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We Happy Few: We Are All on Drugs

Company: Compulsion Games

We Happy Few made a splash at this yearís Electronic Entertainment Expo. While everyone came away from the brief demonstration impressed by the gameís core premise, the fact remained that nobody really knew what the game played like. However, its dystopian trappings meshed with its deeply unsettling art style to ensure that whatever it was, we would be interested. We Happy Few has made it into Early Access, and Iíve got some impressions to share. What is it, exactly? Well, ambitious, for starters.

Narratively, We Happy Few is unfinished, but hereís what we know so far. In alternate history Great Britain, World War II didnít go exactly as the history books tell us. Something happened in the island city of Wellington Wells that absolutely ruined the humanity of its citizens. So much, in fact, that the grand majority of the population must now take a psychotropic drug known as Joy to keep them happy, productive, and ultimately, pliant. The euphoria caused by a single dose of Joy is enough to wipe literally every negative feeling from oneís psyche, and its hallucinogenic properties are so potent that nothing in the world could threaten the mindless bliss. On top of that, everyone wears a nice, happy mask. Itís straight up creepy.


The build available on Early Access has you playing as Arthur Hastings, a clerk responsible for censoring unhappy stories out of the news. As a terribly painful memory threatens to surface, Arthur ultimately chooses to go off his Joy. Seeing the world as it really is has an incredible impact on poor Arthur, and It doesnít take long for his behavior to become indicative of a "Downer." However, Wellington Wells doesnít tolerate Downers, and Arthur is ultimately exiled from the community. Now, his only company is the legion of miserable individuals cast off by societyÖ

We Happy Few focuses on the plights of three main characters, but the preview build deliberately withholds any hints of how the narrative will play out. Once the introductory sequence is finished, the game jumps forward an unknown amount of time and Arthur finds himself in a safehouse underneath, shall we say, the bad part of town. As you venture out from the underground, you get a sense of what life is like for Downers. And it isnít pretty.


Most of the preview build for We Happy Few is sandbox in nature; while Arthur is restricted to a handful of areas, the experience isnít guided. Instead, youíre left to mess around with the gameís systems, and itís here that we start to get a sense of what the actual game is like. Above all, it seems to be a survival role-playing game, albeit one with a twist. Survival is not just a physical demand, but also a social one. You have to keep track of how hungry, thirsty, and tired you are, but the fractured society of Wellington Wells has resulted in its remaining denizens being devolved into tribalists who violently reject anyone who doesnít act, look, or think the way they do. Given the depth of the inventory system and the tools at hand, the task of blending in with this absolutely mad world seems to be a bizarre but uniquely engaging one.

Based on what Iíve seen and played of We Happy Few, itís easy to see why itís on everyoneís radar. Itís clearly aiming to marry its world-building with its gameplay, but it also seems to be one of those exceedingly rare games that has something to say about the human condition without being preachy about it. While itís far too early to speak to the strengths and weaknesses of its gameplay, itís safe to say Iím excited to see what the finished product will be like when it drops. As of this writing, we have no idea when that will be, but rest assured, when that day comes, weíll have a review for you.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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