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We Happy Few Hands-On preview – Don’t stand out

by Joey Davidson | March 8, 2015March 8, 2015 10:00 am PDT

Compulsion Games only recently revealed We Happy Few. This title is exceptionally early in development, and the studio, which previously produced Contrast, made a build for PAX East in order to receive feedback from the players and fans.

As Creative Lead Guillaume Provost explained during our demo, the studio basically produced a sandbox that would deliver the vibe and feeling of what they’re going for with We Happy Few. Now, there wasn’t much to do in the demo, but what was there was very compelling.

The game takes place in a retrofuturistic version of the 60s in London. The society at large is on a special drug that does away with the cold, grey and depressing bleakness of the world and replaces it with a sense of comatose happiness. You, the player, are off of the drug. You see the weird world for what it is, and, we suppose, you want to keep it that way.

When I asked Provost what the driving force behind the game was, he didn’t have an answer… yet. Compulsion wanted to get this vibe and sandbox in front of players before they build it out with a story. This is a procedurally generated version of London, complete with stuff to loot, traps to avoid and people to either kill or sneak behind. Provost explained that the studio is studying and exploring how to tell a story in a procedurally generated world, but offered that they simply aren’t at that stage yet in development.

We Happy Few - Concept Art - 2

So, what they brought to the show was essentially a proof of concept toy. I awoke in a bunker, had a HUD that indicated I needed to deal with both my thirst and hunger and I was able to leave. Leaving meant going out in front of others on their happiness drugs, and that’s where to core of We Happy Few starts to really show up.

This appears to be a game about beating the system without standing out too much. If you behave weirdly, don’t walk in straight lines, jump, enter houses that you have reason to enter or generally act different, the city notices you. That sense that something is wrong with you, the player, spreads out quickly. The once kind and jovial public turns on you, chases you, beats you and tries to kill you.

Unless you find a phone booth and take the drug. They’ll back off if you do, and the world fills with color. Take too much and you overdose. You’ll wake up in the bunker and start again.

There isn’t much too We Happy Few yet. Compulsion clearly has something compelling, and that odd sense of dread and wonder that we all got by watching the reveal trailer was certainly present in this demo. How they flesh it out into a full experience, of course, is the catch. If they can match the momentum they have already, this could be a stunning game.

It needs a compelling objective, a more diverse sandbox and a bit more in the way of mechanics first. It needs, essentially, time. Since it was only just announced, time is exactly what Compulsion has.


Joey Davidson

Joey Davidson leads the gaming department here on TechnoBuffalo. He's been covering games online for more than 10 years, and he's a lover of all...

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