The Peeps have spent decades underground. It’s been so long that they forgot what it’s like to watch the sunset, hear the chirps of a bird and the rustle of leaves in the breeze. So they have decided it’s time to come back to the surface and build a civilisation once more. Before We Leave is a combat-free worldbuilder, but there are challenges with climate, technology and resources. Oh, and the space whales, of course! Start with an island, but strive for the stars and try to keep the environment in good shape.
Before We Leave is big, like giant big! Initially, it starts small. Your peeps are emerging to the surface for the first time in millennia, and their skills don’t really translate to the surface, so you’re starting at square one. As their technology and abilities increase, it’s time to set sail! Colonise new islands and learn even more, and then it’s to the stars! So not only will you have multiple islands to look after, there are multiple planets! And that is before you even run into your first space whale.
It can feel a bit overwhelming, but there is an excellent tutorial to guide you in the right direction. Initially, it holds your hand, but as you learn how to play, it lets go a little and gives you a goal to achieve but no direction on how to do so. It felt like a nice balance between overbearing and being left flailing with no clue.
Before We Leave is played on islands filled with hex tiles. Resources, housing and roads all take up a tile, and they have preferences of what they want to have next to them. You gain bonuses and penalties based on where you set items. For example, houses like being together, more houses together means more people per house. On the other hand, vegetable crops and wells don’t like being near polluted areas, and production decreases when they are. Some buildings also make peeps gloomy when they walk by, so it’s all a balancing act to keep everyone happy.
The main focus in the game is technology. Without technology, you can’t learn more, build more, eat better, so you will need to gather research whenever possible. It sounds easy enough, but there are multiple types of research, and not all of them are available on every island. This is where exploration comes in! Build a boat and go on an adventure. Find new islands to inhabit to gain new research and resources. You’ll then be able to set up shipping lanes, so all islands have everything they need.
Then you do the same thing, but with entirely new planets! New planets will open up even more resources and technology to learn, so everything expands further. Fortunately, your original islands can fend for themselves eventually, but you will occasionally need to switch between them and make sure everything is running smoothly. If you’re not used to this scale of builder, it can be a bit overwhelming.
And then there are the space whales. Before We Leave is a combat-free builder, so you won’t need to build up a huge defence, but space whales are roaming the skies, which are the equivalent to disasters in other builder games, so keep an eye out.
Art style and sound design
There’s something about hex tile designs that I love. The honeycomb effect just looks so cool! Before We Leave is no different. Every title is full of life and detail; I especially love the fruit trees. As you travel, you’ll encounter all kinds of terrain, all beautiful in their own way. Come across my first waterfall was lovely, even if I did then put a bunch of polluting buildings around it, which covered it in black, gross soot. Sorry environment!
The only issue I had, in terms of looks, was the road system. Roads can be a real space hog, and every building needs one to be built. What could be a nice area becomes clogged with roads, which isn’t aesthetically pleasing, but it doesn’t affect the path tracing of your peeps. They still take the most efficient option.
The soundtrack is gorgeous and gives a feeling of embarking on a new frontier. It encapsulates the sense of awe and wonder the peeps must have at seeing the surface for the first time and learning how to sail and discover the universe. It’s lovely to have on in the background as you try to make the best decisions for your peeps and their futures.
I enjoy builder games, but it is uncommon that combat free, so Before We Leave is something special for me. It is great to focus on making my peeps happy rather than making sure they’re well defended. All the while getting to explore the islands and planets and gaze in awe at their beauty. When I feel in the mood for a (mostly) gentle builder, I will definitely come back to the world of Before We Leave.
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** Find The Strawberry received a free key for Before We Leave from Team 17. All opinions are my own **