Joy to the World?
‘We Happy Few‘ first got an audience many years ago, but after launching in Early Access as yet another survival game, it went into hibernation for nearly two years before emerging as more of a Bioshock style of game. Was the extra time worth the wait?
The extra time has basically gone into three expansive, narrative driven storyline adventures, where you play as Arthur, Sally & Ollie (in that order). There’s somewhere in the region of 30-50 hours of gameplay to get through all of them as well. We Happy Few is set in Wellington Wells, a set of islands off the coast of Britain in an alternative 1960’s history following a very different end to WW2.
The plot clearly draws inspiration from a number of dystopian writers like Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, games like Bioshock, and films like A Clockwork Orange, blending them together into a distinct enough identity. The three protagonists all have their own gameplay tweaks, but their storylines all share a number of bleak and violent themes. As well as defined story missions and objectives, there’s also a number of notes and other lore items scattered around, which really help with the world-building.
The story, however, is better than the gameplay, which is a mish-mash of various different styles. When the game launched into early access, it was basically a survival game in the same vein as DayZ, Conan Exiles or Ark. The final product still includes some survival elements, but very much toned down. I’m pretty sure it’s actually impossible to die from hunger, thirst or lack of sleep, just that they have negative status effects, particularly in combat.
There is crafting, but again it’s a fairly basic system and the items are more for basic needs like healing and lock-picking rather than creating a base or anything grandiose. The combat and AI are more advanced than in most survival games, but if the target was Bioshock, then the result was always likely to be missed. Fighting with the melee weapons feels a bit clunky and lacking in feedback. The timing for blocks in particular felt almost random.
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