E3 2016: We Happy Few Hands-on Experience
Life as we know is full of surprises and we are all looking to live a happy one – that is the principle goal of the human being in this modern era. Once you reach a certain level of happiness, which in a way means you have reached most of your goals, you start living a stagnant life, generally flooded by repetition. Basically, you wake up, go to work, come back, take care of your family, and occasionally go out with them. Is this what it means to be Happy?
In We Happy Few, you play as Arthur Hastings and start off your adventure in your office, at work. After going through some texts, you get a flashback and start remembering awful memories, hunting if you please. At that moment, you reach out for your Joy Pill, and get prompted to whether or not take the pill. You refuse to consume it and you throw it out; at that moment, you become a “Downer”. In Wellington Wells, downers are unwelcome, so as long as you avoid being suspicious, you shouldn’t have too much trouble.
Being a Downer means having your work colleagues turn against you and want to engage you – the same goes with the rest of the citizens living in this city. Luckily, you were able to escape just in time and end up finding yourself in a closed room/bunker where you learn the basics of the game: eating, looting, opening inventory, crafting and more. Using the tool of discovery, you quickly notice that you have to learn on your own if you wish to proceed. It might seem like a difficult task at first, but once you understand how to craft, escaping the room becomes a piece of cake – at the same time, the game introduces you to crafting that way.
Once you find your way outside, you are given the task to escape. Of course, you are not alone; the city is filled with “happy” citizens, as well as happy law enforcers that work together to keep the order in check. As you walk around, searching for an exit, you can interact with the citizen, but the mask they wear is as transparent as clean water – you know they are lying to themselves, but there is nothing you can do but convince them you are still on the pill. Take note that they have an amazing skill to spot whether or not you are on the pill, so at time, you might have to consume some Joy in order to save yourself. Take too much and it’s game over – notice how everything becomes a lot more colorful when you are on this mysterious drug.
As a survival game, you will have to loot food and various other supplies in order to craft tools and eat. Basically, it is your job to ensure that Arthur eats, drink, and gets enough sleep. Otherwise, he will end up dying. Quick tip: crafting food using other basic material usually provides you with a lot more potent items.
As you start your journey off from this demo, you are introduced to a colourful world filled with white face-painted characters. They look freaky; if you are uncomfortable with clowns and puppets, this game will definitely have your heart race. Quickly enough, you realize that the actual brightness dims down to make place for a darker version of the palette – the predominance of light makes way to darkness – again, unless you take the Joy pill.
The controls are decent and intuitive, but feel somehow incomplete. The feedback you get is similar to those of Counter Strike minus the fast-paced killing and movement. As for the visuals, We Happy Few plays a lot on the contrasts in between colors, as well as AI reaction.
My experience with We Happy Few was, and I must admit, a little disappointing. After seeing the trailer, I was expecting the gameplay to be psychedelic, crazy and most importantly, f***** up. I was glad to play from the moment Arthur decides to let go of the pill and live on his own – being introduced to the game otherwise probably wouldn’t have had the same effect. Now that being said, the gameplay I got to experiment with was in contrast to what I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad, but more of a shock if you want.
In my mind, the demo would have focuses on more uncomfortable sequences, but showing off the gameplay while moving around in the city was a good way to go I presume. I was able to become suspicious enough for the law to follow me around, and at that point, I noticed that not only did they run after me, but nearby citizen on Joy were also trying to stop me. When an entire city turns against you, your means to escape only becomes as slim, so I am looking forward to seeing how that will affect the game when it launches.