The promise of a pacifist territory conquest game caught our eye. The opening statement, which recounts the rediscovery of the world after a long confinement, fell too well, and the artistic direction all in roundness made it possible not to be too frightened by the usual complexity of the genre.
And to top it all, the Epic Games Store sales make the title particularly accessible. All the conditions were there to be tested Before We Leave.
(Test of Before We Leave made on PC via a commercial copy of the game)
A XXX game
To understand the promise of a 3X game, you have to go back to the origins, with Civilization. Released in 1991, the first Civilization is not the first 4X type game (King’s Bounty or Imperium came out before him), but certainly the one that will have marked the genre the most. Its longevity is a good indication of the scope of the license, since the series still exists after nearly 30 years of existence.
The 4X are eXploration, eXploitation, eXpansion and eXtermination. We owe the formula to an American journalist who would have used it for the very first time to define Master of Orion, a strategy management game released in 1993 on PC.
In a 4X, we will first take its marks and recognize the map (exploration), then build its small village using the natural resources that this map (exploitation) offers us. Small village which we will have for mission to make grow (the expansion) in order to become powerful enough to go to conquer by arms other corners of the map: it is extermination.
What about Before We Leave? If we are talking about 3X, it is because the game claims its pacifism! Extermination point in the game. The planets that we are going to conquer are uninhabited, we are limited to the first three X’s, and our (almost) only enemy will be the lack of optimization of the resources we have …
Surprisingly, the game begins as survivors of a planetary catastrophe leave their shelter after several long years of confinement. They will then have to (and we will have to) re-tame their habitat, while taking advantage of the technological vestiges left to them by the previous civilization which has now disappeared.
As in the classics of the genre, we start with a fairly limited resource base, which we will have to use optimally to be able to grow our small society. First build sawmills to provide wood, plant some vegetables and dig a well to have enough to survive … The first tens of minutes are welcoming, but all in all very classic.
The game takes advantage of its post-apocalyptic scenario by making us recycle materials on vestiges of the previous civilization. So to get iron, you don’t build a mine, but loot abandoned construction equipment.
As well as exploring the map, some skilled workers can understand how relics work, and collect research points that allow us to develop new technologies. Scriptwriting originalities which are nevertheless quite expected in the gameplay.
Where the game stands out is in its graphic presentation. While retaining the eternal hex hexes unique to strategy games, the map takes the form of a globe. We will indeed quickly set out to conquer the entire planet, continent by continent (even if the latter are in the game designated as being islands).
We then play on a rather convex surface, not at all to scale. The planet is indeed very small in terms of its inhabitants who can perfectly go around it in a day … A bias that reminds a little of the little planet at the campfire of Outer Wilds
And it’s not innocent, because like in Outer Wilds, Before We Leave will quickly suggest that we explore space, and set off again in search of other habitable planets. This space where, as is well known, nobody hears you screaming … Because if it is not a case of going to war against your neighbors, Before We Leave is not without danger (which we will not spoil here!).
Optimization and trade
We have a first glimpse of it by managing our first two, then three continents, but we realize the magnitude of the task as soon as we can leave the cows floor. The core of Before We Leave’s gameplay is optimization. What to put on which box? Everything is a matter of choice, and of recommencing. We will often destroy to rebuild differently.
A necessary optimization that presents itself to us from the first constructions, since the various elements (buildings, culture, etc.) can only be placed near a road.
Especially since, being unable to control the characters themselves, our progress in the game depends on the goodwill of the inhabitants to do the work that we collectively entrust to them. It is therefore necessary that the places of residence are not too far from the places of production, that the shortest possible routes connect them, etc.
And then, different resources being in different places, we will quickly have to organize trade routes. Between continents, first, then between planets. It will then be necessary to decide if we specialize this or that place (a continent devoted to the production of fuel, for example, which will export it everywhere else), or if we try to build more versatile places to live …
Simple, but not simplistic
With its graphics of little guys like coming out of the Magic Tree (this toy that we all had, whatever our age!), Before We Leave is an extremely welcoming strategy game, which takes the player by the hand.
An excellent introduction to those who are a little worried about the complexity of a Civilization, or an Anno 1800 that is too esoteric. The tutorial of Before We Leave is perfect, very progressive, but immediately immerses us in a real game. The more seasoned players in the genre will surely note a certain lack of depth, but it is not said that they will not have fun building, then destroying their village to rebuild it in order to optimize the interstellar cotton route …! Especially considering the low price at which the game is sold…
We will first appreciate Before We Leave because it allows us a quiet entry into the genre. The absence of a war phase also makes it possible to approach the game in a more relaxed way (even if certain dangers threaten us nevertheless …). However, the game is not just a 4X for beginners, and has some interesting things like space travel, planet discovery, and trade routes.
By combining its qualities with the current promotions of the Epic Games Store, which offer the game for a small € 7, we will not hesitate to recommend the title which, if it ends up being a little routine, first promises a few dozen hours of fun! Then migrate to Civilization VI, just free for a few days on the Epic Games Store.