City builders are neat, but they don’t have nearly enough space whales. Fortunately, Before We Leave does. It’s a freshly announced “nonviolent city building game” where you can eventually set up an interplanetary network of wooden villages, so long as you can deal with the celestial cetaceans that come along and try to eat your planets.
I got a sneak peek at GDC back in March, and the promise doesn’t stop at the premise.
It’s all rather chill, before the advent of total whale-based annihilation. You’re building your civilisation on the ruins of the old, rummaging for tech and solving puzzles left by your ancient ancestors. Have a gander.
Discovering and repurposing that tech will likely be one of your main goals. When I chatted with solo developer Sam Barham, he mentioned “a time-dilation device that you can attach to a building to make it twice as fast, or a matter-splitter that means it produces twice as many things for the same input resources.” This was a few months ago and he stressed much was in flux, but the sentiment should remain: “you know, weird stuff”.
Since we spoke, Barham seems to have doubled down on his non-violent aspirations. The build I saw had goblins and space pirates, but the Steam blurb says “there are no weapons, no fighting your neighbours for control of resources and unless you fail to handle an incoming space whale, your people will not die”. Back in March, I asked Barham why making a non-violent game is important to him.
“I enjoy violent games, I have no problem with violent games, I have no problem with them morally… or not a significant one. But I just don’t want to contribute to that, basically.”
We also spoke about the environmental message implicitly tucked away in Before We Leave, both in the collapse of that previous civilisation and in the world-devouring whales. He told me about how proud he was of his kids taking part in a student protest march against climate breakdown.
“My kids school was like ‘yes, go, hurray!’. Other kid’s schools were like ‘no, you get double detention if you go on this protest march’. I was like, what are you teaching our children? So anything I can do in my own small way to promote the kind of world I hope my kids can inherit is… what kind of person am I if I don’t try?”
Before We Leave is coming to Steam Early Access this autumn.