If you keep up with video games (and let’s be honest you’re reading this on a relatively obscure site so you probably do) then you can’t have failed to notice the recent Early Access launch and subsequent flop of We Happy Few.
Most people first saw it with that fantastic E3 trailer and expected the next Bioshock. What we got was… well not Bioshock. Now whilst many of its defendants cry out that there were more trailers out there and raw gameplay that showed you what it was like your average Joe (myself included) only saw the trailer and was suitably hyped. So when it hit Early Access many people were perplexed as to how that would work. On release it became apparent to what passes as ‘everyone’ on the internet, at least, that the game was a survival game. And not a particularly good one at that.
Now I’m not going to talk about how good or bad the game is at the moment (spoiler, it’s not great); there are a million and one reviews out there that do that. Thanks to Holidays and other commitments I’m far too late to the party on that one. Instead, I want to look at if it’s possible to be an eventual story of success upon its full release.
Just another Early Access Survival Game
The unfinished, broken, unbalanced Early Access craftathon is now basically a genre of its own. Steam is filled to bursting with them from the very very good such as ARK: Survival Evolved to very very bad such as Age of Survival and plenty of somewhere in between with stuff like Savage Lands. After the initial genre shock of We Happy Few people then quickly realised that it wasn’t even that great game of its type.
In short the game is too heavily focused on random spawning, incredibly repetitive, has a lack of actual stuff to do, and the survival gauges such as food and sleep become incredibly annoying. But all of this is arguably what Early Access is there for: so that they can sort it out and get the gameplay to be balanced and fun. Moments before I first sat down to write this a huge patch was released with a laundry list of changes including, most notably:
- Hunger fully depletes in 40 minutes (instead of 32).
- Thirst fully depletes in 30 minutes (instead of 20).
- Sleep fully depletes in 45 minutes (instead of 20).
So I played some more and honestly many of the initial problems, while not gotten rid of, have certainly been improved upon. Feedback is being listened to and they’re using Early Access properly as a way to make the game better. There are blog posts from the developers promising even more in the future and by the full release I expect We Happy Few to be a pretty good Survival Game. The question is: will this be enough?
Burning the Bioshock Bridge
The prologue for the game (which is what we saw at E3) is undoubtedly fantastic. It sets a great tone and got everyone excited for the world’s next Bioshock with a story driven dystopian fantasy. But as is now painfully obvious the prologue is not at all like the actual meat of the game and currently it’s all there is. The developers have promised plenty of story and multiple characters are in the works but there are two possibilities that I can see that are likely and probably wouldn’t work well.
The first is that all the story bits will be like the prologue and will evoke the memory of the story driven game. This then hits us with the problem that it would be so tonally different from the actual gameplay. To shift between the two styles could be jarring and totally immersion breaking. And what of the fact that permadeath is a big thing? Does this mean that you’ll be forced to replay story segments or will you be able to skip them, making them feel unnecessary?
The second is that it will be integrated into the rest of the game like the current quest style. But then would it be able to match the hype of the prologue? Would that just be completely unrepresentative?
Wait and See
If you were hoping to find an answer to this article’s question then I’m sorry but you’re going to be disappointed. They’re working on it and it could become a fantastic game. But the developers may have already shot themselves in the foot and created a race that they just can’t win. It’s said that in this day and age there is no such thing as too little too late when it comes to video games (just look at Evolve stage 2) there are lots of potential challenges that We Happy Few has to overcome and I must say that I remain hopeful that it could be fantastic. However, I know that until the full release I’m not going to be touching it again.