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Video Game / Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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A man, clinging to life. His two sons, desperate to cure their ailing father, are left with but one option. They must set out upon a journey to find and bring back the "Water of Life” as they come to rely on one another to survive. One must be strong where the other is weak, brave where the other is fearful, they must be... Brothers.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a video game developed by Starbreeze Studios. It was released for Xbox Live Arcade, Steam and Playstation Network in August 2013. It is the video game directorial debut for film director Josef Fares.

The story is simple: a pair of brothers, who lost their mother to a tragic boating accident amidst a terrible storm, are asked by the local town healer to seek out a mysterious tree. The tree is the key to saving their father, who is deathly ill.

The entire gameplay is the journey the two brothers take through their world. Enemies are rare. More often, the brothers need to use their wits and work together to progress. The player controls both brothers at once, using only movement controls and a single interaction button for each brother.


Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons contains examples of following tropes:

  • Action Girl: During your quest, you'll run into a girl who will guide you. She can leap like a Jedi and is quite capable. Turns out she's a spider girl.
  • All Trolls Are Different: The first supernatural creature encountered in the game is a friendly troll. He helps you along and you end up rescuing his wife from the other not-so friendly trolls. The other trolls you see appear to be miners with complex machinery, though of those, the ones you interact with directly are Dumb Muscle.
  • Backup from Otherworld: The implications of the final sequence where the younger brother conquers his fear of water are that he's only able to do it because of the strength from his late mother and brother, as you have to press the older brother's action button to succeed.
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  • Bait the Dog: The girl the brothers rescue from the seemingly dangerous cult people is more athletic in every sense than both brothers combined. Turns out that the girl is actually a spider monster that uses the form of a human to lure victims to her lair.
  • Benevolent Architecture: The environment is conveniently arranged so that the brothers can just get through (even if the whole thing collapses afterwards).
  • Beware of Vicious Dog: The brothers must get past a big dog guarding a farmyard by alternately distracting it and climbing straw bales.
  • Big Brother Instinct: The older brother is shown to be quite caring towards his younger sibling. He helps his brother cross deep bodies of water and protectively shields him from the troll. Some segments' mechanics even draw the player's attention to the capable older brother when the more vulnerable younger brother needs protecting. The game is often praised for the way gameplay almost literally is the nature of the boys' relationship.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The father is saved and the younger brother has grown as a person, but the older brother is dead and the father is heartbroken over it.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: During the part with the battlefield of giants, the brothers has to go through streams that are contaminated with the giants' blood. At the end of the sequence, they pass a river that is completely red with blood. They are squicked out when they become red too. It becomes a plot point when they mimic the gnomes' god.
  • Book Ends:
    • The last stretch of gameplay is a return to the path to the doctor's hut.
    • The game begins and ends at the mother's grave.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The brothers shoot a (dead) giant in the head with a crossbow to clear him out of the way. One of them even comments that it was not a nice thing to do.
  • Boring Return Journey: The brothers must go through hell to reach their goal. The return trip is considerably shorter, though memorable in its own way.
  • Bull Fight Boss: One of the puzzles involves taunting a troll into performing a charging tackle, then getting out of the way so the monster shatters the chains sealing a trapdoor shut.
  • Camera Screw: Because of the nature of the game, the only camera controls you have allow you to rotate the isometric view to the left or right. Sometimes this is not enough to get a clear picture of what you're trying to do. The camera also automatically swings around and this can be disorienting since you're trying to manage two characters with separate movement controls (it can also make you mildly motion sick if keeps whipping around).
  • Catapult Nightmare: The father wakes up this way near the end when the older brother gets fatally wounded.
  • Coming of Age Story: The epilogue centers on the younger brother maturing and making his way through obstacles he would normally need the help of his older brother to surpass.
  • Context-Sensitive Button: The action command keys for the boys make them do different things in different situations.
  • Crapsack World: Beneath the stunning landscapes and few friendly people and beasts lies a world filled with death, destruction, war, blood cults and monsters.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Only one of the titular brother survives the tale.
  • Dénouement: The last sequence where you return to the village and face some of the same obstacles without the older brother. Then, after giving the potion to your father, there is still a short interactive sequence, now without any puzzles.
  • Determinator: Both of the brothers face monsters and traverse hostile lands in search of the cure for their father's illness. In the last level, the younger one has to overcome all his previous fears and weaknesses now that his brother is dead.
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • You save a troll's wife from some evil trolls near the beginning.
    • Inchapter 5, you find a cult who wants to sacrifice a girl. While the younger brother is suspicious, the older one jumps to her rescue.
  • Downer Beginning: It's revealed in the opening scene that the mother drowned some time before, that the younger brother watched it happen and failed to save her.
  • Dream Sequence: The younger brother is knocked out in the river and has a nightmare in which his mother is alive and a giantess. Interacting with her causes the older brother to attack him, after which the sequence ends.
  • Driven to Suicide: The brothers come across someone whose family died when their house burned down in a fire. You have the option of stopping him from hanging himself and to cheer him up by searching the burned house for a music box.
  • Eternal Engine: In the first part of the mines, you have to navigate through various anachronistic water-powered machines.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: The brothers work together to save a girl from being sacrificed by a group of cultists. Their act of kindness is repaid by being lured into a cave within a mountain, discovering too late that the girl is actually a half-human/half-spider hybrid who captures the two and their fight for their lives results in the older brother being mortally wounded.
  • Foreshadowing: There are several hints to the mysterious woman's true identity as a spider monster.
    • Right before encountering the cultists, the brothers pass through a cave with paintings of giant spiders.
    • She is able to perform superhuman feats and doesn't seem to care much that her entire home village appears to have frozen to death in the middle of a large siege. This is because the town was just a short detour for her.
    • It is possible to interact with the woman with either brother at several points; while the older brother gradually starts flirting with her, the younger brother's interactions show a growing dislike of her, culminating in a failed attempt to persuade the older brother not to enter the cave like she wants them to. When the woman enters the cave after the boys, she holds her arms wide apart in a very claw-like manner.
  • From Bad to Worse: The brothers start out with a dire enough situation, but at least the environment they are travelling is relatively benign. Not for long though. It gets more and more grim and horrible as they travel though their journey.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Throughout the game, the younger brother has been shown to be phobic of water and unable to swim, needing to be carried in water by the older brother. With the older brother no longer around in the game's final moments, the younger brother needs to swim for himself—which he does by pressing the action button previously reserved for the now-absent older brother, evoking his place on the controller as the character does his place in his mind. The game doesn't tell the player to do this; Younger just stands crying at the edge of the water until the finger strays to the key that shouldn't do anything.
  • Gentle Giant: The surface troll and his wife are large and imposing but also quite friendly and helpful. This sets them apart from their subterranean kin, who really are as dangerous as they look.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • In the final leg of the game, there's no hint that using the older brother's action key will allow the younger brother to swim unaided.
    • There's a puzzle earlier in the game in the inventor's area where you're supposed to have one brother throw a gear across a gap to another brother. If you didn't mess around with the little girl's ball at the beginning of the game, you'd have no way of knowing that you can throw things in the first place or how to do so.
  • Hope Spot: The older brother may be stabbed but it was only a little ways away from the magic healing tree. The younger brother manages to get some healing water for his dying older brother... but he is too late.
  • Human Sacrifice: The brothers must rescue a girl from what appears to be some kind of sacrificial ritual performed by spear-wielding gnomes. Then the boys learn that it wasn't a human sacrifice after all.
  • Imagine Spot: After the older brother dies, the younger one sees him as alive for a moment and the two even hug each other.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The spider girl fatally stabs the older brother with her dying breath.
  • In a Single Bound: The mysterious girl clears obstacles with ease by leaping across great distances. Justified because she turns out to be some sort of Spider Lady monster.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: The terminally ill father's most obvious symptom is his incessant coughing. In later cutscenes, he is shown to also be afflicted with vomiting, body pains, loss of consciousness, and lack of strength.
  • Injured Player Character Stage: An unusual example. When the older brother dies, you continue as the younger brother. The younger brother technically has full health but now must accomplish feats that previously required both brothers.
  • Invisible Monsters: An invisible monster is one of the many creatures to threaten the brothers on their journey. All that is seen of the creature is its huge human-like footprints, but it seems to be a biped that's bigger than most houses and can apparently smash them and throw them with ease.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: The rain starts falling after the older brother dies. It stops by the time his brother actually buries him.
  • Kids Are Cruel:
    • The younger brother is quite the Jerkass in his interactions with other NPCs. Sometimes this is necessary as the elder brother's more civilized interactions don't produce useful results and you have to defer to the younger brother to get things done (such as dealing with the drawbridge operator; the older brother just gets blown off by politely asking but the younger brother tosses a bucket of water on the man and forces him to accede so he'll be left alone).
    • A boy bullies the protagonists at the beginning of the game by not letting them into his village, for no apparent reason.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: The ice around the spider's lair doesn't crack open until its grisly death.
  • Low Fantasy: The world is, by and large, relatively mundane and pretty old-world authentic to our own. However it is inhabited by fantastic creatures such as trolls so it's not entirely set in reality.
  • Made of Iron: The boys can survive jumps and falls that would kill most normal people.
    • At one point towards the end of the game the older brother has to launch both a young woman and his own younger brother OUT OF A CATAPULT to bypass the gate keeping them out of a frozen town. At least the girl is actually a monster.
    • During the sequence when the brothers are connected by a rope, the usual scenario is that one of them swings on a rope while the other one hangs on to something only with his hands.
  • Mad Scientist: The inventor the brothers meet is experimenting with a hang-glider that they use travel to a tower. He also has some kind of makeshift organ that when "played" properly makes him dance.
  • Mutual Kill: The spider girl mortally stabs the older brother with her last breath.
  • No OSHA Compliance: In the mines, there are no handrails at all protecting people from falling into chasms or moving machines. The inventor's lair is not much better either.
  • One-Woman Wail: Very prevalent in this game. It's called "kulning" in Swedish, a herding call.
  • Our Gryphons Are Different: They are part owl instead of part eagle, and have the forelegs of a lion.
  • Please Wake Up: The younger brother desperately tries to wake his older brother up only to realize that he died from his injuries.
  • The Quest: The brothers go to retrieve the water of life from the World Tree to save their father.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The older brother is reserved and polite in his interactions, whereas the younger brother is brash and mischievous. They even wear blue and red clothing respectively!
  • River of Insanity: One boating section involves trying to avoid playful orca creatures that can capsize the brothers' raft and sink them into freezing water.
  • Savage Wolves: The brothers are menaced by a pack of wolves during chapter 4. Older brother is able to ward them off with a lit torch.
  • Scenery Gorn: In chapter 5, the brothers pass through a valley filled with dead giants.
  • Scenery Porn: The stunning vistas on display are one of the game's main draws. Brothers even has a number of benches where you can sit and appreciate the view.
  • Sibling Team: The main focus of the game involves the brothers working together to reach their destination. At one point, one distracts a wild dog while the other runs to higher ground.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: The older brother is generally more serious and physically capable, while the younger brother is playful and more slippery.
  • Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness: Around 2. There is one way to solve each puzzle and backtracking is impossible, but there are some optional side-quests and side-gags that otherwise have no effect on the ending.
  • Snow Means Death: Once the brothers help out the girl from being sacrificed by the blood cult, she guides them to a snowy region, and even a village that had its denizens all frozen somehow. She then guides them to her cave, whereupon she reveals herself as a spider creature and intends to kill them. She succeeds in mortally wounding the Older Brother.
  • Spider People: The girl whom the boys save is revealed to be a spider monster in disguise. After luring them to her cave, her bottom half transforms into an arachnid abdomen, enabling her to ensnare them in her web.
  • Surprise Creepy: Although the game starts in a bright and beautiful farm where the brothers can have playful interactions with NPCs, later chapters take place in a creepy forest infested with wolves, a valley littered with giant corpses and a village whose inhabitants froze to death.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: The brothers fly with a hang-glider that can be controlled by moving around and shifting weight to tilt the machine.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The troll who plays bull on you tries to kill you by running at you at a straight line until he hits a wall. He doesn't even realize when the trap door opens beneath him.
    • The spider girl seems to be pretty smart at first, but at the climax you defeat it by using the same tactic over and over again.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The spider lady is saved from certain death by the two brothers, but repays them by luring them to her lair and trying to eat them.
  • Wham Shot: Players might notice that something is very wrong when the girl the brothers rescued performs improbable feats, such as jumping over large chasms and tearing a lock from a large wooden gate.
  • When Trees Attack: Near the end of the river sequence, the younger brother is hanging on a branch while the older one moves this branch along the edge of the cliff. Under the ledges some kind of tree monsters lash out at him and try to kill him.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: The death of his mother has left the younger brother afraid of deep water. When the heroes must cross a river or a deep pool, he must hang on to the older brother's back while he swims them both across. After the older brother dies, the younger brother conquers his fear and swims across a river on his own.
  • World Tree: When the brothers finally stumble upon the spring of the water of life it is found to be part of a large mystical tree. The second to last level in the game involves the younger brother racing up said tree to collect some of the healing water for his fatally wounded older brother, but he doesn't make it in time.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: The game allows you to stop and help a few NPCs on your journey. One achievement involves preventing a suicidal man from hanging himself and cheering him up.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: One of the achievements requires you to throw a little girl's ball into a well. The game even scolds you for being mean.