E3 Hands On: We Happy Few Is Doubleplusgood

Friday, June 24th, 2016

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We Happy Few

One of my favorite games that I played at E3 2016 was We Happy Few. We Happy Few is set in a dystopian world where people take pills, called ‘Joy’, that literally changes the world around them to be colorful and to make them happy and cause them to be able to forget the past.

At Microsoft’s E3 Press Conference, we were introduced to Arthur Hastings who, upon remembering a horrific event from his past, chose to stop taking his ‘Joy’. This sets the events of the game in motion to where Arthur tries to escape from his workplace and survive in an outside world with clear influences from Brave New World, 1984, and the film Brazil.

We Happy Few

The outside world can be a scary place.

The demo for We Happy Few began at the beginning of the game and proceeds through what was shown at the Microsoft Press Conference. It is sufficient to say that yes, it is just as disturbing to watch the ‘pinata’ be whacked and the ‘candy’ to come out a second time, even knowing what is coming.

We Happy Few

The safe bunker where you wake up after the opening cinematics.

After Arthur escapes, the demo picked up underground in a safe bunker. In order to exit, I had to craft a lockpick. I gathered up a bunch of food and drink items, some bandages, and I began to craft. I was pleased to see that the crafting system is pretty straight forward and the game told me what I needed in order to craft what I wanted. As I exited the bunker, I quickly found myself in a procedurally-generated world. The cinematic events are the same for every gameplay, but the town that I am in changes with each playthrough.

An interesting feature for this game is that you have hunger, thirst, health, and sleep meters. These meters require you to make sure to keep Arthur fed, watered, and well-rested in order to keep him alive. I was therefore always on the look out for food and drink to scavenge and a place to rest. The health meter, of course, is exactly like what you would expect: It goes down as you take damage in combat.

Combat in We Happy Few involves you attacking and avoiding being hit. It is fairly standard fare and not necessarily revolutionary in that respect. Early on, I picked up a mini-quest to help out an NPC that was being attacked. I fought with a spear that I had fashioned out of wood, and I killed my attackers.

We Happy Few

Combat while on ‘Joy’. It takes place from a first person perspective, and you can see the enemies health bar above their head.

I was badly hurt, however, so I applied a dirty bandage and stopped the bleeding. After completing the mini-quest, I went through town to a bridge that would let me exit. The graphics for the town were amazing, and I blended in as best as I could with the public. This is a title that relies upon stealth as much as combat, and you have to be able to utilize them all to succeed.

We Happy Few

They hit hard and they are always on the look out for ‘Downers’ (people who stop taking their ‘Joy’).

It was there that I tried to fight a law enforcement officer (who was also wearing the creepy smile mask) and even though I killed the officer, I succumbed to my bleeding wounds when I did not have any bandages left. At that point, my demo ended.

Overall, We Happy Few looks to be an amazing, albeit creepy title that is coming to Xbox One and PC and is a game that I am looking forward to purchasing on day one.

During my time with the demo, I spoke with Compulsion Games’ COO and developer, Sam Abbott. During the interview, he filled me in more about the game’s influences, what ‘Joy’ really is, and about the game itself. You can read my interview with Mr. Abbott here.

All images are courtesy of Compulsion Games.

How did the E3 2016 trailer look to you? Are you excited to experience a world of ‘Joy’? Let us know in the comments below!