We Happy Few is a singleplayer, first person survival game. It is set in an alternate 1960s England. Society is, as the name suggests, quite the happy bunch. Lavish folks from the cities take “joy” pills that ensure a well structured and ordered society. Less fortunate folks from the ghettos, and those who choose not to divulge in “joy”, are called Downers.
From the initial depression setting in due to not taking your daily dose of “joy”, to the literal gore, We Happy Few makes it quite obvious from the get-go that this is a dark game. The game is unique in that it creates an extremely stark contrast between the two lifestyles, and it does so fantastically.
What follows is a written overview of the first few hours of We Happy Few (Early Access).
You play as Arthur, one of three playable characters that will be available at launch. Everything seems perfect and colourful. Too perfect, and almost too colourful. As Arthur, you have to make your way through the entire demo that was shown at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2016.
After you have done your daily dues and earned your dollar (or pound, I assume), you have to make your way through the office. Here, you can take as much time as you need to explore the offices of fellow co-workers and dig up some dirt on them. Arthur, quite vocal in this build, seems to be quite a thoughtful bloke. He likes to present the player with questions pertaining to the people in his life, which can be slightly confusing given that there is no additional backstory for the character (not yet, anyway).
Eventually players get to learn the dark truth of “joy” and exactly how it disguises blood and gore with joyful representations. Arthur’s co-workers quickly pick up on the fact that he has missed one too many doses of joy, of course, and they do not hesitate to call security. A short and honestly tense, scripted chase ensues. One that ends with Arthur being caught.
Arthur wakes up in an underground bunker called a Safe House. Here, players will store their items, get some much needed sleep, and find a couple of super helpful items. To add to that extra creep factor, “Uncle Jack” is on just about every television you can feast your eyes on. I was not able to uncover much on Uncle Jack, other than he would have fit perfectly into a Dr Seuss story.
When I say that sleep is needed, I really do mean that it is very important. As soon as Arthur goes on about how tired he is, he becomes extremely weak in combat. In my first few hours with the game, I managed to die on Day 2 thanks to a bunch of Downers who threw rocks at me as I passed a small garden. I think that each character will have his or her own pros and cons when the game releases. Kind of like Don’t Starve, where every character should be played differently in order to best exploit their strengths. Similarly, players can also craft weapons and healing items to help a teeny bit with survival.
My biggest gripe with the current version of We Happy Few is not the occasional frame rate drop or the long load times. Rather, I had a genuinely hard time getting to grips with the playable world after the initial introduction sequence. Like most survival games, there is a ton of stuff to keep track of. Food, water, health, and even the status of your crafted items must be kept in check. I honestly found that it was all too much to handle at one given time, too complicated.
Although I was told that the game will offer little in the way of narrative, I was genuinely confused for most of my initial experience with the Early Access title. The game throws you right into the thick of things. It expects you to have some idea of what to do right from the get-go, without any real explanation of how or why.
Once I left the Safe House, the game opened up, and I was welcomed to the town of Wellington Wells. Just like its name, it really is a well — a long dark pit of dread and sorrow. My first run with the game had me die on Day 2, thanks to Rock-throwing folks who I must have looked at funny. My second go at the game was a bit better, but I ended up starving to death while I was trying to cross a secured bridge. Moreover, the town is filled to the brim with sad folks who have definitely seen much better days.
As much as I had a hard time surviving, I had an incredible time walking around and checking out the game world. We Happy Few is set in, at least for the time being, quite a pretty locale. Even for its rundown state and poor, sickly inhabitants, Wellington Wells blew me away. What makes it even better is that the town is procedurally generated. No two playthroughs look the same!
Overall, We Happy Few is a game that has a lot of potential. In its current state, it seems to be a small sandbox survival game that offers little exposure. Developer Compulsion Games have said that they will be expanding on the cities of the game in the future. They also said that the game will eventually feature a much larger narrative than what is currently offered – I know that this is what Hans is most excited for.
The game is a beautiful demo for what could be an incredible game. I keep thinking of it as a 3D version of Don’t Starve, and I stand by this thought. We Happy Few features an extremely interesting playable character that is not afraid to voice his opinion.
The game is set for a full release sometime in 2017. This gives Compulsion Games quite some time to figure out exactly what they want to do with it. My experience on this Early Access build boils down to a bunch of confused hours, and a couple of “oh wow” moments. Ultimately, I cannot wait for the game to get the extra polish it needs to be a full-fledged game. Right now it is a decent game with loads of potential, but it is also one that needs to cook a little longer before it is worth consuming.
[Vamers received Early Access codes to We Happy Few for Steam and Xbox One directly from Compulsion Games].