Find your Joy.
We Happy Few is one of the few games from the Xbox press conference at E3 that sparked my intrigue. It had this BioShock vibe about it—a utopia society bent on keeping everyone happy via censorship and happy pills. And what happens when you refuse to take your Joy?
We're able to see a little bit of what does happen as We Happy Few is now available in Early Access on Steam as well as Xbox One. The Early Access version has roughly 50% of the game completed as far as the procedural generation goes, but it's more than enough to get a really good idea as to what you can do in the swell world of Wellington Wells as well as, well, what you shouldn't do. (Well?)
If you've seen the E3 presentation, then you've seen exactly how the game starts. You play as Arthur Hastings, a man in a censorship department who is responsible for redacting unhappy or potentially unflattering news stories. He comes across one news story that is about him and his past, which sends him down this path that he cannot return from. It's here that the player's choices begin: Do you take your Joy and be blissful once again, or do you resist and try to remember your past? If you go off your Joy, you will have to hide it from the rest of the world, as they don't take too kindly to Downers.
Most of We Happy Few is an exploration game. As Arthur roams the streets, he will come across various people, some on their Joy and some decidedly not, and he will stumble across various story missions as well as side missions. The story missions will often require more exploration, and there is more than enough to explore around the town. I found myself running through the vegetation in the area, scavenging for plants so I could craft medicines and find additional ingredients for meals.
The crafting system is rather deep and is perhaps the best feature in the game. Arthur has to craft his own lockpicks, bandages, medicine, and even weaponry. This is why I spent most of my time exploring the greenery and digging in every pile I could find. I needed to craft together a weapon as well as keep several lockpicks on hand. And if you're curious, no, there is no ridiculous lockpicking mini-game when you use your newly crafted item.
Arthur can even combine food items to make a more nutritious meal, one that will last him longer than simply munching on moldy bread. Arthur does have to be fed, watered, and rested to keep his health up, his strength up, and his mistakes down. If he is sleepy, hungry, or thirsty, his stamina will drop, not letting him run as long or climb or even fight well.
So how is this game procedurally generated? If you die, you start all over with completely different missions and a different layout of Wellington Wells. Your experience is completely unique, and you can use it to experiment and make different choices throughout. Do you use stealth? Do you try to blend in and conform? Or do you attack everyone in sight? You can turn off the permadeath option to keep your particular game a bit longer, which I admit I did because I'm not a complete masochist.
We Happy Few may be one of the darkest, most twisted games I have played in a long time. With my first play session, I was the good little Joy-taker who did his job without question. As I started new games, I tried rocking the boat a bit more, and I stumbled across truly monstrous revelations about the "happy" society without a history. What's even darker is realizing that even though this takes place an alternate history of the 1960s, this could easily happen in our own society. And that, my friends, is guaranteed to make you reach for your own pills of Joy.
We Happy Few has no official release date out of Early Access yet, but there is plenty in there now to experiment with and be horrified to witness. Keeping the characters constantly fed and watered and rested is more of an annoying hassle than it should be, and there are some obvious graphical issues at the moment, but none of it takes away from the twisted and yet joyous experience. It will also release on Xbox One, Linux, and Mac.