REVIEW: Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel

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I was certain to like Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel. I’m a freak for the hack-n-slash genre (Alien Syndrome for PSP being a favorite) and I’ve always liked Fallout. Some say Brotherhood of Steel is old hat, with systems yanked verbatim from Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. But the concept of hack-n-Fallout is so solid it’s impossible for Brotherhood of Steel to fail its unambitious mission.

After choosing between 3 characters with slightly different skill sets, you’re off. Getting a quest in town, you head to the dungeon, killing monsters and breaking boxes for loot. Leveling up, you receive skill points to spend. Skills are pretty standard: enhanced melee damage, enhanced ranged damage, but there are some cool ones—a favorite of mine lets you recover health from toxic waste spills. Play-wise there are only a couple differences between Brotherhood of Steel and Dark Alliance. One: Brotherhood of Steel has many environmental hazards, especially pits, with platforming and tightrope walking for variety. Usually that’s annoying, but in Brotherhood of Steel it helps break the monotony. Two: True to its sci-fi setting, there are a variety of firearms, lasers, and explosives to wield. So combat involves less hacking/slashing than you might expect. But not necessarily—my first play through, I cleared the game with only knives and hammers.

Brotherhood of Steel’s real lure is Fallout’s setting. Barring the boring first dungeon (a warehouse) that made many players quit prematurely, there is a burning besieged town, a desolate metropolis infested with mutant cultists, a high-tech underground laboratory/bomb shelter, etc. Each with lots of cool wreckage and other nice details: a gladiator arena, a giant mutant totem, and weapon vending machines. In the Fallout tradition, the NPCs are weird and crass. There is a compelling mixture of zany humor and bleakness throughout.

Critics are right. Brotherhood of Steel is a rehash, in ways, inferior to similar titles (i.e. Dark Alliance), with dull and muddy graphics, little difference between the characters, uninspired skills, and shameless Bawls soft drink ads. But for unpretentious hack-slashers, it will satisfy. And regardless of form, Fallout is always charming.

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