Do I take the pill, or not take the pill? That’s the question that has been posed to characters across film and book for an age now – from Alice down the rabbit hole to Neo in The Matrix.
We Happy Few is no different. It has a pill called Joy that each member of its dystopian society takes regularly to make their world a place of happiness and contentment. Don’t take the pill and you’re seeing the real truth, which isn’t very pretty; the authorities hound you down, you’re called a “downer” and thrown into a town of similar malcontents who wander the streets depressed and broken.
We Happy Few is set in an alternative version of Britain in the 1960’s and its influences clearly come from TV shows like The Avengers, The Prisoner and films such as Brazil. Game wise it’s easily compared in tone and style to the Bioshock titles with its dark themes and strong characterisation through voice work. In this preview version, you’ll have access to basically the brilliant introduction we all saw at E3. Here you’re introduced to the hero and his work place – a place in which his job is approving and censoring newspaper reports. It’s basically a compelling little mini game. Then the famous pill-choosing scene happens and, if you don’t choose the joy, you witness a horrible party game and its reality. You’re captured and placed into a underground safe house, before surfacing into the crumbled town as the game shifts into some else completely.
It’s now worth pointing out that We Happy Few at this stage is only partly completed. The rest of the game will be added in via the Xbox One Game Preview in the coming months, but the whole game won’t be ready till next year. The main missing elements after the intro are the lack of a narrative structure and missions. Instead, as you go above ground into the broken town, you get to explore, pick up objects and get involved in mini quests or encounters. The world is procedurally generated so your experience will be different as you journey around. The main issue here is survival and how you need to find water, food and sleep or your stamina will deplete. All the basic needs are there but are hard to find and you might have to steal or fight to get what you need. Some food is rotten and sickness is fast to hit causing your progress to be a bit trippy and blurry. If you can’t get back to your safe house to sleep in time, you might find someone else’s bed instead, only to be woken up by an angry mob.
I really am enjoying the design and look of We Happy Few though. The ideas it is displaying through the characters and the world show promise and intrigue. The game as it stands is just a hint of what’s to come and it’s still quite glitchy, but that is something that the developers said might happen at this stage. When the extra content comes in over the next few months we will know how We Happy Few stands as a complete experience, but for now my expectations are very high.
We Happy Few is set for release in early 2017 and you can be sure we’ll be following up with a full review once Compulsion Games have everything nailed down. For now though, you can check it out as an Xbox One Game Preview title.
Many thanks go out to Xbox and Compulsion Games for providing the code.