Before We Leave Review (Switch)
Ready to leave whenever
Before We Leave takes place sometime after a galactic disaster that caused humanity to live inside bunkers to survive. It was only when the current generation forgot about the disaster and they wondered why they were still in bunkers when the land above can serve a better place to live and better quality of life. Well, with only remnants left of past humans, you need to help your Peeps out. This is the kind of game where your people won’t die, so there’s no threat there, but you have to strive to make everyone happy and well educated.
Before We Leave was both easy to get into and annoying to deal with for me. At the start of a game, you start with three Peeps coming out of the bunker and full view of the island you start on. It also has to be mentioned that this is laid out with hexagon tiles. First off, you will need to build some huts for them to live as they would like accommodations to be dealt with first. This also includes placing roads, which takes up a whole hexagon tile, as everything you build needs to be facing a road. From there, you can expand with ways to support these Peeps like a well for water and fields for food (don’t get sick of potatoes too soon now). As well as getting one of the first resources you need, wood, in the form of a Woodcutter placed around forest tiles. Once the basics are taken care of, you can set up a way to research technologies (though you need the corresponding research color to) so you can get more advanced like different food fields, ways to upgrade buildings, and ways to mine other resources for buildings you’ll unlock through the tech tree.
Depending on your placement, tiles will get advantages and disadvantages, though this is hard to really get on the Switch as you can’t hover over these icons. Like accommodations getting an extra Peep to live there when next to other accommodations or fields upping production when next to wells. However, there are buildings that produce pollution, which the Peeps will not like working in and risk that area getting worse and worse.
Islands are small, and it can feel crowded pretty fast. Luckily you can sail out and explore (with a spaceship being unlocked later on for planet travel). You get a free boat, well ruined boat that you have to fix up, so you can colonize the first “second” island. Different islands are essentially different biomes, introducing at least a new resource (including a new research color), having different tiles, and different weather that will affect your Peeps differently. Though, this other island (or planet) won’t have a needed resource, like tools, so you need to get trading started between your peeps (which can be annoying and confusing to set up). This includes research weirdly enough. You basically continue doing this, gathering enough resources to build the next needed thing to continue, until you reach the end game.
The fact that every building needs to connect to a road makes Before We Leave annoying and cumbersome, to the point where I just want to stop playing. I do like the hexagonal layout, but a lot of space will be reserved for roads and you can easily build in a way that will bar you from building what you want. You can build with something in mind, but you can easily run into not having enough room or for some reason the building can’t be built. There are going to be way more roads to buildings (and less if you’d rather not destroy forest tiles. And it doesn’t help that islands are pretty small, with an elevated area most likely being in the middle.
I will say that this is a relaxing game, as you don’t have to really worry over anything. No Peeps will die, even if some are left with no accommodations or if there’s not enough food/water to go around. Unhappiness does impact how fast Peeps work and later on you do need to make clothes to battle fatigue when off your original island (which also causes them to work slower).
If you don’t want to start a plain old new game, maybe you’re momentarily bored of it or perfected your strategy, there are four scenarios you can jump into. Each scenario holds its own challenge that comes with it. There’s a prequel scenario called Apocalypse Soon where you have to try and get your Peeps safely in a bunker before disaster happens. Of course, you have to actually build it and you get to see what caused the disaster. It turns out, the planet you emerge isn’t your original planet, as you must escape to another planet that is deeper within the galaxy before time runs out. Luckily, your Peeps are already well researched and you have a bunch of resources, but you need to jump planets to stay alive. Want a lot of Peeps? There’s Getting Busy where you have to keep 1000 Peeps happy. You start out with a few, but these Peeps like to breed like rabbits and you need to keep up with it resource and house wise. However, 200 sad Peeps means game over.
Seed Hunter has your Peeps looking for, well, seeds. It turns out that their seeds they stored were ruined by moisture seeping into the room, causing mold to kill all of them. They only have potatoes left and we all know how quickly that can get tiring. There have been rumors of better-preserved seeds, but they are on other planets through ancient ruins. This does also give a new rule of fields requiring the food it grows. You need to get a seed and 100 of each plant resource to win. And finally, Hut-Owner Association is as you probably can guess, there’s a HOA here and you can’t build all willy nilly. You have to build according to the rules. They don’t seem too bad, especially since there’s only two, but it definitely is.
On terms of Switch performance, it is pretty good here. At least as far as I got, I didn’t run into any framedrops either when just looking at Peeps running around or looking around with my camera. I did have some hiccups with it in the form of menus not properly closing or even just freezing all of my inputs every so often. Luckily, I had an autosave that was close to where I was every time the game wouldn’t let me close a menu so it wasn’t too annoying.
Honestly, I don’t think Before We Leave was my kinda game. I initially thought it was, which was why I picked it up, as I did play and really enjoyed another city builder (it might not be the best comparison, but it was Frostpunk), but this one I just couldn’t get into. I do feel part of it is because I’m more picky in certain genres, but a part of it is due to how annoying Before We Leave can be mainly from the road system that I just hate dealing with. Especially when you build and find out you can’t place a building and don’t have any feedback on why. It doesn’t help that this does get to feel too grindy, the AI can cause more annoyances than helping alleviate tasks, and it can be boring for those that want more of a goal or a threat. I can see why others might like Before We Leave, but for this gal it was not a hit. I do suggest checking out a gameplay video to see how someone usually approaches this game to see if this is for you before buying, and if you do get it, do it during a sale.
Though, one question remains: Is Before We Leave worth getting on Switch? Short Answer? No. Long Answer? No unless you already played this on PC or you don’t have any other way to play it and you don’t mind how awkward it can be here. While the controls do feel natural, there was some awkwardness trying to navigate the game that I feel would be way better if you at least had a mouse. Not to mention that most icons you won’t be able to hover over and see what they mean (like the icons for building placement bonuses).