Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons review
The Good:

Stunning, utterly immersive 3D fantasy world; deals with real themes in a resonant way; beautifully told story; lovely soundtrack.

The Bad:

Controls are sometimes frustrating; some game-breaking bugs in launch release.

Our Verdict:

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is an exquisitely told story set in a world overflowing with personality. It’s an immersive, emotional gem that’s not to be missed.

Love and death are powerful forces. They bring people together, they tear them apart. I’ve never played an adventure game that handles both concepts with such a deft touch as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Developed by Starbreeze Studios, this is a truly wonderful tale that masterfully immerses you in an emotionally rich, fantastical setting. While the actual challenge on offer is minimal, the story is so strong, the lands traversed so beautiful, the music so enchanting that the lack of difficulty is not an issue. A few game-breaking bugs in the initial Xbox 360 version and a slightly tricky control scheme dampen the experience, but not enough to stop this unique adventure from earning a resounding recommendation.

The titular brothers’ father is mortally ill. Having already lost their mother to a drowning accident prior, the two sons determinedly set off on a quest to locate the cure. At first I was under the impression that this would be a journey grounded in reality, but the farther you travel the more the world expands into a storybook fantasy. Yet even in a mystical and mysterious land, A Tale of Two Sons still manages to resonate on a very real level, dealing with very personal themes that everyone goes through in their lives, becoming increasingly macabre as you progress.

The spectre of death goes deeper than the prospect of a father dying – the decay of life is depicted between flashbacks and what you see before your eyes, the outcome of it very evident in the present. However, this grim core theme is offset with an emphasis on love. The brothers clearly care for one another, their panic tangible whenever one of them is in trouble. One dream sequence shows the elder brother abusing his younger sibling – a disturbing and unsettling moment simply because it’s clear that this would never actually happen between them. These are two characters that support each other, both physically (like the younger brother’s fear of swimming) and emotionally.

What's more amazing is that all this is conveyed without real words. The only dialogue is incomprehensible chatter, but anything else would be unnecessary. These brothers are risking their lives to save their father and the bond between them is so obvious – after all, you’re essentially the one controlling it – that any extraneous conversation would be redundant. Love isn’t just tied to the central characters, though. A broken-hearted troll reunited or a bird inspired with a new lease on life are just some of the ways that it's woven through the story. Death may always be looming, but it never dethrones love.

Opening in the boys’ rural village, everything seems very quaint to start. With a view of the sea stretching into the distance, people talking and playing games, and the sun shining past the wooden houses, it’s all rather peaceful. But slowly this sense of serenity is broken away in your travels, introducing such things as mountain trolls and exotic sea creatures. You’ll come across a battlefield full of deceased giant warriors, vultures picking away at their bodies, causing blood to spill into the rivers. You’ll pass through an iced-over village, its residents frozen and totally covered in snow. The locations are absolutely stunning, with an art style that mixes detailed realism with smooth edges and a soft colour palette. The lighting is impressive too, especially in a scene that sees you swinging a flaming torch in order to scare off wolves, casting long shadows onto the surrounding trees.

Swedish film director Josef Fares was involved in the production of this game, and that cinematic touch comes across clearly in the camera work. Climbing up a mountain, for example, the camera will rotate to a shot that shows how far you've come. The viewing angle often makes everything appear distant, but in doing so succeeds in making the environments feel connected. It’s all deeply immersive and has clearly been designed with so much care that there are benches to sit on throughout, offering nothing more than a quiet look at the gorgeous scenery.

When it comes to exposition, less is often more. Never has that rung truer than in Brothers. Names are never given and neither is the era. Context is minimal, but what you see and interpret is so powerful. You’ll frequently come across things that are never explained, every location clearly host to a vast backstory that is never touched upon. When walking through a forest full of hung bodies or a seemingly abandoned giant castle, questions will be swimming in your mind. But it’s left to you to piece things together, to make of it what you will. The brothers might not comment on it, but you’ll want to. There’s always the sense that the pair are just specks in a much bigger world. Life moves on whether or not you’re there, sometimes leaving you to stroll through the aftermath of a bygone narrative.

There are a lot of interactions that you could easily miss, making the sense of discovery off the main track quite rewarding. At one point I stumbled across a man about to commit suicide, who will succeed in doing so unless you intervene. It was the first truly shocking moment of the game, but one that set the tone for things to come. This scene can only be only found down a path that you're under no obligation to take. In fact, there’s nothing to say that you have to save this man at all. Carefully examining your surroundings will reveal why this stranger was attempting to take his life. I found it truly chilling. It’s such a strong, emotional moment, but one that you might not even discover if you're simply rushing through to the end. Other encounters exist throughout, some more subtle, some happier. Be sure to take time to find them all, because they make the adventure that much more satisfying.

Continued on the next page...



AD Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons can be purchased at:
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Game Info

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Platform:
PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Genre:
Adventure

Developer:
Starbreeze Studios


Game Page »

Digital August 7 2013 505 Games

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Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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User Score

Average based on 16 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by PadanFain on Sep 13, 2013

Very pretty imagery and evocative music

The story is ok; at the same time it's both too jumbled-up and too predictable. At times it's full of deus-ex machina, at other times its... Read the review »



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About the Author
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Joe Keeley
Staff Writer

Comments

xlynx
Aug 13, 2013

Will the PC version require a gamepad then?

Jackal Jackal
Aug 13, 2013

Haven’t heard yet. Best guess is that there will be at least a fully implemented keyboard option as well. It’s due out in a few weeks, so we’ll know more then.

fov fov
Aug 14, 2013

This sounds really good! Looking forward to the PS3 release.

talkshow talkshow
Aug 14, 2013

Loved it ! 5 stars.  Man, EMOTIONAL is right…! That experience sat with me for a while.

Majsan Majsan
Aug 14, 2013

I would also like to know more about the PC controls when you have the info… :-)

Krusbert
Aug 23, 2013

The PC version technically supports keyboard controls, but they’re quite clunky to be honest. The game was designed for a controller, I’d highly recommend using one for this game.

Majsan Majsan
Aug 25, 2013

Is it possible to buy ONLY a controller, gamepad?

Jackal Jackal
Aug 25, 2013

Yes, there are lots of gamepads for sale. Personally, I’d spend more (and did, for myself) on the Xbox 360 controller. It’s not only compatible with PCs, it’s the only one most PC games are properly optimized for.

Marek Marek
Aug 28, 2013

If anyone is thinking of playing this with a keyboard, I’d highly recommend against it. A lot of the game’s impact stems from the way interactions were designed for the controller.

xlynx
Sep 3, 2013

It’s now available on Steam, and it’s confirmed there; a controller is required to play.
http://store.steampowered.com/app/225080/

Manuel Manuel
Sep 4, 2013

I am playing it now with a keyboard and it takes some time to get used to the controls but it´s not such a big problem. You control one brother with WASD keys and the other with arrow keys.  The game looks great and it is most certainly one of the better games released this year.

Jackal Jackal
Sep 8, 2013

Article has now been updated with info about the PC controls.

Manuel Manuel
Feb 7, 2014

Now that I have actually finished the game I just had to say how amazing it is.  Immersive world with beautiful graphics and a story that just stays with you for some time after you finish the game. I hope to see somethnig more from these guys because they are obviously extremly talented and also would like to say that the game had only one bug but the rest of the game played fantastic on my 5 years old PC.

I wish that all game developers would make such great looking games that are well optimized so that even the people with older PC´s can play them, because I have played lots of new 3d adventure games like Lucius or Eleusis that ran awful on my PC and the graphics on those games were nowhere near the beauty of Brothers.

xlynx
Feb 22, 2014

For PC, I recommend the Logitech F310 as a cheap controller with symmetrical analogue sticks which works well.



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