Creating an emotional experience in video games is no easy feat for developers. Allowing you to get connected to the characters and their stories seems to be more of a challenge than most would like to think. A good number of games we’ve seen this generation have been about action, action and more action, featuring characters and storylines that are so generic and boring that it’s a struggle to even finish the game. Starbreeze is most notably known for its FPS games, with the most recent being the reimagining of Syndicate. However, taking a complete 180, Starbreeze may have created what might be this year’s Journey with their latest title, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons follows the story of, well, you guessed it, two brothers. The game starts off with the younger of two brothers reminiscing about a tragic event of the past, setting the mood for the remainder of the game. The two brothers, who are nameless characters, set out on an adventure to save their deathly ill father. There is no text, there is no dialogue – a doctor hands the older of the two brothers a map and you are on your way.
Right away you’ll notice how beautiful the world is that Starbreeze created. The environments do an amazing job of immersing you in the adventure. With no text or dialogue to be found, the game leaves you with the characters and your own thoughts about what you’re seeing, hearing and overall experiencing. The game is a story about love, loss, bravery, risk and reward and just as Journey showed players what they could accomplish without a voice, Brothers attaches you to the characters and makes you care about what happens to them, all without a single line of dialogue.
The most unique thing about the game however is how it plays. Using the left analog stick to control the big brother and the right to control the little brother, it offers a cooperative experience to be played by a single player. Mastering the controls can be difficult and may cause some frustration until your mind wraps around the fact you’re controlling two characters at once. The easiest way to control the two is having each brother on their respective side of the thumbstick controlling them, but when they do get switched up it can easily confuse you, and unfortunately that impacts somewhat on the immersion due to frustration breaking the peaceful yet adventurous tone of the game.
Each brother has their own strengths and weaknesses. The older brother does much of the heavy lifting for example, while the younger brother can slip between gates to get to the lever on the other side to open up the next area. It’s really quite the surprise at how well the control scheme works aside from the few frustrations of keeping track of what’s going on. The only trouble I had was with keeping track of both characters during some of the platforming segments, as every game before it has always had your focus on a single character. The game really tests your hand-eye coordination.
No other game aside from Journey has given me a more relaxed feeling while playing. The game is a puzzle-platforming adventure, but never offers a challenge too steep to break the masterful pacing that Starbreeze created. There’s a flow to the adventure that just feels right, moving carefully, but swiftfully from one chapter to the next during the 3-5 hour campaign. The platforming segments are never overly challenging and don’t require much thought, but again, that’s not the point of Brothers. The game is meant to be experienced and, for me, it was just a very relaxing game to play through and hard to put down from the moment you jump into the world.
The game’s world is brought to life by many different environments, great draw distances and just a sense of beauty that covers up the game’s somber tone. Each chapter offers something different and the game makes you wish the world was fully open to wander and explore. Urban countrysides, lush forests, crystal clear water, Scandanavian architecture, all of it, just beautiful. The world of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons itself is its own story.
There are scenes in the game that you’ll often wonder why they’re there, and sometimes it’s up to the player to interpret what Starbreeze is trying to convey. The game’s characters look like they were taken out from a page of the Fable series and the dialogue is reminiscent of how The Sims’ dialogue is conducted with no real words being said, but modeled after some form of Scandanavian language. The soundtrack is equally impressive, all the more adding to the already immersive experience that Brothers has to offer.
The game doesn’t have much replay value aside from collecting the 12 achievements that are obtained by completing things outside of the main quest. I won’t spoil them for you, but they do follow the game’s theme of love, and each achievement has a meaning behind it, so it’s worth your time to try and earn each one of them as they might just surprise you.
Last year, Playstation fans were treated with one of the most engaging games that has ever been made. It offered no voice, no text and was simply a journey to a mountain in the far off distance. That game was Journey by Thatgamecompany. This year, Starbreeze has created a game that’s as equally special as Journey was last year, and is a surprising feat for a company most notably known for its first person shooter titles. Brothers is this year’s Journey, and, thankfully, fans of all three major platforms will be able to experience it at some point this year. Do yourself a favor if you own an Xbox 360, pick up Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons now. The game may not look like much on the outside, but for the 3-5 hours it lasts, it may be one of the most memorable adventures you make in 2013.
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Story – 9/10
Gameplay/Design – 8.5/10
Visuals – 9/10
Sound – 9/10
Lasting Appeal – 6/10
Overall – 9/10
(Not an average)
Platform: Xbox 360 (Available Now) PS3, PC TBA
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Publisher: 505 Games