One of the more interesting games to be highlighted at Microsoft’s E3 presentation was Compulsion Games’ dystopian adventure We Happy Few. Now that the game has arrived in preview form on both Xbox One and PC platforms we can get a chance to see what we have to look forward to when the game is eventually complete.
The original E3 video of gameplay footage is what you’ll first experience when you start the game and it plays out in very much the same way. You play Arthur Hastings, a worker in the town of Wellington Wells whose denizens are under the spell of a hallucinogenic drug called “Joy” which keeps them under control and ignorant of the world around them. Those who elect to stay off the drugs however are quickly tagged as “Downers” and find that all hell breaks loose once they are discovered.
Interaction is fairly basic here in the intro and doesn’t reveal any of the complex mechanics you’ll encounter soon after which is unfortunate because right after that tutorial sequence completes you get to see the real meat of the game and are literally left to your own devices with only a cursory explanation of what else you’ll be dealing with. I really think that there could have been some value in stretching out the first few minutes past the intro with some extra guidance so that you get a clearer picture of what you’ll face.
Once in that outside area We Happy Few feels like an open world survival game with quests. There is a VERY strong emphasis though on the survival aspects; time passes very quickly in the game and if you aren’t carefully managing your character’s health you will find them needing sleep or worse starving, dehydrated and very quickly dead.
In my case during my first run of the game, I ate rotten food found in a house and my character began vomiting to the point of my food and drink stats plummeting to zero and blacking out soon after as I tried to return to the only water source I had found.
This can happen pretty quickly so you might need spend a bit of your time early on collecting supplies (or trading them) before you can focus on the quests. Dying and restarting might not be so bad but at the moment load times can seem a little too excessive and is something that hopefully improves with the game.
Permadeath is a big part of the game in terms of increasing the challenge and replay aspects, though you can elect to turn it off when you start a new game. Each time you start fresh, the world is generated again so you’re always forced to continually become familiar with your surrounding each and every time. I’m assuming that the long load times are tied to this generation process too – they’re a bit longer than you might like so hopefully that gets optimized over time.
Though the game brings BioShock to mind almost immediately thanks to its stellar art style which evokes that series in a 1960’s setting, there’s also a lot of Fallout in there too with its dark humour and oddball characters. It really looks unique and stands out from the crowd. Interacting with NPCs is interesting in that your dialogue appears to reflect your character’s current mood and I have to admit it made me chuckle with the occasion “f*** off” responses I was given from time to time.
Xbox One players get a chance to sample the preview game for a short time (an hour) before having to pay for it. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of it so far but am hoping we get to see it developed further as it will be hard for many players to get enough of an idea of the game in such a short period of time.
Worth noting is that as the game is part of the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative, Xbox One owners will also get access to the Windows 10 version for free when the game finally ships.
We Happy Few is available now via Steam, GOG.com, Humble Bundle or Xbox Marketplace. Just remember that the game is still a work in progress and there’s more to be added before it is finished.