Before We Leave Review: A Cozy 4X Perfect For Consoles
Before We Leave is consistently pleasant. Between its adorable look, calming music, and zen gameplay experience, I spent most of my time with it with a slight grin plastered on my face. Some genre fans may balk at the lack of real challenge or stakes, but this will be just what draws many other players to it, especially those new to the 4X genre. This pace also makes it an excellent fit for those looking to play on a console.
Humanity starts Before We Leave by emerging from underground bunkers, ready to begin anew. Your peeps, as the game calls them, are the remnants of human civilization after a nuclear holocaust wiped out most of humanity. A few people managed to survive in underground bunkers, staying down there so long that they’ve forgotten most of human history, but not so long that a few remnants aren’t hanging around.
You’ll start with a small-scale society of only a few people, building humanity back from the start. In the early going, you’ll need to do all the standard stuff this genre is known for. Start gathering resources like wood and tools and explore your starting island. Build basic buildings like huts and a school to start educating more peeps. The more you build, the more resources you can gather and the more you can expand your society. Soon you’ll be building elevators, ships and repairing ancient technology. Eventually, you’ll leave the planet entirely, going to the stars and expanding your society beyond the limits of our planet.
Like any 4X game, it can seem like a lot, and it is to a degree. There are an almost overwhelming number of menus and options to look through and learn about. It rarely feels like too much, though. Your first full game starts with a tutorial, though you can turn it off. This will walk you through the early part of the game, though once you get your first shipping lanes up and running, the game will prompt you to see if you want continued help or to turn this off.
Keeping Things Low Key
The other reason things never feel overwhelming is that Before We Leave never puts very high stakes on anything. Your peeps don’t die. Instead, they might get upset, hungry, thirsty, which you’ll have to address if you want them to get back to work. Any mistake can be corrected, though; it’s just a matter of figuring out what needs fixing. That’s true of building your societies as well. If you mess something up or put a road somewhere that doesn’t really work, you can just clear it all out and start over. That can sometimes be a pain, but it’s always an option.
There’s really very little in the way of challenge at any point in Before We Leave. For some, this may be a problem, but I found it a refreshing change of pace. Playing it wasn’t about rushing along. I just sat back and enjoyed the game’s zen feeling, which comes across beautifully. In many ways, this makes this an ideal game in the genre for console players. While I’m sure it would feel better on a mouse, the control scheme here is relatively simple, and the menus are well laid out in a way which makes accessing them with a controller work. If I was rushing to save my people from ongoing disaster perhaps, I’d feel differently, but here it just works. An extremely pleasant soundtrack and visuals that look like they popped out of a storybook help drive that feeling home wonderfully. If you need to speed things up a bit, you do have the option to up the game’s speed with the tap of a button, though a few times, I wished I could up it even more than I could.
A Few Bumps In The Road
If the core game of Before We Leave gets old, the developers took the time to provide some additional options. A variety of scenarios are designed to push a veteran player a bit more. One scenario drops you into an apocalypse that is nearing in a sort of prequel to the main game, while another challenges you to keep peeps happy on an overpopulated world. These scenarios are fun, though they didn’t eclipse the main game for me.
While these options are nice, you’re only going to go so far with them. This is still at its core a very simple game and one that won’t likely keep players engaged for long. It’s the sort of title to enjoy over a long weekend, not one to expect months of fun from. This was driven home a bit by the performance issues I ran into more and more as my societies grew. Getting to a new island only to have the game struggle to keep up and take 10 seconds or more to respond when I opened menus didn’t help. Restarting frequently seemed to help a bit, but when a game takes the time to support features like Quick Resume, it would be nice to be able to really utilize them without trouble.
I had a wonderfully pleasant time playing Before We Leave. While consoles may never be ideal for simulation titles, if I’m going to check one out with a controller, this is exactly the version I’m looking for. A few performance issues and a lack of variety may make this a game to be enjoyed briefly, but the cozy vibe it gives off feels just right. Grab a nice cup of tea, wrap yourself up in a warm blanket, and enjoy.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Xbox Series X(Reviewed), Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PC; Publisher: Team17; Developer: Balancing Monkey Games; Players: 1; Released: November 23rd, 2021; ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Before We Leave provided by the publisher.