Before We Leave, make sure that you switch off the oven, ok? After that, make sure you have enough G-Fuel, Red Bull or green tea – whatever your thing is for a long gaming session as this is a game you can easily get lost in. Netflix and chill? Pfft!
That ‘lost’ element is down to the depth, creativity and sheer enjoyment of expanding these infinite biomes for your Peeps (the people currency of the game). These real-time-strategy games aren’t about pick up and play, but as you’ll experience first hand, Before We Leave, from Balancing Monkey Games, is an intuitive game void of those dreaded walls of text.
Despite the exposition, this isn’t a bleak game and somewhat uplifting and puts you in a reflective state. After a catastrophic event, civilisation has a chance to rebuild from the ground up – think of it as a reset switch to start with a clean slate and getting Attenborough off your case.
Before We Leave Review (PC)
Your task is to help the Peeps start over, harvesting, learning, improving, exploring the stars, and reproducing (wahey!) back to a manageable existence. One of the unique selling points for Before We Leave is that it’s a non-violent game, so leave your shotgun in the cloakroom and pick it up on your way out. Before you leave. No?
There are the typical structures you’d expect from a city builder; dwellings, sourcing raw materials and production, a research facility in the form of an Explorer’s Hut, a transmogrifier(!?) and much, much more. Naturally, through progression, you will learn new developments and fulfil the objectives in the context of how far the population has advanced, taking them behind the initial plains they start from.
While you can automate production by building the required structures and developing new skills, you, as the architect, can be a bit more hands-on – directly picking out raw materials to source should you be running low or you want to expand your empire. This isn’t a Minecraft-like experience but gives you a bit of autonomy. That said, the AI in the game is pretty reliable, leaving your hands free to focus on other tasks, like sipping your G-Fuel, picking your nose or stroking the cat. There was a joke there, but it would be vulgar.
Before We Leave all very fantasy-like and idealistic – a world most sensible people would want to occupy, as the people are thoughtful, considerate and have learned from the events that led them to the now. Unlike the current global pandemic. How many people have resorted back to their ways? Don’t worry, I’m kicking the orange box from underneath me before this escalates.
Intuitive, Calming And A Second Chance
Before We Leave can be a very, very fast-moving game, but through choice. If you’re feeling confident in an RTS, or a little keen to research/produce an item, you can speed up time. By default, the Peeps move super quick, but you can increase this by 2x, if not 4x. There’s a pause button that is useful when you have many workers on the go and need to get your bearings or work out a strategy.
Moving around each section and commanding your people or researching doesn’t take many clicks, and you can reach your destination pretty darn quick. While the tool-tips and menus are intuitive and/or informative, some of them are a little uglier such as the tiers for development which resemble the blueprints from Team17’s other title Main Assembly. But it’s a preference thing and purely presentation more than anything.
Before We Leave is a gorgeous looking game and quite a blend of realistic textures and cuteness. Never have I enjoyed hexagons more since giving up on IGN scores all those years ago. This might have been something touched upon in the news piece, as exploration reveals these shapes the further you wander, unlike that classic darkness you’d see in something like Dune 2 or Command & Conquer. That’s one for the ‘retro’ fans.
The controls, as in navigation, are a standard setup of rotations and zooming in and out. Getting up close next to these buildings really is a joy, but I found that the mid-zoom was the best perspective so that you can get an overview. Bear in mind that if you like a bit of symmetry, and that doesn’t have to be a sweeping comment of being OCD, Before We Leave can make your inner perfectionist a bit miffed at times.
Due to the shapes of the tiles, you can’t place similar buildings next to each other to create a Roman row or infrastructure. Saying for a friend. Again, it’s purely cosmetic and doesn’t affect how your community moves around the maps, nor does my next beef that ‘the roads look ugly and unorganised’ should put you off the Before We Leave game.
While we’re on the presentation side of things, the Peeps in the game remind me of Weebles. They aren’t one of the most striking or memorable populace in gaming existence, looking like they’re straight from The Early Learning Centre. However, they’re super productive and dash about the screen with such ferocity, you wonder if you’re cultivating a society of Quicksilvers.
The music in Before We Leave is all charming and waiting room-like, but it’s pretty sporadic. You’ll be minding your own business, then all of a sudden, the score will kick in, and it feels like it’s time for another game of House Flipper – it’s those sort of tunes. Then, it abruptly ends, and it’s silent for some time. Are you noticing a pattern that the niggles are precisely that and no significant critiques of the game other than the aesthetics?
Before We Leave has direction, but it moves at a leisurely pace, which is very welcome. The lack of threats in the game makes this a go-to RTS alternative to the usual base-building and invasions or defensive stances you’re forced to put up. Though the game isn’t entirely mediative, it put me in a more thoughtful, calm-like trance.
RTS’ like Starcraft have their place, and I’ll be near the front of the queue, but when you want something a little less hectic but equally engaging, Before We Leave should be near, if not at the top of your list.
- Beautiful environments.
- Encourages exploration and research.
- Calming effect – non-violent.
- Intuitive, user-friendly gameplay.
- Lots of hands-on interaction.
- If you want action, this might not be the RTS for you.
- A few cosmetic niggles, but personal preference.