The Institute are the organisation that were responsible for the kidnap of your son Shaun. The story of Fallout 4 is built around the idea that you are searching for him to try and get him back, as you move further through the story, you gradually find out more about the Institute. It is common knowledge in the Commonwealth, that the Institute created and is responsible for their creation of the synthetic human or synth. The people of the Commonwealth all have something to say about the Institute, but no one seems to know where the Institute is actually located, this unknown element appears to heighten the fear the Institute hold over the Commonwealth, as no one really knows the true extent of their power. Many of the Commonwealth reject the idea of the Institute and the synthetic humans, with many synths being destroyed or driven away from human settlements. The organisation known as the Railroad has dedicated their time to liberating synths that want freedom and breaking down barriers between the synths and the other members of the Commonwealth. However the latter is difficult to accomplish considering the Railroad themselves have to keep their organisation as covert as possible to avoid being attacked by the Brotherhood of Steel and/or the Institute.
Kellogg is the Institute’s man on the surface, who carries out missions for them that needs a human touch. Although Kellogg himself is not 100% human, he has elements of the synthetic humans inside him, which prolong his life and make him stronger. When you were in Vault 111, you saw Kellogg kill your husband (or wife depending on which gender character you chose to play as) and kidnap Shaun. Therefore as soon as you know where Kellogg is hiding, you choose to seek him out for answers. Unfortunately Kellogg doesn’t want to give up the Institute and you end up having to kill him, taking the synthetic brain implant from his body and take it to the settlement Goodneighboor to have his memories analysed. It is through this action that you hear about Dr Brian Virgil, a scientist who escaped from the Institute. However you don’t know if Virgil is still alive, as the Institute sent a courser after him (coursers are effectively the Institute’s version of assassins or special forces).
Dr Brian Virgil
If you dare venture into the glowing sea, you might make it far enough to find Dr Brian Virgil. The top picture shows him as you would first meet him, a slightly intimidating visage and just as unwilling to talk means you have to do some careful persuading to get him to trust you. If you succeed then Virgil tells confirms suspicions that the Institute is using teleportation to travel in and out of their base. He then provides you with a set of plans, which in the right hands will enable a teleportation device to be built, that can lock onto to the Institute’s signal and enable passage into the organisation. Virgil gives you this information on the promise that you retrieve an experimental serum he was developing when he worked in the Bioscience Division in the Institute. Virgil doesn’t make his opinions on the synths clear and equally he doesn’t let you know why he left the Institute – this is something you have to find out for yourself when you visit the Institute. The image below depicts Virgil after he has taken the experimental serum, if you manage to retrieve it from the Institute, proving that Virgil was making progress in his work before he felt he had to leave. When visiting the Institute, you can find a holotape in the room with the experimental serum that details how Virgil was working on a project about a virus called ‘FEV’, this project was increasingly taken out of his control and was being developed in a way that he felt was highly unethical and irresponsible. For this reason, he decided to leave the Institute at great personal risk to himself. Dr Brian Virgil is a good reminder when you are in the Institute, that the organisation is and will be hiding a lot of information with you, so can you really trust them?
Liam Binet is the Railroad’s man on the inside, who is responsible for the escape of lots of Institute synths, the Railroad refer to him as Patriot. If you choose to inform the Railroad about your venture into the Institute, they will request that you make contact with Liam Binet and deliver him a message. This message prompts Liam to arrange a meeting with you, he introduces you to another synth Z1-14 and the three of you conspire a plan to evacuate not just one, but thirteen synths at the same time. Liam requires you to get some information for him, which prompts another side mission where you have to make your way through a laboratory. Liam appears to really care about getting the synths to safety, however he is very reluctant about the idea of anyone getting hurt. For this reason, you have to tread carefully around him and not tell him anything that might make him think synths or humans are in danger. It is unclear whether Liam is a synth himself, as there are other humans working in the Institute. If he is a synth, this would explain why he is so keen on getting the others to freedom. If he is a human, then his motives are completely selfless and he is risking a lot for a individuals that are not even of the same species or kind as him.
Z1-14 is Liam Binet’s synth ally in the Institute, he is responsible for communicating messages to the other synths in order for them to escape. The Railroad asks you to see whether Z1-14 can arrange for all the synths to be evacuated from the Institute, not just the thirteen agreed on in the plan with Liam Binet. Z1-14 asks around the synths and confirms that a large number of them would fight for their freedom, however there is a real possibility some of the synths might get destroyed, even with the help the Railroad promises to offer. This is a piece of information that you should think carefully about in terms of telling Liam Binet, as he doesn’t agree with the idea of violence and could back out of the plan and alert the Institute. If you work with z1-14, you can secure that the synths will have an adequate amount of weaponry to take on oppositional forces when the time comes to evacuate. Because z1-14 is a synth, it is understandable that he wants himself and the other synths to have a chance at freedom. It is worth noting that he seems to only have a minor role in the Institute, appearing only to be tending to the plants on the main floor. Perhaps if he had a higher station in the organisation then his opinions might be a little different, it seems that as of now Z1-14 doesn’t have much to lose by engaging with Liam Binet and the Railroad.
Dr Madison Li
Dr Madison Li is a scientist working in the Institute, however before she found the Institute she used to work for the Brotherhood of Steel (BOS). Elder Maxson explains that she left her project and that the Brotherhood need her back in order to get the project back on track. However the full details about the project are not obvious, Maxson only tells you that it is something to do with nuclear process possibly nuclear weaponry. The Brotherhood sets you a mission to persuade Dr Li to leave the Institute and rejoin the Brotherhood. I didn’t really get an opportunity to back out of this mission, as I accidentally spoke to Dr Li before I realised that she was the one the BOS wants. Although I tried to select the least persuading options in the conversation, Dr Li decides to return to the BOS. I haven’t seen any immediate impact from this mission, but I imagine that the BOS will be a lot more powerful if Dr Li does help them develop a nuclear weapon. The thought of the Brotherhood possessing nuclear weaponry is very unsettling, since it was nuclear annihilations that caused the war in the first place.
This is where the story gets slightly confusing – when you teleport into the Institute, you come across a small boy who you believe to be Shaun. However the boy doesn’t appear to recognise you and becomes visibly distressed, calling out for ‘Father’ to come and help him. An elderly man appears and reads out a code, which appears to shut shaun down. It is then that you realise that the version of Shaun you were trying to talk to is actually a synth. The elderly man, is the individual who is known as ‘Father’ – and he is actually your son. He explains that when he was originally kidnapped from the vault, we were refrozen for another 60 years, so weirdly your son is actually physically older than you now. Father/Shaun is the head of the Institute and he explains that he was taken because the Institute needed DNA that was free from radiation in order to make the synthetic humans. Father is named so because all the synthetic humans are made using DNA, therefore technically they are all his children. You learn that you were released from the Vault for two reasons: Father wanted to see whether you would survive in your attempt to find him and he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Shaun is entering the last stages of his life and wanted you to find the Institute so that you could take over from his as the leader of the Institute. Naturally Father is invested in the work of the Institute and views the synthetic humans as the property of the Institute. Therefore when any synthetic human escapes from the Institute, he feels he has the right to send coursers after them and eliminate any members of the Commonwealth that seek to prevent him taking the synths back. When talking to the Railroad, there are links made between the ideology of Father and that of slavery – these synths are being labelled as property, not individual beings with rights of their own. Father gives you the opportunity to be in charge of the Institute and as a player this allows you to either take down the Institute from the inside, or take your place as the leader and eliminate all the other forces such as the Railroad and the Brotherhood of Steel.
In my personal experience, I have found Father/Shaun as a character that I can’t relate to. The synths in the Institute appear to be in awe of Father and worship him, but I can’t help but think this is because they know he has the power and authority to have them destroyed if not. This poses two options: either these synths are programmed to have a devout appreciation for Father, or they recognise how valuable their life is, therefore they are taking action to protect themselves and keep themselves alive. I have chosen to ally with the Railroad, Liam Binet and Z1-14 in order to try and save any of the synths that want to be liberated as I feel they have never been given the choice to live away from the Institute. Despite my character’s personal relationship with Shaun, I don’t feel like he embodies any of my morals as a player therefore I won’t be taking his side if it comes to a fight. However I will play along for as long as it is needed for the Railroad to take action. This will also allow me to find out more about the Institute as an organisation, the ideology, the human members and the synthetic members.