Before We Leave Review: A Peaceful City Builder with a Big But

Before We Leave is a relaxing take on the post-apocalypse and city building, with enough benefits to overcome its hiccups.

When I last checked in on Before We Leave in February, the game was still in alpha, but it made a solid first impression that had me anticipating the full release. With the game's final version dropping, it's fair to say that the alpha build was a fair representation of the final product, for good and for bad.

Before We Leave is a real-time strategy and city-building game for players who wish those games had just a bit more in common with the Animal Crossings of the world. If you're in the market for a game to help you relax and kill surprisingly more time than you might first think, then it might just be the game you're looking for.

Before We Leave Review: A Peaceful City Builder with a Big But

Before We Leave is a post-apocalyptic game, but whatever image that description puts in your head is probably wrong.

The closest Before We Leave gets to the drab colors and devastated wastelands of most post-apocalyptic games is in the occasional tile containing some old technology  though even those spaces are represented by bright lights of red and green — and a few piles of old metal that make up a sliver of a fraction of a percent of the total spaces on each planet.

And there will be plenty of planets, provided you play long enough and well enough to get there.

As the game starts, your five colonists emerge from an underground bunker to find a total lack of any civilization, and they possess a near-total lack of knowledge on how to build one. Shy of a few basic structures like huts and potato patches, any developments in society will need to be researched, from the complexities of space flight to the idea of cooking food before eating it.

As your colonists, called peeps, first poke their heads above ground, they have just one island to explore. The game's tutorial mode is great for slowly leading you through the process of establishing life on the planet, building to the abilities you need to repair an old wooden boat found on one of the island's shores. Once your ship is up and running, it's time to hit the seas and search for new lands.

This is a good time to pause and talk about the look of Before We Leave. While the game primarily relies on bright, simple designs, the unique structure of its planets and the passing of time creates some breathtaking scenes. The sun rising on the horizon creates a lovely tableau, and with unexplored tiles staying absent, you get some truly wonderful moments as your ship begins circumnavigating the glove and filling it out in strips.

As you explore the open seas, you'll come across a variety of islands, as well as two ice-capped poles. Two of those islands will be large enough to merit colonies and will play a crucial role in the next phase — taking to space, with the help of an old rocket from the before-times.

It's at this point that the game is capable of both showing its best elements and its worst. The movement to other planets brings a new level of intrigue to the game, as well as a certain element I won't spoil here but will certainly appear in any one-sentence pitch you make if you recommend the game to friends. And the process of building the engine you need to repair the rocket can see you slip into a relaxing auto-pilot.

Unfortunately, this can also be where the game grinds to a halt. To repair the rocket, you need to significantly expand your production and acquire large quantities of various resources, some of which are themselves produced from other harvestable resources.

Even when it goes well, there can come a point where your engine is up and running, but the high totals mean you're left sitting and waiting for your peeps to finish the job for an annoyingly-long time — even with the passage of time at full speed.

When it goes worse, you run into my primary reservation about giving Before We Leave a full-throated recommendation. While the game takes a relaxed approach to gameplay  to the extent that the worst thing that can happen to your peeps is they become unwilling or unable to work  that doesn't mean your colonies can't grind to a halt.

Colonial structures in Before We Leave often feel like they hang on a razor's edge, and one small oversight in your priority list can quickly lead to a stagnated population, with the solution either hard to identify or frustrating to implement. When this occurs, your relaxing, de-stressing game suddenly becomes its own source of agitation.

Before We Leave Review — The Bottom Line


  • An excellent option for players looking to relax and unwind in a low-stress setting
  • The comprehensive tutorial guides players through the early stages before unfolding into the full game


  • Getting peeps to do what you want, even with the help of priority levels, can become an incomprehensible puzzle when the system breaks down
  • Not all players will enjoy the rote approach to establishing production on a new island

Before We Leave comes close to hitting a home run. While it was never going to be a game that would absolutely knock your socks off or have you on the edge of your seat with anticipation, it's a great way to relax and unwind. It would be a can't miss if it weren't for the risk of running into one of those irritating logjams.

I played through several campaigns in Before We Leave for this review, and I experienced such struggles a few times, scattered between my first playthrough and one of my last. Ultimately, if you're willing to look past a few hiccups, it's a wonderful way to spend an evening or long weekend. 

[Note: A copy of Before We Leave was provided by Balancing Monkey Games for the purpose of this review.]

Our Rating
Before We Leave is a relaxing take on the post-apocalypse and city building, with enough benefits to overcome its hiccups.


Published May. 19th 2020

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