Montreal-based studio Compulsion Games, developers of the slick, vaudevillian platformer Contrast, has finally established a date for the early access Xbox Preview of their highly anticipated sophomore title We Happy Few.
After hinting last year at a spring preview and a summer full-release, We Happy Few was pushed back significantly, but not for any ill-fated reason. Following a massively successful Kickstarter reaching many of its stretch goals, Compulsion has been busy magnifying the scope of their upcoming game.
Before E3, We Happy Few had been little more than an exciting concept for a survival game: permadeath is the core, and when death is abundant, players must adapt to new locals, towns, loot items, security checkpoints, and paranoia akin to uncertainty. We Happy Few is a survival game, but the means to survive are far from basic.
In We Happy Few, conformity is a key survival mechanic. Players must craft or steal drugs and dapper suits to increase conformity and blend into the social sideshow that is Wellington Wells. Do not tempt the Bobbies or their billy clubs. With a constant need for sustenance, players will risk their skin to break into “Wellie” homes and scrounge up loot, alleviating their hunger and thirst. Without proper food and water players will eat “strange meat” or drink drugged water, and may wake up dead due to food poisoning. The survival is a dystopic spin on hypothermia deaths prevalent in fellow Canadian title The Long Dark.
While the pre-alpha sandbox with procedurally generated worlds was exciting to watch develop, the gameplay in the premiere E3 gameplay trailer was a glimpse at something far grander. There are darker things happening in the We Happy Few’s dystopic drugland than just bludgeonings and beatings. There is a distorted twist of perception and savagery amongst the “Wellies” that cannot be solely the fault of the rampant addiction to happy pill “Joy.”
In an interview with Xbox Daily Compulsion’s Creative Director Guillaume Provost discussed the distorted reality of Joy in We Happy Few. Provost says that the very nature of the Joy drug is to rid users of their unfavourable realities around them. When players detox, they will begin to experience the reality of Wellington Wells—situations throughout the game may not appear as they as are, Provost says.
In a Kickstarter update Alex Epstein, Narrative Director at Compulsion, addressed the goal of the E3 demo. The studio wanted to “tell the players there’s more coming,” and show the philosophy behind protagonist Arthur’s actions as he dissents into the sober life of a “Downer.”
Epstein was tasked with devising a conclusion for the early access version of the game that begins the story more than it ends it.
“I needed something for Arthur to say that tells players something about Arthur’s frame of mind,” Epstein said on Kickstarter. “But don’t expect emotional closure.”
The narrative devices have been laid out, now Compulsion just has to tell their story in their own unique way.
We Happy Few has become a showcase for the talents and imagination at Compulsion Games. While more and more details reach the surface, there is still a mystique surrounding it. And although the early access version will be the first hand experience for console gamers it won’t be until the full release that we really know what We Happy Few has to offer. For now, I can’t wait to get into Wellington Wells.