We Happy Few by Compulsion Games made quite the impression on me at E3 2016. I hadn’t even thought about it going in to the convention but it quickly worked its way into one of my games of the show. It exuded a fascinating style, particularly reminiscent of the works of George Orwell. After seeing the game at E3 I hadn’t really heard much about its development or… well, much at all. So, color me shocked when I learn that We Happy Few was available today on early access. The early access version of the game is missing certain critical features such as the story mode, two other playable characters, and two islands. There is a lot missing from the game at its current stage, but what is available is still solid and enjoyable.
After five hours with the game, I can say that it is a lot of fun. It reminds me a lot of a dystopian Bethesda game. The combat, crafting, and exploration are similar to the most recent Bethesda game, Fallout 4. First and foremost, We Happy Few is a roguelike which confused me at first, and after seeing the roguelike features first hand, I’m still not entirely convinced that they work. Fortunately, the permadeath option isn’t mandatory, although I left it on for my playthrough. It seems particularly confusing for We Happy Few to be a roguelike since there’s such a rich world with fascinating lore. It’s a story intensive roguelike which makes the constant reloading after death odd. While you have several options in terms of Joy usage (which is a fascinating mechanic) the actual roguelike options seem limited.
Joy is a huge component of the game since it provides the greatest point of variability. In the We Happy Few universe, Joy is a drug used by a large majority of the populace as a sedative of sorts that produces artificial happiness. It creates a distorted view of the world, the locations, and the people. The greatest example of the effects of Joy is shown during the prologue of the game. During an office party, Arthur (you) is given a broomstick to beat up a piñata. You get one good hit in and the piñata explodes with candy. As the effects of Joy wears off you see that the party-goers are actually eating the dead carcass of a rat. It’s a horrifying, shocking moment that sets the stage for the premise of the entire game. Your senses are deceptive and nothing is as it seems.
While there is no story mode readily available in We Happy Few, the game is still jam packed with lore. It’s rather amusing since Arthur Hastings job is similar to that of Winston Smith (the main character of George Orwell‘s 1984). Arthur must read documents and news pieces set to print and either approve the information or censor it. It’s a sadistic moment that sets the stage for the world that you will be inhabiting. Restricted, limited information being purposefully withheld from the citizens. Either way, the people wouldn’t be very receptive to the information since they’re high on happiness anyway. The world that Compulsion has created is incredible. The live action TV episodes from Uncle Jack, the game’s sadistic masked Doctor, are exceptionally creepy and serve to control the populace. The universe that has been created for We Happy Few has been methodically crafted to create a fantastically rich game world. We Happy Few is littered with newspapers and pieces of information that serve to fill in the world and create a place that feels alive. Even in early access there is a lot of meat to the game, in terms of story content. I am excited to see what the story mode holds in store for the player.
As I mentioned previously, the game is a roguelike with some survival elements. I’ve written a few times on my distaste for the survival genre, but I enjoy the way it’s handled in We Happy Few. As you explore the landscape of Wellington Wells you will find food, drinks, blueprints, and crafting equipment to help you along the way. I feel that since the world is so fascinating to me, I’m perfectly fine dealing with the survival mechanics. They’re never too overbearing and are relatively basic, requiring you to eat, drink, and sleep to maintain your character’s abilities. The combat is reminiscent of Skyrim or Fallout except it manages to feel weightier. I never received any weapon that was extremely powerful. The most powerful weapon I had was a pointed stick that I had crafted. Speaking of which, the crafting is extensive. You will find blueprints for new weapons and items which you can create after exploring and finding new materials. The stealth is also very similar to a Bethesda game where if you are caught stealing items and the likes you will be attacked and hunted by the denizens of the city. It plays tight, I only hope that more recipes and blueprints are added to the game over the coming months.
Overall, We Happy Few is a really tight product with a lot of fantastic features. I never encountered any egregious flaws, which is exciting since it’s still in alpha development. I’ll be following the development of the game very closely and will update the site with any new information. You can definitely expect a full review from me once the full game is released. I’d hold out on buying the game for a while, but at it’s current stage of development it shows a lot of promise.