News September 2, 2016

5 Things to Know Before Buying We Happy Few!

Written By: Kenneth Seward Jr.
Date: 09/02/16

Compulsion Games’ We Happy Few was released back in July. Since then, I’ve spent hours scavenging for supplies, taking “happy pills” and getting into fights with various vagabonds over rotten vegetables. It’s been an interesting experience to say the least. During all of this time however, I’ve wavered on whether or not to recommend the game in its current state; while I was entertained for the most part, it’s still too early to praise Compulsion’s efforts…

We Happy Few sits firmly in Early Access (or in this case, the Xbox Games Preview program) as a work in progress. That alone isn’t the reason why I’m hesitant to tell you to spend money on this title. There’s much more to discuss here. But, because many of you have already read most of the articles posted about this game since its release well over a month ago, I chose not to delve into the happenings of my multiple playthroughs. Instead, I’ve comprised five things that I think are important to note when it comes to buying We Happy Few sooner than later. 

 

"It’s Not BioShock Infinite."

 

Period. I know the premise – a dystopia held captive by a governing body that brainwashed everyone into believing its oppressive actions are for their own good – is similar to Irrational’s game. The stylized graphics and familiar, yet eccentric environments certainly don’t help in this regard. Still, nothing in We Happy Few’s marketing suggested that it was a spiritual successor to BioShock Infinite. If that’s what you were expecting…well, stop it. That’s not what this game is.

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"You May Still Be Disappointed."

 

This is because, even if you weren’t one of the few who thought We Happy Few was going to be like BioShock, you probably didn’t expect a survival title. And it wouldn’t be your fault considering the way the game was marketed. When the only parts of the game being shown are that which dealt with the protagonist’s escape from Wellington Wells (the aforementioned dystopia) and the effects of a drug called “Joy”, it makes sense if you’d be looking forward to diving into a narrative driven experience. Not a survival game.  

Compulsion Games’ stance was that they always mentioned how We Happy Few was a game about survival. Their COO, Sam Abbott, recently stated as much during an interview with DualShockers; he mentions how he doesn’t understand how people are confused about the survival aspect. “The game is a survival game because the entire game is based around surviving…the gameplay supports the lore and story about a world falling apart.” While I don’t necessarily disagree with him, I think he missed the point. Saying that the game is about survival and showing story based trailers made We Happy Few look more like Ice-Pick Lodge’s Pathologic (a narrative driven game that features survival elements) and less like Day Z (a survival game where the main focus is just surviving). To be fair, the game’s story is coming. The marketing makes its absence harder to bear though. 

 

"The Gameplay is a Mixed Bag."

 

I feel as though the developers were a little overzealous when it came to implementing the survival mechanics. Seriously. I don’t think I’ve played a survival game that required you to eat, drink, and sleep as much as this one does. The constant nagging from the different status bars/icons creates the worse kind of urgency, pulling me away from the mystery at hand to deal with gamey mechanics. The frequency of possible dehydration made it impossible to feel like I was actually saving my character when consuming water for example. Instead it acted like reminder: this is what you do when playing a survival game.

The good news is that Wellington Wells is as charming as it is creepy, which is something of note given the high occurrence of repeated graphic details. Even though a lot of the NPCs are the same people in different clothing and the houses are mostly identical, the environments were surprisingly realized. Also, the bits and pieces of the story that were actually in the game were enough to keep me playing. I mean, how did everything get so bad? Why is everyone being forced to take Joy? Who’s pulling the strings? Something terrible has happened and I want to find out exactly what it was! Basically, I enjoyed certain aspects over others; the exploration, fighting, and mystery solving lessened the sting of the survival mechanics.

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"The Developers Are Listening."

 

One of the reasons why I waited a month and some change to write about the game was because I wanted to see how it would be supported. I’m happy to note that the developers are constantly tweaking things based on fan feedback. Updates to patch bugs are just as prevalent as the ones adding new content. They’re even tweaking the survival mechanics so they’ll add to the experience as opposed to taking away from it. We Happy Few is getting better all the time.

 

"What’s Coming Seems Very Promising."

 

We’re actually getting more than the teases from the E3 trailer. For one there will be multiple characters, each with their own stories (and I assume endings). New gameplay elements, a larger world, more side-quests and other interesting content are on the way as well. All of it centered on this odd place called Wellington Wells. I honestly feel like, if things keep going the way they are, that We Happy Few will be one of the most talked about games come 2017.

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The long and short of it, We Happy Few is a survival game that can be entertaining despite some tiresome gameplay mechanics and mostly absent story. Also, it isn’t BioShock. Compulsion Games has promised a lot and for the most part are slowly, but constantly cranking out the updates. Depending on your expectations, the current build may not be worth purchasing as is though I would definitely keep it in mind for 2017!