Disclaimer: A copy of We Happy Few was provided by the publisher for this preview. The game is part of the Game Preview Program and is in Early Access so the experience is currently incomplete.
We Happy Few from Compulsion Games was the very last game I played at E3. It was my most anticipated game to get my hands-on after the spectacular reveal trailer shown during Microsoft’s press conference. I thought the demo was absolutely stellar in my E3 preview, noting that the game was featured many different gameplay mechanics that enriched the experience.
From a gameplay perspective, We Happy Few is a deep experience with many different mechanics that make the title unique. Players must keep their character hydrated, fed, and wide awake. You can find food to deal with hunger, water sources to replenish your thirst and you can sleep to combat restlessness. There is also a meter for when residents discover that your character is a downer. During these moments, you can run away, fight back, hide, or even take joy in order to evade pursuers. Although joy can help you blend in and escape, there are various side-effects that can plague your character.
When I launched We Happy Few for the first time, I set the game to include Permadeath and to die after my health drained. You can turn both of these features off, but I felt like permadeath was more in line with what the studio’s vision of the game so I left it enabled. When We Happy Few starts, players are taken through the prologue which was shown during the Microsoft conference. When we finally take control of Arthur in Wellington Wells, the game doesn’t tell you what to do. In fact, learning all of the mechanics is up to the player
It’s actually a bit overwhelming at times since there is so much to be mindful of. Not only are there multiple menus to interact with (status, inventory, map, quest, and crafting), there are different meters that must be managed as well. The biggest theme in We Happy Few is survival. While making sure not to rile up any of the town’s residents is key, taking care of yourself is the most important aspect of the game. There are meters for health, hunger, thirst, and sleep that must be constantly looked over. When Arthur gets hungry, you must find food to remedy that, when he is thirsty, there are water taps that can be used to drink fluids, and when the sleep meter is low, finding a bed is necessary.
Exploring Wellington Wells uncovers a gloomy and decaying town that has been ravaged by tragedy. Buildings are worn down and people are walking around sad and occasionally maddened. The residents of the town are so animated and I often felt sorry for them. Some were begging for something to drink or eat while others were trying to break a pipe that dispenses water. Seeing how each individual interacted with me was quite a spectacle. Occasionally, I met some nice characters, though most seemed bitter and told me off.
While development of We Happy Few is about 50% complete, there are still plenty of things to do. Side quests are diverse and introduces us to some of the more wacky characters in Wellington Wells. One mission in particular had me break into a house in order to retrieve a doll that the quest giver thought was a secret agent. It’s difficult to tell much about what the story is going to be like when the final game launches, but seeing missions featuring crazy characters is something that I have to praise Compulsion Games for.
There is also a feeling of nervousness and tension while walking through the streets. At night, there are just patches of fog that take over the atmosphere and you’ll never know who is on the other end of the road. That’s not to say that all enemies are hostile, but doing something against the norm will mean that characters will engage with you in battle. That happened twice during my first few hours with We Happy Few and those moments were certainly nerve wrecking. Once people start chasing your character, it’s hard to shake them 0ff. I once ran for about 6 minutes before the conflict came to an end and I found a safe haven.
Despite various close calls, my character has yet to die. That inevitable moment will eventually occur, but until then, each and every step I take will be well thought out. We Happy Few launches sometime next year and I can’t wait to continue playing and seeing how the development will improve the game over time. So far, it has exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to see where my adventure will take me next. Stay tuned for another hands-on impression at the end of the month.