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We Happy Few (PC) preview

On August 3, 2016 by Aaron Meehan

Following on from a successful showing at E3 2016, Compulsion Games has released We Happy Few on Steam Early Access and on Xbox One via the console’s Game Preview program. Since the game is essentially in an unfinished state some features are not yet fully implemented, the most noticeable is the game’s story. Currently, the story consists of the introductory narrative shown at E3 2016.

So, what is We Happy Few? We Happy Few is a dystopian survival game set in 1960s England, in particular, Wellington Wells. The main crux of the game is the fact that everyone is taking “happy pills”, happy pills are taking so that people can forget the past, a past that saw the Germans successfully invade and occupy England during World War 2. The occupation led to a changed England, especially in Wellington Wells, because to survive the occupation its residents had to do horrible things, and so to forget their past and to calm their anguish and guilt they created and relied upon the happy pills.

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The Happy pills completely changed society with those on the drugs completely unaware of the scars created by the occupation. However, there are those who have rejected the happy pills, and have being deemed “Downers”, downers are left to wander the ruined towns outside of Wellington Wells struggling to survive on whatever they can find.

This is where you come in. You play as a Downer who has being thrown out of the city and left to wander around the ruined towns outside of Wellington Wells. Surviving in the ruins and getting back into Wellington Wells in the main objective of the currently available Early Access build, and honestly getting back in is a lot tougher than you might think.

Since We Happy Few is a survival game, you need to manage your health, hunger, thirst, sleep, joy and make sure you don’t get poisoned or catch the plaque. To survive you need to search ruined houses, shake down fellow downers and simply scavenge. It is worth noting that the game doesn’t like to make it easy with your hunger and thirst levels dropping at a much faster rate than I was expecting. After playing for several hours and getting in Wellington Wells, I managed to get my head around surviving. During my time playing, I found to successfully survive I had to balance scavenging for food with crafting.

Crafting in We Happy Few is broken down into basic, mechanical, and chemical. Basic allows you to make lock picks, jimmy bars, bandages and filtered water. Mechanical allows you to make improved weapons and tools. Chemical allows you to make improved healing medicine such as Healing Balm, and Phenocycline Syringe, which can cure you of the plague. Crafting materials you need to make items are gathering by scavenging, similar to how you need to search for food and water. The main positive I found with crafting is that you don’t have to have the materials in your inventory to craft the item you want this means you can throw all the crafting materials you gather into storage and feel at ease knowing that you have some space in your limited inventory.

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Inventory management is one of the biggest issues I had with We Happy Few, as not all items take up the same amount of space. For example, a rotten apple takes up one square, while a shovel takes up three squares. This means when scavenging for food and crafting material you always have to make sure the items you don’t need are in storage and important items such as water, food and pills are placed in your quickslot bag, the quickslot bag allows players to use an item in a quick and effective manner. Besides your inventory, quickslot and storage, you can also have up to two weapons equipped.

After playing the We Happy Few preview for a few hours, I would often subconsciously look past the survival aspect of the game and look at the game’s theme. Personally, I found the dystopian theme of the game to be the game’s greatest strength, the idea that a group of people would force themselves and those around them to be happy via drugs, to escape the pain and trauma of their past transgressions is both fantastic and frightening at the same time. As the game shows, those who take the happy pills put themselves in a state of bliss and do nothing, but walk around and listen to broadcasts that reinforce how they should always be happy. On the other hand, those who go off the pills are only left with despair and hardship as they are outcasts cursed to wander ruined, bombed-out streets.

If there is was one thing I took from playing the We Happy Few preview, it was that trying to hide behind drugs can only lead to despair and ruin. It might not have been the message the developers were trying to convey, but it is the message I got from the game.

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Conclusion

While We Happy Few is still in development, the early access build creates a solid base for an interesting dystopian world. If you can get past the somewhat boring survival aspect and the occasional bug, We Happy Few has all the makings of an enjoyable game.

Developer Publisher Genre Rating Platform Release date
Compulsion Games Compulsion Games Adventure 16+ PC,  Xbox One July 26, 2016 (Early Access release)

For more information on We Happy Few, visit http://compulsiongames.com/en/10/we-happy-few


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