Once again I’ve been caught in the Xbox Game Pass “Leaving Soon” vortex. I saw a new batch of games (just a few this month) were leaving and one of them was Before We Leave, which at some point I’d heard enough about that I wanted to give it a try while it was still free.
Before We Leave is a city builder, I guess? I can’t keep my genres straight these days. We used to call these 4X games though one of the Xs was for eXterminate and I don’t think there is any combat in Before We Leave. At least not in the early game.
Let me back up. So the premise is that some unspecified disaster forced the population of this planet underground. Now decades or generations later, they’re ready to emerge, with your help. So you build them houses, you build them farms, you place a woodcutter to gather wood. Build a library to research new technologies. Very familiar stuff.
Couple things set it apart. The world is hex-based and you start on a fairly small island. Everything you build has to be connected together by roads, and a road takes up an entire hex. You have to really put some thought into where you build your roads as you can block yourself off from resources pretty easily. So that’s somewhat unique. And since your island is small one of your first goals is to build a ship to set off in search of a 2nd island and when you do, start a colony on it. You’ll almost certainly need to ship goods to your new colony to help them get started, so trade routes are a big deal.
Riffing off this trading requirement, Research comes in several colors. (Why? No idea!) Each island seems to produce research of a single color, but some technologies require specific quantities of research of specific colors, meaning you’ll definitely have to ship research points between islands to get a Library stocked with enough of the right types of research to discover new tech. I find this interesting because it forces you to keep your colonies connected on some level rather than just building a bunch of self-sustaining colonies.
As I said, I haven’t played for very long but since it is “Leaving Soon” (in 10 days as of the time of this writing) I wanted to get this out asap. It’s on Game Pass both for Xbox and PC. It’s also available on Steam for $20 and has a “Mostly Positive” ratings with a bit over 1000 reviews. (The Steam version came out in 2021.)
The thing that really hooked me is that the console UI is actually decent. So often strategy games feel pretty clunky on console, and to be sure there are a few rough spots in Before We Leave’s console UI, but it is definitely better than most strategy games I’ve tried.
The devs refer to this as a cozy game. What makes it cozy? I have no idea. Maybe that your new colony survives on the bones of its dead ancestors? (You ‘mine’ rock and iron from mostly-destroyed skyscrapers and such.) Or that fact that some of your buildings generate pollution that can adversely affect your people? Do these facets make it cozy? Really I’m baffled as to why they call this a cozy game, but based on my couple hours of play, it is a good game.
Definitely worth a try if you’re a Game Pass subscriber and you read this in the next ten days!