People that have played Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons usually fall into two groups. The first group of people looked at the glowing
reviews that this game received, tried it, then found it stupendously overhyped and underwhelming. Then, there’s the other group, who found the game to be perfect
. I am glad to say that I belong to the latter party.The late great film critic Roger Ebert once said that videogames can never be art, a controversial statement at best and blatantly offensive and wrong at worst. With that said, we’re going to have to forgive Mr. Ebert, because a)He was great at what he did, and b) He never got the chance to experience Brothers: A Tale of two Sons.
It’s difficult to talk about the story without spoiling too much. Essentially, you play as two brothers who are sent off on a journey to find a cure for their father’s ailment. You, as the player, are tasked to guide the two brothers through multiple trials and tribulations throughout a variety of beautiful and mystifying locations. Along the way, you will encounter numerous characters, many of which are heavily inspired from classic fairytales and fantasy mythology. There is so much more to talk about here, but once again, this is something you really need to experience yourself. You really will get more out of this game if you go in mostly
It’s worth noting that the game is completely dialogue-free
. No, I don’t mean that the game merely lacks voice acting. I mean that there is essentially no actual dialogue – voice or text, in the game at all. Sort of. The characters technically do talk, but in a fantasy language without translation. Instead, the story and interactions are told through beautifully-animated gestures and changes in tone and inflections. Despite this, there is never any ambiguity about what’s happening on-screen, and somehow, the game manages to weave a heartfelt story that, at times, can truly invoke a heavy feeling in the chest.
is a story-driven adventure/puzzle game with a novel control scheme. Each brother is mapped to a single stick on the controller. The left and right stick/shoulder buttons control the older and younger brother, respectively. It’s a unique control scheme for sure, in the sense that this game looks
like a co-op game for two players, but is actually a single player game, intended to be played on the same controller. The challenge in the game is largely dependent on the player’s ability to co-ordinate both characters at once. The ambidextrous be warned – this game will probably offer you very little challenge.
It’s worth pointing out at this point that contrary to what the text in the orange box says on the store page on Steam, a controller is not required to play the game
. The game will work fine using a keyboard, and you’ll be more than able to progress to the end of the game without a controller. With that said, a controller is strongly recommended
for this game.
For the combat-oriented players – sorry, but this game is completely combat-free. Instead, the game largely involves puzzles comprised of environmental interactions and exploration. Each brother has their own perks. The older, taller and stronger brother is able to reach heights, boost the younger brother, push levers and swim, whilst the younger brother can fit into smaller spaces. Unfortunately, delving into more of the interactions between the two brothers would spoil the game for you.
The game is never overly challenging or frustrating. OOT Water Temple this is not. Puzzles are, for the most part, fairly straightforward, but are often challenging enough to invoke a sense of satisfaction when you do overcome them. Death can and likely will occur, but checkpoints are frequent, sparing you from repeating the same segments repeatedly.
One of my only gripes, gameplay-wise, was the repetition of some of the puzzles. Using the big brother to boost the little brother up to a ledge got very old very quickly. With that said, even the puzzles that are solved the same way are often presented in a different setting, with a different outcome, which helps to keep them fresh.
My only other "criticism" is that this game is short and lacks any compelling reason to go back to it after you’re finished. This is, unfortunately, a consequence of any game that is primarily narrative-driven
. The game does
support achievements, but these involve optional, easily-missed activities in the game, and are neither challenging or particularly satisfying to obtain.
This game is beautiful
. Not the realistic kind of beautiful that we’d expect from AAA games such as … The Watch Dogs E3 trailer, but appropriately beautiful
. You would not want to play this game and have it look like anything other than what it looks like. The world that Brothers
takes place in is strikingly magnificent. The town you begin your journey in is vibrant and colourful, whilst later settings are often appropriately darker and harsher. The shadowing and lighting in this game also look tremendous.
The most impressive aspect of the graphics however, is the incredible work that was done to illustrate the enormous scale
of the game. No matter where you are, there is always a lot going on in the background, making you feel incredibly small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things – something that will be very familiar to those that have played the God of War series, or the critically acclaimed Shadow of the Colossus. Moving to new locations was often breathtaking, although each individual is area is so gorgeous on its own that it's hard to move on.
This, of course, was no accident. The game was clearly deliberately designed
to immerse you in the environment, and allows you to interact with almost everything, despite the fact that this is completely optional and you are not awarded with anything other than the short animation that accompanies your action. In other words, the game doesn’t force you, or even encourage you (from a gameplay perspective) to sit on a bench in town and really take in the gorgeous scenery, but you, the player, will want to anyway.
The music and sounds also complement the game perfectly, and contribute immensely to the emotional impact of the game. I’ve honestly listened to the music numerous times since finishing the game, and all the emotions I experienced from the game just come rushing back. I honestly can’t fault a single thing about the audio in this game, as I feel that it perfectly complements both the emotions and the atmosphere that are conveyed.
In case it wasn’t obvious, I loved Brothers
. There is very little about the game that I can fault. With that said, I’ll admit it’s not for everybody. The game is very narrative-driven and requires a heavy emotional investment – something that not every gamer is prepared to, capable, or willing to do. It’s worth noting that this game could very well have been another To The Moon, or Gone Home – games which I personally loved, and are very story/emotionally-driven, but lack any real gameplay, closely flirting with the definition of what a “Game” truly is. No one played either of those two games and said “Wow, that was fun”, because plain and simple, the gameplay
in those two games are complete garbage. Brothers
, however, manages to capture the same kind of narrative and emotion (and arguably exceeds them both) without compromising on the gameplay. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is, in fact, a game. That is the true magic of Brothers