Before We Leave - Review

Before We Leave is a colony/settlement builder game by New Zealand studio Balancing Monkey Games.  Billed as a non-violent city building game you are more concerned will establishing your colony than worrying about external threats.  The game released on the Epic Store on 8th May 2020.

For people who have played game such as Foundation, The Colonists or The Settlers the basic gameplay loop will be familiar.  You start with a small number of peeps and resources and must build up your colony.  As always, having played through the tutorial I highly recommend that you do this to start with as it introduces the various aspects of the game at a nice pace and the back story.

For generations your people have dwelled underground following a galactic disaster.  Now that the planet is habitable again you are ready to venture out of your bunker, however over time you have forgotten how to grow anything other than potatoes and have lost various technological advancements into the ether of time and space.

Our first peeps emerge from their underground bunker
When you first load a new game you will see an island with a few things on it.  The key things to note initially are your vault location and that there is a ruined generator, ruined ship and a transmogrifier.  These will all come of use in the early game by providing power for buildings you will unlock, a supply of tools until your supply chains are fully established, and transportation to other islands on the planet.

Predictably, your first course of business will be to establish a supply of wood as your most basic building material, along with surface dwellings and sources of food and drink for your peeps.  You will also want to establish your supply lines which allow for the research and development of more advanced technology.

To unlock new technology you need two buildings - an explorers hut to gather research points and a library to conduct your research.  There are a variety of research points to gather and this is done autonomously by your peeps once the explorers hut is completed.  Your starting island will have clusters of green coloured ancient technology with red and blue research points available later in the game.  When you open the library there is a tech tree which shows the available research, their cost depending on colour of research points and any dependencies they have.

The tech tree available at the start of the game
As you progress through the game you will find a range of new resources to harness from new crops providing cotton and therefore clothing, to oil which can be refined into a more efficient fuel than burning wood.  Resource management becomes key as you progress and begin to colonise additional islands.  Some islands may be mostly desert which limits the amount of fertile land available, whilst others will have no sand making glass manufacture impossible.

To achieve this you will need to establish shipping lanes.  To be able to do this you require, initially, to repair the ruined ship near your bunker.  After you have used this to colonise a new island, and unlocked shipping using the new research available, you will be able to build a shipwright to build new scout, colony and trade ships, and harbours through which to trade items between island.

This will be important to start your new settlement as you will only have 5 peeps on your colony ship.  Your first order will be to build a couple of houses as I have found that without a house, they won't complete any other tasks set.  After this you will need to build a school to educate new peeps and build up your population on the new island, whilst also ensuring that your original islander remain happy.

Shipping lanes transporting goods between 3 islands.  The red icon indicates the source island does not have sufficient stock for the order
Exploration is vital to the survival of your peeps.  As I've mentioned before this will allow you to gather research points to unlock new technologies, but it will also unearth a variety of other structures across the surface of the planet.  These will include destroyed buildings and some sort of robot which allow you to gather stone and iron, ancient structures which will grant research and a destroyed space ship.  

The last of these could be considered the end game for your first planet.  These require a large number of peeps and resources to repair, but once repaired it will allow you to send a small party of peeps into space in search of a new planet to colonise.  This essentially operates in the same way as the colonisation of new islands and with a launchpad and landing pad you can construct space ships to trade between your planets.  Once you reach your second planet the game is not over - you will still have more planets to discover and explore, more tech to unlock and, whilst not combatant NPCs, a few hazards to contend with.

En route to settle on a new planet
This is one of those games which I first discovered almost a year ago whilst browsing through upcoming indie games and immediately knew it was something I wanted to get my hands onto.  From the subject matter of the game as a colony builder to the graphics this games ticks all of the boxes for me.  It's refreshing in one of these games not to have to worry about bandits destroying your hard work in the way you would in The Settlers series, although as I mentioned there are hazards present which I wont spoil.

I really like the hex grid style of the game and I particularly like the way that the fog of war works.  Rather than simply being obscured segments becoming visible as you explore, the planet actually forms with new hex tiles popping into place.  It seems like such a small thing but it makes a nice change from an expansive flat world.  The one thing I would say though is that at times it can sometimes be a bit difficult to get the camera to go exactly where you want when zoomed out a bit.
Generator and Transmogrifier Before We Leave
The ruined generator and transmogrifier on your starting island to help you get started
Before We Leave World
Exploring a planet with new planet tiles being added to complete the globe
Before We Leave World View
A zoomed out overview of one of my planets
Before We Leave Sunrise
The sun rises over my settlement
Before We Leave Searchlight
A light tower watches over the settlement at night
Before We Leave Warehouse
Setting which resources will be stored in my warehouse after the Over and Under update
Before We Leave Happiness
The new peep happiness overview / heatmap added in the Over and Under Update
Before We Leave Pollution
The new pollution overview / heatmap added in the Over and Under Update
Before We LEave New Island
Our colony ship has landed on a new island, ready to expand our horizons
Before We LEave Settlement
A View across the settlement
I can see this game giving me hours of enjoyment, even in the couple of days I've played it this week I've racked up almost 6 hours and feel like I'm barely scratching the surface and can see that there is a long way for me to go in terms of my research.  The devs have a clear roadmap with the next phase due to bring more road types, refinements to the power systems and the ability to destroy mountains which can get in the road.

Overall the game is in a fantastic position for being only a couple of months into the early access phase and the developers are very active and responsive in the Discord server.  If colony builders and settlement games are you jam you'll definitely enjoy Before We Leave which is beautiful in its simplicity of gameplay.  You know what you need to do and the UI is very clean and helps you in executing your plan.  Without a doubt this is a must buy and at just £15.99 is, quite honestly, a steal.  You can grab it now on the Epic Store.

Before We Leave - Review Before We Leave - Review Reviewed by Parcival on August 31, 2020 Rating: 5

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