Sandbox games have really become popular in recent years. Games such as Minecraft, Terraria, Starbound, Cities: Skylines, and even Garry’s Mod have taken the gaming landscape by storm. The legendary creator Mr. Yasuhiro Wada of Toybox Inc (creator of Harvest Moon) has worked closely with Arc System Works to create an all-new sandbox simulation experience called Birthdays The Beginning. In Birthdays The Beginning, you are given the freedom to create a cube shaped world that allows you to experiment and alter the geography AND climate of your world to support a variety of ecosystems.
Birthdays The Beginning is an experience about freedom. Within the confines of the game, you are given the ability to create any type of environment you can imagine, from snowy ecosystems to arid deserts and grassy plains. You aren’t limited in what creatures you are able to create either. If the ecosystem is able to support it, you can have Dinosaurs, mammals, sea life, and even single-celled organisms.
You begin with a small bit of story exposition, a genderless character that is led to a cave that contains a being that asks you to help them build a new world. It seems you are chosen to be the one to help them, and thus your journey begins. You are able to name your avatar and then are given guidance in how the game’s mechanics work.
By shaping the environment (such as raising or lowering terrain, or shifting the flow of water) you can effect things like air temperature and climate. The more land is present in an area, the lower the overall temperature; whereas the more water is present, the higher the overall temperature. Certain creatures (as in our world) exist and thrive in certain climates, so careful adjustments to the environment can help you figure out how your world works and how to achieve the desired results. Once you have built up a certain population of a variety of lifeform, you are given the ability to birth new varieties of organisms.
Aside from standard terrain controls, you may find items in the world that aid you in performing “mass alterations” from creating valleys and mountains and using the “Primordial drop” to create bodies of water. One thing you have to be cautious of though is that you cannot merely change the world at will. You have an HP meter, which runs out over time as you perform actions. Once your HP meter gets low, you will have to let your world fend for itself until the HP refills.
Birthdays The Beginning starts out linear as the game gives you an episodic guided campaign that both organically teaches you how the game works, but it also gets you used to mechanics and slowly helps you to level up to grow and gain new creation capabilities. There is also a Free Play mode, which allows you to enjoy the creative sandbox, to create the world however you like once you have gotten the hang of the game’s basics. Additionally, the developers have provided a challenge mode that asks you to fulfill certain conditions and birthdays within a certain amount of “Cube Years” or C.Y (which are the game’s measurement of time).
Another interesting mechanic in the campaign mode is the leveling system. As you experience “Birthdays” or new organisms are created you’re able to capture those creatures and gain XP from the discovery. In doing so you’re able to level up and gain new capabilities that will help you to enhance your cube world and allow even more new creatures to grow. Time is also a big factor. As you stop time to alter the world, progress or even fast-forward time you’re able to see your handiwork morph, change, and evolve firsthand. As with real-world ecosystems, change does not occur overnight. This means that the time you spend making changes in the world is important, but you will need to spend just as much time OUTSIDE of “Micro Mode” taking a bird’s eye view of the changes you have made. In Macro mode (the opposite of Micro mode) your world is shown from a wider view, and you are able to watch in real time as populations increase, decrease, and even as things become extinct.
Extinction is inevitable for species in Birthdays The Beginning (and arguably with our own, if you believe what some scientists predict for us) but those extinctions will not come often. If and when they do it is only for your ecosystem to create new and more complex organisms. Birthdays The Beginning is a great tool for education I think, as it is a fun way to show how ecosystems work. However one issue I ran into is that all of the measurements are done in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. It’s obviously not a major issue but American players will have a slightly harder time figuring out and relating to the numbers at a glance. I kept wondering why my world was so cold (because it said 41 degrees Celsius) until I popped it into a converter and realized that 41 degrees Celsius was actually over 105 degrees Fahrenheit, so my world wasn’t cold at all. It wouldn’t be hard to create an option that allows temperatures to display in Fahrenheit and it’d certainly make the game easier to enjoy without sacrificing anything important from the game.
Another thing that may annoy players is that Birthdays the Beginning isn’t a simple game. It may look simple at first glance but to achieve the goals you are given in the campaign mode, it will take a LOT of time, effort, and experimentation to ultimately succeed. Another possible drawback is how slow it moves. Even if you find enjoyment in it you’ll likely wish things moved at a faster pace. If you’re just trying to get into it and learn everything then you may even lose interest because of the slow pacing. It takes a while to figure out if your adjustments to the world are doing what you want them to.
The ability to change temperature SOLELY based on the elevation of the ground is somewhat arbitrary, and when you get into the water temperature mechanics, you may find yourself confused as to what you need to do in order to raise the temperature to the necessary level to progress forward. Overall Birthdays the Beginning is a fun experience, but it is slow and complex, which will likely cause players to lose interest quickly.
I recommend giving Birthdays the Beginning a shot, it is definitely something fun to do when you just want to relax, but I wouldn’t say it is something you are going to get addicted to or crave to play. If you like games you can sink your teeth into, then this is the perfect experience for you.
A Steam Review Key of Birthdays The Beginning was provided by NIS America for the Purpose of this Review