I find Management Sims to be surprisingly addictive. There’s something about building something from the very basics and ending up with something quite impressive at the end that gives me a sense of satisfaction.
The only problem with this genre is when things go wrong. Whether it’s running out of money like in Tropico, having guests unhappy with your elevators in Sim Tower, or having dinosaurs eat everyone like in Jurassic World Evolution, most games in the genre have their obstacles to overcome.
Enter Before We Leave – a game designed well enough to have all the systems in place for an in-depth management sim, but without any of the punishment, The goal is to provide a more laid-back experience that you can enjoy without feeling pressured.
Lets see how it fares.
Many thanks to Team17 for the review code.
NOT ANOTHER PEEP
The setup for Before We Leave is surprisingly simple. Civilization, consisting of ‘peeps’ were driven underground generations ago for some unknown reason. Missing the light of the sun and the fresh air of a winter’s morning, they decide to leave their secure refuge and set up a new society.
There may not be much to the story, but there is some kind of development as the game goes on. Not only do they progress technologically as a society, but they’ll also eventually uncover the reasons they were driven underground. It’s all very minimal, but decent enough to set the scene and gives you some eventual end goal to achieve.
As you would expect from the premise, the game starts out rather simple. After exiting your underground vault, the first thing you’ll want to do is set up shelter as well as some source of food and places where you can gather food resources. This is done by placing the relevant structure on one of the game’s hexagonal tiles. Everything needs to be connected to a road, which can feel quite limiting at first, but it’s a system that allows for everything to be interconnected without having to worry about tying yourself in knots and creating something out of reach.
Once you have the basics, the next priority will be the most important thing: building an explorer hut to allow your peeps to gather research, and a library where you can use that research to gain new technology that will advance your civilization. This gameplay loop of constant expansion is the real core of Before We Leave; despite having the same hexagonal appearance of Civilization, there’s absolutely no combat here. The challenge is creating a self-sustaining island of happy peeps while you head off to another island or world to do the same thing again. As you expand, you’ll encounter new problems – whether it be storage issues, needing more people, or just people being so sad that their productiveness takes a nose-dive. it can be quite challenging overcoming these difficulties, even if there’s no real way for your society to completely collapse in on itself.
Things get even more challenging as you expand to new islands or even whole new planets. Each island has its own technology to uncover, and some are unable to produce certain things, making expansion an absolute necessity. This is initially done using ships, but you can eventually find and repair spaceships to expand to whole new planets! To make sure everyone stays advanced, trading is something you’ll need to organise too. This can be done manually, which is recommended at first, but once you have a steady flow of materials then you can start setting up trading routes to ensure that everyone has everything.
It all works rather well, and the hexagonal nature also means that it’s a piece of cake to manage using a controller too. The game starts off with an optional tutorial that guides you through the basics, but can also be kept on after you going through the essentials if you want a more guided approach through the game.
The tutorials are very unobtrusive, and mainly consist of objectives for you to aim for, so I’m sure many players will benefit from keeping them on. The drawback to this approach is that some things aren’t quite explained particularly well, and some elements – such as managing peep happiness had me looking for a video guide to work out what to do. It’s unfortunate and does detract from the laid-back atmosphere, but once you know what to do then it’s relatively easy to deal with. One early game issue I had was when I thought I’d run out of green research points to pass to another island, when in actuality it was all stuck in the library. Setting up a trade ship to transfer research to the other island helped solve this issue, but was something that had me scratching my head for a while.
Despite these occasional issues, the game does what it does rather well. It’s simple to control on console, it looks and performs really well, and it’s very enjoyable to play. Sure, veterans of the genre may bemoan just how chilled the experience is, but there are many harder city building games to scratch that itch. As it stands, Before We Leave feels pretty unique, and the amount of tweakable options, combined with the various additional scenarios for you to conquer, will ensure that you’ll be able to spend a long time with it too.
Whilst its lack of failure states may put off hardcore city building enthusiasts, it’s still a city builder with a lot of depth and makes for a relaxing experience. The biggest positive, however, is just how well it runs considering it’s graphically rather pleasing visual style. It may not be perfect, but if you’re looking for a chilled out management experience to pass the time, Before We Leave may be just what you’re looking for.