"Many publishers have destroyed games," says Josef Fares, a successful Swedish filmmaker and the director of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. "If EA came to me and said "Do you want to make a game?" I'd say yes, but they couldn't have a single word of input. If they tried, I wouldn't make it."
Brothers is the latest game by Riddick developers Starbreeze, and it's a radical change of direction for the studio. While Syndicate had over a hundred people working on it and, according to CEO Mikael Nermark, a bewildering fifteen producers, Brothers is a much smaller project. A team of around thirty is developing it, led by Fares, a well-known director in Sweden.
"People think, because of my background, Brothers is just going to be a lot of cut-scenes, but it's all about the gameplay. I truly love the interactivity of gaming. I appreciate things like The Walking Dead and Heavy Rain, but they are not the future of games. Even with the choices you get to make, it's just another way of telling a story. You can do much more than that in games."
You control two characters with one controller: Big Brother with the left stick, and Little Brother with the right. You have to move both siblings at once, which makes for some interesting platforming challenges and puzzles. The game is roughly four hours long, but every obstacle you encounter features a different type of gameplay. Nothing is reused.
"We could have easily made this a ten hour game by recycling gameplay, but we haven't. We want to keep the player curious all the time. When you play Brothers, you'll have no idea what's coming next, and I guarantee you'll never guess what's going to happen at the end."
"Replayability is overrated. Even with a great game like Half-Life 2, most will only play through it once. For me, everything is about the experience. It's not about the length, and Brothers is as long as it's supposed to be. No one ever questions a film about whether it's an hour or two hours long. You ask whether it's good or bad. Many games these days outstay their welcome."
With its minimalist controls and compressed length, Brothers has hints of Journey, but isn't as abstract. The world is beautiful, like a fairy tale as imagined by Pixar, and in stark contrast to the grimy streets of New York City in The Darkness or Riddick's space prison. The levels are packed with detail, and interacting with it is part of the fun. Squeeze the trigger next to an object or person and the brothers will react in different, often humorous, ways. Calling a game like this 'charming' is a cliche, but it really is. You can't help but fall in love with it.
"If this was a more complicated game, you'd have to learn new mechanics all the time. But because both brothers only have one button each, you can change the gameplay all the time without confusing the player. I don't see Brothers as a game that's only artistic. It's accessible too."
The game's achievements are linked to this idea of interaction. In one example, a little girl is playing with a ball and you can grab it and drop it down a nearby well, making her cry. The world, although linear, is incredibly rich, and there are loads of these little moments to discover. "This is going to sound like Peter Molyneux, but you've never played anything like this before."
The two brothers are on a quest to find a cure for their dying father, but there will be more to discover about the story if you look a little deeper. "I understand that games are games, and films are films, but they can still inspire each other. In a film you have a character who starts somewhere then grows to something else, and I've brought that narrative to Brothers."
It's clear that Fares really understands video games, which puts him above most filmmakers who've decided to get involved in the medium. Brothers is a simple game, but one with a fiercely independent spirit that isn't designed by committee to sell copies. "We do need big games like Call of Duty, but we also need more games like Brothers. That's where the business will be revolutionised, and these are the games that will change the industry."
"In the future, I believe interactive art will become much bigger than film, poetry, and music. That's a big thing to say, but I think human beings just want to be touched emotionally, and if you can do that in an interactive way, the effect is even more powerful."