Recently thanks to the Steam Winter Sale, I was able to pick up Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons, a game that has the praises of one my favorite Steam contributors TotalBiscuit. My first thoughts upon starting the game were how visually stunning the world of Brothers really was, set initially in a picturesque town at the edge of the sea, you’re immediately plunged into a story of loss and heartbreak, of Two Brothers who have lost their mother and now face the reality of having to go on a grand adventure to save their father. This adventure will take the two brothers through several lands, from the sea side town, to mountainous peaks, frozen tundra, a battle ground of slain giants, and even more epic vistas along the way. You’ll find yourself flying on a griffin, moving giants, swinging across bridges, and maybe even carrying a sheep around!
The most remarkable part of this game is its unique control scheme, when booting into it from your Steam Client (should you choose to play this game on PC), you are immediately faced with a warning that this game is meant to be played with a controller. Once you plug your controller in, you’ll see that the control scheme is amazingly simple. Throughout the game you will control, as alluded to in the title, two brothers. You control each brother independently with one of the thumbsticks of your controller, that is to say that the left thumbstick and trigger control “big brother” with the right thumbstick controlling “little brother”. While this initially may cause a slight bit of, “hmmmm how is this going to work” in the gamers mind, the game does a very good job of introducing its unique control set with some initial obstacles that will give you a good feel for how you’ll be playing the game. There’s also some incredibly cute interactions between the brothers and NPCs especially in the first part of the game, each brother will have his own triggered interaction with the different NPCs you encounter and it can be quite fun to play with these and discover, for example, which NPC “little brother” smacks on the bottom!
Each brother in the story has his own strengths and weaknesses, and you will need both to complete each task set before you. For example one of the earliest road blocks you hit is a ledge that “little brother” can’t jump high enough to reach. In the spirit of true brotherly love, “big brother” is more than willing to help out and give “little brother” a boost up. Once successfully up on the ledge, there’s a rope that “little brother” can send down to help his older sibling. While this might seem as though it would get old, the game does an incredible job of mixing up this mechanic and utilizing it in fun and different ways throughout the game. You’ll find times where you’re using one brother to help the other move forward and others, as I mentioned above, where they must work together to advance.
After noticing the world and getting used to the control scheme you’ll quickly grow to appreciate the amazing sound track and effects in this game. Rendered in full DTS surround sound, and combined with the stunning visuals developer Starbreeze Studios has created a truly immerse environment. Throughout the game, I found myself stopping just to look around and enjoy the environment. With a score put together by composer Gustaf Grefberg who has done several other Starbreeze games, Brothers manages to do everything that it should with music throughout, and quite delightfully the entire time.
Unfortunately, the game wasn’t all smiles and rainbows for this reviewer, there were definitely a few hiccups with Brothers, most notably, the complete lack of guidance in the game. There were several points where I simply didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Eventually having to resort to YouTube in one instance to advance, and thankfully being aiding in Twitch chat for the other. The characters in the game don’t speak any recognizable language, somewhat akin to The Sims language skills, and this device allows the developers to pull you even deeper into the story because you have to pay attention to the characters inflections, and body language to suss out what’s going on in cutscenes and when given instructions. This lack of verbal queues while aiding to immerse the player, will at times leave you wondering exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.
All in all, Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons, is an absolutely incredible game, which should be obvious from the awards and praise that it’s received over the years, it still shines brightly as a delightful gaming experience. Walking away from Brothers, I felt that I truly had experienced something unique, something worthwhile, and something that touched my heart in a way that not many games do. To be able to experience such a heart-wrenching story of struggle, loss, and the triumph of inner strength is a wonderful journey. When this game came out it won awards, now two years later if you find yourself having not played the game, take the time pick it up and experience the amazing work of art that Brothers truly is, you deserve it.