I have a very odd relationship with colony sims, management sims, city builders or whatever within those genres. I love how relaxing they are, as well as how much structure there is. But they also befuddle me and overwhelm me with the amount of micromanagement there can be. This is also something I love too, so yeah. So, where do I stand with Before We Leave from Balancing Monkey Games and Team 17?
First, it uses (counts side to be sure) hexagons as the tiles for all building and expanding, which really sits easily with me. Second, I can seem to plan easier with hexagons than I can with squares or even free-flow options. It is something about the shape my brain understands well.
The point of Before We Leave is very similar to other colony sims, where you are given a base map and you are tasked with building, expanding, and managing resources to make things better for your Peeps (as named in the game) before expanding further to discover new planets.
Before We Leave is a non-violent game on the whole and something the developers are keen to point out, but that doesn’t mean a few twists here and there. Nothing that’ll hit you too hard, but enough to refocus your attention at key moments within the game.
One of the biggest issues I have with many games within the genre is quickly letting things get away from me, getting stressed and mentally checking out. There is either a sudden change in how much I should be doing or finding myself attacked and unable to respond in time. Or there becomes way too much to do at any one time.
Cities Skylines is an example of this. Whilst I love the game and still play it regularly, I find that I spend too much time worrying about little things that could go wrong, whilst trying to do some traffic management and knowing that the smallest change in one part of the city could have a massive impact. Or I get too focussed on one thing; I come back out to realise I have dead bodies piling up all over the place. Thankfully there are mods!
So this is where Before We Leave gets so much credit. In the few hours I have had with it so far, I have managed to feel relaxed and in control at all times. Sure it adds layers of depth as you get further in, but it all seems to come in at the right time. It is a game that allows mistakes and, so far, allows me the time to be able to fix them. This stems from an excellent opening tutorial that introduces UI elements and game mechanics in an easy to follow way.
That being said, I did have to restart the tutorial once, as I somehow messed up where I placed some roads and also couldn’t find where to place another element. Somehow I believe that was a complete user error, as restarting allowed me to see the painfully obvious prompts.
As the world grows and there is more to manage, it does require a lot more mental juggling but never as much as other games in the genre. Trading took me a while to get my head around. It was difficult but that is because I have a certain expectation based on other titles, but again Before We Leave has made this simplified without making it simple.
I honestly think for the seasoned 4X, City Builder, Colony Sim, Resource Management types; this may not be their cup of tea. But for me and my ADHD brain, I have found a game in the genre that I feel comfortable playing at my own pace without losing what makes those games work. Well done to Balancing Monkey Games
Before We Leave is out now on Steam and EGS for around £16 from Balancing Monkey Games and Team 17