It’s been many years since a major disaster brought about the fall of civilization. The planet’s inhabitants, or peeps, live in a vault underground. But now is the time to advance forward to an uncertain future. Now is the time to return to the surface.
You can forget the Fallout-esque post-apocalyptic scenarios you’ve become accustomed to though. In Before We Leave – the latest game from publishers Team17 -, the world has fully recovered from the catastrophe that nearly wiped out humanity in the first place. As the giant-hand-in-the-sky, you’ll need to guide your peeps through this brave new world as they rebuild their once-great society.
At its core, Before We Leave is a city builder, with a few 4X elements thrown in. Starting off with a few huts and potato fields, you’ll need to build, research and colonise your way to the stars and beyond.
The most striking thing about the game is how relaxing it is. Unlike most games that fall within this genre, there aren’t any real adversaries. There aren’t any nasty next-door neighbours itching to take what you have. You won’t need to wage war or hash out treaties. Evidently, your peeps were the only ones to make it out of the vault and they are resolutely united as one. You’ll make it to the stars, and you’ll do it without having to fire a single bullet.
Because there aren’t any enemies to contend with, there’s no mad dash for resources or strategic positioning. You’re entirely free to meander along at your own pace. There’s great pleasure in taking your time to plan out and build your civilization as you see fit, without the overarching threat of losing it all.
It doesn’t hurt that Before We Leave is so beautiful too. The world is vibrant and full of life and each building is beautifully designed and distinguishable. Meanwhile, the day-night cycle brings with it beautiful moments of natural lighting. Daybreaks, when your society is washed in gold from the sun peeking over the horizon, are especially stunning. From a gameplay perspective, Before We Leave’s HUD is both sleek and unobtrusive. Meanwhile, the mass of information available to you is presented clearly, and problems with individual buildings are easily identifiable by the large bubbles that appear above them.
It’s easy to get set-up in Before We Leave. Place a house here, a library there, throw in a mine and you’re already on your way to exploring the galaxy. There’s a low barrier for entry here, and you won’t be met with a wall of different systems to contend with right out of the gate.
Don’t mistake this for a lack of depth though. There’s all the resource management that you’ve come to expect from any good strategy game (as well as the accompanying charts). As there aren’t any real adversaries, the real difficulty in Before We Leave, stems from expanding your empire. As you colonise more islands and discover new planets, you’ll encounter new environments which present unique challenges. As resources are often limited to one island, you’ll need to establish shipping routes and specialised cities to ensure the entirety of your empire is well-supplied and connected.
You’ll also need to start monitoring the happiness of your peeps too. Apart from their basic needs, you’ll have to worry about providing clothing and luxuries, and take into account the pollution that inevitably comes from expansion. You’ll need to carefully plan cities so that peeps live in happiness-boosting areas of natural beauty and are protected from the negative effects of resource gathering
It’s a nice element that adds a further layer of complexity to world building, but it ultimately doesn’t go far enough. There aren’t any real consequences for polluting your peeps or failing to provide adequate resources. The most you’ll get are a few unhappy peeps who will move slower and harvest resources at a reduced rate. Hardly the end of the world. And I found you’d have to really try to even get to that point anyway.
Meanwhile the game’s only real ‘enemy’ – the monstrous space whales who will devour your resources as they float past your planet – become a minor hindrance after you’ve advanced far enough down the tech tree. The fact is, it’s hard to fail at all in Before We Leave.
The game also ends up becoming repetitive the further you get into it. You’ll fall into the familiar formula of colonising a new island, setting up the same few buildings and mining the same resources. I left feeling like there was something missing to break up the monotony of the mid-game and beyond. Naturally, the combat system that would have usually filled this void wouldn’t be suited here considering the game’s message. Still, it should have been replaced with something, like perhaps an exploration of the disaster that drove humanity underground in the first place or a greater story for players to discover.
There are some little issues with it, but my experience with Before We Leave has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s a game perfectly suited for a few hours of care-free entertainment, being both easy on the eyes and easy to pick up too. You’re afforded the luxury of building your empire and exploring the galaxy at your own pace – a refreshing departure from other 4X-type games where the threat of being nuked into oblivion often looms large.
It’s fair to say that Before We Leave is perhaps more suited to a beginner than a true veteran of the genre, but there’s still more than enough here for everyone to find hours of entertainment.
Before We Leave can be picked up from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Series X|S