We Happy Few Preview – Solid But Uninspiring
*Based on the Early Access build
After creating a lot of buzz, mostly thanks to its tone, We Happy Few might not be the joyous experience many are expecting.
At its core, We Happy Few is a survival game with some creepy imagery and themes. The Early Access build opens up a fair amount to play with, but it’s not exactly fun. For all of the world building and scene setting the initial five minutes indulges in, the gameplay is uninspired.
Players must take into account thirst, hunger and fatigue. There’s various other effects that need monitoring when trigged, such as bleeding and sickness. Gathering materials and supplies forms the spine of the Early Access build. For a modern title, these mechanics are dated. Go here, pick this up and combine it.
It’s where the build lives, and unfortunately, dies. Most of the time spent playing is walking around looking at the same NPC models, buildings and hearing repeated lines. The crafting system itself is so basic that feels more tacked on than developed. There’s quests to complete, all of which require certain materials to be gathered. None of the quests in the Early Access build come even close to being interesting.
We Happy Few’s struggles continue with its inventory management. Items take up slots in the backpack, with the slots dictated by the item’s size. This causes a fair amount of time fiddling with the inventory in order to make room. This won’t be a issue for many, but is worth noting. Menus feel like they were made with consoles in mind, leaving the PC version feeling a bit clunky.
That’s perhaps the best way to describe We Happy Few’s Early Access build, uninteresting. For all of the unnerving elements the game initially promises, it melts into mediocrity This is particularity true with the combat. Attack and block, that’s about as deep as it gets. The audio feedback may sound brutal, but the combat itself is far too light to be satisfying.
One element of We Happy Few that does work is the procedurally generated town. Each time you play, the town will differ in certain aspects. It keeps things slightly fresh, even if the size and layout remains familiar. The environment featured in the Early Access build is dark, gloomy and depressing. Characters will mutter under their breath while expressing grief, or straight up lashing out. Streets are painted with shades of grey, with very little colour in sight.
A curious feature found in the build was the ability to change the look of the world via pills. Popping a Joy will cause the environment the light up, bursting with colour and joy. Graffiti will change to show happy messages, NPCs will cheer the player on. Even the sky gets in on the act by spawning a rainbow. It may be a small touch, but it works wonders in the context of the game.
Most people will pick up on the ‘Britishness’, which is a fair point. There’s a strong 1960s BBC vibe to the whole game. The initial few minutes use it to the game’s advantage, but once the game starts it soon runs thin. NPCs will mutter lines that become increasingly insufferable. Repeating quirky words and British stereotypes does not result in comedy gold, just annoyance.
We Happy Few’s Early Access build gives a fair idea of what to expect, even if it’s not all good. The crafting system is extremely basic, doing very little to enhance the experience. Combat is light and lacks any satisfaction on sense of impact. There’s brief flashes of what the game could be, but it is so far hidden behind some mediocre mechanics.
Fans of survival games will get some thrills out of it, but will ultimately feel trapped. The Early Access build lacks the charm and unnerving nature the game gained attention for. There’s still plenty to flesh out and build upon. In it’s current state, it’s all rather uninspired.