Fallout 76 has proven to be a bit of a divisive release for Bethesda Game Studios which previously developed universally-acclaimed, single-player, RPGs like The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim and Fallout 3. Billed as a multiplayer-focused, live-service Fallout game, the hardcore fanbase has been looking at Fallout 76 as something of an anomaly. And with what seems like a big lore inconsistency in Fallout 76 popping up, the title's legitimacy is under scrutiny from hardcore fans.
The backlash to Fallout 76 was almost immediate after Bethesda revealed it would be a multiplayer-only game. Justified or not, there was a lot of debate over the merits of a multiplayer-only Fallout game leading up to Fallout 76's reveal at E3 2018. While news that Fallout 76 will support creator tools and private servers have opened discussions of new ways to play Fallout 76, it doesn't change the fact that Fallout 76 isn't like the old way of playing Fallout. By yourself, exploring a post-apocalyptic world populated by colorful NPCs.
Key complaints about Fallout 76 usually centered around how Bethesda seems to be chasing the games-as-service "trend" with a beloved property like Fallout. The term "cash grab" has been tossed around more than once, and not just in the community. Websites and blogs have posted about the "disastrous" multiplayer concept for Fallout 76. Bethesda it seems needed to both sell players on Fallout 76's core concept and legitimize it as a true Fallout game at the same time.
Enter, the Brotherhood of Steel.
Currently on Reddit there is a thread dissecting the recent previews of Fallout 76. We had a chance to get our hands on Fallout 76 in West Virginia alongside several other publications and since then, more info has come out for Bethesda's upcoming multiplayer Fallout game, including a little bit about the Brotherhood of Steel.
The Controversy Around the Brotherhood of Steel
The Brotherhood of Steel is a prominent group in Fallout lore and is a cult-like military group originating from post-Great War California and values pre-war technology. The Brotherhood has appeared since the first Fallout game developed by Black Isle Studios and Interplay.
The thing is, a quick look at a comprehensive wiki reveals that the Brotherhood of Steel, lore-wise at least, began operating in California around 2134. So, lore-watchers ask, "What is the Brotherhood of Steel doing in West Virginia 32 years before they should be starting to emerge on the other side of the country?"
"At this point I wonder if there is anyone at Bethesda keeping tack of the lore. It's almost like they are making it up as they go," Redditor Shippoyasha responds in the main thread on the Fallout Subreddit. "I'm okay with some lore changes to make things make more sense, but this is just stupid. It actively makes the world make less sense just so Bethesda can have the [Brotherhood of Steel] in the game," OtakuMecha writes.
Lore watching in fandoms isn't new. In 2010, Blizzard encountered Ian Bates aka "Red Shirt Guy" who found a lore inconsistency in the massively popular World of WarCraft series that made Blizzard double-down on its own lorekeeping. Many companies, including Bethesda, have lore bibles to keep their vast universes in-check and Sympatico with previous or future releases. Especially knowing how dedicated some fans are to consistency.
"[This] is the reason the Elder Scrolls is so good," writes user Sentinel-Prime. "[Bethesda] built this huge world with rich history... In the event that the lore was at risk of being retconned or contradicted they made up a lore-friendly way of having it all fit in. I don't mean to project but it's disappointing. Fallout has such potential and was a really good base to build on but Bethesda [has] just gone for a cheap cash grab and retconned 21 years of work."
Considering Fallout 76 isn't even out yet, we'll either see an explanation for the Brotherhood of Steel's West Virginia escapades or we won't. But to some the existence of the Brotherhood of Steel in Fallout 76 opens is an opening that reinforces doubts they've espoused about Fallout 76 since the announcement. That Fallout 76 isn't a "proper" Fallout game, or even a canon one. That Bethesda is using the Fallout name brand to sell a games-as-service.
"Small [changes] can even be good sometimes, like adding backstory to [The Master] in [Fallout 2]. Big stuff like this is pretty stupid because it makes the game look like a cheap [cash grab] in that [Fallout 76] uses recognizable iconography to make up for [its] lack [of] interesting content," writes MidwestBOSBestBOS.
Fall out over Fallout
If this seems like a discussion for the hardcore Fallout community, that's because it largely is. But it's the hardcore community that has the most doubts about Fallout 76 to begin with. Things like multiplayer and live-service are terms meant to appeal to a different subset of Fallout fans.
"The Bethesda Fallout fanbase is not people who played and loved Fallout 1 and 2. Their fanbase is Oblivion and Skyrim players who shifted over to Fallout as of 3, and they greatly outnumber old skool [sic] Fallout fans," user Randolpho writes.
"I feel like Bethesda values the icons of Fallout more than anything else. To them Fallout is any game with vaults, bottlecaps, Brotherhood of Steel, ghouls, and supermutants. They have [to] include every single one of those in their games no matter how little sense it makes to the lore or story. It's so frustrating," says Bottle_of_Starlight.
In the grand scheme of things, the Brotherhood of Steel's appearance in Fallout 76 doesn't seem like much. But for anyone in a fandom, lore is sacred text. And it should be noted that Fallout fans aren't the same as Bethesda fans, as Bethesda took over the series from Black Isle and Interplay, changing the game from an isometric RPG into a first-person RPG.
With Fallout 76 we'll be three games into Bethesda's stewardship of the post-apocalyptic franchise and it remains to be seen if Fallout fans will follow Bethesda into multiplayer territory, even after making the jump to first-person.
If you still have questions about Fallout 76, we have a Fallout 76 preview from our recent trip to West Virginia. We answered some big Fallout 76 questions. See our Fallout 76 guide for more info including release date, trailers, and more.