If you have yet to see the gameplay trailer for We Happy Few from Microsoft’s E3 Press Conference then I highly suggest you check it out below. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
That clip certainly sets up We Happy Few as a contender to the Bioshock series. There’s deep social commentary, mystery and an element of unnerving psychological fear throughout. When you get to the gameplay though, We Happy Few couldn’t be more different from Bioshock.
We Happy Few isn’t a story-driven, linear, shooter but rather an open world survival game. The game starts with the player in a safe house, with a bed and a few supplies, and quickly opens the world up to the player.
The entire city of Wellington Wells is procedurally generated, with the world’s layout changing every time the player dies. Despite the world always changing, it’s made up of key areas and locations. For example, a certain quest or conversation will always be in the world, but where it will be is different. As if the game isn’t already quite complex, it has permanent death. This means that when you die you have to start over on a new character (and in a new, randomly generated, world). Thankfully, there is a “downed state”, meaning that provided you have healing items, you can potentially comeback from a fatal attack. The AI in We Happy Few will generally give the player a chance to recover when they’ve been put in a downed state. Don’t have any healing items? You’re dead.
There are a LOT of things to manage to ensure you don’t die. The player has to be constantly aware of their hydration, food and rest, in a world which desperately wants to kill them. There’s even crafting, requiring the player to loot houses and get equipment whilst avoiding the watchful eyes of the town’s citizens. With the aim being to escape the city, it can seem like a harsh task. But, you can’t blame someone for wanting to go through all of that to get out.
Joy, the little pills you see characters taking, gives the citizens of the world a very warped image of their surroundings. They see a world which is beautiful and filled with all they need to be happy. The world without joy is very, very different.
The citizens of the world walk around their homes, happy and content, yet little do they know that there are holes in their walls and that the chicken dinner they’re eating is nothing more than a common rodent. It’s very horrifying and leaves a lasting impression.
The player can take joy pills (at certain points it’s definitely recommended as there are objects in the world that keep track of everyone’s joy levels) and the world will become colorful and delightful. Of course, you know what the truth is. Seeing the difference between these worlds, and how quickly they can change, adds yet another dimension to an already complex game.
We Happy Few, if it isn’t obvious, isn’t the game to play if you want to live out some crazy power fantasy. Combat is hard, given how weak your character is and any weapons the player picks up will break easily. The game frequently requires the player to run, not fight.
Overall, We Happy Few is definitely one of the more intellectually interesting games at E3. With the game hitting Xbox’s and Steam’s Early Access program next month, it won’t be long until players can get their hands on it.