In a video game world dominated by vast, expansive worlds, complex character progression systems, and innumerable hours of content, it is quite rare to encounter a game that breaks that mold as effectively as 505 Games’ Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. By simply shifting the focus onto the relationship between its characters and building a unique, engaging world and story around those characters, Brothers makes a strong case that small-scale games can have just as big an impact on video game culture as big budget franchises.
2013 is a year in gaming we won’t soon forget. Ken Levine and his team at Irrational Games blew the collective mind of gamers everywhere with the ending to the third installment of his popular Bioshock series, Bioshock Infinite. The folks over at Naughty Dog, most well-known prior to 2013 for its work on the Uncharted series, finally released The Last of Us, their highly anticipated action-adventure survival horror (yes, it falls into all of those genres) game first revealed during the 2011 Spike TV Video Game Awards. Not only was this game both a critical and commercial success, it also won tons of game of the year awards and is now being lauded as possibly the best game of the ENTIRE current generation of consoles (PS3/Xbox 360/Wii). That, my friends, is a huge deal.
Along with these hits came the wildly popular Grand Theft Auto V, the Tomb Raider reboot that promises to revitalize that struggling series, the next installments in the Battlefield, Call of Duty and Assassins Creed franchises, and indie darlings The Stanley Parable and Gone Home. All worthy game of the year candidates for sure, but no game was more surprisingly groundbreaking than Starbreeze Studios’ Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.
A story driven adventure game, Brothers was released first for the Xbox Live Arcade, then later for both Steam and the PlayStation Network. The game revolves around two brothers who must travel through a fantasy world to retrieve water for their dying father, and it employs a unique gameplay system in which the player controls each brother with one of the analog sticks.
Adding to this innovative function, each brother has his own set of actions that make him unique and serves a vital purpose for the completion of the story. For example, very early in the game there is a cliff too high for either of the brothers to reach individually. To solve this dilemma, the player must lead the larger brother under the cliff first, then bring the second brother over. Once this is done, by pressing the action button (LT and RT for each respective brother on the Xbox 360) the smaller brother will climb into the hands of his older brother and get boosted over the cliff, where he then drops a rope for the older brother to use to scale the cliff. Brothers is inundated with clever little puzzles like this, all which bring about a unique challenge that forces the player to be crafty with his use of the brothers and their different skills.
*The remainder of this article contains spoilers. Turn back now if you do not want to know how the game ends*
I mentioned previously that Brothers is story driven, and the story (written by Josef Fares) is unlike anything ever seen in this type of game. A deranged pitbull. Wolves. Trolls. A suicidal man. A little inventor man. Giants. A gryphon. Killer whales. Giant Sea Turtles. Bloodthirsty tribesmen. A girl who transforms into a spider. Oh, and did I mention the game is only three hours?
The point in this three hour tale of adventure where the story truly reaches unforgettable status comes as the brothers’ journey is coming to an end. The older brother has been mortally wounded by the spider-woman, and he passes away in a gut-wrenching scene that will choke up even the most masculine of gamers. The games’ creators don’t stop there though. The player is then forced to control the sobbing younger brother and straight up dig a six-foot deep grave, drag their brother’s corpse into the grave, and fill the hole back up with dirt. Yep, better have some tissues handy before you sit down to play this one.
All that being said, this does not even begin to scratch the surface of what makes this game so awesome. All I can do is implore you to purchase this game and experience the awe-inspiring experience that is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Prepare to embark on the most emotionally impactful, undeniably unique journey any video game can offer: An experience beautifully weaved into a three hour story that can stand up against even the mightiest of video game foes and defeat them one by one.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is currently available for $14.99 on XBLA, Steam, and PSN