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Brothers: The Thoughts of Two Gamers

BEWARE: Minor spoilers follow...

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Microsoft’s annual Summer of Arcade extravaganza is now in full swing, and what better way to immerse ourselves in what this glorious promotion has to offer, than with the emotionally-charged, story-driven adventure of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

Developed by Starbreeze Studios – the team responsible for shooters, The Darkness and Syndicate – the game’s narrative centres around two young brothers, who must undertake a dangerous journey to retrieve a mystical cure for their dying father. The intrepid siblings must work together, relying on each other to overcome obstacles, solve puzzles and progress through a world that is as perilous as it is picturesque.

Joe Pring reviewed Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons for GameGrin, awarding it an impressive score of 9/10, calling the game “fantastic” and recommending it as “essential to anyone”.

In this conversation piece Joe and I will break down exactly what it is that makes this experimental enterprise so exceptional, comparing and contrasting our thoughts and opinions, and arguing our respective viewpoints. Welcome everyone, to Brothers: The Thoughts of Two Gamers.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Rob: I don’t know about you Joe, but I had been looking forward to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons for a long time, ever since it was originally announced in September 2012. Its striking Fable-like art style and intriguing dual-character gameplay potential caught my attention at once; but I was surprised to see it coming from a developer like Starbreeze Studios. Before this the Swedish team’s output had primarily consisted of AAA first person shooters, so this new focus on a more idiosyncratic downloadable title came as a bit of a shock.

Joe: It’s funny. I’d actually not heard a single thing about Brothers leading up to its release, which probably explains why I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. Coincidentally, it’s by complete chance that I even ended up playing it – opting to review it for GameGrin on a whim. I do love it when a game like Brothers' spontaneously lands in my lap; I can rest easy knowing that fate has my back. I think that because it came out of nowhere for me, it made the whole game even more enjoyable as I had no pre-conceptions. What about you, did it live up to your expectations?

Rob: Actually the game managed to surpass my expectations in a lot of ways. I already knew it looked gorgeous from early screenshots, but wasn’t quite prepared for the plethora of breathtaking vistas I’d be presented with. Brothers’ rustic villages, mist-shrouded mountains and torchlit mines are all stunning, and there were several occasions where I was compelled to stop and simply take in the view. Unfortunately the same level of care doesn’t seem to have been afforded to its cartoonish character models, which look perfectly fine when the camera’s panned out, but flat and unimpressive under the scrutiny of cutscenes. 

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Joe: Yeah, the character models definitely suffered in comparison to the overall aesthetic, but it’s easy to overlook that considering the beauty of the rest of the game. I’m pretty sure I spent about an hour of playtime just sitting on the benches scattered throughout the world, enjoying the scenery. Not only that, but the music was absolutely top-notch and undoubtedly contributed a great deal in creating the excellent foreboding of what was to come.

Rob: You’re definitely right. The character models certainly didn’t spoil the experience at all, and were always quickly counteracted with something magical. On the whole I really enjoyed the game’s melancholy score too, except for the parts where what sounded like Minnie Mouse on helium would join in, screeching like a demented bird of prey. Seriously, every time that happened my dog would start howling and I half-expected my window to shatter. How did you get on with Brothers’ unique style of gameplay? Controlling both characters simultaneously certainly wasn’t the easiest thing in the world.

Joe: To put it lightly, at times I felt like I was severely handicapped. On numerous occasions the two characters would cross paths and I would (figuratively speaking) just have a brain fart and find myself running into walls, unable to co-ordinate my eyes with my hands. That sounds harsh and pretty detrimental, but to be honest, it didn’t hinder the experience too much. As long as I kept the brothers on the side of the screen that corresponded to their analog stick, I was fine.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Rob: I also ran into that same problem; when the characters would cross, so would my eyes. Perhaps if the adventure had been longer we would’ve had sufficient time to adapt, but unfortunately three hours wasn’t quite enough. I definitely enjoyed the fact that certain tasks could only be undertaken by one of the siblings, and that they interacted with their environments so differently. The older of the two was stronger, more capable and serious, whereas the younger was mischievous and artistic, with an endearing affinity for the world’s wildlife.

Joe: Absolutely agreed. Like I mentioned in my review, the fact that each brother had unique contextual actions explained by actual real-world limitations clinched it for me. The older brother had all the heavy-lifting duties whilst the younger could squeeze through tiny gaps. The mechanics never felt gimmicky or arbitrary and the visual rather than verbal storytelling just added the cherry to an already tasty cake. I love games that dispose of traditional narrative and opt to use different storytelling devices.

Rob: I definitely responded to the game’s imaginary language; it was really quite expressive without the need for discernible dialogue. The whole setting was very reminiscent of Scandinavia to me and the way the characters spoke further evoked that Nordic vibe. Without getting too spoiler-heavy there were several moments during the adventure that carried considerable emotional weight. Coming into the game I thought it would be more whimsical than poignant, and was taken aback to discover exactly how affected I was by its increasingly tragic narrative. Ultimately how did Brothers make you feel and what were some of your more memorable moments?

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Joe: To put it plainly, I felt exactly the same way I did when I completed thatgamecompany’s Journey. Anyone who’s played that will know exactly what I mean. But in broader terms, it was a pretty emotional game and I wasn’t expecting it to end how it did – not in the slightest. It’s hard not to spoil what happens but suffice it to say, the ending is rather poignant; and what I thought was going to be a simple adventure of two brothers, instead turned out to be a tale of how everyone must face their fears and eventually confront them. The most memorable moment for me was probably when the two entered the valley of dead soldiers. The imagery of that section was just brilliant, and a perfect method of showing the horrors of war by making the corpses the size of buildings.

Rob: Whereas Journey was more abstract and left up to the player to interpret, I found Brothers’ themes of love, loss and bravery to be more straightforward. Not to say that’s a bad thing; it’s a different game after all, even if it provokes some similar emotional responses. In terms of gameplay the section where the brothers were roped together was a highlight, as was the awe-inspiring hang glider sequence. Visually sailing on the frozen river and taking in the kaleidoscopic aurora borealis were two moments I won’t soon forget. However, I think the game’s gradual descent into darkness and its mature, moving conclusion will undoubtedly be what stays with me long after this tale comes to a close.

So there you have it; a selection of our thoughts concerning the excellent Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that if you’re looking for something different, with a stirring narrative and some truly dazzling visuals, then look no further than this Summer of Arcade adventure.

You’ve read our opinions, now we want to know yours. Let us know what you think of Brothers down in the comments below. Did you love it, hate it, or have you yet to even play it? We look forward to hearing from you and for everything innovative, exciting and intriguing in the world of video games, make sure you stay with us here at GameGrin.

Rob Gisbey | 22nd August, 2013
Thom Whyte's picture
This was cool, we oughtta do more articles in that format.
Rob Gisbey's picture
Thanks man.

Yeah, I like the conversational format too. I'm thinking we should do some GTA V stuff like this!

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