Brothers: An Emotional Rollercoaster

brothers-a-tale-of-two-sons

(Image courtesy of play.mob.org)


When first I started the game Brothers:  A Tale of Two Sons, I was expecting a feel-good adventure-oriented game.  For some reason, I was also expecting the traditional platformer set-up.  I could not have been more wrong in that assessment.  As it turns out, Brothers is an emotional roller-coaster that tugs at both the heartstrings and the tear ducts.

The moment the Younger Brother, hereafter referred to as YB, was introduced to me, I had a feeling that the game would be focused more on his journey than the journey of the Older Brother, hereafter referred to as OB.  I was originally startled by the lack of a recognizable language, but I soon got used to the concept.

Something that took me a little longer to get used to, however, was the control system.  It was an uncommon system for me, but not one I wasn’t familiar with.  In several minion-controlling games, such as Pikmin or Overlord, you use each joystick to control small hordes of beings to accomplish goals.  In contrast, Resident Evil 0 offers the option of controlling a companion rather than a horde of lesser beings.  None of these examples, however, used both joysticks to control equally important protagonists in the way that Brothers does.

It was hard for me not to get attached to the motives of the brothers.  It’s very easy to sympathize with a pair of boys trying desperately to save their ailing father.  Their last surviving parent.  As I went through opening stages of the game, it became clear how distinct the brothers were from each other.  YB was much more playful and adventurous, had a few cruel tendencies, and had a knack for music.  Meanwhile, OB was kind, helpful, normally very goal-oriented, and more protective.

To me it seemed as if the first challenge area, the town, was meant to give an overall demonstration of who was to do what.  If we were to classify the brothers into classic adventure story tropes, OB would be the warrior, focusing on physicality, and YB would be the rogue, focusing on cunning and wit.  That being said, both brothers had a great deal of intelligence to be able to solve the various puzzles that they were faced with.  Together, they were able to outsmart the bully who was preventing their progress out of the city.

Once I managed to get through the town, I was faced with the very first fantastic beast, the mountain troll.  I was in awe of it the moment I encountered it, and found myself constantly analyzing it the first few moments after it made its appearance.  I was curious as to why it was helping me, but accepted it nonetheless.  Eventually, with my new companion’s help, I managed to make it into the mountain mine—at least it had the feeling of a mine.

Initially, the cavernous environment mixed with strange mechanisms that seemed to accomplish tasks I couldn’t yet discern was both mystifying and daunting.  I kept asking myself why there wasn’t anyone working, the place seemed to have some modicum of functionality to it.  It was something that kept me wondering, until we made it to the area with the chains on railings.  Then it seemed slightly ominous that the troll had brought us here, that is, until I helped free a captive troll from the more menacing looking trolls.  It was clear then that he needed the brothers’ help to free his beloved.  After a few more puzzles I was confronted with the very first true fight of the game.

In a large, arena like room there was another, very angry troll that offered up a challenge before we could leave.  His brutishness had to be used against him, as it was his angry charges that broke the chains holding a grate closed in the center of the room.  Even after he charged into the hole left after the grate was opened, the brothers had to make the conscious effort to push his hands off and drop him into the hole.  To me, it was a little nerve-wracking that the brothers didn’t have more of a reaction to killing the creature.  Granted, it was trying to kill them, but still the emotional toll of killing anything should have been a larger point for them, I believe.  After killing the troll, the two benevolent trolls whom you assisted wave you off as you venture on to the next leg of your journey.

The boys are awoken on a forest road in the dark of night.  The surrounding area appears to be filled with dark and terrifying wolves, and OB is quick to take a burning branch for a torch to frighten away the beasts.  YB is left vulnerable throughout the ordeal as you make it to a cemetery.  I couldn’t help the intense, ominous feeling the scenery or the situation arose.  It only got creepier and creepier as time went on.

To shorten the length of this post, I’m going to do the game an injustice by speeding through several scenes, and skipping to the final fight in the game:  The Spider-Lady.  The reason being that this is the source of the most intense feelings in the game for me personally.

Just before the fight with the spider-lady, I had just mastered the control scheme of the game.  I was feeling great, on top of the world, because I was doing it.  I managed to figure out the fight with ease, and it wasn’t long before I bested the spider.  It felt as if I had finally mastered the unspoken bond between the brothers, and in just a few more seconds, the world crashed down as she got her last hit in, skewering OB.  I felt the heart-wrenching pain of losing someone I loved.

The following sequence of events was no less harrowing.  I couldn’t help but keep some hope—even as YB buried OB—that there would be some Deus ex Machina that would revive OB.  I held onto that hope until I made it back home.  It wasn’t hard for me to figure out how to swim, I tried wrong once, but then it hit me. It was heart-breaking hearing OB’s ethereal whisper.

The only thing of note after that was the ending cut scene.  Reflecting on YB’s stoicism, combined with his harrowing experience, it seems to me that it was probably highly likely that YB was disconnected.  He more than likely was drained of any emotion he may have had left.

All things considered, the game was heart-breaking and very heavily focused on story and character-development.  It was a wonderful game with beautiful scenery and an interesting game mechanism complex.

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3 thoughts on “Brothers: An Emotional Rollercoaster

  1. I hadn’t even stopped to question why the factory, or mine or whatever, was empty. I especially didn’t question the brothers dropping the ogre into the whole. Looking back, that scene is actually quite sinister. Perhaps the fact that it is so near the beginning when the game still feels like just an adventure helps to glaze over that.

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    • In all honesty I didn’t fully question it until later, upon reflecting on the game. I agree that the scene’s proximity to the beginning definitely affected how people digested it. The adventurous and familiar feeling of a creature attacking you in a dim pseudo arena puts one in the mindset of a classic adventurer. Only, the brothers aren’t classic adventurers, and their first kill should have had a bit more of an impact on them.

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