Birthdays The Beginning is the latest project from legendary creator and producer Yasuhiro Wada. Famed for his work on the Story of Seasons series, previously known as Harvest Moon, an agricultural simulation game he now sets his sights on a much grander simulation game where you essentially take on the role of God.
Release Date: 9th May 2017 (NA), 12th May 2017 (EU)
Platform: PlayStation 4, Steam
Genre: Sandbox, God Game
Rating: ESRB E, PEGI 3
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Arc System Works , TOYBOX Inc.
Birthdays The Beginning sees you bring life to cube-shaped worlds through careful experimentation and, in some cases, pure luck. Shaping the geography of a cube, therefore, its temperature will see the birth and extinction of many life forms taking you from early life to modern day humans. Maintaining balance within an ecosystem may not always lead to the birth of new species as you’d hope.
Initial impressions of the game were very good, the main Story mode will see you start out with the smallest cube and birth the most basic and earliest life forms while getting you used to the mechanics. As you progress through each episode the cube you’re developing will increase in size allowing you to birth new species. Each episode is cleared upon the completion of a specific condition, usually the birthing of a certain species. The Story mode will possibly see the most of your time investment in the game and I completed it at around the 10-hour mark.
While it was a really fun and addictive 10 hours, once it was all over I was only left with the ten challenge missions in Dino Challenge mode and the newly unlocked Free Play mode. The challenge missions don’t take that long bar a couple and Free Play is only really worth doing for trophies in my eyes, but some may find some joy in it. Story mode pretty much covers all the game has to offer so it’s a shame it can be finished within such a short amount of time. If the Dino Challenges had lasted longer then I might have been more satisfied but as it stands it doesn’t take more than a couple of hours to complete all of them.
Free Play mode would be a good place to finish off your capture library if you haven’t managed to complete it during Story mode. The capture system itself is simple but a little frustrating as birthing a new species isn’t enough to have it added to your library, you need to enter Micro mode (entering the cube itself), find the species in question, and press the touchpad to register it. It might not be the most annoying feature in the game but it certainly feels rather pointless and on occasion, some species may continually go extinct as soon as they birth meaning you constantly miss the chance to register them.
The library of species may not be that large, clocking in at just over 250 but the requirements for birthing some of them can be challenging as well as a lot of fun. I believe every species can be birthed naturally given the right conditions but there are also items to help speed along this process. Items can be picked at random in the cube and are awarded based on your actions such as changing the terrain. While items can make life a little easier if the conditions for that new species are not adequate then you’re efforts will likely be in vein. Story mode also has its own challenges should you wish to test yourself which mainly involve not using specific items to help evolve species.
I have to say that I did enjoy my short time with Birthdays The Beginning; it was a lot better than expected but it’s far from perfect and features more frustrating mechanics than it probably should. I’ve mentioned the capture system before and as an extension of that is the first person view which is meant to make capturing easier but instead is poorly implemented as the controls range from terrible to just plain unusable. You can easily get by without it but if only it worked, then capturing could have been a much simpler feature. It’s not all doom and gloom as the building mechanics are brilliant, with the focus on the ecosystem and birthing species changing terrain is simple, allowing you to change things quickly on the fly when needed.
The game boasts some really nice clay sculptor inspired visuals giving the birthed species a real sense of life as they move about the terrain. The cube worlds themselves look great and it’s a joy to see them grow before your eyes. The soundtrack feels a little lacking as it features some very plain ‘waiting room’ style music with little variation throughout the game.
Birthdays The Beginning can be a very fun and addictive game if only for a short while, the ‘beginning’ in the title feels very apt as the game feels like the beginning of something much larger that we’re just not being given in this game. The gameplay is a bit of a mixed bag as some features work brilliantly within the setting while others are straight up broken or extremely frustrating to use. The positives of the game outweigh the negatives but there just isn't enough of it to keep you around for that long.
*It's worth noting that Birthdays The Beginning has received a day-one patch which according to the patch notes should fix some of the issues that I have laid out in this review and aims to improve other aspects of the game.
This title was reviewed using a PlayStation 4 review copy provided by NIS America.