Do you remember when Spore came out? Months of hype followed by a resounding, world-wide “meh”. God games have a tendency to seem really good in the premise, but are found to be really lacking in the execution. Some can break the mold and be enjoyable however (see any Sim City game pre-2012). Unfortunately, Birthdays the Beginning falls into the former.
Birthdays the Beginning is a brand new IP from the creator of Harvest Moon, and going into the game I was super optimistic. Harvest Moon is one of my favourite series, and so another game from Yasuhiro Wada peaked my interest.
Birthdays the Beginning takes the God game genre very literally. You create and build life on a cube floating in a void, and help evolve by micromanaging every detail from terrain height, temperature, water depth and more.
Once you’re done shaping your oceans and mountains, you can float away and let time unfold before you, allowing you to watch the world grow and sprout with life. You’ll spawn a few species, some will die off, and then eventually you will evolve another species. The game will carry on by your guidance, but the objectives aren’t very clear. Most of the story mode is up for you to figure out (after the unskippable tutorials and cut-scenes of course).
“The writing is overly complex to the point where it means nothing and leaves you scratching your head.”
The game begins with an overly long (and unnecessary) framing intro in which you discover a cave with a glowing light that transports you to the actual game world. The game then guides you through a series of tutorials, which confused the hell out of me.
My first issue with the game is that it has a tendency to give you too much information and somehow not enough information at the same time. The writing is overly complex to the point where it means nothing and leaves you scratching your head. It took 4 full paragraphs of dialogue for the game to tell me how to raise terrain to make mountains.
To the games credit, the visuals are gorgeous. The cube world has a wonky pop-up book aesthetic which I do really enjoy and would like to see more .
The animal life you do create feels natural and synergistic. And while it does take a lot of painstaking trial and error to get certain species to spawn, it is worth it in the end (most of the time anyway).
Unfortunately, the road from bacteria to the top of the food chain is so rough and painful that you might not make it all the way through.
The one thing that completely killed my enjoyment of the game was the save system. After my first 5 hour session of the game, I left the house to run some errands like the responsible adult I am. As I left, I quit the game, which promptly told me it had saved. When I returned to pick up where I left off the next day, my save was gone, and I had to sit through the stupidly painful and drawn out tutorial again, effectively spoiling any fun or progress I had achieved.
The controls and interface are also very clunky, and don’t pair up with the flow of the game very well. The game is very, very menu based. Go here, select this, then select that item, then choose where to put said item, it goes on and on and really slows the game down when you just want to quickly evolve a certain species before it dies out.
Create your own fun!
Despite its shortcomings, I do see the appeal of a game like Birthdays the Beginning. It has enough here to be enjoyable to some, be it die-hard genre fans or someone interested in the concept. However, the game was not enjoyable at all for me, so take caution.