We Happy Few is an indie action, adventure, horror game developed and published by Compulsion Games. The game was released into Early Access on July 26th, 2016.
We Happy Few is set in an alternate version of England, in the 1960s. There is a drug out called Joy, which everyone must take in order to conform to society and stay happy all the time. You take on the role of Arthur, who decides not to take his Joy and goes on the run to leave this false world and figure out what the world is really like.
Before it came out, the game was seen as akin to Bioshock, in its insanity and art style. Yes, you could say that because everyone is mentally unstable it is a bit like Bioshock, but there is more to it than that. Most of the people in the game are harmless, still insane, yet harmless, even your own character. When interacting with people you’ll spout some random nonsense about how “This isn’t even my life!” or the like. There is insanity wherever you go in this game, it just depends on what time. Are you going to venture out and discover new areas with the more violent psychopaths, will you stick around the slums and conform with the harmless crazies, or will you stop being such a downer, pop a Joy and see how the joyful live?
The game starts off vibrant and colourful, but you will quickly descend into the depressive slums where the downers (people who don’t take their Joy) live. This is a pretty sad area, with broken buildings scattered around and people walking around in tattered clothes, eating rotten food and drinking infected water. You might get a bit of a Dishonored sense here, from both the art style and the setting, as it feels like the more slummy areas of Dishonored‘s city of Dunwall. You will occasionally find the more active and slightly more mentally stable person, and most of these people can give you quests, with rewards of food, water or crafting materials.
Throughout the game, you will obtain multiple different effects which you need to attend to. There are your basic ones, hunger, thirst and sleep which can all be easily quelled. But then you get a few others, such as illness or even the plague, which can be a lot more difficult to treat. The crafting menu allows you to create certain healing items, but the higher tier items will need a chemical station in order to create, and if you get the plague and can’t treat it, then you’re pretty much done for. All of these items, even weapons and mechanical items can be crafted from recipes, which you find all over the world. They can be found simply by scrounging around and looking for loot, or from rewards from quests.
Some of the quests are just as insane as the people giving them to you. One moment you may be searching for honey in order to pay a toll to get across a bridge, another moment you might be trying to rescue a kidnapped doll who is part of some guy’s agency. The quests themselves are relatively easy, but it’s the items which you use to complete the quest which you will be waiting for. You may need certain items such as trap disarming tools, different types of food or medicine, even different clothes. This causes you to have to search all over, complete the quests you can and work towards building up your inventory in order to take on those more difficult quests.
As it is currently at an alpha level, obviously there will be certain things missing from the game, or a few bugs and glitches to be found. There is no real story at the moment, and the developers have actually stated that. There are no cutscenes, narrative points and there are some bits of gameplay removed that had a big story focus to them. One of the bugs we found was in the very first side mission. You find an elderly woman you used to know, dead, and you must take her and find a resting place for her. Except, when we dropped her after moving her, she wasn’t able to be picked up again, so now she is simply lying in some random area and the side quest is unable to be completed. Stuff like this can easily be forgiven, though, because if you choose to play an Early Access, you have to be aware that you are actually testing the game for the developers, not playing a completed version.
The game could currently be seen as disappointing for some people. When you watch the trailers, you see a vibrant and insane world in which you are running for your life and trying to hide from those who wish to harm you. But when you get into the game, for the first few hours at least, you are just going to be trudging around a slummy area, performing mainly fetch quests to earn food and crafting materials. Don’t get us wrong, it is still incredibly enjoyable, but at the moment it may not be everything some people were expecting from the trailer. And if things get too depressing for you, you could always pop a Joy and see how everything looks from that perspective.
We Happy Few is out now on PC and Xbox One for AUD $40. It is a steep price to pay for a game missing around a third of its content, but that is the case with Early Access. The game is a fun and insane romp through dystopian England, and having things like food, water and sleep management was completely unexpected, and interesting to discover. Those who were expecting the full insanity of the trailers though may be slightly disappointed at the current state of the game. We give We Happy Few a 7.5/10 for its current Alpha state and plan on coming back to do a full review when the game is complete.
For more info on We Happy Few, read here.