Stubborn has a post up about the ending to Fallout 4, and having just finished my second game, I figured now is a good time to talk about it here as well. Obvious major spoilers incoming.
Context: I beat the game twice, once siding with the Institute (killing the Railroad and Brotherhood), and the second time siding with the Minutemen and blowing up the Institute. The first game was basically a straight run through the main quest, finishing around level 25. The second was a more complete run, finishing at level 56.
What I find most interesting is that having seen both sides, I think the Institute are actually the good guys, and everyone else is either ignorant or outright bad. The methods the Institute has to use sometimes seem harsh or questionable, but remember we aren’t talking about current-day earth, we are talking about a world that blew itself up, so more drastic actions are needed. Now the Institute isn’t 100% innocent (the FEV section in particular stands out), but if the goal is to save humanity and get the world back on track, the Institute is by far the best bet.
The Brotherhood is back to form in Fallout 4 (the version we saw in Fallout 3, and to a lesser degree F:NV, aren’t really what the Brotherhood is about), meaning they are misguided tech hoarders who value acquiring shinies above everything else, including human life. As a faction, they don’t have ANY plan for saving the Commonwealth, because they don’t care about the Commonwealth or its people. They are here because they picked up the Institute signal and figured it would lead to some technology they could hoard.
The Railroad is interesting, but again ultimately misguided. They save Synths like the Railroad saved slaves back in the day in America, but Synths AREN’T humans, while slaves from Africa obviously were/are. The jokes about the Railroad, “They want to liberate ATM machines!”, are funny but also somewhat true. Model 1 Synths, the clearly robot-looking machines that don’t really have a personality or complex thinking, are on the list of things the Railroad wants to save. It’s a bit like PETA telling us not to kill a mosquito that is about to bite you; I’m all for not being cruel to a family dog or hunting animals to extinction, but you lose me when you tell me not to swat a fly. That’s basically the Railroad, and that’s just not a group I can get behind.
Finally, the Minutemen. In some ways the Minutemen are ‘you’, since you are the leader (who always has to report to Preston, but let’s ignore that part), but that means they are an inexperienced, often ineffective group that means well but really doesn’t have a ‘big picture’ plan. After you blow up the Institute with the Minutemen, there is no ‘next step’ for them other than continuing to save settlements from random raiders or mutants. Good acts, for sure, but not what is going to move the Commonwealth from a nearly lawless wasteland towards something better, and because of the war, humanity needs to move towards something better.
I think it’s very interesting that not only does F4 give you the option to pick a side in the main quest/conflict, but that the decision is so dramatic in terms of perspective and choice on a morality level. That’s pretty great.