Recently announced We Happy Few by Quebec developer Compulsion games, is hard to describe, even though it is easy to understand. The game is a procedurally generated post-apocalyptic survival game set in a retro-future Britain. It’s a fist person survival game taking cues from games such Don’t Starve and Bioshock with a hint of Fallout for good measure. We Happy Few teleports the player to an incredibly happy all be it, incredibly creepy London. Everyone in the world is happy, wearing masks to show just how happy they really are. What could be a simple adventure game, under the surface is something far more interesting.
Starting the demo off, you wake up in a bunker. There is no clue how you got there, or what you have to do in this world. Supplies are scattered around the room and in cabinets, but there is little clue what you will need to do with everything. As you get your bearings on the world, a 50s style TV personality comes onto the TV. He talks to everyone in the city about how they must be happy. He makes very strange demands on the population and makes vague threats on what would happen if people do not comply. It is clear this personality has something to do with the control of the world, although little is clear to the extent his power spreads.
Moving out of the bunker into the real world, you witness a screaming man come running towards you, a masked bobby strikes him down before greeting you in a pleasant cordial tone. No one seems to find this incident strange, although it is clear something is very off within this city. The developers at Compulsion games indicated that everyone in this world is drugged up on an odd cocktail of narcotics. You, the player, are only just now becoming sober, so the true horror is starting to become clear. Everyone is living in a drug fueled haze, unaware of what is going on or what decay the city has fallen under.
The city is procedurally generated, so players as they explore will all experience a new and interesting series of events. That all works with the overall premise of the game. Unlike many first person games such as Bioshock, Fallout, the object of the game is not to kill the other people of the town, but to survive and eventually escape the city. To do this you will need to explore the city and scavenge it for supplies, all while trying to mask the fact you are sober to the other members of the city.
Now these drugs don’t just make people “joyful,” they also have the fun side effect of making people psychotic if anyone breaks their idealistic state. If you manage to do anything odd or abnormal, the population will get angry and attack. Jumping, running, or exploring for supplies will all alert people to your true nature, so you have to ensure you keep yourself looking as docile and bland as possible.
Although We Happy Few is taking tried and true concepts, the way they are implementing them all, just works. It is rewarding to be able to evade the people of a town as you slowly try to find your way through the goals. The fact the first person mechanics are being used in a way that promotes exploration rather than killing is also a nice touch. Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite presented a world that begged to be explored, yet when it really came down to gameplay, more focus was put on the killing and fighting then it was on the world building and exploration. Diving into the dark past of a story at the pace introduced in this story is something that only interactive fiction can allow, and it seems Compulsion games will be using this to the fullest. Already there are hints of a truly unique experience, and it is still very early on.
We Happy Few is a game that should spark the imagination. If all the ideas come together in the final release it may give players a slew of ways to explore and live in the dystopian future that compulsion games have built. Right now, the game is in pre-alpha, and the team is looking for feedback on what people think of the experience so far. The final game is a ways off still, although the team at Compulsion games want to get people involved early. They will be planning a Kickstarter/Early Access sometime in the future and want community involvement in the development. If the team can build and expand on what they have shown so far, We Happy Few could be a title to look out for. The game is coming to PC first but may expand to consoles at a later date.