Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Review (XONE)

Since debuting on Xbox 360 in 2013, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons has stood as one of our favorite games ever and the Xbox One port in 2015 just solidified that fact.   Brothers tells a fantastic story, features innovative and unique gameplay, and has some truly outstanding presentation that all come together to make it a must-play experience.  See all of the details in our full Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Xbox One review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: 505 Games
  • Developer: Starbreeze
  • ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Pros: Looks and sounds amazing; great story; great gameplay; good achievement list
  • Cons: No changes over last-gen version; price
  • MSRP: $20 on XONE, $15 on XBLA

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is the story of two brothers who have to travel across the land to find medicine for their ailing father.  There are a couple of cutscenes here and there, but no dialogue whatsoever.  Instead you figure out the story by the actions of the characters, the expressions on their faces, and the tone of the gibberish they are speaking.  You know exactly what is going on and what they are feeling without them needing to say a word.  You experience extreme joy and the deepest of sorrows and everything in between in the 3.5 hours it takes to play through, which all helps make Brothers a masterpiece.

The gameplay is interesting because you control both brothers at the same time.  The older brother is on the left stick and uses the left trigger for actions, and the younger brother is on the right stick and uses the right trigger.  It can be sort of difficult to wrap your mind around controlling two things at once, but as long as you keep them on their respective sides of the screen it isn’t too bad.  You get used to it pretty quickly, though, and can start solving puzzles and doing the simple platforming on offer here with ease.  If you need to you can always just move them one at a time for most puzzles, which also helps ease the confusion.

The world the game takes place in is clearly going through a fairly dark period and some of the things you come across in your journey are pretty shocking.  You find a battlefield of giants where their blood has turned into flowing rivers.  There is a village besieged by an abominable snowman.  Another village has been taken over by wolves.  You find a man grieving over the loss of his family in a house fire who is attempting suicide when you arrive (and you can stop him if you wish …).  And there are many other memorable things, too.  There are also lighter moments such as riding goats up a steep mountain trail or helping two separated giants (much smaller than the ones at the battlefield, though) reunite, and the younger brother usually does some silly / funny things.  There are funny moments, and sad moments, and scary moments, and joyous moments, and much more here which all help connect you to the brothers and their quest and the world itself without the game having to say a word. 

Something worth noting about the Xbox One / PS4 port of Brothers is that it isn’t any different from the original release on XBLA / PS3.  The game itself is exactly the same with no added content or improvements or anything.  It just looks slightly clearer, maybe.  This version does have a developer commentary as well as an art gallery and you can listen to the soundrack on the menu, but that’s it.  The core game itself is the same.  Even the achievements are exactly the same, though they’re worth a full 1000 Gamerscore instead of just 400.  If you’ve already played it on last gen, this is kind of annoying since it doesn’t offer anything truly new.  It is especially annoying because it costs $20 instead of $15 this time around despite not really having anything new to justify the increase.  That really only matters if you’re already played the original release, though.  If you’ve never played Brothers before, by all means, the Xbox One or PS4 version is the one to get.

The presentation in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is beautiful, though the visuals won’t necessarily blow Xbox One fans away or anything.  The game world looks good and the environments are quite detailed, so it looks nice overall.  The real stars of the visuals are the extremely emotive character models that do a great job of telling the story without saying a word.  Another real standout is the absolutely fantastic orchestral soundtrack that also really helps in setting the mood and giving emotional moments the weight they need.

I’ve played through Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons a few times now, and it is easily one of the best game experiences I’ve ever had.  The story is so powerful and well told, the presentation is so good, and the gameplay so fresh and innovative and interesting that it is just something I want to shout from the rooftops about how fantastic it is.  I do have a bit of an issue with the unjustified price increase for the current-gen ports, but that doesn’t do anything to diminish how great the game itself is.  Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a must play game that every gamer should experience.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.