Brothers A Tale of Two Sons, released on multiple platforms in 2013, is a game developed by Starbreeze Studios and published by 505 Games. Brothers is a third person, single player cooperative game in which you control two separate characters with one controller. The left hand side of the controller allows you to move one of the heroes, while the right hand side controls the other. Using this unique control scheme the player must navigate a fantasy world which has clever puzzles and tasks that require the player to use both avatars at the same time. The obstacles, while not mentally challenging, are never the less extremely satisfying to solve due to the coordination required to complete the tasks.
Game review by Mike Porter
In the beginning of the game, you see a young boy at the top of a hill in front of a tombstone. A flashback shows the boy and his mother in a boat, the mother falls overboard and dies, leaving the boy alone and frightened. The boy is pulled back to the present, where his older brother has news that their father is ill. Both boys rush to their father’s side where a healer tells them that they must journey to a faraway place to find an elixir to save their father. The player learns these things, not through dialogue, which consists of a made up language, but rather through the actions of the characters. Expressive acting and emphasis on certain words allows the player to gather the information that is needed to complete a task. This enhances the fantasy aspect of the game, rather than hindering, leaving the player to sort out the solution to each puzzle.
The art aesthetic of the game is a combination of the Fable games and a Miyazaki film. There are lovely medieval villages, creepy caverns, dark and dangerous woods and an epic battlefield, which happened to be my favourite part of the game. Having played a vast number of games, I can become pretty jaded at the level design, or tasks that are required of me to accomplish a goal, however I actually giggled with glee during the battlefield sequence of the game. The animation is one of the highlights of the game, as each brother’s personality plays out in how they move and how they interact with other characters in the game and each other.
In regard to the technical aspects, the third person cameras work quite well and allow for the artwork to shine. The camera moves fluidly and cinematically, moving farther away as the avatars are separated on the screen and closer in as they move together. The game is built on the Unreal Engine and makes use of the power of the engine, without going crazy with all the features that engine has to offer. So there are normal maps and bloom, but the use of a painterly palette mutes some of these processes and make it feel as if it belongs, rather than being utilised because it was available.
There are some less stellar points to the game, such as the repetitive type of puzzles or barriers and the fact that some of the characters speak without moving their mouths, while others look as if they are actually speaking. Another shortcoming is the length of the game, which I was able to finish in around 7 hours. However, these minor annoyances can be overlooked since the experience delivers on an interesting mode of play and a visual wonderland of a strange, yet familiar world. I found this gem on Steam during a sale and spent only $7.49 US, however the game is well worth the $15.00 US that is the normal sale price. I highly recommend playing this game and I hope that Starbreeze Studios continues to create more wonderful experiences with an emphasis on emotional storytelling.
Mike Porter is an all-around nice guy and also the Programme Leader of the Game Art course (Bachelor of Creative Technologies) at Media Design School in Auckland, New Zealand.
Mike started his game career back in 1995 in Lewisville, Texas. Over the last 15 years, he has worked in several different companies both in Texas and in Seattle, including work for Sierra and Microsoft Games Studios. He has created 3D artwork, level design on various games, for various platforms including Dreamcast, PS2, PC and Xbox 360. His roles included Art Lead, Environment Art Lead, Vehicle Art Lead and Level Design Lead. Mike was even lucky enough to work with the great people at Bungie for a short period to help ship Halo 3.