Brukel is an upcoming first-person indie exploration game in the style of Gone Home, or What Remains of Edith Finch, set in an around a farmhouse in Belgium which frequently found itself a contested point of control between German and English forces during WWII.
Exploring the farmhouse in modern day with a smartphone, you’ll trigger various accounts from 93 year old Bie Verlinden, who grew up on the very same farm during WWII. At various points you’ll find yourself in the shoes of a younger Verlinden, experiencing the terrors of war through the eyes of a 14 year old girl.
Check out the trailer below:
This in itself sounds like a pretty strong concept for a game, but the story behind Brukel is even more moving. The game has been developed by Belgian game designer and professor at Miami University Bob De Schutter, who has based the project on stories told to him by his grandmother, the real-life Bie Verlinden.
While Brukel does have various supernatural elements and can occasionally veer into horror territory, it’s not a game about diving into battle with Nazis or ghosts, or indeed Nazi ghosts. Instead, the point of Brukel is to show us just how traumatising it must be to be a child trapped in the middle of a battlefield.
De Schutter told Gamesindustry.biz:
A lot of the focus in the beginning of the game is on giving players a lot of control, giving them a smartphone they can use to take pictures of whatever they like. As the game goes on, I take away that control bit-by-bit. There’s even a scene where you get possessed by a ghost and take the role of an English officer to kill my grandfather. Because that actually happened; a drunk English officer almost shot my grandfather, and if that had happened I wouldn’t be here right now.
His grandmother’s stories fascinated him for as long as he can remember. Five years ago he sat her down and interviewed her about her experiences on the farm, with the intention of creating something – though he wasn’t sure what at the time.
One of De Schutter’s students eventually suggested a first-person adventure, and they worked together with Verlinden and what few old photos of the farmhouse they could get their hands on to recreate the place she grew up.
While De Schutter’s grandmother apparently hasn’t been able to play the game herself, she was amazed to see her childhood home recreated. De Schutter joked that while his grandmother can’t exactly act, he found it best to simply record her telling her stories. It’s these recordings that appear in the game as audio accounts you can uncover while exploring – some of them are genuinely harrowing.
The developer told Gamesindustry.biz:
This is why I want more developers to try this. There are some very talented voice actors but this is something special — you really feel how people have actually lived through a story versus acting it out.
De Schutter also notes on the game’s official website that he hopes it can be used for educational purposes in classrooms, given that everything in-game is based on the historically accurate accounts of Verlinden.
Brukel is available to add to your Wishlist on Steam now, though there doesn’t seem to be a solid release date for the game just yet. If you’re interested in learning more (and getting notified when a release date lands), head here.
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Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.