The Life And Suffering Of Sir Brante

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: 101XP
Developer: Sever Studio
Release Date: March 4, 2021

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PC Review - 'The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante'

by Andreas Salmen on April 13, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

The Life And Suffering Of Sir Brante is a narrative-driven RPG that comes to life on the pages of the protagonist's journal.

The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante is a mix of a visual novel and choose-your-own-adventure RPG. During its 8-10 hours of playtime, it establishes an intriguing and deep fantasy world and follows the life of its protagonist Sir Brante from his birth until his inevitable demise. The game promises that you can forge your destiny as Brante, from humble beginnings to a soaring career or maybe an even faster decline. While its writing and atmosphere are surprisingly excellent, its execution of the branching narrative doesn't always feel as free or rewarding as I had hoped.

In visual novel style, each page turned means that time is running down the protagonist's earthly clock. Text usually appears on the left-hand pages, with slightly animated sepia imagery to set the scene on the right side. It's a subdued and minimalist approach, and it reduces what you're doing to reading a book, except it peppers in some crucial decisions over time. It also decides how well you'll like the game; think of Disco Elysium without the gameplay and much fewer dialogue options and choices. The game usually presents you with a full scene or event and gives you the reins for a moment to choose the direction you want to head in. While it might bother those who would rather not read on a screen (or at all), it strikes a nice balance between reading a book and playing a video game, and a lot of that is due to the sound writing.

Sir Brante is not an easy game, and winning or getting a satisfying ending is not guaranteed. The game is structured in five distinct chapters of varying lengths that cover several periods of your life. It begins with your birth and early years, your early school life, higher studies in the country's capital, and eventually the rest of your career through peace and revolt. The general chapters are further divided by years, so you'll age with every new event and as you near your final days — if you get that far.

The story takes place in the Great Arknian Empire, a world that is anything but kind. Its society is highly religious, following "The Twins" as their divine creators that divided society into lots. Every person is either born a commoner, who is destined to work and suffer for their entire life; a nobleman, who is destined to rule and strategize; or a cleric, who is destined to preach the word of The Twins. Brante is born a commoner but with a nobleman father, so you have a choice. With sweat and toil, you may earn the right to become a noble or a cleric — or you could remain a commoner; the choice seems almost easy at the beginning, but things are rarely simple.

The Great Arknian Empire is a powder keg. Commoners revolt against the nobleman's oppressive rule, the clergy is split by a new emerging interpretation of their faith, and the noblemen desperately try to cling to the status quo. Add to that the Arknian race, a higher order of beings that are noble by default and form the highest society in this world. It's a rigid system that doesn't leave wiggle room for personal freedoms.

The world is described in great detail, with a sizeable amount of lore for its history, political system, and faith that grounds the entire story. After we're born, the first choice we get to make is which parent we feel most connected to, and even this seemingly benign choice can have noticeable repercussions. Throughout Brante's life, you'll hone skills and gain experience in many disciplines, such as diplomacy or theology. Those skills impact the story, as some decisions have options hidden behind a skill check that considers previous gameplay events as well as your skills. Some options may only be present if you have a good relationship with a person or helped them out; others may purely depend on your ability to talk your opponent in circles.

Again, there are no direct dialogue options, so while we never have direct control over what's being said, we can decide the general action we take in certain instances. For example, should we care for our commoner sister, even though that may damage our family's reputation? Should we try to become a judge to enforce laws on the noble estate and strengthen the common estate in their rights at the risk of being taken out by the nobles above us?

I'd love to make more granular decisions, but even though I can only guide my character in broad strokes, decisions are usually difficult to make. There have been several instances when I pondered what to do and whether my decision would cost my life. People in the Arknian Empire can die multiple deaths — five, to be exact. Anyone dying a "lesser death" will be brought back until the final death occurs or you're executed by the state. Even then, retrying is easy enough, but the game also features an ironman mode with a single save that does not grant an easy reload upon permanent death. I died a couple of times usually by making "the wrong choice."

It's the one big gripe I have with Sir Brante. While there are a lot of choices and options, they aren't exactly free choices, and not all of them are obvious. I get that the world has rigid rules that you can't easily disobey. That means you can't freely choose what you'd like to do since you're painfully aware that someone will have your head for it. On the one hand, it emphasizes the nation's turmoil, but on the other hand, it can feel like you are walking a predetermined path. Even then, you have a bit of freedom to live out your life in three major ways. You can try to stir the commoner revolution or break it from a judge's position. Do you want to cling to the old faith or promote its new interpretation? Limited as choices may be, there are enough life paths to play the game at least twice, and given the good writing, it deserves that much.

Apart from swiping pages left to right and making important life decisions, Sir Brante has a lot of extra screens to aid your decision-making. At any point in time, you can double-check the current state of the nation, your family, and yourself. Chapters preview important events that can be achieved, so you can aim for a path from the beginning. Choices can also preview their consequences, but I'd recommend disabling this feature because I found the choices to be trickier and more entertaining when you don't fully know where they'll lead. Given its minimalistic representation, it also runs great on pretty much anything you can throw Windows on, making the title quite accessible.

The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante is one of the better games of its kind I have played in recent memory. The world-building and writing are enthralling, and the prospect of guiding your character from life to death is a fun and challenging exercise. I would have loved more interactivity, especially in dialogues, and some decisions seem predetermined and stacked against you a few too many times to truly feel open. In the end, that doesn't detract from the otherwise fun RPG adventure novel. If you're yearning for a good RPG adventure that is heavy on the reading side, I'd highly recommend The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante.

Score: 8.5/10

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