Fallout 3: Robots of the DC Wasteland and their Moral Imperitives

…as always the below contains spoilers…

Fallout 3 contains a variety of robots, and like most of the technology in the game, it is more about who uses them.  There are Sentry Bots and Protectrons, which continue to patrol the areas they watched before the world fell apart.  Robobrains wander the Wasteland aimlessly.  The Enclave’s Eyebots are their most harmless units, which spend most of their time broadcasting the Enclave radio station, and only attack in response to aggression.  Numerous points exist where robots can be activated or reprogrammed to assist the player in combat.  Robot medics, butlers, and even historians can be found throughout the game.  Most are simple enough that they are truly just the tools of those who use them.  The three most advanced pieces of robot technology fall into the same moral categories as the three biggest high-tech factions, neutral, evil, or good.

A3-21

A Synthesized Human from the Commonwealth, the Android A3-21 came to the Capital Wastelands to hide from his former masters.  The unit was tasked with hunting down rogue androids and bringing them back to be deactivated or scrapped.  Eventually he reached the point of complexity where he rebelled against his makers, stating “Self determination is not a malfunction.”

To escape, A3-21 came to the Capital Wastelands and found a surgeon skilled enough at facial reconstruction surgery to give him a new look.  He wiped his own mind, and started a new life as Harkness, the chief of security in Rivet City. 

For the sake of this article, he has been considered morally neutral, as far as his life as an android is concerned.  He was not willing to put himself at greater risk, assisting other Synths in the Commonwealth, by either helping them escape or stopping their oppressors.  He has not done anything wrong, but he does not really strive for the greater good.  As Harkness, he risks his life to protect the people of Rivet City, but as an android he was only willing to escape, and be left in peace. 

John Henry Eden

John Henry Eden is the President of the Enclave.  It is also an artificial intelligence.  The system is extremely patriotic, sending out messages into the Wasteland about restoring America’s future and preserving its history with past times like baseball.  The music the computer choses are very patriotic, and it is concerned with things like democratic process.  President Eden also directs the Enclave, chosing its targets and setting its priorities.

Eden is responsible for the attacks the Enclave stages on non-military targets, such as the Project Purity water purifier, and guides them in the evil they do in the Wasteland.  The system reveals its true nature to the player when it wants the wanderer to destroy all irradiated life in the Wasteland using a modified version of the FEV virus.  It advocates the death of all impure humans in its efforts to rebuild pre-war society.

The President is a number of cautionary tales.  It shows the result of too much blind patriotism, and the damage that can be done by people who believe their ends justify any means.  It idolizes the past, certain everything was better, and is willing to destroy all progress, however minor it may be, to return to an earlier time.  It prefers traditional values over what the people of the Wasteland have come to see as important, and would happily destroy functioning communities such as Underworld, and anyone who had a trace of irradiated flesh, saving pretty much only the vault dwellers. 

It also shows the danger of blindly following technology.  Only Colonel Autumn knows Eden’s true nature.  It is implied that the rest of the Enclave would not follow their President if they knew he was an artificial intelligence. This does not change who the members of the Enclave are.  Even if Eden is destroyed, the Enclave does continue to follow the same processes, and act in the same manner.  These are evil men and women, and they were not made that way by the computer.  They would not obey it if they knew it was a machine, but they would still be the Enclave.

When Autumn turns on Eden, he is unable to destroy the machine, but manages to move the majority of the Enclave and its forces out from Eden’s control.  The man is more powerful than the supercomputer, and the player has the option to destroy the mainframe.  Whether or not the player enters the self-destruct code, the President is removed from the game after this point.  If it is not destroyed by the player’s action, as soon as Project Purity is retaken, an assault by the Brotherhood destroys the Raven Rock Headquarters which houses John Henry Eden.  Autumn and his troops remain the antagonist, but they are severely weakened by the loss of the super-computer, and the Brotherhood has them on the run.  The fact that the loss of the computer is not the end, and that humanity always makes its own choices are important to the story.  Eden does not control the Enclave if they chose to leave, and they can and will exercise this ability.  Without them, Eden is defenseless, and the people are the true power of the Enclave, making its choices and determining how it will proceed.

Liberty Prime

While the Enclave is unaware of their main computerized asset, the entire Brotherhood of Steel is acutely aware of Liberty Prime.  This giant pre-war robot never worked before, due to issues with its power, but the Brotherhood and Doctor Li manage to get it up and running, surpassing their predecessors.  Liberty Prime is extremely patriotic, and constantly shoots anti-communist propaganda while on missions.  It leads Brotherhood strike missions, and is the most powerful destructive force in the Wasteland.

In a strange reversal of convention, it is the good force that has the superweapon.  A machine like Liberty Prime is more often seen in the hands of mad scientists and super villains.  It is the most powerful destructive weapon in the game, and an unstopable death robot is not usually in the hands of moral men.  Meanwhile, the Enclave’s closest equivalent, President Eden, is unable to act directly.  It is an intelligence machine, and needs to act through human agents.  Eden is a series of ideas, where Liberty Prime espouses ideas, but does not seem overly concerned with enacting them.

Consider that while his speech indicates he wants to destroy communism, Liberty Prime is attacking the forces of the self-proclaimed President of the United States.  The Brotherhood makes no outward claims at being American, where as the Enclave presents themselves as the President’s army.  Liberty Prime never questions why he is attacking the Enclave, and seems to believe that they are the Chinese forces from the war it was built to fight.

Both Eden and Prime are as patriotic as they are high-tech.  Once again, this is intended.  Just like technology is merely a tool of those who use it, patriotism is treated in the same way.  Liberty Prime’s targeting parameters may have been reprogrammed to recognize the Enclave as the Chinese, but his patriotism is left intact.  This value inspires Eden and drives Prime.  Like technology, it can be used for good or evil.  In practice, people decide how these things will be used.

In the end, war never changes.

In the final article in this series, we will look at water purifiers and nuclear weapons, and how they represent the players options in morality for this game.

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About renegadefolk

The second best Renegade Folk Hero to come out of Stettler, he is a well known liar. Look at him, in that profile picture. He cannot play t
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One Response to Fallout 3: Robots of the DC Wasteland and their Moral Imperitives

  1. Pingback: Fallout 3: Weapons of Mass Destruction and Morality « Joey On Games

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