In the far future, humanity lives in underground bunkers. This is a tale that has been told countless times, but Before We Leave puts a new spin on things: the world is better now. People are exiting the shelters and coming back up to the surface, ready to restore the world.
At first glance, Before We Leave looked like it would be a game I would enjoy. It promised city building, resource management, and traveling to other planets. It does have all of those mechanics, but how it executes them is another story altogether.
Emerging From the Underground
Things kick off with your people safely nestled in an underground bunker. Starting players get some basic resources, and it isn't terribly difficult to provide for the first group of people. From there, the player must move along the tech tree to unlock new buildings.
Simultaneously, an explorer will head out onto the map to recover old-world technology. This tech opens up access to useful buildings like warehouses and further tiers of production facilities like iron mines, iron smelters, and toolsmiths.
In my experience, setting up and exploring the first island takes an hour at most. From there, it's time to repair a dilapidated ship and get to exploring the planet.
Sand and Snow
Before We Leave is still changing, and earlier versions let me select the size of the planet. The most current version, however, gives the player a planet that's just right — not too small, but not too large.
Once you set sail on the ocean, there is the choice of colonizing a sandy desert island or a snowy tundra island. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. The sand island can grow more food, but only on a handful of hexes. The snow island seems to have access to more raw materials, but you can't grow as nice of a variety of food to keep your people happy.
Setting up the second and third colonies also opens up the possibility of shipping. A "shipping lane" system exists that allows the player to automatically move goods around, but I found it to be very limited. I was unable to set minimum or maximum quotas for moving goods in the shipping lanes (or in production at all, for that matter).
Colonizing either island also opens up a new class of research items. The first island gives you "green" research points and either of the two other islands gives you "red" research points. Higher-level tech requires access to both red and green points.
The Road to the Stars
Organizing three colonies to produce the right goods is a challenge in its own right. Eventually, one might turn their eyes to the stars. A derelict spaceship exists somewhere on the planet, and this is the player's ticket off this rock.
Repairing the spaceship takes a lot of resources, and this is where one of the game's deepest flaws rears its ugly head — the pacing is awful. Producing goods felt like it took far too long.
As an example, I had facilities set up to produce steel. Iron and power — both of which are required to make steel — were abundant. Yet despite prioritizing the steel production buildings and shutting down all of the non-essentials, it came out at a trickle.
Pacing matters, but it matters all the more so when a giant space whale starts eating your planet.
Before We Leave Preview | Failure to Launch
Playing the first world is a happy endeavor. Everyone is farming, making items, and generally being happy. Going to space is where the real trouble starts.
Once a second planet is colonized, the space whales start coming. The only way to stop these annoying creatures from eating your planet is to bribe them with food. This requires a space elevator, an expensive structure that takes a lot of time and resources to build. My planet was nibbled on more than once.
I managed to get a space elevator built after some trepidation. From there, I needed to get supplies sent off to the new world. I built a launchpad, constructed a trade ship... and it wouldn't launch. I tried to destroy it to rebuild it, but now the game said that I already had one of these buildings and couldn't make another. A disappointing end to roughly 20 hours of play.
Fundamentally, Before We Leave has interesting gameplay, charming art, and many good ideas behind its design. Its execution, however, leaves much to be desired. This game has a lot of wrinkles that need to be ironed out. Once they are, I think it will make for an engaging experience.
TechRaptor conducted our Before We Leave preview via the Epic Games Store with a copy provided by the developer.