if you do it right). The Harold the ghoul bit. This glimpse, this possibility of a better future. This game seems turned on its head. I’ve been saying it’s NOT depressing. Hell, so much of the settlement bits is raising happiness. Happiness everywhere! And now, at the end, boom. Pessimism. FO3? You’re a monster who is redeemed at the end. This? A great leader, a giver of beers and disco balls, who becomes an absolute monster. Which is cool.

It’s EVEN a mirror of FO1 and 2. FO1 starts with you being…unpleasant. You’re picked to go out of the vault because you’re someone who is disposable. No one likes you. You’re a bad apple. It ends with you redeemed. FO2 starts with you as the “chosen one,” and ends with you, effectively, being pulled into hell.

All of which gives bloggers stuff to chew on.

And this particular game did a good job of backing you into a corner. You spend 140 hours really doing things that make you feel good about yourself, only to find that everything you did painted you into this corner where you sort of have to be awful.

Feminina:

Yeah, that’s it. I did the right thing by not bothering them. They (and everyone, since I successfully stealthed through the whole thing) can go to their fiery deaths blissfully unaware that anything’s wrong until the moment they hear the explosions.

Right. I feel so much better.

It IS interesting that you can spend so much of the game trying to do good and be helpful with the settlements and this positive narrative of rebuilding the Commonwealth and protecting the common settler (we have often talked on this), and then the ending just turns around on you and says “yeah, you’re also pretty horrible though.”

It’s like, “don’t go getting all self-satisfied thinking you occupy some sort of moral high ground. You ARE a mass murderer, after all.”

I mean, it was always true, but one could handwave about nameless raiders and stock villains who don’t really COUNT as murder victims. That was war! Fighting the evil! Defending the innocents!

This kind of takes away the excuses…yeah, it’s still war, but about that evil and those innocents…?

And the thing is, we’re still TRYING to do good. We wanted to help synths! Free an enslaved people! And, in my case, continue supporting the settlements (the Institute’s “once everyone on the surface is dead we’ll get to work” theme didn’t sit well with me). I TRIED to pick the path that seemed like it would do the most good overall for the ordinary people in whose welfare I’d become invested. But there’s no way to do that without also being a horrible monster.

Which…I don’t know if it’s saying “there’s no change without horror,” or “no good thing can be accomplished without a terrible price,” or what. Maybe this would have been the reason to actually side with the Institute.

“They’re right, the whole ‘humanity’ experiment was a failure, we’ll just wait for them to die out and then try again with something better.” (Although how often does trying again with something better work out as planned? Obviously, the Institute is just a bigger Vault, and we’ve seen plenty of examples of what Vault-Tec has accomplished.)

Butch:

I knew I shouldn’t have told you. But that’s what you get for speculating that they lived.

This ending with you being kind of terrible is interestingly different from other good games. I mean, take TLOU, a game with a lot to say. That game’s ending was so devastating because Joel ended up being violent and selfish. But then, Joel SAYS he’s violent and selfish the whole game, as does everyone else. Naughty Dog didn’t put him on a pedestal to knock him down. This game, not so much. You’re a leader. NPCs love you, even the ones that (suddenly and without dialog) turn on you. And one can say that they turned on you out of disappointment (which I would know had there been dialog). This game does NOT say “You’re awful” the whole time. Indeed, unlike a lot of previous fallouts where you can intentionally play as a monster (even in the one you played you can join the Legion, remember them?) this game you’d miss pretty much everything and everybody if you tried. If you want to play more than a dozen hours you pretty much have to be heroic in the eyes of a lot of people, until you’re not.

Maybe the Institute gave the “best” ending. I dunno. I want to see how it turns out. I’m not done yet, you know.

Or it could be “there’s no change unless the leader gets dirty.” I mean, look at the minutemen. A leaderless band of do gooders. We joke about that meme with Garvey saying “I WANT YOU to do all the work,” but he does. Even his contribution to the defense of settlements is something that kills from afar. But to really protect and grow the settlements that the minutemen have, to protect and extent the good they do, YOU have to go out and kill. Not him. You.

We have indeed seen a lot of Vault-Tec’s work. And the things that think they’re next are green and angry. That’s hardly an improvement.

It’s also jarring that there is a note of the past/present: remember I mentioned that in your recruitment signal, the radio broadcast to get people to come to your idyllic little settlements that you run, there’s American patriotic music playing. You represent not just the minutemen/RR/BoS/Institute, you have this American theme behind you. We’ve talked on how the BoS is aggressively militaristic, in the worst American ways, but then, so too are the other factions rooted in America: Minutemen from Concord. The Underground RR who meet in the Old North Church. Even the Institute who are holed up under an old, venerable and iconic American University. And here we are, the leader of, well, ALL of them (except perhaps the BoS), with our patriotic music, TRYING to do good and failing.

Hmm.

Feminina:

I dunno, I feel like you COULD have played it more intentionally monstrous from the beginning if you wanted. Work on cannibalism, that ‘lone traveler’ perk, blow off all the non-critical settlement stuff. In which case you get to whatever ending and it’s more of a “yeah, I’m pretty bad all right, but that’s what gets you ahead in the wasteland” or whatever.

We learned (via internet) that you could alienate vault 81 by refusing to the give the kid the molerat serum or whatever, and we know from experience that you can alienate Covenant, and we know companions dislike certain things. Probably if you try you can pretty much anger everyone you meet and wind up with people vaguely tolerating you just because you can be useful to them (like Kellogg! you could be Kellogg!), rather than looking up to you.

I was thinking about our patriotic settlement recruitment message! All cheery and enthusiastic. And good point about all of the factions having these All-American reference points as their foundations.

Trying to do good. Messing up horribly along the way.

Except the Minutemen. I still say they’re the least offensive of the lot…at least right now.

In a longer historical perspective, once they’ve cleared all the territory currently held by raiders and super mutants (arguably legitimate bad guys whose territory we can take without guilt), they’ll probably start taking over territory held by non-Minutemen-affiliated settlers, and expanding, and killing innocents in their path, etc., as fledgling nations/empires will. Westward expansion! Push the natives into the sea as you go!

So yeah, in the long run they’re all terrible.

Butch:

Well, yeah, you COULD have played it as a bad guy, but at the end it would just be you, Strong and Dogmeat. Which maybe says something. I mean, if you did it that way, you’d miss out on LOTS of game, cuz you have to be at a certain level of like to get side quests. So if you went down that road, you wouldn’t get to do much. Maybe people do it on second playthroughs.

And even now the Minutemen do have a join us or die mentality. It’s passive aggressive, but it’s there. I mean, they never say “We’ll kill you if you don’t join us,” but they DO say something along the lines of “You could join us or not, but if you don’t we won’t, you know, help you with that ghoul/raider/mutant/mirelurk problem and you’ll be dead by the end of the week. Your choice.” Which America has also been guilty of in the past.

And there is certainly a risk of imperialism. I mean, again, in FO1 there was a little settlement that was just like these other settlements. Then it became the New California Republic, and they were good guys, really. All about freedom. Then New Vegas happened and, well…..they were better than the legion…..I guess…..

Feminina:

Yeah! We’re better than the Legion!

That’s our bar now.

Although I don’t know if “join us or we’ll leave you to die” is quite true…Garvey was always sending me to help unaffiliated settlements…which would then affiliate with the Minutemen once I’d proved the usefulness of the group, true, but I always helped them initially without imposing any kind of condition. Helping people was definitely a recruiting tool, and very likely in the long run it would turn into “join us or we’ll leave you to die,” but during the course of the game the Minutemen seemed to be genuinely about helping people in trouble regardless of whether or not they were part of the group.

I mean, that’s what all those “help these people and get access to their workshop” quests were about. Now, if I help the Slog 5 times and they’re still holding out? Yeah, maybe Garvey would conveniently start forgetting to mention it when he heard they were under attack by super mutants again.

But they know what’s good for them, and they join up.

For now.

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