The perfect bonds of Our Life: Beginnings and Always

Our Life: Beginnings and Always (Our Life hereafter) released on November 16, 2020, and has seen multiple DLC releases and updates since its initial release. Most recently on September 18, 2021 was “Step 4”, depicting the game’s main love interest reaching adulthood alongside the main character of the same age.

We briefly covered developer GB Patch Games for their insanely brilliant Lake of Voices, and somehow, Our Life not only manages to exceed the expectations set by this game, but has also set some very high standards for other games to follow.

Our Life is a free-to-play otome title; don’t leave here just yet if free-to-play isn’t your usual gaming preference, because there’s a lot of interesting things going on here. The game as a whole depicts a main coupling over the course of 10 years: the pair go from initial strangers to childhood best friends, to girlfriend-boyfriend status as teenagers, and finally even potentially getting engaged by their adulthood.

But the choice is fully yours as the player, with Our Life giving its player full agency in how the relationship progresses, and not necessarily in the steps just mentioned. You’re instead in full control of what the bond evolves into — romance or platonic — and can fully customise our main character. It’s astonishing to see an indie otome that has managed to not only succed in what it set out to do, but also show just how incredibly immersive the otome genre can be. And, as always, it deserves a lot more recognition than it has been getting. So here’s to one of the latest and greatest otomes out there, all thanks to GB Patch Games!

It’s all about you

When it comes to otome games that anyone and everyone should play, Our Life is one I’ll recommend to everyone without hesitation. Whoever you are and whatever you identify as, you should play through this game at least once, and I’ll give you the rundown as to why that is.

Our Life is just as much about your own player character as it is love interest Cove, demonstrating how important both individuals are to the story of their lives together — it’s all about “Our” lives, after all.

The premise is immediately captivating, with the story set in a popular tourist location in a sunny seaside town called Sunset Bird, with very few residents who settle down in the area permanently. Our main character, named Jamie Last by default, is eight years old when they are approached by a stranger asking for a favour — one who is even willing to pay them for accepting it. The favour is simple: befriend his son who has been feeling homesick since relocating to Sunset Bird.

Our Life: Beginnings and Always

And the rest is history, with their relationship developing at a pace of your own choosing, and arriving at a destination you’re in full control of. The very personal and emotional journey is depicted through four different summers as everyone grows up. This includes not only the main character and Cove, but also your family, friends and neighbours; none of them feel unchanging or stagnant, just like how life treats us all.

Across a runtime of about 5 to 8 hours, players experience a world that they can relate to, learn from, or both. Your same-sex parents are there as constant support during your upbringing, and your neighbourhood goes through the changes time brings. Those who were once close to you leave the area, while new faces arrive to bring a new perspective and newfound memories to your main character.

Then you have your older sister, who goes through her own sequence of life events before you yourself get to experience them; we witness a sassy and snappy kid turning agitated and uptight as a teenager before finally coming into full bloom as a young woman — responsible, capable and kind — and reaching the height of their maturity as a loving, understanding older sibling.

And then we have Cove, the best of the best, with his own character arc involving how he finds his place in this new home of his — all while coming to terms with his own family dynamic that has shifted considerably since his mother and father separated. Depending on the player, many of these perspectives are likely to hit a personal note, but the game’s ability to be both delicate and supportive at these moments is worthy of praise.

Everyone experiences their own challenges through their respective upbringings, but Our Life provides us with plenty of hopeful, caring conversations and gives the utmost respect to its players. It’s a comforting, supportive story that can feel very validating at times; it reassures and comforts the player like no other, and even provides plenty of options on how you want to enjoy the game. Whether you want to initiate the romance, have Cove be the assertive one or completely opt out of the romantic aspect altogether, you can set everything up at the beginning of each Stage. And all this is helpfully explained in the game’s tutorial.

Speaking of Cove, he’ll likely be featuring as a Hump Day Husbando pick in the near future, you can be sure of that. He is the resident good boy and cinnamon roll of Sunset Bird, after all, and he is effortlessly one of the greatest love interests to have ever graced the genre. He is his own person, with his own goals, his own struggles, and his own backstory and arc — but is consistently welcoming, thoughtful and considerate to our main character.

The level of respect, positivity, and affirmation Cove gives to the player is one of the most validating and supportive approaches a love interest has ever taken in a game like this; my disdain for yanderes has only increased because of him, it would seem!

He deserves the world, and his personal growth from being a feeble and teary-eyed child to a capable, friendly and diabetically sweet adult is well worth getting invested in the story for. Never have I wanted a fictional character to be as happy as this before.

Our Life: Beginnings and Always

A true reflection of our lives

The game’s story progresses through Stages, each one spanning a certain section of the characters’ lives. Step 1 depicts their childhood, Stage 2 is their adolescence, Stage 3 is their young adult years, and Stage 4 is their adulthood.

Each Stage contains up to 10 mini-stories and moments, with half of them being additional content through paid DLC — I cannot recommend these add-on packs enough for the added hours of content they provide. Each short story wonderfully captures that feeling of each life Stage — the energetic, carefree, and optimistic childhood, onwards to the uncertainty of our teenage years, and beyond to young adulthood, a time where we get to grips with what our future is shaping up to be — and what we want from it.

The dialogue, and characters are consistently fantastic, with each sounding and acting truly realistic and human. Across the game’s runtime, we see many characters leave your bubble, unable to remember the same memories your own character holds dear — and there are those you simply will never see again. It can be uncomfortably realistic; Our Life can be heart-wrenching at times for how relatable it is, while also being undeniably wholesome and hopeful.

Our Life: Beginnings and Always

For instance, anyone who can relate to certain characters’ upbringing as I did may start to feel overwhelmed by how its characters come to realise things about their situations, awkwardly deal with them due to their hormones, then learn to accept things as years go by — but the payoff is worth all the emotions that come along with it. Our Life is a feel-good experience first and foremost, and it feels extremely satisfying to see certain dynamics and representation being so positively expressed here, particularly if you can relate directly to what is going on.

As an otome, the narrative is an uncommon approach for the genre, as our main (and currently only) love interest is our childhood friend, but we experience first-hand how that connection came to be — and most importantly, make all the choices in developing it to determine the eventual result of that bond. And looking beyond the otome sphere, it is simply one of the most representative and inclusive visual novels available, making the experience a truly reflective, respectful journey that allows anyone and everyone to establish themselves as the main character.

A truly player-centric experience unlike any other

On the topic of the main character, let’s get into the details of Our Life’s insanely brilliant customisation options. Not only does Our Life respect the player’s decisions and relationship with Cove, but the level of inclusivity and character customisation is amazingly detailed and very fulfilling here.

Players can pick from a range of preset spoken names with a free DLC that lets Cove address you directly, but otherwise you have free rein with what they wish to name your main character. Pronouns are also selected here, with so many additional features that can be chosen to truly capture how you appear.

And what makes this even more impressive is the options that are added as the character grows older, such as optional glasses, piercings, and braces in later years to give just a few examples.

Our Life

The feeling of representation here is greatly refreshing and comforting, with different ethnicities and various body types being seen across the characters and sprites, as well as varied familial dynamics being central to the plot. There are also trans, lesbian and autistic individuals in the game, all respectfully presented and supported. We not only have a positive atmosphere here, but a game that hopes to normalise things that some people still have difficulty talking about respectfully or appropriately.

Our Life constantly asks for confirmation of the player’s sexuality, gender, height, and perception of their body and other personal characteristics as they age, reflecting how we are always changing, learning and growing as time goes by. It is a validating experience, and with no bad endings in sight, the game is a feel-good and comforting experience overall.

While the title is mostly linear, its replay value comes from the selectable levels of interest and relationship with Cove, which also unlocks Steam achievements when you explore all the options. The all-important choices are made at the start of each Stage, alongside optional changes from the default levels of Cove’s attributes, involving his personality, appearance, and hobby preferences.

The game allows you to further immerse yourself in your role as main character; you can customise your own bedroom, and seemingly innocuous choices such as your food, drink and hobby preferences will stick with you throughout the game — as will your opinions of those around you and your feelings on various discussion points.

Our Life

A free-to-play, yet high quality product

Our Life spoils the player with hours of content, and with a wonderfully feel-good plot that features lovable characters and hopeful themes relatable to our own lives. The music reinforces the cosy and comforting vibe of its story, and the art is absolutely gorgeous. While the narrative is obviously intended as new take on the otome genre, it is an experience any gamer should play for its nostalgic and highly emotional story beats, and the game simply welcomes everyone and anyone to play it for its depiction of growing up and learning to be true to who you are.

You don’t have to play the game exclusively for Cove (though I would not blame you if you do!) — you can instead enjoy the deeply moving narrative as a visual novel that will put a huge grin on your face in one scene, and make you tear up in another. It is especially poignant when certain events or options are referenced years later depending on what moments you have experienced, making the game feel all the more unique to your own personal playthrough.

On a final note, I have previously remarked that Kind Words has been my “safe place” in video games for a long time now, but it just may have been toppled by this experience. Our Life is truly one to cherish. The game embodies what nostalgia is, presenting a comforting, bright and friendly world we can learn from and relate to, and feel truly represented and respected in. You’ll be missing it in no time once your time with the game is over.

More where that came from

Fortunately, the updates are not slowing down anytime soon. Players can expect further DLCs to be added later in 2021, including a wedding segment, as well as additional routes for the characters Derek and Baxter.

Our Life hits every note, delivering on a satisfying otome experience whilst catering to a wide range of players, and allowing so much customisation to make the experience yours and yours alone. I cannot compliment this game enough.

Our Life has captivated me ever since I took the plunge in trying it out once Step 4 released, and I could not be any more grateful for what the game has given me. It is safe to say that Our Life is a massive deal — or at least it should be — and with the base game being free-to-play, you’re not doing yourself any favours by skipping out on this one.

If I had my wish, Sunset Bird would be where I would relocate to and stay forever and always. (You’ll still write for us though, right? – Ed.)

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Lilia Hellal
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