Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – Sorta Review

I am far from the first to write or talk about this game. I would have been here sooner too, if not for being poor these days.

Into the bluuueeee

Released first on XBox Live, it has since come to both PC (where I played it) and Playstation Network. I had already watched several videos showing off the like first 10-20 mins of gameplay, including Totalbiscuit’s rather glowing video where he declares it his favourite game of all time. This kind of talk is enough to get my attention, so I bought it once I got a Steam gift card for my birthday (Thank you again, Arron), but I did my best to keep expectations low.

The game is developed by Starbreeze Studious, and directed (and written I believe) by Swedish film director Josef Fares.

I first heard this game pitched as “a co-operative game for one player”, and it turns out that is exactly what they’ve made. I do think there are PC keyboard controls set up for it, but Steam warned me that this game requires a controller, and I’d agree with that. Don’t try to play Brothers on a keyboard, you will just get frustrated.

The core idea is that you control both brothers at the same time. Left thumbstick to move big brother, left trigger to have big brother interact, right thumbstick to move little brother, right trigger to have little brother interact. And left and right bumpers to move the camera. Those are your controls. You might imagine this gets a bit confusing, and it does. It can be easy to mix up the controls, especially if little brother is on the left and big brother is on the right on your screen, which will happen.

One of many benches.

This game is gorgeous. Not sure if it looks anywhere near as good on console.

Then there’s the curious way of telling the story. While the characters do speak, it’s not any language we have on Earth. It’s just gibberish. And there’s no text. Everything is told through gestures, inflection, environments and gameplay. Not an unheard of choice for indies, I suppose, but rarely is it done this well, in my opinion.

At the outset of the game we get to meet the family. The mother is already dead, drowned at sea, and the father has just gotten ill with some sort of disease that the village healer says can only be cured with water from the tree of life. At least, that’s what I think he says, based on what they show. So the two brothers set out on a quest to find the tree and bring back the healing water, and you have to guide them successfully there and back again.

That blasted dog down there, though...

The way you get to look back at places you’ve been and ahead at places you’re going helps the world feel big and coherent.

The journey has perils to overcome, friends to meet, and intriguing sights to see. I will admit that in the beginning I simply thought “this is neat, but I don’t see why they’ve made such a big fuss about it”, but as I progressed I got more immersed and invested in it all, especially the characters of the two brothers. The opening in the village where you can have both brothers interact in different ways with the other village people really helps establish their characters, and the rest of the game just builds upon that beautifully. The little brother is friendlier and more mischievous, and has a way with animals and music. The older brother is more practical and responsible, and can exert more strength.

Brothers made me smile, feel joy, feel curious, feel sad, feel panic and also made me bawl my eyes out until they were red, sore and puffy. In a mere 4 hours it delivered a great story without words, that was still told better than most games, or films for that matter, I’ve experienced. The way it worked certain story elements into gameplay just made it all hit that much harder in the old emotional box. (I will grant that I can often be more emotional and more easily immersed than most people I know.)

Hint: make sure you find and sit down at this bench.

And you’ll get to see sights like this.

Should you buy Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons? That depends. Do you want a 4-hour long experience with a unique mechanic, a good story and beautiful visuals for 14 euros or your regional equivalent? Do you own a controller? If the answer to both of those is yes, then you probably should check out Brothers. If it doesn’t seem like your thing, that’s fair.

~Wulf

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Posted on September 21, 2013, in Games, Sorta reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Thanks for this sort-o review of Brothers, I was not sure if I should consider playing this and after reading this I know. thanks a lot. Nice blog =D

  1. Pingback: Wulfy’s Top Games of 2013 | Wulf Space

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