There is a beautiful and sad charm to the fantasy world of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It is a wonderfully crafted landscape, with expansive mountains and forest trails that lead to unexplored fluorescent caverns. Yet behind these charming landscapes lies a civilization of giants ravaged by war, and two, small, brothers on a quest to help their ailing father. Together they will come to traverse this dangerous realm, and in the process discover what it means to be a brother, a son, and above all, family.
The story of Brothers is told briefly through small cut scenes and interactions. After witnessing his mother drown, and being unable to save her, the youngest brother has become removed from his family, the guilt bearing down him. It is only after his father becomes sick that he and his elder brother, at the request of the local doctor, must venture to a distant land to uncover what can only be described as the ‘tree of life’. While the story may be nothing new to the fantasy genre, it is not told through dialogue heavy cut scenes, but simple miming sequences and a fake gibberish language. While some may see this as a way to not hire actors for voice work, it comes to add another shroud of mystery to this already strange fantasy land. At first this world does not appear strange in any way, beyond their language. However, after venturing beyond the city, the brothers encounter mountainous trolls, ravenous wolves, and other creatures that lurk in the dark. Some may come to help you in your quest, while others will seek to harm the bothers, and so they must be wary for even the most mundane of creatures can be dangerous.
I became deeply entwined in the brother’s tale of heroic survival and discovery. The world is rich with life, gorgeous details and intriguing side plots. As the brothers venture through this world to save their father, a darker tale is taking place in the background. Giants lay dead throughout the outer realms, ravaged by war-although against whom is unknown. The story of how this came to be is of no concern to the brothers, as they are but creatures that not must be traversed or moved aside to continue on their journey, but the player cannot help but wonder how this war began. It is these small, side stories in which flush out the world of Brothers, and make it far more intriguing than your typical fantasy game.
The world of Brothers is not the only unique aspect of this game. Players are put in control of both brothers, creating what can only be described as a solo co-op game. Playing on the PS3, the left triggers and circle pad controlled the older brother, while the right controlled the younger one. It took a bit of time to get use to, as I would often control one brother, when I meant to control the other, but it is manageable. The gameplay comes forth in the unique set of abilities and interaction options in which both brothers have. The little brother can climb through narrow bars and entrances, while the big brother can hoist the little brother onto small cliffs, and can also swim across rivers- his younger brother in tow. Controlling both characters, players come to realise that neither could travel this world without the other. They are the yin and yang of the family unit- each presenting a unique skill set to create a powerful, personal bond. Overall though, the game play is rather simplistic, and never tasking. However, this gives you all the more time to admire the beautifully constructed world around you.
I also greatly admired how each brother will interact differently with the inhabitants of this world. While the older brother may seem charming and helpful to adults, the little brother will be treated as a nuisance. In other instances, the stranger creature of the world will come to laugh at the antics of the little brother, while disregarding the older one. Like the side stories throughout this world, the unique interactions of each brother adds a layer of depth to the game in which helps the world seem more alive and all the more enticing.
Despite never speaking a word, and relying upon the world to tell their tale, there was a deep level of attachment I felt to the brothers. This speaks volumes of the environmental storytelling abilities of developer Starbreeze Studios. While not the most difficult of games, nor the longest, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons presents a beautiful world, filled with charming characters and some bitter stories. A journey filled with happiness, pain, and brotherly love it is an old world fantasy story told in a modern way.
8.5 out of 10
*Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is available for download on PS3, XBox 360 and PC via Steam. On all systems it is $14.99 USD; however, if you are a PlayStation Plus subscriber it is currently free on the PS3*