[Editor’s Note: British spellings have been preserved upon request.]
Hi, and welcome back to “Leading the Pack,” where I examine what makes our favourite video game ladies and nonbinary characters so great. Today, I want to talk about Fallout: New Vegas’ Veronica Santangelo.
Veronica is a potential companion for the player character (known as the Courier). She specialises in unarmed combat, which is pretty awesome right off the bat. Living in a wasteland populated with mutated creatures including giant scorpions, wild dogs, and terrifyingly huge, poison dart-shooting wasps, Veronica decided to specialise in running straight in and punching things anyway. Perhaps not the most sensible of decisions, but nonetheless a display of incredible bravery.
Much of Veronica’s story comes from her relationship with the Brotherhood of Steel, the wasteland faction that she grew up with. It’s a complex relationship; Veronica is certainly loyal to the Brotherhood—which, as the name suggests, is considered by its members to be something of a family despite being closer to a military organisation. If the player is rude about the Brotherhood when first meeting her, she will refuse to accompany them.
However, once taken on as a companion, she will begin to open up and reveal her conflicted feelings about the group. She will explain that she disagrees with the increasingly isolationist policies of her offshoot of the Brotherhood, who have always had a tendency to hoard technology and power. She tells the Courier that when she spoke out about these feelings to the Brotherhood’s leader, Elder McNamara, he began to send her out on longer and longer missions in order to prevent her dissent from spreading to other members.
This is the sad story of a woman being forced out of what is essentially her family due to voicing her beliefs, which takes a sadder turn when one examines Veronica’s childhood among the Brotherhood. Firstly, both of Veronica’s parents were killed on the battlefield in a tussle that Veronica barely remembers. She says that, “It seemed important at the time.”
Additionally, Veronica is a lesbian, and fell in love with another Brotherhood member (heavily implied to be Christine who appears in the “Dead Money” DLC), but they were forced to separate by Elder McNamara as he felt that the Brotherhood needed all couples to be able to procreate. Veronica’s lover then left the Brotherhood, leaving Veronica behind in an increasingly hostile environment. Despite this, Veronica is open about her feelings for other women, which is brave and important for young queer gamers to see in their games.
Moreover, with remarkable levelheadedness, Veronica still wants what’s best for the Brotherhood despite her increasing disagreement with their methods. As she travels the wasteland with the player, she will continue to question the Brotherhood’s decision to stay hidden away in an underground bunker, refusing to interact with the world above. She will comment on all the things that the Brotherhood is missing out on—like new factions and their relations to one another, as well as new tech—and relate them to what she sees as the Brotherhood’s failings.
Probably the most important of these is when she meets Tom Anderson of the Followers of the Apocalypse. The Followers, like the Brotherhood, preserve pre-war knowledge, but unlike the Brotherhood, the Followers are a selfless faction who work only to aid the needy. Veronica will comment that they work hard with few resources to truly help people, whereas the Brotherhood have many resources, but help only themselves.
After witnessing the diversity of the wasteland, Veronica will ask to return to the underground bunker that was once her home in an attempt to persuade Elder McNamara to end the Brotherhood’s isolation. When he is unconvinced, she asks the Courier whether she should remain with the Brotherhood anyway or leave. If the player leaves the decision up to her, she will stay, showing her immense loyalty despite the hardships she has faced, as well as demonstrating her determination to continue to improve the Brotherhood.
If, on the other hand, the player advises her to leave, she will sign up with the Followers of the Apocalypse, demonstrating her desire to help luckless wastelanders. She will become a skilled scientist and engineer, and doubtlessly ends up helping countless people. Just like I said in my first article about Mia Fey, I’m a great fan of the Katherine Henson quote “having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness.” Once again, Veronica fits the bill.
Probably my favourite thing about Veronica, though, is that while the personal quest that I detailed above is complex both in the game and for Veronica as a character, she has a second personal quest: she wants a dress. Such a simple thing; dresses are relatively rare in the post-apocalypse, but hardly impossible to find. This is, I think, what makes Veronica feel so real. She has big problems and obstacles to overcome, but still manages to appreciate the little things.
While there are many characters in Fallout: New Vegas that make the game so great, Veronica is my favourite because she embodies what I love so much about the game overall: big decisions, small things to enjoy, and kindness despite difficulties.