We Happy Few from Compulsion Games turned a few heads when it appeared at Microsoft’s E3 2016 Press Conference a few months ago. It looked like a weird British immersive shooter, The Prisoner mixed with Bioshock. It was very high on my most wanted after that showing, and now it’s out on Early Access. Let’s take it for a punt.
30 min Gameplay Video
30 minutes of gameplay from entering Wellington Wells.
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Set in a dystopian alternative universe 1960s England, specifically the town of Wellington Wells, where the population is forced to be happy at all costs with the use of Joy pills. Those who stop taking their Joy are labelled criminal Downers and hunted down. After seeing the truth your character escapes his horrible job into the town. Now you just have to escape Wellington Wells without getting killed, or forced back on Joy.
The shocks come thick and fast in We Happy Few, and not all will be welcome. After the gloriously Bioshock-esque beginning, where you can explore and examine every part of your disturbing workplace and run from the bad stuff going down, you discover that this isn’t the game. We Happy Few pulls a bait and switch, as the main game is actually a procedurally generated survival game instead of a structured narrative experience. This isn’t a bad thing, but it might well disappoint anyone who’s just seen the Xbox demo which was exclusively the Bioshock-style beginning.
Mrs Stokes! NOOOOOO
The first challenge is in breaking out of the room you’re stuck in. Honestly, I was stuck here for a while. You have to find a lockpick, break into a random cupboard, then get the Jimmy Bar (or “crowbar”) to pry open the hatch. You’re taught the basics in this room about needing certain items to accomplish tasks, and of course that you have requirement meters that keep ticking down. Hunger, Tiredness, and Thirst all need to be replenished periodically on top of the classic Health bar – which does not get filled when you eat or sleep, you can only get back Health by using health packs or bandages.
The basics perhaps, but not the end of the game. After exiting the hatch you find yourself in Wellington Wells, a quaint town filled with crumbling buildings, insane citizens, and a lot to discover. Considering that the maps are randomly generated there was a lot of detailed areas to explore, and it’s all filled into your map. Yes the town is rather grid-like in design with a few too many identical buildings but that’s the downside of procedural generation. The upside of it is that I could play We Happy Few hundreds of times and get a different Wellington Wells each time, complete with new locations and quests.
The quests feel pretty natural too. I encountered an injured but fussy man requiring various specific types of bandages and a rather strange man running a spy school for teddy bears who wanted me to find his missing “agent”. One of the best involved breaking in to a rebel stronghold filled with buried goodies, surrounded by fences and absolutely infested with mines. I did not survive this particular encounter.
Other than that exploration and survival are the name of the game. Find bandages or medkits to boost your health, beds to stave off tiredness, water bottles to quench thirst and food to stop hunger. And if they can’t be found either craft them or kill some citizens and steal theirs. Not that this’d make you very popular. It’s really quite an enjoyable game to explore, definitely a unique survival game that will hopefully get even better as development moves along. Oh, and for a survival game I particularly like that Permadeath is optional. Hooray.
OS: Windows 7 64-Bit
Processor: Triple Core 2.0 GHz or faster
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 460 GTX or AMD Radeon 5870 HD series
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 6 GB
OS: Windows 7 64-Bit and above
Processor: Quad-Core 2.5 GHz or faster
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 660 GTX or AMD Radeon 7870 HD series
I ran We Happy Few on my standard PC with an AMD-FX 6300 Six-Core Processor, 16 Gb RAM, Nvidia GTX 960 4Gb, and Windows 10 and I had no problem cranking the game up to maximum settings. Of course we have to bear in mind that this is still an Early Access game so these requirements could go up or down as the game gets more optimization and more advanced graphics options, but at the moment it’s already looking pretty good and running well. We Happy Few very much has its own twisted style of look and it’s a world I want to see more of.
As mentioned We Happy Few has just released into Early Access and is roughly 50% complete. Compulsion Games reckons it’ll be 6-12 months before the game is properly released, and that’s ignoring further patches. So in other words it’ll late 2017 before you can play the “complete” version.
To be honest, We Happy Few is still “Very Early Access”. Yes the general bones of the game are here but it’s lacking a certain spark. It really is just a taster with half the possible quests and situations missing, it’s tremendously boring to keep scrounging for water/food/bandages and sleep every few minutes (especially as none of them regenerate health), and the combat is currently a bit dull and Elder Scrolls like without the fun magic. It’s just bash-bash-bash-oh I’m dead.
That's a LOT of bashing
So there’s some balancing issues, combat needs a fun injection, and there’s not enough to do, but what there is to do is impressive. While yes I would’ve preferred a continuation of the beginning into something closer to Bioshock we seem to have instead got a mixture of that game, Rust and Sir, You Are Being Hunted. And that’s an intriguing mixture. If they get the procedural world right and make the denizens of Wellington Wells even more interesting We Happy Few could be a belter of a game. It’s certainly worth a shot now to see what to expect, but firstly expect a lot more work to get put into it between now and when the game hits 1.0 in late 2017.
Most Anticipated Feature: More weird and wonderful characters to discover.