essay

God of the Father: Fallout 3 — A Sister in The Brotherhood

[Like yesterday’s post (or really any of them), this one will deal with information that concerns the end of Fallout 3. Therefore, like I said yesterday, if you would like to avoid spoilers, I don’t suggest reading more than this warning at the top.]

At the end, there are only two people able to make the sacrifice. When the player finally reaches the end of a long journey and, as the Project Purity system is overloading, there is one last choice: who to send into the radiation laden area to enter the code that will start the system. It’s a decision between the player willingly taking on the role of the sacrifice, and thus following in the father’s footsteps, or to send another to their death in order to prevent the machine from exploding.

It’s more than coincidence, then, that the other possible choice is another child of the Wasteland and who had a father of science in a world of mutations. Sarah Lyons, daughter of Elder Lyons, stands with the player and asks the all important question that will, outside the DLC, cement the role of The Lone Wanderer in the story. She asks simply: “Will you die for us or will I have to die?”

It’s fascinating that Sarah Lyons, among any other characters, stands with the player in this role because she is a parallel version of the player. Born into the Wasteland, taught to kill mutations and indoctrinated with the ideas of her father, she is the perfected role of a soldier in The Brotherhood of Steel. She, through her prowess in battle, has risen to one of the highest title of her order. She has her own squad of followers, not unlike the player’s companions. She though is her father’s daughter.

The resemblance to the player is more than just her current conditions. Her past is strangely similar too. Like The Lone Wanderer, she has a mother that is out of the picture. Although, unlike the very brief scene that shows The Lone Wanderer’s mother, nothing is said of Sarah’s own mother. She does not mention any other female role models and her father does not mention his wife, girlfriend or any other woman with whom he had a relationship. In fact, other than speaking of how they came to their current location in The Citadel, both are quiet about their past lives. The mission is the only thing that matters to Elder Lyon and this it is only this that matters to Sarah too.

She is fully a believer. It is her blessing, the giving of an honorary title as a member of the Lyons’ Pride, that marks the the player’s entrance in The Brotherhood of Steel. Whether wanted or not, The Lone Wanderer gets conscripted into her army and becomes part of her group. The new goal, upon that moment, is to march back to the Project Purity site, to retake it from The Enclave and to activate it, thus fulfilling James’ plan. The Brotherhood is part of the father’s plan and now the child — both children — are tasked with making sure that it come true. It is the will of both fathers that this happen.

That is what brings both of them through the city, following in the footsteps of Liberty Prime, to The Jefferson Memorial and into fighting the final resistance to the plan, a few soldiers (plus Colonel Autumn). Dispatching them triggers a sequence and the choice that ends the game. One of them must enter the irradiated chamber, she says, and enter the code. If neither do, the building will explode and the project will end. Their hope will end unless  a sacrifice is made.

This is this same place too that James died in order to prevent the system from following into the hands of The Enclave (as well as attempt to kill Colonel Autumn). The father set the example. It is assumed that the player, wanting to, as was previously mentioned, follow in James’ footsteps, would be the necessary sacrifice. The game has given the player the necessary information and the father has confirmed it. The game expects you to die.

It is this ending, the willingly sacrifice, that the ‘god’ smiles upon for the player. In the moment after the code has been entered, the image of James is superimposed upon the statue of Thomas Jefferson that is part of the center of the system. As the water (and life) flows out from the system, the player dies (unless the DLC is installed). One life for the lives of thousands in the Capitol Wasteland. An ending for a new beginning — either fresh water or death to mutations.

The alternative is to send Sarah Lyons to her death. The soldier that is the believer, that did not have an absent father and that is on a holy mission can die in place of the player and for her father. She is willing to be the sacrifice. She is ready. Unless the player purposely takes on the choice upon themselves, Sarah will follow through with her father’s will. Elder Lyon wanted this system to work and Sarah will, with her very life, make that happen. The father’s will be done.

Yet, there were rams added to this choice too. With the patches that are part of the DLC, the companions, several of whom are immune to radiation anyway, can be sent into the chamber in place of either life. Without a sacrifice, the system is started and both Sarah and the player wakes up two weeks later no worse for the experience. The original vision is changed though and the ‘god’ of James is changed to allow a muted ending for Project Purity. The decision is no longer important and the sacrifice, if on the part of the player, no longer matters. It is yet another illusion of choice.

This moment is necessary though. Without the choice of death, without the moment to either rebel in sending Sarah or confirm the father in the moment of crisis, the ‘god’ is gone. James’ vision of the world and of what is necessary in order to usher in the future, total devotion to the mission unto death itself, means little. The plot essentially is meaningless. If the finality of the game is missing, the world is nothing more than a purgatory without purpose for the player. Works can be done and Karma can be raised or lowered, yet neither full redemption nor total damnation is possible. It is just a world without end. The ‘god’ still rules but the father is gone forever.