"Happiness is a choice."
In a world set in the sixties, disease runs rampant, bodies line the streets, and nobody cares. Such is the norm in Compulsion Games' first-person survival game: We Happy Few. Currently in Steam early access for $29.99 USD We Happy Few is a game that jumped out at me during Microsoft's E3 2016 Conference due to it's Bioshock-esque aesthetic.
Unfortunately the early access build of this game is quite bare bones, with only 3/5 traversible islands in the game able to be accessed. Some gameplay features, and polish that needs to be applied to this game are still in development, which is quite a shame. Because of this, the "story mode" of this game is not yet available.
However, a base narrative can be established. All civil citizens in this world are forced to take narcotics called "Joy", an addictive pill which relieves the user of their depressing memories and masking their vision of all things deemed morbid. In this beautifully ignorant world, Arthur Hastings, a simple office worker opts out of taking his Joy on the job. As Arthur finally understands the effects that Joy has on it's users, his co-workers label him as a Downer, one who refuses to take Joy, and Arthur is quickly apprehended and moved to the slums. This is where the clear narrative of the game ends, and the player is then allowed to bustle through this interesting world.
When I fell into this world, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was an open-world survival game. I'm not sure what I expected, likely something more along the lines of a linear, story-driven experience. When a new game is started, an option is given to enable or disable perma-death. Personally, I dislike this feature, the reason behind this lies mostly in the gameplay as it stands right now.
If I had to think of a game to compare We Happy Few to, off of the top of my head I would have to name Skyrim with survival elements. With the exception of many of the story quests, there are various objective for the player to complete scattered around the game world which can absolutely keep you occupied for a hefty amount of time. However, there are some overarching objectives that the player will feel inclined to completed. Now, I likened this game to Skyrim in the way that you receive a quest, only to discover that there is very much a 'But I must find this thing, or I must do that before I can do this' chain along each of the quests.
Many of these links lie in the fact that the player is starved of key items, or cannot find items that would be useful. This would be fine if the player had a suitable amount of time to find these resources, that is that the player's hunger, thirst and rest bars quickly decline throughout the flowing days, forcing the player to scavenge constantly, possibly even putting their play through at risk by eating rotten foods which could give diseases that could be deadly if the player does not know how to tend to them. This is the greatest quip with the perma-death function that I have. The player's resource drainage is so brutal if pared with the fact that useful resources, or resources essential to progression are so scarce that the player will most likely die multiple times, while trying to simply explore the world.
Aside from this, the game does have a basic crafting system, which simply requires varying amounts of resources to create a simple item. More complex items can be crafted at specialised tables found in the player's safe house. Though again, the scarce resources of the world does hinder the player. Though the player may be forced to replay some areas of the game due to perma-death, the map corresponding to each play through is procedurally generated. An island will hold the same buildings and events, though each section of the map will be rearranged. A nice little addition, if somewhat overkill.
I do like We Happy Few. It's quirky art style and theme alongside an interesting combination of RPG and Survival elements compels me to observe its development process. From what I have played through so far, I can appreciate the game in it's current state and I eagerly await it's full release.
If you think that you would enjoy this game when it is fully released, I would recommend waiting until the game is on sale. Looking at it's current features and balancing, it is nor worth as it stands right now.