Concise Game Critique - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Concise Game Critique - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Publisher: 505 Games
Released: September 3, 2013 (Windows)
Played on: Windows (also available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
Played for: 5h (two playthroughs)

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a beautifully executed single-player co-op adventure about two brothers, and their long journey to find a cure for their mortally ill father.

In Brothers, you control both brothers at the same time. You can play with the keyboard, but a controller is very much recommended. The basic gameplay is quite simple,
you only need one thumbstick (for moving) and one trigger (for interacting) for each brother, but the game manages to utilize the control scheme in a lot of different and interesting ways throughout its 2-3 hour long story. The big brother can do things the little brother can't and vice versa, and there are, of course, a lot of things they need to do together. As odd as it might seem at first, the control scheme, coupled with the various obstacles the brothers must face together, creates the kind of physical connection with the characters that I haven't quite felt in any other game.

Concise Game Critique - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Concise Game Critique - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Concise Game Critique - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Concise Game Critique - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

The game's grim, fairytale-esque world is gorgeus to look at. The town is full of life with people and animals, and the various mountains, caverns and forests with their uniquely fantastical inhabitants and epic sense of scale feel like a Scandinavian folk tale come to life. The lack of any UI (outside of a handful of quick tutorial messages) also greatly adds to the immersion.
All the human characters speak a made-up language, but the story works wonderfully well without subtitles, and their absence might even add to the emotion of the story. You don't need to know exactly what the characters are saying, you just need to know what they are feeling, and that comes through, clear as day. The soundtrack, by Gustaf Grefberg, is also fantastic. The music really ramps up at the most awesome moments, creating an epic sense of adventure, danger or sorrow depending on the situation.

In terms of bugs, I only encountered two, both of them very minor (some missing textures in a cutscene and missing text in the credits). There is hardly an options menu to speak of, and changing the resolution happens from a separate launcher, but since the experience is short and the controls are very specific, I didn't have the desire to change anything. Still, your mileage may vary.

The last few moments of Brothers are something to behold, and something I will not spoil, not ever. This is the game I will recommend to anyone, whether they are a gamer or not, and it has a lot to do with the last chapter of the game. Brothers is one of the only games that have made me cry, and the physical connection I had with the characters, and what the game did with that connection, is a huge part of that. It delivers an emotional blow that works, not in spite of the fact that Brothers is a videogame, but precisely because it is a videogame.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a work of art, a videogame that uses the medium to its full potential. I appreciate its bleak but beautiful fantasy world, its unusual yet
brilliant controls, and the way it elevates videogame storytelling to a new level. Not everyone will feel its impact, but those that do will remember it forever. This is the kind of game I want more of.

5/5 This is one journey you will never forget.

Get Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons:

Jay Marksman, January 03, 2019

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