Brave can be the perfect introduction to 'big' games so... if you'd like to see your pre-teen kid taking on the 'gamer' path, I can't think of a better introduction to large RPGs. Especially if your pre-teen kid happens to be a girl who actually watched the movie. And, yes, there is a movie ticket in the game box.
It may sound like I am over-enthusiastic but, to me, Brave is the best kids RPG so far and it's so because developers are treating their little gamers audience with the respect they deserve rather than looking down at them. Yes, the game is not as complex as Dark Souls or Skyrim but playing it is challenging and interesting even when the players are grownups. I consider Brave an RPG primer because many if not all RPG elements are in the game and they are not only well implemented but everything is packaged in a way that makes the game appealing to a little girl in the process of developing her gamer skills.
The story... it's based on Pixar's movie, of course. The hero is little princess Merida whose mother and little brothers need to be rescued because they've been turned into bears by some evil... thing. But it's easier said than done. There are ghosts and other bad enemies to defeat, puzzles to solve, charms to collect, skills to develop and there is a lot of exploring, strategising and combat, maybe not grownup hard but hard enough to challenge a player to the point where she learns new skills. But let me discuss some of the RPG elements that are experienced in Brave.
- Combat - It's as good as it gets. Merida fights with swords and bows and she can't win unless she learns how to do combos, roll and dodge and manage her health.
- Weapons - There's a variety of swords and bows including some quite familiar to us, experienced RPG players. Would you be surprised to learn that Merida can swing a Claymore? Well... she does. It's only a few swords and bows but it's enough of them to make the game interesting and to maintain the feeling of 'progress' as the game is played.
- Armor - Again, just a few armor sets but, as in many RPGs, you have the choice of 'pretty' vs. 'effective' and just about everything in the game needs to be earned through combat or discovery and exploration.
- Treasures - Getting to treasure chests and getting the loot is one of the more exciting part of an RPG and Brave is no exception. There aren't many chests but the loot is almost always awesome.
- Trading - Victories in battle earn you gold pieces and you can use it to by yourself upgrades and learn new skills.
- Combos - Mentioned that already. Combat is easy in the beginning but it gets harder soon and the more skills you learn the more likely you are to win the battle. If you lose... it's back to more practice.
- Leveling up - Merida becomes stronger as she progresses through the game. She becomes better as she finds more charms, learns more skills, gets more powerful weapons.
- Elementals - Many RPGs would let you buff your weapons with elementals such as 'fire'. Brave too allows Merida to use one of the four elemental charms (earth, fire, wind, water) in combat. And the trick is to use the right buff to defeat each specific enemy.
- Co-op - There is an online element to the game. We aren't there yet but I will update my review once we play it a little.
- Puzzle solving and exploration - Getting to most new areas is usually preceded by a boss battle or some puzzle solving and neither are always easy.
All of the above come in a game with stunning graphics (Pixar, right?), great voice acting and surprisingly responsive controls. You always play in a 'third person' mode and all is implemented right except for the absence of a 'camera' control because the developers mapped 'motion and direction' to the PS3's left joystick and the bow to the right one. And, no, they don't allow you to remap the controls. The other major limitation is the game not being exactly 'open world'. You can go back and forth through different areas but there is no unified open map. Anyone familiar with Demon's Souls may understand how this works: there is a central 'nexus' and gateways to several areas of world. At any time during the game you have to ability to either walk back or teleport to the nexus and go explore some other area.
Somewhat related to the game, but not an essential part of it is the Archery Range. On a PS3 you are going to need Move. It's nice archery practice and it makes use of the Move but you do not get better at using the bow in the game after doing the Move-based practice. It's just... Move-based practice. Which is a good news for those who don't have Move yet. You can play and finish the game without doing the Archery part. In fact, I don't believe there is any Archery Range based trophy (I will correct myself if it turns out that I am wrong) so you should be able to get your Platinum without a Move.
My final thoughts are: both our daughter and myself are very, very, very happy with this game. This is the first one me and my daughter are both playing, separately (not me helping her or she just watching me). She's been playing it and making progress daily for the past few days and... I've been playing it too. The game comes with four levels of difficulty so, even for a grownup it can be challenging. And it's fun for us to be sharing tips and strategies and watch each other and learn from each other playing our first common game.
I guess I need to note that there is a lot of combat in Brave, which explains the swords and the bows. Merida can't save her 'mum' and her little brothers unless she defeats her enemies which usually requires killing them and they fight back and they can hurt Merida and sometimes they 'kill' her. Yes, she respawns immediately back with full health but you can hear her from time to time saying that she doesn't feel too well. Anyone who would rather not see their little ones playing violent games should not buy it. On the other hand, if the kids are mature enough to understand the difference between make-believe violence (playing games) and the real-life gruesome things taking place in our real world, this game can be a lot of fun - there is no blood and no one screams in agony and so far all enemies are ghosts and non-human.
>> Brush your teeth, it's the law! <<