Review: Birthdays the Beginning (PlayStation 4)

Birthdays the Beginning: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation 4 2,336 views 3 likes 6 comments
Reviewed by Tom Bond, posted May 5, 2017
May 5, 2017
  • Release Date (NA): May 9, 2017
  • Release Date (EU): May 12, 2017
  • Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
  • Developer: ARC SYSTEM WORKS Co., Ltd. , TOYBOX Inc.
  • Genres: Simulation, Sandbox
  • ESRB Rating: Everyone
  • Also For: Computer
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Birthdays the Beginning is a sandbox simulation game created by Yasuhiro Wada, better known as the director and creator of the Harvest Moon series. Focusing on terrain building and evolutionary-esque creature management, Birthdays The Beginning is an immense and complex title.
Tom Bond

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A Cube-Shaped World Builder? Never Seen One of These Before!

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Birthdays the Beginning starts off with a little storyboard about a young kid checking out stuff in a library. While looking around, he finds a map hidden away in a book and decides “yeah let’s go to that X on it! Surely nothing bad will happen!” So he does, he gets knocked out and sucked into a cave against his will, and then we start the game! Already off to a good start. When you awaken, you discover you’re in a weird, blank cube world (no, not the cool Picorama game that died :() with an annoying little sprite following you around! Gosh, I hope this isn’t another Navi situation! The sprite introduces itself as...Navi...and explains the basics of the game. Oh. They had to include this tiny little sprite that follows you around, interrupting you with "hints" and gameplay tips every now and again to "help" you along the way. Wooo Navi. Anyways, onto the gameplay.

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The idea of Birthdays The Beginning is in terraforming this blank cube world in order to allow life to evolve, some requiring a certain elevation present to evolve, some require a certain temperature, some require different water depth etc etc. There are two ways to view the cube world you’re put into, a “Micro View” which is where you can change the terrain and explore your world, and a “Macro View” that acts as an overview, HP recovery, and a way to pass time in your world. Macro View also shows you the various stats of your world like how many of each species of creatures are alive, the ambient temperature of your world, the percentage of plants vs animals, and the percentage of land vs water your world is made up of.

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Micro View is where the bulk of the gameplay lies; you can adjust the terrain by increasing and lowering elevation points, use items to change the terrain in various ways (like adding a river source or changing the moisture content in a piece of land), or to simply recover your “HP” which lowers as you build. Increasing elevation lowers the ambient temperature and lowering the elevation increases it, and there’s a sea level which automatically “spawns” water at a certain elevation. As you change your world, various creatures will start to randomly spawn in and “evolve” depending on how your world is terraformed. The tutorial goes through several different examples of evolution, from single celled organisms that spawn initially to multi-celled organisms, to water-based plants, to land based plants and eventually to things like fish and land animals. So y’know, basic evolutionary principles. As you play, you’re asked to “capture” each new organism you create to add to your Library, which is basically a log of all the species you've encountered. There’s a first person camera mode called View Mode, which allows you to move around your world in a first person view, that is supposed to help you discover these new species you spawn in...but the controls are so sensitive and you move so quickly that it sort of makes it impossible to move around your world to actually find the tiny species.

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Unfortunately for Birthdays The Beginning, this is absolutely as boring as it sounds. While the general idea of terraforming an entire world seems pretty great, the game progresses so slowly and you’re limited to such a small cube in the beginning that it kind of makes it difficult to really sit down and play like you would other world builder games. My first play session lasted about 2 and a half hours and the above is basically as far as I got, and I was really rushing through the game. The story is separated into “Episodes”, each one requiring certain evolutions and aspects of your world to be created before you can move on. As you complete each episode, your world does grow a bit larger, but the slow gameplay and the rate it grows simply discouraged me from playing for long stretches every time I tried to play it. There are also a few gameplay elements that were included just to make the gameplay seem not so "one-dimensional", and unfortunately these additions mostly harm the game rather than enhance it. HP, for example, is one of the more annoying gameplay mechanics that made its way into the game. Instead of being able to just constantly build your world however you want, you expend HP as you increase or decrease elevation, and once that HP drops to "0" you have to completely stop what you're doing, go into Macro view, and pass time until your HP is restore. This basically interrupts gameplay every minute or so, and becomes increasingly annoying when all you want to do is build a giant mountain range or dig a giant trench in the ocean floor.

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Look at my happy fish!

Verdict
Pros
+ Terraforming a world is pretty fun.
+ Look at that happy fish dammit >:(
Cons
- Intermittent gameplay that drags on forever and ever.
- Poor camera controls in View mode.
- Gameplay is a bit simple all things said and done.
7 Presentation
Presentation-wise the game looks pretty good. It does seem a bit lacking visually in the beginning, but as time goes on your world does develop into a pretty good looking cube. Unfortunately, I'm knocking some points off because of it's cube-aspect. With games like Minecraft and its dozens of clones around it feels sort of lacking.
5 Gameplay
Unfortunately the gameplay has a lot of little problems that stop the game from being truly enjoyable. Things like limited building time, small worlds, and poor pacing really ruins what promises a fun world building experience.
8 Lasting Appeal
Despite being super slow, the game shows a large amount of replayability. Each episode has various objectives that you can complete and there appears to be a huge number of creatures you can create and evolve over time.
7
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Overall, Birthday the Beginnings is ok. The number of species you can create and manage promises a lot of gameplay, if you can get passed the poor pacing and intermittent gameplay. The cute animals (like that fish <3) makes the game pretty worthwhile, too.
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