Sun. Jun 16th, 2024
Before We Leave Review Cover

I never actually applied to review this game, instead, they came to me. Usually I end up rejecting most unsolicited games unless they really stand out, but this was different. I saw that it was by Team 17, and immediately knew I’d say yes. I’m very much an indie game fan, and Team 17 has to be my favourite indie developer. One of the first ever video games I played was Worms World Party, all the way back in the PS1 days. I don’t even know how many hours I put into it, but it helped cement my love of gaming. Since then, I’ve played loads of Team 17 games, my favourite being The Escapists. So I decided I had to write a Before We Leave review for Xbox Series X.

Story

Not overly unique, but Before We Leave is about colonising islands and planets. You start as a very primitive society, and slowly research more advanced technologies. There’s not really any dialogue or narration in the game, beyond informing the player how to progress to the next stage, so there’s not really a story in that sense. Instead, you form your own story based on how you decide to build and explore. The game simply gives you this vast world with rules, and you operate within those.

I think it’s really interesting how it combines very old-timey methods of travel like boats, with futuristic technologies like rockets large enough to carry entire colonies. It’s a fascinating amalgamation of multiple eras. Even with the technologies, they start off so basic, and become so much more advanced. It’s very much a story of growth and progression. If you like anthropology, and the journey of humanity through time, then you’ll love Before We Leave.

Before We Leave Review Xbox Series X, Starting the game.
You start with nothing but an underground bunker full of peeps.

Gameplay

The gameplay is neither first-person nor third-person. Instead, you overlook the entire world, managing everything from above, like an omniscient creator. There’s actually a pretty complex control system to get used to, as there are a range of actions you can take. I’m very grateful for the tutorial in this regard, as it helps break down everything into manageable chunks. I do have some issues with the ways the controls are presented, but I’ll elaborate on this later on in the ‘User Interface’ sub-section. The tutorial runs until the end of the game, although it gives you the option to turn it off once you’ve been taught the basics. Personally, I left it on so I’d always have that extra helping hand available, although you’re not bound to its suggestions. You can still take your own path when it comes to development.

The game is played on hexagonal tiles, which despite the different gameplay style, reminds me of For the King. The excellent thing about this is that each tile can connect to 6 others, and this creates great opportunities. You have so many more layout choices than you would if it used square tiling. One thing about Before We Leave is that you need to have roads connecting everything, and by having hexagonal tiles, it makes this a much more accomplishable task.

Network of roads.
As you can see, roads can connect to form a network.

You also have the option to speed up or slow down time. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed (as I did at many points), you can slow things down which gives you more time to collect your thoughts and plan your next steps. But if you’re waiting for your peeps to harvest more resources, you can speed time up so you don’t have to wait as long. It’s a convenient system that accounts for different styles of gameplay.

Islands and Planets

You’ll start on one of the islands on the first planet. To start with, you’ll need to learn the controls and work on constructing the right kinds of buildings to sustain your burgeoning society. However, once you’ve got the hang of it, you can begin exploring. To do this, you’ll need to build a port, and use a ship to scout around the planet and find a new island to start populating. The port is a very useful building, as once you’ve found a new island, you can use ships to trade resources between islands.

Before We Leave Review Xbox Series X, sailing your ship.
You can sail your ship around the planet, uncovering new tiles as you go.

Each island will have a different terrain, and may be home to different types of resources. There are also different coloured tiles, and certain structures can only be built on certain tiles. For example, any food-related buildings such as fields or orchards need to be built on green tiles. Planning out your building and road structure depending on the tiles present on an island is paramount to success.

One of the islands on the first planet will have a rocket hidden somewhere on it. This rocket requires a lot of specific resources in order to repair it, which is clever as it stops you progressing too fast, and means that you have to explore all three of the first islands in order to get all the resources you need. Once you have repaired the rocket, you will be able to fly into space! This opens up a vast array of planets, all with islands for you to populate. You can expand your empire across the stars.

You will need to periodically check between all of your islands to make sure they’re functioning well. The more you spread across different islands and planets, the harder your job becomes. It requires a lot of focus and strategy.

Launching into space.
Launching yourself into space is the ultimate goal of the first planet.

Resources and Technology

Managing resources is a key part of Before We Leave. You’ll need to construct a range of different buildings in order to make sure you have enough of each resource. Rather than producing assets out of nothing, you’ll mostly use buildings to harvest an island’s natural resources. So you can mine things like stone and metals by finding reserves on the island. You’ll need to place the correct type of building next to the corresponding resource on the island map, as only certain tiles will contain things like trees or quarries.

So, do you simply have access to all buildings straight away? No. You need to unlock them through a technology tree, and to do this, you’ll need to find technology reserves on the island. There are different colours of technologies, and so you may need to transport these between islands so you can unlock a particular new building which may require both colours. Each island will have only one colour of technology.

Before We Leave Review Xbox Series X, Technology tree.
The technology tree becomes more detailed as you unlock new technologies.

As you upgrade your buildings and unlock new ones, you’ll be able to create a better society. You can craft clothes for your peeps, which will allow them to work for longer. You can access complicated new resources, which in turn can be used for even better buildings. This technology system coupled with a range of resources means that the longer you play, the more in-depth the game becomes. Before We Leave definitely rewards players for persistence.

Peeps

These are the people who populate your islands and planets. On your initial island they come out of an underground location, but elsewhere there’s more to it. Firstly, you need to build enough huts and houses so your peeps have somewhere to stay when they’re not working. This will increase your maximum island capacity. And outside of your first island, you’ll need to build schools to train new peeps. Making sure that you have enough peeps on your island is vital, as they’re responsible for everything. They build new structures, run the existing ones, fetch food and water, and transport everything. They are the key to your success.

Managing your village and peeps.
You need to make sure your village can support the needs of your peeps.

However, there are multiple things to consider in regards to their welfare. Firstly, you need to keep them happy. Unhappy peeps are lazy peeps, so to keep things running smoothly you want them to be happy. You’ll want to have luxury items on your island for them to enjoy, as well as a variety of foods. Another thing that can decrease their happiness is if there’s too much pollution. If you have a heavily built up area, make sure to plant plenty of trees. As well as keeping them happy, they’ll need appropriate clothing. Some islands are particularly hot/ cold, so having the right apparel is important for productivity. I really like the attention to detail with these features, as it adds an extra layer of complexity to the game. Whilst it’s simple on the surface, there are so many aspects to consider when building your islands.

Graphics and Audio

I thought the audio used for Before We Leave was great, it really captured the spirit of the game. It has a peaceful music theme that sounds very farm-like. It’s one of those tunes that isn’t so upbeat that it’s distracting, but also isn’t so slow that it’s boring. It simply sets the tone of the game, and allows you to play without really keeping track of time. The sound effects served their purpose, and whilst they weren’t extraordinary, they were still pretty good. Overall, I thought the audio worked really well.

Before We Leave Review Xbox Series X, graphics.
As you can see, the art style is very basic.

In terms of graphics, they’re very minimalist. You can easily tell that this is an indie game, and that they had a limited budget for visual assets. However, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It has a consistent aesthetic, and whilst the graphics aren’t overly detailed, they’re also not actively bad. You get used to them really quickly too. I feel that as long as you can tell what something is representing, then the graphics are fine. In Before We Leave, you know exactly which resources to look out for, so the lack of detail isn’t a problem. I’d much prefer they commit to a basic art style that’s consistent, than try for too fancy of a style and end up falling flat.

User Interface

This is easily the weakest part of the game. Trying to figure out exactly where everything is, what it represents, and how to access it is an absolute nightmare. Most of the sections in the user interface are not labelled. There are only crude drawings of icons, and they can be really hard to interpret. It’s not overly simple to memorise what they all mean, either, as there are so many different icons in the game. The island manager especially is very confusing. The writing is so small, and it’s not easy to navigate.

There also isn’t a way to see the controller layout, so you can’t see which button does which. This is frustrating if you’re returning to the game after a while of not playing it. It also makes things difficult to pick up in the first place. It would have been nice if the pause menu had a way to see the controller layout, particularly as a lot of the button choices are unintuitive.

Confusing user interface.
There are icons which aren’t labelled, and numbers which aren’t explained.

Even the pop-up messages that appear on screen aren’t overly helpful. A lot of the time they’ll tell you what to do next, without explaining how to do it. If a building isn’t connected to a road, that building won’t work, but it also won’t warn you about it. So you’ll have to look around your entire island to make sure that everything is connected. It would’ve been nice if there could be some kind of red exclamation mark over the building in question to let you know that it’s not connected. Little things like that would go a long way to making the user interface easier to use.

Overall

All in all, I think that Before We Leave is a great strategy game, and it’s a pleasant deviation from the violent games that are so popular these days. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with violence in games, but cosy titles are also needed. There aren’t any aggressors in Before We Leave, it’s simply you managing your little civilisation. The story is captivating, the controls require thought, and it’s the kind of game you can really sink your teeth into. I think Team 17 did a great job with this one.

So, what are your favourite indie strategy games? Join the discussion over in our Facebook community! And if you enjoyed the review and want to support the site, please consider donating here 🙂

Before We Leave

£15.99
7.7

Verdict

7.7/10

Pros

  • Complex strategic system
  • Well-developed technology tree
  • Plenty of depth for long-term playability

Cons

  • Confusing user interface
  • Can be a little glitchy at times
  • Not everything is fully explained

By Screen Hype

Hi! I'm Melika Jeddi, a content writer and aspiring author. I've created Screen Hype to share my unique brand of entertaining articles with the world, and to create a fun space that everyone can feel a part of :)