Step into the shoes of Arthur Hastings as he maneuvers his way through an alternate England in which citizens are dependent on a drug called Joy in order to keep their minds free from worry.
I’ve been following the development of Compulsion Games' We Happy Few for a while now, and while we have to wait until early next year to get a finished version, the demo that I was fortunate enough to play showed some really exciting signs for the coming game. Here are the top four reasons why I — and hopefully you also — am excited for the game’s release.
1. The Setting
We Happy Few is set in a reimagining of the 1960s. There are enough well-placed signals in the early parts of the game to alert the player to a retrofuturistic dystopian society not unlike George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four, with our protagonist working in media censorship. The game comes complete with shady masked policemen and an off-putting, omnipresent media that works successfully to implant a totalitarian system in our minds.
While you could argue that dystopian settings in games are usually done in a heavy-handed way, WHF seems to have hit a good balance — and when it is done right, a dystopian setting makes for an awesome backdrop for the gamer to delve into.
2. The Themes
While the game's setting of a dystopian world is the overarching motif, one must really examine the ideas surrounding it before they can get really excited. The choice to set the game in the 1960s allows the developers to use the framework of the Cold War. I’m not expecting the game to address this political period in recent history head-on, rather, I expect that it is the feelings of paranoia and fear of the unknown that permeated society back then that will be most prominent in WHF.
The anchor for the game is the featured mechanic of choosing when to take your Joy, the drug that helps you to stay happy. This introduces the theme of reality as you take control over balancing the effects of withdrawal and keeping your character sober enough to continue his journey without the crutch of drug dependency. I’m hoping that if you let Arthur slide too far one way or the other, then players will be treated to tricks and hallucinations until we lessen his dependency.
I haven’t seen any confirmed reports of what the story will actually entail; though I would suggest that the groundwork is in place for one that will keep you up until the early hours every night.
3. Survival Aspect
We Happy Few has incorporated some basic survival aspects, which should develop the context of Arthur’s ordeal. What has made previous games, like Alien: Isolation and Don’t Starve, so successful was that you really had no power to take on the antagonist — rather, you could do just enough to get by. This is very much the case for WHF, as you are responsible initially for satisfying Arthur Hastings’ hunger, quenching his thirst and allowing him to rest.
As you progress through the game, I believe aspects of survival will be about blending in rather than conventional survival (urban guerrilla survival, or something like that). Your outfit will need to look nice, you will be expected to smile, and show society that you aren’t a downer. I get the feeling you'll have minimal power in the game as you will have to rely on the drug-addled minds of your fellow citizens and your own cunning to survive long enough.
4. It Looks Great
The in-game design has been a massive draw for admirers of this title. One thing that I really enjoyed were the houses on the loading screen; the way they almost sprout from the ground is very reminiscent of the style used in the Fable series.
The use of color is of course a major decision in any form of design, and it seems like the developers have taken great pains to use vibrant hues to emphasize the euphoric effects of Joy, while the harsh effects of reality introduce bland, monochrome colors.
The character design is very much the focal point of the game, with designers implementing masks for the game's Joy addicts that are just bloody creepy. The plain white masks and snazzy suits worn by the citizens of reimagined England create a surreal effect that quickly grows quite unsettling.
See what other people have to say about We Happy Few:
- 7 Problems 'We Happy Few' Needs To Fix Before Release
- Early Access Review: 'We Happy Few' Is Currently A Mixed Bag of Emotions
- 5 Hours With: We Happy Few
So What's Next?
From what I have heard, it seems likely that the game will be released in early 2017. Obviously there could be changed by numerous delays, or perhaps the release will even be brought forward. Currently the game is being developed for PC and Xbox, though the developers have not ruled out a release for the PS4 at a later date.
If you want to know more about We Happy Few, go to compulsiongames.com. The Xbox Games Store does have a free trial that you can play right now. Or if you’re overly excited and want to see everything the game has to offer, you can get the Alpha version of the game for around $29.99.