Before We Leave is a slightly different kind of world building simulation. I really thought that I would like it, especially since I played for so long, losing time until the wee hours of the morning. But something happened, and I am not sure now. Maybe I will figure it out while writing this?
What makes Before We Leave different from others in the genre really resonated with me. The world is broken into hexes, which I think gave me a little more flexibility in how I built my islands. I think these hexes are randomly generated each time you start a new colony, adding replayability that I was lacking with my favorite in the genre, Aven Colony. I also liked the simple to learn, but deep if preferred gameplay mechanics. For instance, roads make traveling easier, but you can still move things around without roads if you aren’t bothered to set up a good system. Finally, it has a much broader scale than most of the genre. Although you start as a small island colony, you will eventually explore the whole planet, with multiple island colonies supporting each other through trade. Then you can even colonize other planets, creating a system wide trade triangle supporting each planet.
With the differences out of the way, I will discuss the basics of the genre and thus the game. Your job is to grow your small colony, taking advantage of the natural resources to keep your population happy. For example, although your people can survive on water and potatoes, they will be much happier with prepared meals and smoothies. You have a tech tree that allows you to research new buildings to achieve your goals. Luckily, if this all sounds too complicated, the games tutorial actually spans the entire game, not just the beginning.
The controls are pretty easy, since a lot of game is just menus, moving around the world with the joysticks, and interacting with hexes with a face button. There are other things used, Ike triggers for menus and the d pad for time manipulation, but none of them are essential.
The artstyle is bright and colorful, making it easy to see the differences in hex types. Some buildings can look very similar when oriented the same way, so I found it useful to try to orient them in different directions when placed close to each other.
There’s a few difficulty levels to fit your experience with the genre and challenge preferences. There’s also four scenarios that modify the game in some way, adding an extra challenge to overcome. The first sets a time limit to colonize another planet. Another makes food hard to diversify. After that, one makes your population grow much faster. The last has you following rules set up by your residents.
In the end, I enjoyed time I spent playing on the first planet, but I never could figure out how to move my spaceship to another planet, much less colonize one. So that feels like I don’t get to fully experience the game. Sure, I had fun initially, but do I really want to keep replaying single planets games forever? The kinda loses its uniqueness that way… I really don’t know. I don’t know if I will play it more. I don’t know if I should recommend it to anyone. It is currently on Game Pass, so you could always give it a try yourself! I received an Xbox code for Before We Leave from a PR agency with the expectation for an article of some kind. I played the game for about 15 hours on a Series X. I am mostly blind, so some things I have trouble with may not affect your experience with the game. Before We Leave is available now on several platforms.