We Happy Few: A First Impression
Compulsion Games, the minds behind the PS4 Launch title “Contrast,” have just released their next game on Steam Early Access and Xbox Game Preview. We Happy Few takes place in an alternate timeline Great Britain in 1964, where a drug known as Joy can regulate the perception and happiness of citizens of the town of Wellington Wells. The preview starts with you playing as Arthur Hastings working happily at his desk, censoring old newspapers that aren’t deemed happy enough for the public. Arthur comes across a newspaper article regarding his childhood, that brings back some not so good memories. He grabs for his Joy, takes a pill, censors the article and goes on with his life.
If you want to actually play the game however, Arthur rejects taking the pills and starts a spiral of events that leads to the rest of the office finding out that he is a “downer”, or somebody who is not taking their Joy. His once happy friends and co-workers suddenly turn sour and security chases him down and knocks Arthur out. He then wakes up in an underground safe house in the bombed out slums of Wellington Wells.
We Happy Few is a game of survival. Players must keep an eye on their Tiredness, Thirst, Hunger, and Health. Eating quickly becomes the hardest aspect of your early travels of Wellington Wells, as it is nearly impossible finding food that isn’t rotting or spoiled. Although this creates an interesting inventory dynamic of holding on to what precious “good” food you may have, while quickly scarfing down the more upsetting meals.
Eating these rancid meals do not come without consequence. When your character inevitably becomes either Dizzy or Nauseated. Making the screen fuzz up from time to time, Dizziness is pretty easy to handle as long as you don’t get into a 5-person street fight (which may have happened to me…) Becoming Nauseated causes your player to sporadically vomit, stopping whatever action you may be doing and rapid draining your Hunger and Thirst meter. This can only be stopped by taking certain pills found throughout the opening area of the game, making them worth their weight in gold.
On top of the survival aspect, the main draw to We Happy Few’s gameplay is their focus on blending in with the crowd. As mentioned before, the culture of Wellington Wells does not tolerate “downers” and so in order to escape the city, you must be “as snug as a bug on a drug” and watch your actions. This need to fit in to get by mentality actually lends itself really well to the gameplay. In fact, one of my personal favorite moments of the game was having to take a Joy pill to get through a police checkpoint, enforcing the idea of sometimes you have to go all the way, just to walk down the street.
Interestingly enough, We Happy Few is also considered a “Rogue-like” as well, with the environment being randomly generated with every new game. This allows you to scavenge around new areas and get a new experience every time you start the game. This randomization however, is where I have found the game to come up a little short. In a game that is very quest based, and from what I have played, crafting-focused, is a very hard thing to randomly generate.
In an early quest, I found myself in a loop of quest to inevitably get into the higher district of Wellington Wells. One of my goals was to get honey from a Bee’s Hive, which didn’t appear on the game’s map, which up until then had proven incredibly helpful. After stumbling along the streets of the bombed out slums, I finally found the bee’s hive, where I was informed that I need to craft a padded suit. This padded suit needed a certain crafting item, which I spent the next hour and a half searching for before giving up and just charging into the beehive. I never did find that crafting item in the rest of my gameplay.
With these faults however, this is where I actually believe that We Happy Few can excel. To my knowledge, this is the first game that is trying to mix Narrative Development with Random Generation, which with a little bit of tweaking, has a lot of potential. As I stated before, the game is currently only available in Steam Early Access and Xbox Preview. The game reminds you of this fact every time you start it, with a statement of the team, thanking you for buying the game and that it is around the 50% mark.
This is where my excitement for We Happy Few really takes off. The game has some really interesting ideas in how to combine the survival genre with a more narrative focused game. Currently, the Narrative side of the game is minimal for the preview build, but the game has enough in the environmental storytelling and intriguing premise, that I have faith in this project becoming great in the future.
You can buy We Happy Few on Steam Early Access and Xbox Preview.
For more information, visit www.compulsiongames.com/en/10/we-happy-few.