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We Happy Few (Early Access)
We Happy Few (Early Access) We Happy Few (Early Access) We Happy Few (Early Access) We Happy Few (Early Access)
This is We Happy Few. It's a brand new first-person adventure game from Compulsion Games starring a professional redactor who refuses to take his happy pills. The result has the potential of being one of the year's most compelling games, but it's not quite ready to go yet. Let's crib this.

Hey, wasn't this just at E3? It was. If what you're seeing looks familiar, it's because Microsoft debut the game at their Xbox press conference. We Happy Few caught a lot of people's attention because of its alternate 1960s setting and a story involving an entire world full of forced happiness. Between the stylish design and cool concept, this quickly became one of the games I was excited to play.

Now it's part of Steam Early Access and the Xbox One's preview program. This alpha build comes with a message at the top warning players that what they're about to see is very early and may not run properly. What's more, none of the story elements are in place, save for the introduction level many people saw at the Microsoft press conference or in the trailer. There are notes to collect that add a little context, but almost all of the cinemas and story beats are behind held back until the proper release.

Wait ... there's no story? Not yet. What we're given is something of a randomly generated sandbox where we're expected to complete quests and explore the surroundings. The developers hope this will give you a better idea of the tone of the game and how it will work mechanically. Unfortunately, what this alpha build actually did was erase most of the excitement I had for the game coming out of E3.

I went into We Happy Few expecting a carefully constructed first-person adventure game along the lines of BioShock or Deus Ex, but quickly discovered that it's more of a survival game. Not survival horror, but rather like Don't Starve and Sir, You Are Being Hunted. It's a game where you're constantly picking up objects and crafting them to aid in your quest to escape the city. You'll also need to keep eating, sleeping, drinking and more in order to stay alert and avoid the hostile people roaming the streets.

That sounds like a drag! Yeah, it kind of is. While I'm not opposed to constantly keeping track of gauges, I wasn't a fan of how aggressive the survival mechanics are in We Happy Few. It only takes a couple minutes for our hero to become thirsty or crave food. It often felt like I was spending more time trying to keep the hero alive than actually exploring the world and solving quests. This is, as I started earlier, an early alpha build, so I suspect these gauges will be toned down

considerably in the finished game. That's what I had to keep reminding myself as I played through the Early Access build of We Happy Few. Whenever I ran into something I didn't like or understand, I just chalked it up to the game being six months to a year away from release. The broken quests, characters spouting out gibberish and ugly locations all feel very temporary, and I doubt they are indicative of where the finished game will end up.

Is there anything you liked? Oh, definitely. The introduction cinema sets up a story I'm eager to uncover, especially now that I've explored the limited area and completed some of the quests. I'm curious how all of this will tie together and how the developers will use the three playable characters. I also really like the full-motion video bits, especially when it comes to the public service announcements and old television episodes. I sat in front of the old black and white TV completely engrossed in the host's calming bedtime story. I hope the finished game does more with the full-motion bits.

Conclusion: While I'm still excited to play We Happy Few, I would be lying if I said this Early Access alpha didn't blunt some of my enthusiasm. It's not so much the execution of this build, but rather the realization that it's going to be more of a survival game than a linear story-driven adventure. And even after I got over my initial shock, I still had a hard time warming up to the rapidly depleting gauges and nonsensical mechanics. This early version is currently $29.99, which is steep for the amount of content you get. There may come a time when the game is worth the asking price, but not without the story and multiple characters. We'll revisit We Happy Few when it's finished and ready to go.
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