Author Topic: Before We Leave (Switch) Review  (Read 119 times)

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Offline John Rairdin

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Before We Leave (Switch) Review
« on: August 17, 2022, 10:24:48 AM »

What's the legal limit on resource types in a single game?

Long after past generations have destroyed the planet, the remnants of civilization emerge from underground vaults to start over. The ruins of the ancient world dot a landscape that has been retaken by nature. The knowledge of the ancient world has largely been lost, and these new inhabitants will have to start from scratch.

Before We Leave is a top-down, real-time city builder. There is a strong focus on managing the happiness of your residents, keeping air pollution to a minimum, and exploring and colonizing new lands. The ultimate goal is to eventually leave your planet, explore the galaxy, and spread to other worlds. The primary loop is based on gathering various forms of three general resource categories: food and water, building materials, and research gleaned from the ruins of the previous civilization. Each of these general resource categories is split into a variety types. Growing a variety of different foods increases the happiness of your people (or peeps as they’re referred to in game). Different building materials will be needed for different construction and may themselves need to be converted to a more refined state, such as iron to ingots. Research comes in multiple colors and can be spent to unlock new buildings.

On a basic level, Before We Leave has a fairly straightforward, linear progression. You start simple: building huts, chopping down trees, and growing potatoes. As you research more technology, you’ll build new buildings which in turn open up the resources you’ll need to build whatever you research next. Some buildings will also create pollution, lowering the happiness of your peeps. Other structures, along with preserving the nature around and throughout your settlement will help eliminate this pollution or just generally improve everyone’s mood. As such beyond simply expanding, there is a subgame of making sure you do so responsibly and sustainably.

The linear development of new technologies isn’t necessarily a bad thing; if all of Before We Leave’s resources were available to you from the start, it would be incredibly overwhelming. Even so, there are a lot. And as you expand to multiple settlements, remembering which one was producing which resource so you can ship it to another becomes a lot to manage. In fact, even just knowing how much of anything you have, is somewhat obscured thanks to the user interface. This surfaces in two ways. Firstly the text is very small, especially in handheld with no way to scale it up. Secondly, because there are so many resources, the vast majority of them are not shown on the main screen. Outside of wood, stone, and tools, every other resource is two menus deep. It's odd that basic things like how much food you have isn’t shown, while stone, which the player won’t even have access to until multiple research projects are completed, is displayed at all times. There doesn’t appear to be a way to change what is shown, though given the depths of menus and the size of the text, it is possible I missed something.

These concerns aside, when you’re actually engaging with your world, Before We Leave handles quite nicely. The left stick controls your cursor over the hexagonally divided grid while the right stick allows you to quickly scroll the camera. Visually, the game loses some of its lighting effects and shadows from other versions, but the art style still looks quite nice and the resolution is sharp. Loading times are a bit long but once you’re into the map they’re no longer an issue. The soundtrack by Benedict Nichols is wonderful and appropriately chill with lots of acoustic guitar and some Celtic influences. It very quickly made its way onto my go to soundtrack playlist.

Before We Leave is an extremely pleasant city-builder that gets caught up in its interface and ambitious scope. It is a combination of having limited real estate to display a lot of information, and then picking all the wrong information to show in that space. When you’re not wrestling with it, the actual moment-to-moment gameplay is very satisfying. It looks sharp and sounds fantastic. There are some hurdles to make it over, but it is hard to deny the underlying charm of Before We Leave.