Birthdays the Beginning Is a God Game Where You’re at the Mercy of the Environment

Birthdays the Beginning

I’m tempted to file Birthdays the Beginning into the “god game” category, but I don’t think that’s quite right.

The game has you attempt to create life through the process of natural evolution in an environment you have a limited amount of control over.

That sounds overly technical. Let me try again.

Birthdays the Beginning is a game where you raise and lower terrain. Why? Because you’re trying to kickstart the evolutionary process.

You start with a flat piece of rock, and your goal is to turn it into a lush world teaming with life. So you raise and lower the terrain in order to meet whatever conditions the next evolution requires. The air is colder the higher you go, so form a huge mountain if you need a cold space. On the other hand, lower terrain has warmer air, with a caveat: terrain below sea level is flooded with water. The overall air temperature can be altered based on how much water there is in your world; worlds with a higher water-to-land ratio will be warmer overall.

Birthdays the Beginning

So, using this incredibly limited toolset, you must gently nudge life through all of its stages, beginning with phytoplankton, which evolves into zooplankton, which eventually can evolve into aquatic plant life. You’ll usher this plant life through the next step of the process, which is to leave its underwater home and spread to land.

All you really can do is focus on a square piece of terrain and raise or lower it. Over and over again. Yet the game is strangely hypnotic, perhaps due to the combination of the droning music and the odd little tasks you’re given.

Birthdays the Beginning is not a game for the impatient. Evolution takes millions of years, after all. You can fast forward time, but if you haven’t prepared properly, your ecosystem won’t emerge properly — or at all. You’ll constantly be tweaking, fast-forwarding, then tweaking some more until you get things just right. It can be a little frustrating at times, but solving a particularly tricky evolution can be exhilarating when you pull it off.

And that’s where I struggle with the “god game” label. All things considered, you actually have very little control over the world. Instead, you’re going for more of a butterfly-effect change, which you’ll cross your fingers and hope leads to the evolutionary chain you’re shooting for.

I’ve only spent about two hours with this game, as my demo ended when I was able to get some ferns to sprout. This experimental first run was mostly an exercise in trial and error — and, if I’m being totally honest, I struggled at first to understand the ways in which my changes were shaping my world. But now that I’ve learned a few things, I feel like I could go back and clear the early portion of the game in a matter of minutes.

So that’s what type of game Birthdays the Beginnings is. It’s a game that you’ll spend tweaking your world and then watching the results of your actions unfold in front of you. You’ll need to learn, adapt, experiment, and learn some more, until next thing you know you’re growing dinosaurs.

Birthdays the Beginning

Oh, did I forget to mention that you’ll eventually be growing dinos? Because you will be.

Birthdays the Beginning launches on May 9, 2017, on Steam and PS4.

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