Set in an alternate 1960’s England, the highly anticipated survival game We Happy Few takes you to the Joy-filled town of Wellington Wells, where all is not as it seems.
Currently available in early access as a preview title, the game has you playing as Arthur Hastings, a man whose job it is to redact stories from newspapers. As it stands now, the game only allows you to play through Arthur’s prologue, meaning that you will be unable to progress story-wise beyond this point. The rest of the game will be continually updated until its full release, which promises an additional two playable characters complete with their own unique storylines.
As Arthur, upon seeing an article of yourself and your brother, you begin to remember your past, and question whether or not you should take your Joy. Joy is a pill that residents of Wellington Wells take that allows them to become oblivious to anything bad or negative in life. If you choose to take your Joy, Arthur will state that “happiness is a choice” and the game will end, with life merrily continuing on as per usual.
However, if you choose not to take your Joy, you are able to see the world for what it truly is. We Happy Few makes this transition beautifully, as you wander the office space and begin to notice things that just don’t sit right. The eerie atmosphere comes to a climax as you hit a piñata only for it to be revealed that it was a rat all along. Once those around you see that you aren’t eating from the “piñata” they realise that you are a Downer (the term for those who are off their Joy) and soon find yourself on the run from the authorities. This strong opening gave me high expectations for the rest of the game, however it all seemed to go downhill from this point.Waking up from this event, you are thrust into the game without any tutorial or guidance from NPCs. Survival gameplay elements quickly emerge as the most important feature of the game, with the player needing to craft items and find food, water and shelter in order to stay alive. Whilst this is expected of a survival game, the poorly designed HUD makes it extremely arduous to navigate around the town and find your way back to your safe house. As there is no quest marker, you’ll also find yourself constantly bringing up the map and trying to memorise routes so that you can get to your objective, instead of just wandering around aimlessly.
The world of We Happy Few is procedurally generated, meaning that the layout of the game changes every time. Along with this, the game also features procedurally generated encounters that may appear in one save, but not in the next, with only story missions remaining consistent throughout each playthrough. Although this feature is an interesting concept and is sure to increase the full game’s replay value, it doesn’t make much difference to this early build.Trailers for the game showed a Nineteen Eighty-Four Big Brother-esque society, however upon walking around residents that were high on Joy, all I had to do was equip a Fancy Suit and not one person was questioned that there might be a Downer living amongst them. This really detracted from the paranoia and suspicion that the game tries to create, however improving the AI is something that can be worked on as updates roll out.
There are no guns in We Happy Few, so most of the weapons that can be crafted are melee and throwable items. At the moment the game’s combat mechanics are unpolished, making it difficult to aim and time hits correctly, but once again this is something that can be addressed with updates.
As the game is still in its early stages, I would recommend waiting until the game’s full release before picking up a copy. Although the game does seem promising, I can’t see it becoming a worthwhile purchase until the full story-mode is playable and some of the gameplay issues have been resolved.
The preview build of We Happy Few is available now on Xbox One and PC.