EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Nathan Rowland
previewed on PC
Before starting the game but after installing BitLight's Lost Brothers, I noticed a Steam news section update that the developers were apologising for issues after their early access launch. These faults included falling through textures, faulty sounds and animations, alongside issues with scene transitions and quick time events. This was a worrying indication of what's to come but having now played it, these mentioned faults encompass pretty much the entire game.
In short, it was dead on arrival. 30 minutes of gameplay was enough to write a decisive review of Lost Brothers but I hammered on to see if there were any hidden troves to be uncovered within its later scenes – but I, as well as Lost Brothers, fell flat.
Less is Less
Story and exposition are told through mid-gameplay text slide transitions, much like classic silent films. It's an apt comparison, as spoken dialogue is one of the noticeable features missing. Seeing our protagonist return to the forest where his titular brother was lost years ago, he hears a distress call from a woman trapped in a nearby cave. I say hear, but really, text just appears in front of you and urges you down a linear path. All that accompanies your crawl towards said cave is repetitive guitar riffs. These quickly become a tired motif and without any voice-acting, its silence can be deafening.
Lost Brothers most apparent presentation flaw is its writing. Grammatical errors are ever present, interjected by fragmented sentencing and misspellings. It’s clear that the developers aren't native English speakers, which is fine, but this highlights the lack of attention to detail when their translator either hasn't noticed or didn't care for these obvious flaws in its delivery. An example includes: 'The sun was leaning to the horizon, but we weren’t even close to the halting site.’
An apparent comparison to make to Lost Brothers is 2016’s Firewatch from Campo Santo. The marketing material's visual slides cling to this comparison, especially with the aesthetics of an exposition led walkie-talkie and this romanticism conjured from the mountainous regions of western American. But this comparison only serves to brutally remind players about what the game isn't. I myself wasn't greatly endeared to Firewatch, but I respected the perseverance of Campo Santo’s founders when they founded their independent studio in 2013, pursuing a chance to make the game that they had envisioned. Lost Brothers feels visionless on the other hand, a Russian pastiche that doesn’t resonate with me.
BitLight have stipulated that their title and release is classified a ‘pilot project’ – but I’m worried that's just a rationalisation of its faults. Steam Early Access has been a source of constant consternation for years given the ambiguous state of titles it releases for purchase. Lost Brothers does not serve to buck this trend and a few faults and inconsistencies I discovered were: mis-rendered assets; characters model “sliding” when stationary; clipping on terrain; out-of-bound areas easily accessible by jumping and missing continuity between dialogue and gameplay. For example, the character will tell you it’s getting dark during broad daylight.
Playing this game was cumbersome. Its bugs, writing and design flaws constructed a barrier of enjoyment, something no game should achieve. After falling through the vertical terrain for the third time, I decided to call it quits.
Verdict: Don’t Recommend
It pains us to say this, but we don't see how this game will mesh. At the current stage of development the game should be much farther ahead than it is.