When it comes to videogame genres, one, in particular, seems to stay consistently on PC but not on console and that is strategy games. This is not a set-in-stone rule and there is, of course, a clear reason these games are preferred on PC, mouse and keyboard naturally suit these kinds of games better with the multitasking nature of strategy games. Before We Leave, a strategy game that was originally released on Steam in 2020 arrived on Xbox and Xbox Game Pass on the 23rd of November 2021. The game was developed by Balancing Monkey Games and published by Team 17 whom you may be aware of for their work on the Worms and Overcooked games. So how well does this game function on new hardware, and how interesting was it for a console player who has not had much, if any, strategy game experience?
This game focus’ on the fundamentals of a civilisation building strategy game, with a slow start and a honeycomb-like grid system for each individual area in which the player will place a utility/building/road. The game goes for a very limited story simply stating that humanity (peeps as referred to in-game) has gone underground after a galactic disaster and are now coming back to the surface. This minimal story allows for the player to create their own stories in-game in one of the many modes, so I don’t consider it an issue with the game by any means. There are multiple modes which you can choose to start a campaign in, a classic mode, one that starts with a tutorial (which is very helpful for newcomers to the genre), and the extra modes called scenarios which includes a prequel of sorts to explain why the peeps took shelter underground. These extra modes such as the aforementioned pre-apocalypse prequel or starting on a planet without seeds or a population that continues to boom adds a good amount of variety and challenge to the game for those that have strategy experience already and gameplay variety in general as well.
In terms of a standard campaign, Before We Leave begins with the basics of establishing a colony on an island through creating huts and roads, until eventually reaching a point where you can explore entire planets or colonise other ones, all while micro-managing the resources used to make or upgrade these new buildings/utilities. A great example of when the feeling of resource management gets satisfying is once you discover a new island for the first time. The ship you traverse the sea in will be broken apart on arrival and it’s the equivalent of starting again like with your original island… unless your first island was prepared with resources to trade with the new island after building a trading ship. This is just a small part of the game overall however, it shows how the gameplay from one island to the next feeds into each other and speeds up the original process which may have initially been a struggle. This is a very satisfying gameplay style that is present throughout the game and made it a very enjoyable experience as you learn and advance further into the galaxy.
When looking at visual and musical aesthetics in a strategy game there needs to be a slightly different approach than taken with other genres. In terms of music, there are very limited amounts of variation since the music is mostly just a relaxing loop which was very effective in helping immerse me in the simple pleasures of making this new world. The musical aesthetic lacks variety which is a shame but for a game of this genre, this isn’t really a drawback from the experience. In terms of visuals, the game looks very pleasing with the honeycomb tiles which are clear indicators of where you can interact with the world and the art style is a nice mixture of detail but still colourful and full of personality.
One of my favourite aspects of the visual style was how you start the game with what are essentially puzzle pieces of each planet which made making a ship and finding new islands more satisfying as it felt more like filling up a map as an explorer, the same applies to going into space to find new planets too. Another favourite visual detail of mine was the artwork that shows up whenever entering a game as part of a loading screen (featured below). It fits incredibly well with the chill nature of the game’s music to counteract the multitasking busy nature of the gameplay to allow a moment of relaxation.
Overall, Before We Leave is a wonderful – if a bit straightforward – strategy game that works very well for a player new to the genre. The additional game modes add a lot of variety to the game as well which stops it from being one-note. There are certain elements of the game which are very minimal such as the story or the music but considering the genre these elements being very minimal is hardly a hindrance to what is still a fun experience.
If you’re interested in Before We Leave you can purchase it on Steam or Xbox Marketplace for around £15.99 or equivalent. If you’d like to keep up to date with all of our upcoming reviews, news, and features here at Gaming Sandbox, feel free to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. If you’d like to support us financially you can do so by following the link to our Patreon!