We Happy Few went from being a 'little known' indie game to one of the most anticipated games of the year after Microsoft's E3 conference.
That may surprise some of you, but as someone who's been following the game for over a year (since I saw some gameplay on YouTube) I knew the game would be a hit. It's combination of bioshock-esque visuals and almost Steampunk sci-fi premise would leave any horror game fan yearning for more.
The game itself is currently in Alpha, and (as expected) is littered with bugs and is a little volatile to play through (but more on that later). But the thing that makes the game stand out is how the prologue sequence gives you a matrix like choice. You either take the pill, or don't. Doesn't sound very odd, right? Wrong. Because if you choose to take the pill, the game credits roll.
The prologue of the game (which was shown in the E3 demo) establishes an alternate 1960s England in the form of the village Wellington Wells, who's inhabitants have taken to a hallucinogenic drug by the name of 'Joy' in order to forget what is hinted as a war against communists, while also allowing themselves to be manipulated and controlled in a dystopian society on the verge of collapse as food supplies are on the brink of non-existence.
We begin the game as Arthur Hastings, a local newspaper "redactor" who decided against using joy and seeks to escape the village before what is left of society collapses completely. Once his boss identifies him as a downer, he must escape his workplace and try to hide his Downer status while hiding in an underground safe house. Once the player manages to get out of the safehouse, they are greeted by the destroyed, desolate remains of the village, where the downers are left to live. It's at this point that the games real promise shines. Unlike games in a similar genre that focus on linear, scripted quests, We Happy Few is set in a procedurally generated world with objectives and side quests that must be completed, but to survive you must also take care of your character, scavenging for food, crafting weapons and gadgets in order to complete each quest with your life still intact.
We Happy Few is a prime example of a stealth survival game that constantly tests the player and the main character. Early in the game, you will find yourself spending most of your time taking care of Arthur; Making sure that his needs are met while also exploring the area close to your safe house. As the game progresses and you complete more quests, you can trust me when I say you will be glad that permadeath is an option.
Once you get back into the Joy-filled part of Wellington Wells, you will have to scavenge for Joy and sneak around during the night to stop the Joyful citizens from caving in your skull with a cricket bat.
However, as stated earlier, the game IS still in the Alpha stage, and although the game so far is amazing, it does lack in some areas. A lot of the time I found it difficult to get to areas that my quests needed me to, because the map hadn't updated with the quest location. As well as this, the gameplay gets a little slow when you have to constantly go to and from the safehouse every five minutes because you couldn't find any fresh food and had to eat something rotten (and the food poisoning that follows causes the screen to distort, which is pretty disorienting at times).
Since the developers of We Happy Few have stated that we only have a small snip-it of the game's story and world, I am confident when I say that the game will be brilliant, and I can't wait to play it.
We Happy Few is shaping out to be a great game, but it still has the possibility to change and become something completely different. This is one big risk for the game. From the preview, I can see many good things that (after a lot of work) could make a really fun game that will be really successful, but right now, the glitches and bugs make the game drag, and the lack of variety in the quests makes the game repetitive and a little boring at times.
Then again, the fact that this game is in Early Access means that the developers will take into account what reviewers and fans are saying, and the game will continue to evolve, bringing even more of the things that work, and fixing the things that don't.
I can't wait to see what the full game has to offer, and hope that the finished product do the game's premise and setting justice. It would be a tragedy to see a game that has so much potential fall short.