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Published on August 10th, 2016 | by Peter Freeman

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We Happy Few Alpha Impressions

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of impressions, it’s worth noting that the following comes from the game’s “alpha” that was just released on Steam and Xbox One. Therefore, the game is not finished and could change drastically by the time it’s officially released. So what you’re about to read does not represent a final product, simply a collection of thoughts on what I’ve played so far.

At its core, We Happy Few aims to be a 3D, first person rogue-like. There are zones you’ll have to get through each game, all of them randomized. The encounters and side quests you’ll receive in the game will never be the same twice. Essentially, it wants to be Spelunky, but in 3D and from a first person view. Unfortunately, the random events weren’t in this build, so it’s hard to say how that will work out for players.

The first thing you’ll notice about We Happy Few is how familiar it feels. Coming from former Bioshock develops, there’s a similar style and theme being explored here. Instead of everyone being obsessed and crazy due to ADAM, the townspeople are all hopped up on a drug called Joy. It gives the illusion that everything in life is amazing, you’re in Oz, and nothing can ever go wrong.

The problem starts when you decide that maybe you don’t want to fake being happy any more. The townspeople get violent when someone is being a “downer” and so you’re chased from your office and into the surface above where things aren’t exactly going so well for most people.

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The most striking thing about the game is its art style. It evokes an odd Tim Burton like animation. There’s something wrong with everyone you meet. Those not on Joy are haggard, wearing disgusting clothing, covered in leaves and dirt. They’re all beggars who are desperate for a bit of relief. They’re violent in one form or another. If someone isn’t trying to beat you to death in order to get some food or a bandage, they’re telling you to fuck off and get out of their sight.

Aside from the prologue and a few bits of random dialogue, there’s no narrative to be found in We Happy Few. Your goal is to make it through several different zones in hopes of…. escaping? It really isn’t clear right now. Hopefully that will be added in later, but as far as the “alpha” is concerned, you have no idea why you’re doing what you’re doing. This is weird because the opening of the game presents it as something with a story. To be fair, on the quest menu, there is a story section. So some kind of narrative could be added later on in development.

More problems arise with the survival mechanics. You not only have to manage your health, but your food, thirst, and sleep. It’s all a bit much and everything happens very quickly. Not a lot of in game time will pass before you have to take care of one of those three meters. So instead of getting to explore the different areas that the game has, you have to keep running back to your safe house. You can choose not to, but sleeping in an unknown house tends to have consequences.

Not only are there survival mechanics, but there are crafting mechanics! It’s a very incomplete system at the moment, so I’m not sure what overall purpose it will serve. A lot of the items aren’t very useful. Not just that, but the interface for your inventory management is a nightmare. It’s impossible to sort what’s useful for crafting and what’s good for surviving without constantly flipping between menus. My hope is that stuff like this is improved throughout the rest of development.

Overall though, the game just doesn’t feel fun. There’s a great art style, but that’s about all the game has going for it. The prologue is the best part of the game, and that’s because it presents an interesting world. There could be a cool story here, with fun and interesting horror elements, but none of that is present so far.

All this said, It’s worth remember that this is an “alpha”. Things will be changed, added, improved, and so on. So there’s definitely the possibility that all the problems with We Happy Few will be fixed by the time of its official release. But it might be worth waiting a few months before diving into the early access version of the game.

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