We Happy Few hit preview programs on Xbox One and PC on Tuesday. The title came out of the gates strong with some generous buzz generated from their E3 showing. But does that buzz continue now that the game has landed in the laps of the masses?
I didn’t really know what to expect jumping into We Happy Few. The game gave glimpses of Bioshock vibes when it debuted on the big stage at E3. But is that actually what we’re getting? Well… no. Not at all. Instead of a lore based action-adventure title, the demo of We Happy Few (still in alpha) is more focused on the survival aspects of the game. And the survival aspects are quite prominent.
Playing as Arthur Hastings, we are dropped into Wellington Wells, the central locale of We Happy Few. Hastings appears to be in the midst of an identity crisis of sorts. Within the first moments of the prologue he has a flashback of his lost brother which causes him to decide to stop taking his Joy. Joy is the McGuffin of sorts for the game. All the “good” citizens of Wellington Wells are constantly on it. It’s essentially a souped up anti-depressant, and if you’re not loaded on Joy, then you’re a Downer. And Downers are not allowed in Wellington Wells.
All’s Well and Good When You’re On Your Joy!
Hastings is ratted out as being a Downer after not taking his meds, and the Bobbies (British Police) evict him from the confines of the glorious Wellington Wells. After awaking from his beating and banishment, Hastings finds himself on the outskirts of the town. This is where all the Downers in the game are relegated to – and boy are they ever Downers. The non-Joy utilizing townsfolk are damn miserable. They will often attack you for being in their general vicinity, and if they’re not attacking you, then they’re telling you in not so polite words to go away.
It’s here that We Happy Few begins to shine. The decomposing outskirts of Wellington Wells, while quite dank and depressing, are still enticing to explore. Unfortunately though, while you’re attempting to explore the town and collect the various pieces of equipment that you’ll be needing to craft the supplies needed in the demo, the survival aspects of the game rear their (ugly?) head. You need to eat, you need to drink, and you need to sleep if you want to stay on your toes. And with Arthur Hastings’ limited storage abilities, that food and water are constantly a hindrance on your precious inventory slots.
Currently In Early Access
That’s in the early stages though, to be fair. As you learn what collectibles can quickly heal you, where the local water pumps are, and where random beds are to sleep in, things begin to get easier as you trek about the rejected homes of Wellington Wells. The game almost encourages you to die though while you’re in the rookie stages of your endeavor. And on top of that, from the outset of We Happy Few the game defaults to Permadeath mode. If your version of Arthur Hastings doesn’t make it through Wellington Wells alive, well, then you’re starting from scratch as a new Arthur Hastings. Now, that’s depressing.
But here’s the kicker. The world of Wellington Wells is procedurally generated. So while you may have figured out where the beds and water are, if Hastings goes down for the count and you start from scratch – the entire world will be rebuilt in a different way. You may know what you should be doing when you restart into new game, but you’ll have no idea where it is. It’s quite the pain in the ass.
As far as the game’s story goes, we know next to nothing. We Happy Few gives up very little as far as plot goes. While you’re welcome to adventure about and complete main quests and side-quests, the story of the game is heavily under lock and key. In fact, as you begin the demo, you’re told just that:
“You are about to play an Alpha version of We Happy Few. It contains approximately 50% of our procedurally generated world, but does NOT contain the story of our three characters (apart from the prologue/intro). We will be adding to the procedural world throughout development and the full story will arrive on version 1.0.”
What you do get is fun though. Again, you’ll collect what needs to be collected and complete main objectives and side-quests. Eventually, you’ll find your way back into Wellington Wells proper, and get to interact with all of the doped up Joy addicts on their home turf. And that’s when things get really interesting, as the colorful locales and citizens of Wellington Wells are a joy (see what I did there?) to experience. Just exactly what we’re doing here is something we’ll have to find out at a later time.
The We Happy Few demo is free to download on PC and Xbox One, so give it a whirl if you’re intrigued. If you want answers though, you’ll have to wait like the rest of us. The game is poised to launch later this year, but no official release date has been confirmed.