Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons thoughts

Oh my heart. A short, stunning game that will stay with you far longer than its ~3 hour gameplay.

I’ll do a little advice/rating thing to start, and then rant about my feelings in a spoiler section at the end.

Brothers is an adventure game in which you control two brothers, an older and a younger, on a long journey to get medicine for their ill father. But it is a game far richer than its simple premise.

brothers2

So firstly, if you haven’t played it:

Important basics (let’s get this out of the way): You’ll need a controller. You control one brother with each analog stick as a wonderfully unique but definitely controller-requiring feature of the game. Also it didn’t like my Strike controller so I fussed around for about an hour, newbie that I am, getting an emulator to make the game like it like an Xbox 360 controller. In the end I used Pinnacle Game Profiler (gives you a free 20 day trial) and that worked out (though R3 was Start, which was kinda weird).

Anyway, the fuss was worth it.

Pros: Stunning settings, great characters, moving storyline.
Cons: Brevity, lack of significant gaming challenges (if that’s likely to bother you).

1. If possible, try to play it in one sitting. Find 3-4 hours, and absorb yourself in the story. If you are going to take a break, take it up to the first half, rather than later.

2. Sit on all the benches. This game is beautiful, truly a work of art, in each scene a fresh graphical wonder and the benches are points where you can literally sit back and admire the view. They are scattered throughout the game and whilst not all are as pleasant, they are all impressive. It is truly one of the most visually-lovely games I’ve seen.

3. Talk to all the side characters (with both brothers when possible). They each have their own personality, and whilst no known language is used in the game their communication is clear and really kindles your love for the characters. It’s very heartwarming and funny at times.

4. Go to all the side areas. It’s a linear storyline, with not that many side areas anyway, and each of them really adds to the story and mood of the piece.

All in all it’s a moving story with its main difficulty residing in how ambidextrous you are. You’ll improve on this as the game goes on, I wouldn’t say that being ambidextrous is in any way a requirement. I found I was enjoying the journey too much to bother about the reasonably easy level of the puzzles. To say too much else would be spoilers, but in conclusion I would definitely recommend this game. I got my copy as a Steam key off eBay for £4.79, and it was more than worth it.

And for those that have played it (MAJOR SPOILERS up to and including the very end):

Because the ending really is the biggest spoiler you can give, isn’t it?

If you haven’t played it or ever intend to, turn back now. (And play it). Last chance.

When I replayed it I only played up to the Northern Lights, because I knew what was coming. Damn that girl. On reflection, Naiee’s resistance to her hurts even more. When Nyaa walks off with her at first and Naiee lags behind. Their interactions with her at the tree cutting scene, and finally when Naiee resists going into the burrow opening…

It’s even worse on reflection when you consider the context in which you save her. You think you are saving a victim of some tribal sacrifice the first time, but on reflection you know you interrupted the ritual slaughter of a terrible creature. Worse still, if you notice the cave walls on the approach to the arena (as I did the second time) they depict men fighting spider-people and killing one in the same manner that you are literally about to prevent. Talk about foreshadowing.

Of course, she is helpful. But we cannot forgive her for what she did, and her actions can easily be seen in the light of luring prey back to a lair.

Then…I can’t even say it… The burial. I was in denial. I walked that shuffling, crying, heart-rending little brother all the way around that little area with a sort of shocked hole in my chest. No, no, it can’t end like this. There’s something else I can do. If I just wait… I thought – The potion hasn’t kicked in yet. He will get up. He can’t not. This game…isn’t that sort of game…is it? The fact that you have to interact with the burial is both completely fitting and completely heartbreaking. I took longer than necessary to do it. I didn’t want to do it. Was ever grief more beautifully animated? The brothers’ last hug had me convinced for a moment it would be okay, but I was wrong. I didn’t manage to cry, though I felt like I needed to. I was too much in denial, shock. It was only when the gryphon flew Naiee away I began to accept what had just happened.

My left hand felt sad. Did you get that?

There is a reason that big brother, who you control with the left stick, dies–because people normally use the left stick to control the character. That creates an even more odd feeling when you are not using it in the end.Source

Yeah well thanks for that game developers, thanks a damn bunch.

But the epilogue game mechanics are so woefully brilliant. And you all know what I’m talking about – the swimming. The little brother doesn’t, can’t swim. He’s too scared. You think, once the ghost of his mother returns again to encourage him, that’ll be it, but it’s not. It took me about half a minute to figure it. It took my friend, who I made play it a few days later, longer. I’d been playing Guild Wars 2 on his laptop whilst he played Brothers on mine and because the sound was only on on my laptop I knew exactly where he was (hearing it replayed was…ugh). And I heard him say, ‘Swim you little shit.’ I turned, feeling a tiny stab at the words, and with a heart full of remembered sadness said, ‘The answer is both simple and heartbreaking.’ He got it then.

‘Naiee.’

Thanks for that game developers, thanks a damn bunch.

I think I’ve said my piece on the ending. There’s a lot to reflect on. I almost wished it had been the father…but I can see the storyteller’s choices were the more acute, even if it’s because they’re more sad. I want to go back to the happiness of the start. Differences between the characters aren’t just strength and size – the little brother is more musically talented, more playful – he spits in wells, splashes water on a bridge keeper, slaps a gardener’s bottom, frees a bird. The elder is more serious – he’s the one that asks people for directions, the protective one that approaches the ogre first, and kind, using his strength to save baby turtles later on and pointing where to go in general. The friendly ogre was a pleasant surprise, as was reuniting him with the other. We musn’t forget the dancing inventor, the flight machine (stunning), the goat-riding, the aforementioned turtle-saving, the gryphon riding, the invisible yeti, the killer whale-esque beauties, the Northern lights… The game is full of delights alongside it’s sadder elements.

For everyone that has played this game and been affected by it – a hug goes out to all of you.

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