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Game review - Birthdays: The Beginning makes you creator of worlds, but that’s not as thrilling as it sounds

Switching between micro and macro modes allows players to see the glory of nature take shape in Birthdays: The Beginning, but sadly the initial spectacular thrill of evolution doesn’t last

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 May, 2017, 1:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 May, 2017, 1:30pm

Birthdays: The Beginning

Arc System Works

3.5 stars

Truly epic adventures are often what set video games apart from the other forms of entertainment. Books and movies might jump through millennia over extended montages or varying chapters, but video games can take things even further, such as showing the evolution of life from the smallest molecule.

Birthdays: The Beginning (available for PC and Playstation 4) is one of many that attempt to place life literally in the hands of the gamer. Players are given a small piece of terrain floating in the middle of the universe, with the initial goal being to coax existence out of practically nothing. It all comes down to terraforming – creating colder or warmer climates that allow beings to grow and thrive.

Make the ocean deep enough and the climate heats up, creating the simple species that unsurprisingly never evolve. Throw in a few mountains and things cool down, sparking a slow crawl towards life but one nevertheless resilient in the long run.

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Switching between micro and macro modes allows players to see the glory of nature take shape. Get close up and time slows down, giving you an inside glimpse as to how your world is evolving. Jump to the wide view, and things speed up by centuries and millennia.

Balancing the micro and the macro is a large part of the challenge, especially since every new creation allows you to level up. And as you make your way through its “missions”, from algae to sea creatures, dinosaurs to cavemen, your advancements become more complex and the switches more involving.

There isn’t really a “story mode”, despite the game’s pretensions to place you in one. Sure, you have to follow the rules at hand, but the extensive library of creatures on board and the many flukes along the way mean you’ll get there eventually.

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Birthdays is more of a classic gardening game, the kind in which you experiment, mess around and see what you can create. Once you’ve finished the “story”, there’s a Pokemon Go-like goal to complete the creature hunt, but sadly the initial spectacular thrill of evolution doesn’t last. That, and the weird saving system, are the only drawbacks in an otherwise great time waster.

So we’re still waiting for a great evolution game, the one that’ll take us through a 2001-esque journey starting at the very beginning of life.