Our Life: Beginnings & Always, Not Just a Feel-Good Simulator, but a Feel-Better one too

I set myself a goal this year to try out different sorts of games, rather than just defaulting to The Sims when I was the mood to play something (a big problem last year that resulted in a few hundred hours being added to my playtime). It’s an easy thing to do, find a game that you enjoy and just play it to death because you know the controls so well, playing it until you’ve done absolutely everything and then continuing to play it. So yes, my new years resolution was to play a broader range of games and try out genres that I didn’t necessarily have a lot of experience with.

It started with Coffee Talk which had been advertised to me on Facebook for months and I’d been meaning to download. The art style looked so charming and I’m a sucker for fantasy, being an avid D&D player (surprise!). It was enjoyable but it set in motion a year full of visual novels and a newfound appreciation for what storytelling can accomplish in a game.

While browsing absentmindedly through the Steam store one February afternoon as one does, the lengthily titled title Our Life: Beginnings & Always popped up. Admittedly the verbose name did put me off for a moment but the price tag pulled me right back in – free. I wasn’t earning a whole lot of money earlier this year and was quite limited with what I could and couldn’t purchase, so a free game was exactly what I wanted to see. Not only that, but the reviews were overwhelmingly positive and so I added it to my library and promptly forgot about it. Really, I had been intending to play it immediately but Persona 5 Strikers took up all of my time for the next few months that I just didn’t get a chance. After that I felt the familiar hole in my chest that is all too common after finishing a Persona 5 playthrough and I needed something with equally as enjoyable characters to fill it.

And that came in the succinctly titled Our Life: Beginnings & Always.

Our Life: Beginnings & Always menu screen

The best way to summarise Our Life: Beginnings & Always would be to describe it as a visual novel dating simulator, but that doesn’t do it justice. Described by the developer GB Patch as a feel-good simulator as well as a feel-better one where issues are worked through with support and understanding and importantly, choice. Choice is a key component in the game and straight off the bat, you are given extensive customisation options for your player character. Anything can be changed at the beginning of each chapter, including pronouns. These changes aren’t glossed over, but instead addressed with unconditional support from the cast of characters. Appearance changes don’t affect the scenarios of the game, that is left to the choices you make as your character.

Set in the sleepy beachside town of Sunset Bird, the general premise of the game is that you play through four life stages as your player character, starting as a young child all the way up to young adulthood. Your neighbour Cove grows up alongside you and each stage focuses primarily on your relationship with him. Cove begins as shy and anxious and while never completely growing out of these traits, your actions with him brings him out of his shell and develops him positively as a person. His personality and appearance is shaped by your responses throughout the previous stages (although you do have the option to choose how he looks too) and you can approach the relationship in different ways. Both romance and platonic friendship are options, once again giving the player choice in their experience.

Your neighbour, Cove Holden

Gameplay is classic visual novel, text accompanied by character artwork and detailed backgrounds. Dialogue options are presented to you which shape the game and your relationship with Cove and others around you. The artwork is stunning and perfectly captures the feeling of being in a small tourist town. Even as someone as far-removed from the Californian coast as they came, I still felt like I was there while playing. The soundtrack ranges from fun and upbeat to melancholy, matching the tone of the conversations and where they are happening. The dialogue is incredibly heartwarming while still remaining realistic and admittedly, made me wish that I had friends in my life that were as kind as the characters in the game. Don’t get me wrong, there is still conflict and the writers didn’t shy away from the difficulties that one may face in life, but its always approached in that feel better way.

An example of dialogue options.

My first playthrough of Our Life: Beginnings & Always happened to coincide with a snap five day lockdown and honestly, it was the perfect game to get me through that week. Supportive characters, beautiful artwork and a gorgeous setting, it truly is a great way to feel better. One playthrough will set you back ten hours and zero dollars (although there is the option to purchase expansions for six dollars each) and it was worth every second.

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