Before We Leave – Review
Follow Genre: City builder, Strategy
Developers: Balancing Monkey Games
Publishers: Team17, Balancing Monkey Games
Platform: PC
Tested On: PC

Before We Leave – Review

Site Score
7.0
Good: Competent and entertaining enough
Bad: Repetitive
User Score
8.0
(1 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Player input is one of the most important things a game has to take into account. Restricting or removing it in favor of things automatically occurring can work, but only in very specific scenarios, such as factory or city building. Before We Leave being the latter, heavily applies this automation, although sadly, it fails at making it feel right. Nonetheless, the game ends up being fairly entertaining.

Story

Before We Leave’s story revolves around the Peeps, a group of survivors who have begun colonizing their world after finally leaving the bunker they’ve lived in for generations. In order to continue improving their lives, the Peeps will need to salvage the remains of the ancient technology and knowledge left behind by their ancestors before creating the bunkers.

The game’s story is rather shallow initially and won’t develop by itself, relying instead on the player colonizing islands with certain features (and luck). Most of the background behind what is actually told will only come to the players by exploring ruins that are randomly found and particular RNG-reliant events that may occur. While the lore unlocked with these methods isn’t particularly bad, its inclusion through these means is rather questionable. It does create a certain replay value if you wish to learn more about the game’s story.

Graphics

Before We Leave’s graphics are rather pretty, made up of 3D models filled to the brim with detail and color. Alongside this, the game also features a good amount of other different visual effects, such as the use of bloom for lighting, dynamic shadows, and weather effects. That said, the game is not without flaws, seeing as it only features a handful of different biomes, which don’t change between the different planets players may colonize.

Sound

The game features quite a good soundtrack comprising a decent amount of different relaxing tunes that randomly play in the background. Alongside this, there is a good number of SFX available, although the most ubiquitous one will usually be the notification one, which may become an annoyance due to its frequency. Curiously enough, the way the music plays doesn’t seem to have been properly optimized, seeing as on plenty of occasions the game will spend decent chunks of time without music playing, only for it to suddenly begin anew.

Gameplay

As previously mentioned, Before We Leave belongs to the City Builder and 4X Strategy genres, with the usual core loop of constant expansion occurring around grid-divided islands. At the start of the game, players will begin with little more than the basic technology to cover the necessities of the Peeps, such as potato fields, houses and wells; later on acquiring more means of production by researching the already mentioned ancient technologies.

The player’s first island will feature a transmogrifier, a machine capable of turning raw materials into Tools without the required buildings, allowing them to start building their first structures. In order to research new technologies and eventually advance in the tech tree, players will mainly need two buildings: the Explorer’s Hut and the Library, tasked with obtaining and utilizing research points respectively.

From here on, players will move on to raw material obtention and processing, the first of which will always be iron, required for almost all recipes and more importantly to create Tools. After a steady supply of both iron and tools has been created, players will finally be able to start expanding out from their initial island, creating their first shipwright in order to produce a colony ship to begin anew in a new island.

Once a new island has been colonized, players will also be able to begin producing trade ships in order to move goods between their different islands, providing each other with whatever cannot be generated in them. Certain islands will have better crop yields and fewer minerals, others will be able to produce sand but lack fertility, etc. It will be the player’s task to set functioning trade lines to keep all of their islands supplied and efficient. More importantly, new islands will also provide the players with differently colored research points, required in combination with the other ones in order to unlock new technologies. Alongside simple resources, obtaining these will be one of the motivating factors to further expand.

As the different islands’ tasks start to grow, so will the population and thus the resources required. But alongside this, certain other factors will also begin to change. Each building created by the player will also affect the Peeps in unseen ways, by generating Gloom that may demotivate them, reducing their efficiency. Alongside the Gloom, certain other buildings will produce pollution in the area surrounding them, especially those related to resource harvesting. In order to keep the Peeps happy, players will need to keep their islands clean of pollution, while meeting their growing expectations for better food, clothing and luxuries.

After a certain time in the world, players will finally unlock the technology required for space travel, allowing them to repair an abandoned spaceship and set out for the stars. What follows is a process quite similar to the colony and trade ship one. Once a new planet has been colonized, players will need to build all the basic structures again, letting the cycle begin anew.

With a second planet colonized, a new mechanic will also be introduced, this being Space Whales. These animals will randomly sweep through one of the player’s planets, devouring parts of it and damaging or destroying any structures in their path. In order to fend them off without receiving damage, players will have several tools at their disposal, starting with space elevators to feed them with bait and later moving to force fields around the planet or shelters.

Before We Leave is a rather forgiving game with no real ‘game over’ state. Running out of supplies for the Peeps, completely polluting the islands or decreasing their moods only affects productivity, While this will definitely affect player’s progress speed, it ultimately has no long-term consequences, seeing as everything can be solved more or less easily. The only times a player may incur significant losses may be after whale attacks. At least in those particular cases, a large part of an island is affected and thus almost unrecoverable. The further you progress, however, the less important certain regions become, as they don’t weigh down the entirety of what you have built so far globally.

The main issue with the game is how repetitive it soon becomes, with players’ only real input being mostly limited to the initial colonization of each island. Once this part has been done, everything will run automatically, only being able to set priorities for certain tasks which even then guarantees nothing. The inability to directly influence the Peeps’ actions may often lead players into waiting for extended periods of time for things to occur. This is particularly evident in the handling of certain events, such as Gremlin or Kraken attacks. In both of these cases, the creatures will just go on doing their thing (a.k.a being nuisances) until they suddenly decide to stop and actually help, without the player having any say or influence on them.

Conclusion

Before We Leave is a rather competent and entertaining City Builder with its own spin to the base formula. That said, the endgame content ends up decaying quite a bit, with gameplay being reduced to optimizing resource generation through the repetitive island colonization process. At a sale price of 17,99€/£15.99/$19.99, the game is relatively fairly priced for what it offers, although its replay value is rather questionable due to its small tech tree and lack of variation.

Personal Opinion

“Before We Leave is a pretty decent game that I generally enjoyed until I reached the last few hours. Once I had settled three different planets and obtained every single material in the game, I was completely baffled to see I needed to colonize yet another whole new one simply because I needed a smidgen more of research for the last upgrade in the tech tree. After doing so, unlocking that research and leaving the fourth and fifth (since I didn’t find what I needed in the fourth) planets to rot, I proceeded to spend the following hours waiting for the last few buildings to be finished. The process of building all the parts of the force field across the planets was especially a slog, seeing as most of my islands were simply built to produce, not to have massive structures built in them, which meant it took ages for this to happen. Once the aegis was built, just to check it off from the tutorial checklist since the space elevators were perfectly fine defenses against whales, I proceeded to move on to the last structure. What followed were several hours of the game running in the background while the same recipe proceeded to be built a grand total of five times. For me, this was a rather questionable design decision, since if I can afford it once, why wouldn’t I be able to afford it 5 times. It just takes longer.”

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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Before We Leave - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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