Before We Leave | PC Review
Before We Leave is a combat free city builder, developed by Balancing Monkey Games, published by Team17, and released initially on the Epic Games Store on May 8th 2020. It arrived on the Steam Store on May 13th 2021. For reference, this review was made playing the Steam version, currently available for €17.99.
The story pretext is that there has been some kind of apocalyptic event in centuries past, and humanity is only now emerging from their bunkers to rebuild and resettle. While this may bring one’s thoughts over to other games with similar pretext, the world is not a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but rather lush with several biomes of environment, flora and fauna to explore. The game is laid out in a hexagonal tile landscape, on habitable planets with oceans and islands.
The challenge lies in resource and space management. You want room to build, but you also don’t want to demolish important resources like forests. You also need to manage your human resources, a.k.a. “Peeps”. Humans perform actions like building and harvesting, and for these actions they need food, water and happiness. You can assign priority to buildings, so that your “Peeps” will perform the more important tasks first. When it comes to happiness, you need to watch out for pollution, which is produced by certain buildings and actions, and gloom, caused by building high and narrow. Finally, buildings get bonuses and/or penalties depending on what other buildings they are built next to, so careful planning is needed if one tries to maximise efficiency!
It can feel a bit overwhelming at first, but there is a very vast tutorial to edge you into things, and the statistics window, resource/efficiency overlays and happiness panels will help to keep track of everything. The tutorial itself will keep you entertained for about an hour, before you get the option to turn it off, and keep playing normally, however if you want, it can actually guide you until the very end of the game.
Later in the game, one will encounter more complexity and new challenges in environment, climate, weather, resources and more. You will learn new technologies by investigating ruins of the old world with your explorers and obtaining research points, allocated to the technology step of your choice. New technology will provide the means to access new areas, and keep your hard workers happy, by providing for example new sources of food (I would also be unhappy if I had to eat potatoes all my life). Resources not available in one place can be shipped there from another settlement, using transport ships.
You can speed up time for the moments when you are idle, or even pause the game if you feel like you have too many actions to perform. If you are looking to perfectly manage resources in a nuanced way between all settlements, you might find that the micromanagement is a bit much, or that the task is impossible, even. The game is perhaps suited more towards the laid back player who just wants to build and explore, without necessarily doing this at the highest efficiency. Problems will arise, but given that there is seemingly no way to lose the game, you can take your time to fix those problems. Or don’t! You will almost always be able to progress anyway. My one major critique with the gameplay is that every time you settle somewhere new, you will need to build all of the basics again, which can feel a bit repetitive. However, this is partly alleviated by the fact that you can ship over surplus items from somewhere else if you have the technology to do that.
Music is wonderfully handled with both calming, yet colourful and happy tunes, and also more upbeat medieval/riverdance style songs. The music will also vary depending on what biome you are currently viewing. The game is aesthetically pleasant, and the worlds are beautifully crafted around the sun, which keeps shining through invisible hexagons, a.k.a. areas you have yet to explore. The UI is nothing revolutionary, but serves its purpose and gets progressively more complex as you unlock stuff, rather than having every little detail from the beginning, which is very positive. Two things I felt like they were missing were a slider for master volume, and an option to enable an automatic queue for an action to demolish obstacles when you opt to build there. Especially for roads this would have been convenient. The game can easily be controlled solely by the mouse, but keyboard shortcuts exist for almost every action.
Overall the game has a feeling of refinement, and does not seem rushed. During my game time for this review and about a thousand in-game actions, I did not notice any bugs. The game seems very reasonably priced given that the normal game should take 30-40 hours to finish (not confirmed by myself) plus there exists challenging scenarios (not in scope of this review). If you are into this genre of laid back sandbox city building, you should definitely give this one a try, as even without combat, or any way to lose the game (seemingly), it has high ambitions to challenge you and keep you entertained.
Victor’s Rating: 4 Peeps out of 5.