Before We Leave is a non-violent city building video game from Balancing Monkey Games. Available now from the Epic Games Store, players are put in control of a re-emerging civilization. The lands are littered with the remains of an ancient civilization and with these and other resources to exploit players will get a 3X experience, 4X minus the extermination. With everything from potatoes to space whales there is lots to be explored. However, will players want to leave before the experience? Let’s find out!
Players start out with very little in terms of people and resources, to the extent that most of the resources will be out of reach. Even things like iron need to be worked up to and have the appropriate things researched. This helps the game from feeling overwhelming to those new to the experience, as it slowly introduces more over time – with each feeling like a natural progression from what you already have. There is also a sense of satisfaction upon getting access to something as simple as a lift, as it opens up new opportunities.
One of the first things that I noticed in Before We Leave was that to make tools using the transmogrifier building was a very manual and click heavy process. My concerns were swiftly put to rest though, with tools able to be built in an automated fashion after some early on research is performed. From feeding the peep population through to the chain of mining and smelting tools there are production chains for everything the player will need.
There is plenty for new players to get to grips with, though none are out of the ordinary for the genre. With a solid range of buildings, a long research tree and plenty of things to balance to keep your people happy – the gradual introduction of new research isn’t the only aspect to be praised. The tutorial is well paced, not rushing new users. It allows players some freedom to build what they like while learning. Just when it’s about to become a little restrictive, due to trying to highlight specific content by railroading players down one route, it throws in the big twist of having a second settlement, or more, to run.
Whilst moving things back and forth between settlements could be made simpler via the user interface, there is a fully working interface already there for the transportation of goods. Compared to other games, such as Anno 1800, that have a similar goods transportation system it does the job, without being anything special. Another UI niggle is the likes of the pollution zones on buildings. It would be nice to be able to click onto a pollution icon and see a transparent purple zone of all pollution. Currently only an individual building’s pollution is shown and the zone only has a purple outline – which is slightly harder to see.
Despite the research tree to work through, there are things missing from Before We Leave. It’s hard to say exactly what that is, with plenty of building types and production queues. In part, it is how once placed, with production up and running, a building can be forgotten about. There are elements such as the housing that is upgradable but this doesn’t extend across all building types.
The lack of a military presence gives Before We Leave a chilled vibe, that makes playing enjoyable. Inadvertently, it has removed some of the drive that players find in a 4X game, to improve their civilization or city to easily defeat incoming problems. It perhaps also doesn’t help the feeling that something is missing, with the need for much more of what is there to shine than in a identical game with a military presence.
Utilizing a hex based grid that is spherical, to give the shape of rather small planets is a little odd at first. There is no denying though that the stunning looks of the game help the hexagonal world grow on you. From the way the individual peeps run around performing jobs, past the active buildings, to the overall cute style it is hard not to just sit and watch the world. There are plenty of visual and audio clues for players to pick up on. Such as being able to see tired workers slowly plod along the paths and music coming from happy homes, it all creates a believable gameworld.
From the visuals of the game it looks complete. From a user interface perspective it could do with a bit of work, though there have already been updates – fixing minor issues. Gamers will easily be able to sink hours into Before We Leave, from conquering new islands to finally getting off the planet. It’s just hard to get past, that while launched, the current game state feels more like the end half of a Beta. A little more polish here and content there and it’ll result in a game that can captivate players for even longer. Therefore, Before We Leave is a game to play now but also one to check out again in a few months, when some of the roadmap features have been released.
(Editor’s Note: Before We Leave was provided to us by the publisher for the review. Check the game out on the Epic Games Store.)