Dream-Time Strategy: Broken Brothers

By Alec Meer on August 17th, 2009 at 10:30 pm.

One Michael Todd drops us a mail about his submission for the ever-delightful Experimental Gameplay Project, as part of its August-long ‘Bare Minimum’ contest. I read it. I click on the link contained in it. I play the game it leads to. Why yes, I would jump off a cliff if somebody asked me to. Fortunately, there is no nasty surprise in this case – instead, an ethereal real-time strategy game that’s stripped to the bone in terms of its mechanics, but with a style and pace that somehow makes it feel nothing at all like an RTS. Why, even John Walker might enjoy this army game.

It’s a tale of the inspecifically tragic and inspecifically sinister Malakai, who’s in search of his similarly mysterious brothers. To do this, he needs Hope – which, in a rather pleasing metaphor, happens to be the name of some sort of energy from which tanks and bombers and turrets and whatnot can be built. Which is where you come in, of course. The challenge isn’t complex in the grand scheme of RTSery, though the waves of enemies can become overwhelming, and in turn the lack of a Save function deeply infuriating.

No matter. The appeal and the success of it all is in the threadbare but affecting style of it – very much reminiscent of Darwinia, but starker, and perhaps a little less arch. There are trace elements, too, of Supreme Commander’s boxy genocide, and perhaps even a little Sacrifice to the surreal edges. Perhaps the faces on Malakai and his brothers are a little too hyper-indie lo-fi, but then again the whole game was made in seven days. Heckuva job considering, Mr Todd.

Despite all the death and construction, it’s a peculiarly calming game – RTS as balm rather than maths and testosterone.

A mere 15Mb and zero pennies, available from here.

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13 Comments »

  1. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    This game is difficult!

  2. Kua says:

    Why on earth wasn’t I informed of this Experimental Gameplay Project before. It sounds utterly wonderful.

  3. Benjamin Finkel says:

    My games: Build two tanks and then got utterly swarmed before I can do anything else. I don’t think I enjoy this. By the way, I *do* tank my harvesters beforehand, even though the tutorial-lad tells me destruction is imminent.

    Ben

  4. Howard says:

    That is a very beautiful game but it is ludicrously hard. I cannot see how to keep my bombers alive as I cannot see how to keep my AA alive as I cannot keep my tanks alive long enough! Lawks!

    Still, a beautiful thing.

  5. superbrothers says:

    Very nicely done Mr. Michael Todd! Sharp style on this one.

    Yet another Toronto indie with talent to spare. :)

  6. ForShadow says:

    I was only able to beat it by not rescuing any of the brothers till I had cleared the whole island with just tanks. Why I tried it the right way the upgraded bugs would overwhelm my defenses almost instantly.

  7. inanimotion says:

    ForShadow has got the right idea.
    Some balancing issues.

    Though it is just the experimental game project.

    Still awesome and a lotta fun

  8. merc says:

    Very nicely made.

    I thought it was pretty easy – start with 3X harvesters and start getting tanks, and form a defensive line with them until you have enough then get more harvesters. When you attack, keep the tanks stacked up in as tight a formation as possible, and micro them away from enemies.

  9. Serph says:

    Hmm, those wings look suspiciously similar to the Blender logo…an awesome design nonetheless. The faces remind me of a Katamari Damacy-style game gone evil. The bugs are really unbalanced, though – the concept of a zombie style RTS is skewed towards the computer, since if your defense is weakened at any time you’re basically screwed.

  10. fuggles says:

    Much like everyone else, as soon as I touched a brother (oo-er) I got destroyed by the upgraded bugs. I had 20 pop tanks, which I phased out for 2 AA and 2 bombers, but they just dissolved.

    It was quite tedious to tank grind… I know it’s a 7 day game, but a quick revisit so that I could actually use motherships etc would be nice.

  11. Tei says:

    Not that dificult.

    I build all tanks, and 2 AA, one protect the tanks zergball, and other the base (but my base has not ben attacked) and I build 2 bombers, with these 2 bombers I lure fighters to the AA, once the fighters die, I enter enemy territory and destroy some structures.. for all I see, theres not rebuilding. Rinse and repeat.

  12. Heliocentric says:

    Badly classical rts triggered instant spawning enemy. Where you are limited by population caps and resources… Great, the best method.

    Build 3 resourcers, 3 tanks go near NOT AT the first brother. The 4th tank will trigger the rush, so hold off and go and read the rps forums or something.

    When you get back you will be rich. Build the 4th tanks using you first 3 tanks take out the first 2 spawns then rush everyone back. Pumping out tanks. Once you hit pop cap send out everyone in small steps to just before the end of the narrow path.

    Now avoiding the brothers, take out every spawn. Carefully guarding your base. 1 gets through you die. GL

  13. Muzman says:

    I haven’t tried it yet (anyone know how it runs on an onboard nvidia 6100?) but didn’t JW like Dyson? There’s an almost unrecognisable, relaxing “rts” (albeit less of an rts than this, by the sounds).