You know, back in my day, a release date used to mean something.
Okay, that’s not really true. In the “retro” era, they really didn’t even exist. One day you’d just show up at the store and there’d be something new on the shelves. Even now, delays are a regular occurrence, and one that I’m totally fine with. I’m willing to wait for a good, finished product.
I’ll repeat that. I’m willing to wait for a good, finished product.
Where this whole concept sort of goes out the window is with games in “early access”. Whilst there are obvious benefits to the model, and quite a few very good games resulted from it, I tend to avoid them as a rule. Too often I feel like I see it abused, and the whole idea of paying full price (or close to it) for the privilege of being an alpha tester never really appealed to me.
I first heard about We Happy Few close to a year ago, following it in snippets of previews and screenshots that would occasionally pop-up on the sites I frequent. I was immediately drawn to the unsettling feeling it put forth, the sense of dread that seemed to close in from just outside of the frame. The art style brought to mind memories of Bioshock and what I wanted that game to be; a less action-oriented romp through a creepy alternate history. The E3 trailer only served to whet my appetite even further, promising a look into this dystopian civilization that exists in a constantly-sedated state. I wanted to, no, I needed to explore that world, to uncover the story behind this place and the mysteries it held. Thankfully, I wouldn’t have to wait long, with the July release right around the corner.
So now we’ve reached that long-awaited point and… wait a second. It’s a survival game? And it’s not even done?
It’s not even close to done?
Indeed, after the intro (which pretty much consists the entirety of that E3 trailer), you are thrown into the thrilling world of meter-management and item collecting, with a nice bit of RNG just to keep things extra frustrating, as you traverse an incomplete world that’s months if not years from ever fully developing. Some players can complete the game in two minutes. Others can’t complete it at all.
Me? I wandered around for a bit, not fully understanding why I was always so damn thirsty. I then tried to remember if there was a part in the marketing I missed where they described how much fun you’d have trying to deal with your hunger meter. I get that survival games are pretty big these days, and early access survival games in particular, but in the case of We Happy Few, I can’t help but feel like someone came up with a really interesting concept for a setting without any considerations as to what the game would be. As it stands, it’s certainly not what I expected, let alone wanted, and I’m not brimming with confidence that it will ever turn into that. Maybe that’s just residual pessimism from being so let down by my first impression of it.
Unfortunately, that’s the thing about first impressions – you only ever get one.