First Impressions: We Happy Few (Early Access)

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After much anticipation and brilliant marketing campaigns that practically sold itself due to the games enthralling narrative, We Happy Few is currently available for Early Access on Steam. This is a game that many gamers have had their eyes on, with high hopes, ever since its successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015. The game is officially described as such:

We Happy Few is the tale of a plucky bunch of slightly terrible people trying to escape from a lifetime of cheerful delusion. Set in a drug-fuelled, retro-futuristic city in an alternative history 1964 England, you’ll have to blend in with its other citizens, who don’t take kindly to people who don’t abide by their not-so-normal rules.

While it is unfair to give a game a fully fleshed-out review when it is still in Early Access, we have had a chance to play the game in its current embodiment. The first thing to note is that the execution of worldbuilding and narrative tonality is pitch perfect. From the opening cinematic sequence, which was featured at the Microsoft Press Conference at E3 2016, to the free roaming aspects of the gameplay, We Happy Few is jam packed with atmosphere. The setting is reminiscent of films like V for Vendetta, a little bit of Hunger Games, mixed with some of Amazon’s Man in the High Castle, and a whole bunch of drugs.

After spending enough time in the game, it sort of consumes your thoughts, however, especially when you aren’t even playing the game. Several times throughout the day, I would find myself thinking about the game, and how much truth there is to the governmental conditioning of its citizens, and even seeing it in the American people. In We Happy Few, the people are all kept in line by forcing everyone to take a mandatory drug called Joy. If you are off of your medication, you are labeled a ‘Downer,’ and forcibly placed back on the drugs, or worse, potentially murdered.

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One thing in this game that really surprised me was the implementation of the gameplay, itself. I was not expecting the game to include survival mechanics, but sure enough in the game, you do have to concern yourself with hunger levels, hydration, sleep, and not to mention you not getting yourself exposed as a downer. To be completely honest, these survival features of the game, although more “realistic,” took away from my level of immersion. This is a game where I really wanted to explore this acid-trip dystopia, but I had to break away and find a glass of water or take a nap. The game features a full-fledged inventory system with crafting elements and equipment. Going into We Happy Few, I was expecting much more of a Stanley Parable-type gameplay approach, where the game would be more non-committal in its ability to just pick up and explore, without too many strings attached. For better or for worse, Compulsion Games had a different idea, and made the game quite a lot bigger than I think many are expecting.

As far as Early Access games go, We Happy Few feels very polished. I have personally encountered no game breaking or hilarious glitches, and the keyboard and mouse controls were self explanatory and responsive as well. One improvement I’d like to see before the full release of the game is a bit more of an intuitive menu system for inventory, crafting and equipping. I found myself bumbling and fumbling through the menus quite a bit, seemingly feeling like more of a steep learning curve than what is typically in a game like this.

There is still much to be explored in the world of We Happy Few. I love Compulsion Games’ ambition in this game and have a feeling that this game will certainly crack many people’s “Indie Game of the Year” lists. Now, what I am playing now may vary dramatically once the game is officially released, but I’m hoping that at launch, there will be more condensed game modes that might eliminate the hunger, hydration, and sleep mechanics. I cannot wait to get more into of the game’s official storyline, but until then, the game is still incredibly interesting and worth a lot more investigation.

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*We Happy Few was reviewed using an Early Access code provided by Compulsion Games.

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Cory Vincent
Cory Vincent 434 posts

Forged in the crucible of awkwardness and self loathing, Cory somehow manages to get himself out of bed each day and make it a priority to spend life killing Beef and going H.A.M.