- Written by Philip Hartmeyer /
- Published: 26 January 2014
Starbreeze Studios is a developer best known for first person shooters, most notably the PayDay series, the Riddick series, and The Darkness. So when they revealed that Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (a downloadable title) would be releasing alongside Payday 2, it took a lot of fans by surprise.
Brothers is a game unlike anything Starbreeze has ever produced. The game is largely story-based and focuses on two brothers traveling across the country in search of a cure for their father, who has taken ill. The brothers must overcome many hardships throughout the adventure in order to complete their goal.
The main story is completely ancillary, however, and serves as nothing more than a thin excuse to send the brothers to their theoretical doom over and over again. I can’t help but think how much healthier everyone would be if they just invested in building a road instead of having to shimmy across gorges with the help of lovelorn trolls, and jump over the tops of mountains on goats among other ridiculous things. This is possibly due to the game’s need to design rudimentary puzzles for you to complete before moving onto the next area or cutscene. If you removed these, or made them any easier, you would basically just be walking to the end.
Brothers does something a lot of other games have since given up on, and that is changing up the control scheme from the normal layout. You control the two brothers at the same time, the older brother taking the left side of the controller and the younger brother taking the right side. This is pretty disorienting at first but you quickly adapt in order to complete the first few “puzzles” when you realize that the only inputs used are the triggers and analog sticks. The game does not use the control scheme in any meaningful way later on, and you won’t be struggling to adapt to holding the triggers while pushing the analog sticks for movement at the same time. Anyone who has played a shooter will find the control scheme different at first, but ultimately it is the same as moving the camera in a first/third person shooter while moving.
I put puzzles in quotes up there because they really aren't puzzles at all. They are merely obstacles that usually just require you to push a fence open, or pull a lever with one brother while the other is hanging onto something. After a while it gets tiring, which is saying something because the game is about 3 hours long. Everything in the setting is just too conveniently placed and it makes the world feel crafted instead of natural. This is a real shame because the world that Brothers sets up is very interesting. It is a world where giants, mythical animals, barbaric blood worshiping tribes and other fantastic beings exist, but you only get a brief glimpse into their nature. There is simply no way to explore the world as the game is akin to a hallway in an office: a straight line with a few offices on the side to peer into.
Ultimately Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a game specifically built to continuously tug at your heart strings in every respect, but it doesn't earn it outside of a single instance towards the end. The control scheme works, but the developers don’t use it in any meaningful way, and I don’t think the game gains anything from it. It is nice to see a developer branch outside of their comfort zone, but in this case, it falls flat.
Final Score - 4/10