We Happy Few has been in development for nearly four years, and developer Compulsion Games has grown its headcount to 40 people from the original six person team. The game, being published by Gearbox Publishing, is a highly systemic, procedural survival adventure. We Happy Few takes place in an alternative 1960s England. Conformity is key as players try to blend in with drugged-out locals while adhering to their less than normal rules.
The demo that I tried out was the first hour and a half of Arthur's storyline. This is one of the three storylines that will ship with We Happy Few version 1.0 later this year. All owners of Early Access and Game Preview versions of We Happy Few will receive the 1.0 update at launch. The game will contain nearly twenty hours of narrative-driven gameplay when it releases in the Summer of 2018.
The demo begins with Arthur Hastings at a work birthday party where he gets to take a whack at a piñata, which was actually a dead rat. After the rat explodes, Arthur reacts negatively and is chased out of the workplace after being deemed a Downer. After stumbling through some maintenance tunnels, players begin their escape from Wellington Wells, an oddly cheerful dystopian city.
After exiting the tunnel system, I popped out in Barrow Holm, a war-torn district full of empty homes full of creepy hints and callbacks to Wellington Wells' dark past. There are strong undertones of loss and regret as many homes and buildings in the district feel almost freshly abandoned in spite of the rotting structures. Some of these places contained items that would come in handy for crafting purposes later.
Arthur's efforts to get past a bridge force him to encounter David Livingston, a war hero who will come to your aid in exchange for his stolen war medals. Livingston's medals were in the Headboys Hooligan Camp, and I wandered over that way. One interesting gameplay mechanic is how We Happy Few lets you know when you are trespassing. Shortly after being warned by the game, I was captured.
This was one of the odder moments of the demo, as I was stripped of all my stuff and transported to an underground poor man's deathmatch arena to fight for my life against one of my coworkers. The game teaches you fighting in this moment and after beating my opponent to death, I got the heck out of there with Livingston's medals.
I wandered into another part of Barrow Holm where I encountered some very grumpy locals. They didn't like how I was dressed (my suit was too fancy) and were beginning to intimidate me when a friendly lady opened up the door to the church. I ran into the church and away from the increasingly angry locals. After using the crafting system to tear up my suit, I was ready to go back outside, but luckily Livingston was also seeking sanctuary in the same Church. I traded him his war medals for the key to the bridge, and also traded my socks to the lady who saved me in exchange for some advice. Socks for sanctuary, indeed.
After getting past the bridge, I continued to the train station. I ended up fighting my way through a lot of this part, and of course I died a couple of times along the way. Another cool gameplay mechanic involves how the music changes when you are about to die. The screen goes black and white and some very ominous music kicks in. It was a welcome change of pace from tradition FPS health gauges, or that jelly that pops up on screen during COD firefights. After the main way out of town was blocked by rubble, I ran into Arthur's old neighbor, Ollie, who would be my ticket out of town.
We Happy Few's latest demo is the most polished version of the game to date. The game has its own style of gameplay and storytelling that engages players with moment to moment gameplay. The game's lore is firmly embedded in each of these moments and players will certainly feel as if they are moving towards a goal or conclusion as they progress through the adventure. We Happy Few features an elegant crafting system that doesn't make players feel like they are balancing an excel spreadsheet while still offering a deep array of options. Players can heal themselves with a nice nap and even search toilets for crafting items. The little details in this game are what make it so charming, like being able to hide in the trunk of an abandoned car when a bunch of angry townspeople are chasing you.
We Happy Few launches on Xbox One, PS4 and PC later this summer. Shackers can find out more at Compulsion Games' official website.