PC: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Two Brothers, One Controller
How far would you go to save someone you love?
Modern gaming is full of worn-out tropes. We have seen the all-American hero, the damsel in distress, the amnesiac; even the game mechanics themselves have become cliches in a sense. Anyone with even a limited knowledge of how games work can pick up a controller, blast away the invading hordes of the ravenous dead, and ultimately save the universe.
Starbreeze Studios and Swedish film director Josef Fares are attempting to change how we think about games with the stellar downloadable title, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, a seemingly simple story about familial love that utilizes a unique control scheme.
Using no English dialogue, Brothers is an intensely emotional adventure on par with last year’s fantastic PSN exclusive Journey. The story begins with a young man weeping at his mother’s grave, reminiscing about how she died. In a flashback cutscene, the player witnesses the mother falling from a boat in a storm and drowning, the boy watching on, unable to help. When the game resumes, we are introduced to the older brother and the father, who appears to be very sick. Upon reaching their home, the village doctor explains that only the water from the Tree of Life can save the father, and gives the older brother a scroll with a picture of their destination. The boys then set off on their adventure and the game begins proper.
Brothers requires a controller to play, and upon starting the game it is immediately apparent as to why. The left thumbstick controls the older brother and the right controls the younger. Triggers are used similarly, though as action buttons, with one for each character. Apart from a rough beginning of running the brothers into walls, I quickly acclimated to the strange movement and began to find it endearing. The true significance of separate controls for each character is masterfully done and well worth the $15 price of admission alone.
Gameplay boils down to interacting with people and creatures in the world with both brothers, resulting in different animations and great character development solely through their actions. Puzzles require both characters and aside from some trouble on an early boss battle, I found the control scheme worked quite well.
Brothers creates a rich, lived-in fantasy world, complete with gryphons, giants, and trolls. A large part of what makes the game so powerful is the art direction. A beautiful cartoony aesthetic permeates through the seriousness of the story, allowing the player to maintain a smile despite the heavy atmosphere. Sound design is equally fantastic, with sweeping musical scores and depressing string sections when the plot calls for it. I found myself charmed by the presentation of the title, all the way to its highly emotional conclusion.
The game is much shorter than what we have become accustomed to in modern gaming, with a full playthrough taking just under three hours. While the length is a possible point of contention for would-be consumers, I would argue that Brothers would not benefit from more game time. The story it tells is well-paced and adding fluff would lead to a loss of focus. This game should be played in one sitting to fully realize the journey it takes players on, so set aside some time if you plan to enter this charming world.
By the time I reached the powerful conclusion of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and wiped the tears from my cheeks, I felt as if I had actually toured the village, emerged from the goblin caves, conquered the skies, and survived the Valley of the Giants. I had trudged through snow, marched through rain, and braved night’s dark advances with a torch. I was drained but whole, and I was a better person for it.
Brothers is the antithesis of what I have come to expect in modern gaming, and I believe that every gamer should experience it. Rather than going to the theatre this weekend, spend the $15 on this title. I promise you it will be worth it.