Starbreeze Studios may be most well known for games like Payday 2 and dating even further back, to Chronicles of Riddick games, but they made a very bold decision two years ago by developing Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Taking a very simple premise and surrounding it with one of the most heart-wrenching stories in recent gaming history was a recipe for success then, and now Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons has arrived on current-gen consoles with yet another chance for gamers to revisit this modern classic.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons starts on a fairly solemn note with the younger of two brothers in front of the grave of his mother and quickly sets the tone for the game as a whole. The widowed father has begun to get very ill, leading the two brothers to set off on a journey to acquire special water that is supposed to be able to heal him.
Teamwork is the key in this game as you must control both brothers at pretty much all times. This is done through a very simplistic control scheme that only utilizes six buttons in total, with really only four of them being used most of the time. Each brother is controlled by one half of the controller.
The analog stick is used to move around both of them, which can get a little confusing at times. With the big brother being controlled with the left stick and the little brother with the right, you will need to keep the brothers in this position using this mechanic. The left and right triggers are then used to interact with items, people, ledges, and more. Often times, it will take a few seconds for anything to happen — Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons can require patience at times.
From the start and very often throughout, the two must work in tandem by both holding the triggers and moving at the same time, which works incredibly well. This could have been a complete mess in execution, but instead it feels very fluid and precise. There were a few glitches along the way with one brother getting stuck in a wall when climbing together, but those issues were few and far between.
Players also have the ability to adjust the camera at any time with the two bumper buttons. However, the camera found in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is very good at following the two brothers in near perfect fashion, with the only real need for personal adjustment coming when wanting to view the full environment of an area for a puzzle.
The various puzzles and obstacles you must get past in this game are far from the most difficult, but still require a level of thinking, while offering something that is completely unique. Using both brothers is necessary in most of these puzzles and that is the key aspect that sets it apart from most games. In some ways, it almost feels like it was inspired by Ico, but here it gives equal use to both the older and younger brothers.
The only major disappointment with Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is the lack of cooperative play for a game that seems perfect for it. The easy to learn controls would seem to be just right for a local couch multiplayer game with a friend, or even more so a sibling, but instead the game is relegated to single player. With a re-release for current-gen consoles, this would have been the top selling point by far if it was included.
One of the best gaming segments that requires excellent coordination is the castle segment, where the two brothers are tied together with a rope and must use swinging mechanics and such to traverse this locale. This also comes directly after a hang gliding segment that felt unlike anything else from the game to that point, but managed to give a breathtaking view of the world of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.
The visual style is superb in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, feeling like it would easily fit in a somewhat fantasy storybook world. The colors are usually vibrant, utilizing something akin to pastel color schemes. The game is very much able to offer a darker setting too though, in areas like the caves, and even later in the game when the game takes a very dark turn. The visuals already looked quite good last-gen and while not a major upgrade in this current-gen version, it does look a little more polished than before.
While the story of two brothers searching for a way to save their father is sad, the adventure itself is relatively upbeat, as the two brothers are able to show a degree of excitement while they travel together. However, there are much darker moments sprinkled throughout, such as being able to help a man trying to commit suicide, due to the death of his entire family, which helps to foreshadow an ending that is not only shocking, but one of the best in recent years by managing to combine depression and inner-strength into a very powerful series of scenes that tug at all the heart strings.
This ability for Starbreeze Studios to pull this off is even more impressive by the lack of regular voice acting in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Using more of a Legend of Zelda approach with a gibberish language, the game instead does a phenomenal job at conveying emotions and the story itself through body language. Unlike Zelda though, they do not even have speech through text here, as everything is reliant on the animations of the characters themselves.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a rather short game, clocking in at about three hours. There are a few sidequests that will lead to achievements, but most of those are just quick interactions while playing through the rather linear main story. There may not be a ton of replay value here either, at least in the short-term, but this actually works in favor of one of the game’s new features on the current generation consoles.
The port to Xbox One and PS4 has brought with it something that very few games have, director video commentary. From the very start of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, you can go into the Bonus Contents menu and choose this option. Instead of having the commentary play over the game itself, which could get distracting fast, a playthrough of the game is actually shown with the director discussing the game and production process over it. This includes plenty of neat tidbits, such as himself doing all of the mocaps for characters, due to a lack of money.
This latest version also adds in two other new features that are worth checking out. A concept art gallery is included that lets players see how the game came to be from initial designs, but the more intriguing addition is the playable soundtrack. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons has a very subtle, but effective soundtrack and being able to just put it on in the background is an absolute treat.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons released back in 2013 and is still every bit as good today in its re-release. The puzzles are varied and they manage to utilize the simple control scheme very well, as players make their way through this absolutely beautiful, but somewhat short game. While there is little to set it apart from its previous release, the depressing parts, especially the ending, are every bit as powerful as they ever were, and combined with the the few bonus additions, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, is without a doubt a game that every gamer needs to experience at least once.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
- Available On: All major platforms
- Published By: 505 Games
- Developed By: Starbreeze Studios
- Genre: Adventure
- US Release Date: August 12th, 2015
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
- Quote: "Just as powerful as ever, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons still is one that every gamer truly needs to experience in their lifetime at some point."
- Easy to learn, simple controls
- Enjoyable puzzle variety
- Incredibly fitting storybook style artwork
- Heart-wrenching ending sequences
- Lack of Cooperative Mode