Compulsion games had a much larger presence at PAX East this year. Outfitted with one of the larger booths on the floor, they were happy to show off the major progress on their upcoming rogue-like survival game, We Happy Few.
While last year’s demo helped show off the early concepts of the game, this year’s build is nearing something that feels like a final product.
The setting is an alternate history of 1960s England where the majority of society is subdued by government mandated, psychedelic drug use. Small groups of citizens refuse to take the drugs and are forced to live as outsiders because of it.
Our demo started as I woke up in an underground safehouse with only a few supplies available to me. The hatch was stuck, so I needed to find a tool to jimmy it loose. This was a quick and easy way to get me exploring the inventory and crafting system in the game, since they’re crucial to your success.
Once I was above ground, I was on my own. Biology kicked in, reminding me that my character is in fact human and requires basic things like food, water, and sleep.
The first part of town is lined with bombed out, decaying buildings. The people who are living there aren’t very well off either. These are the downers, outcasts from the rest of society who don’t take their daily doses of the drug called Joy to keep themselves happily doped up and obedient.
These folks are angry and paranoid. They certainly didn’t take kindly to me running into their homes and searching through their cupboards for a bite to eat.
I found out through trial and error what was needed to not disturb the locals. This is as much a part of your survival as eating and drinking. Don’t stand out, and don’t draw too much attention to yourself.
Given no other option, you can always resort to violence or running away. Hiding in tall grass and throwing empty bottles in the opposite direction worked for a short term distraction.
Confrontation was inevitable as I tried to make my way from the rough part of town, through the police barricades, and onto the more cheery neighborhood. My most immediate problem was that while my ragged clothes and under-stimulated mind were normal with the rest of the downers, I stuck out like a sore thumb to policemen and Joy-fueled townsfolk.
Apparently, I wasn’t welcome on their rainbow-lined streets without the same carefree strut and characteristically creepy face paint.
Without a supply of happy pills to help me fit in, I was quickly chased into a field and beaten to a pulp. What’s great here is that I survived the attack, but was in really bad shape. Had I been more prepared with bandages and healing balms, I could’ve recovered and tried again. I like that there’s a chance you can make up for a big mistake without having to start over again.
That wasn’t the case this time, since I was bleeding badly and all of my status bars were desperately low.
I started to wrap my head around the rules of We Happy Few’s world just as our time was running out for the demo. As bleak as the game world sounds, there are moments of humor, most of which arise out of the crazy mishaps you get yourself into trying new ways to survive.
Compulsion has laid the foundation for an interesting first person experience. They’re tight lipped about the game’s story for now, but promising to keep players motivated to replay the game not just through randomized levels.
We Happy Few is coming to Early Access on Steam and Xbox One later this year.