We Happy Few, a Breakdown

(Anything in bold is not part of the original video's script.)

Ever play Fallout 3? That mission with the scientist playing God in the simulator? The citizens are happy, cause they don't think anything is wrong.  They water their plants and live in this peaceful cul-de-sac. But then, the old lady down the street says her skin feels wrong. An oven explodes and a mom dies. A kid starts crying in the middle of the street and the dog won't stop barking. Then, the Chinese roll in and everyone's dead. Everyone's happiness is chipping away because the player keeps scratching at the surface.

That's how I describe We Happy Few. You're the bastard who's ruining everyone's fun time. But that's okay, cause you're the good guy. Right?

What is "We Happy Few"

At PAX East, I got to chat with one of the developers on the game, its future, and strangely enough, copious amounts of corpses. But that's for later. I'll be using the trailer to point out the different machinations of this game, but let's start with the player.

You come from a hole in the ground. And you're one of the few people who doesn't live in one of the fancy houses above ground. You're called a "Downer," and are somewhat aware that everything is not what it seems to be. Happy rainbows and that? Nope, you know it's artificial. But as the player, you choose to throw yourself into the drug (and thus will repeat the day-to-day cycle of getting out of your hole into the world), or reject the drug and try to get the hell out of the town. Uncle Jack, who's totally not creepy and following you through the monitor, is on screen at the table. You see that ladder in the distance? That's where you'll be climbing out. 

The small dwelling in the ground is your safe zone. You can craft anything you want without having to worry about the freaky freaks upstairs. Before you leave, you can grab some regular tools and food from the cabinets.

Upon joining the waking world, you'll be met by this copper gentleman here. I won't tell you why (except I am, because huzzah for text!) and what for, but the first few moments show you the world for what it truly is. In the first moments of the game, you'll see a crazy man run at you. He's aware of the world, which is literally drugged, and is subsequently knocked out by the cop. Is this a problem to you? No! Just a normal day, as you greet the cop gentleman good day.

00:29 And pause. Welcome to your favorite and worst place to be. Think Don't Starve and Bioshock. You have one life, and you need to be careful not to starve, not to dehydrate, and most of all - not to get completely rekt by the creepy denizens of the town. Everyone has a happy mask. And everyone's on drugs. Literally. 


The objectives are simple: survive and escape. Or you can join your drug-peddling neighbors and get high on life. The drugs are in the food. In the water. Food and liquids that you find within the buildings have Joy in them. Even the alcohol. (Or perhaps, especially the alcohol.) Balancing your sanity is just as important as getting out.

The drug is called "Joy" and is used as a deterrent to help people forget something that happened before to all of the people in the town. What is it? We don't know, but the town was so scarred that Joy is administered to everyone through pills, water, food, so on. It'll be up to you to find ways to micro-manage Joy intake.

How to get food and water? Food can be found by rummaging through trash cans and buildings. In the homes, you can usually find tea on the second floors. For the food, the kitchens are pretty ripe with food. Looting feels the same way as Bioshock (spam E to collect all), so you can loot and run very fast when trespassing a neighbor's house. You can also craft your own purified water, which will not add to your Joy meter.

Or if you don't care about any of that, you can kill literally everyone you find and make a corpse pile in the middle of the town. Horrific, I know, but I had fun with the devs about different ways how to kill the crazy citizens with traps and stuns. Complement those with the craftable weapons available in this game, you can have as much or as little fun with the town as you like.

The demo featured melee weapons, but in the future, they may have interesting versions of arms. To what end, as far as crossbows or actual pistols, have yet to be set in stone.

Compulsion is doing a real nifty thing by asking the press and players what they want out of the game. They're taking a lot of feedback and implementing it into the game while the development process is going. We ended up talking a lot about how to set a trap on a car through town. I don't know if that'll actually happen, but it was pretty cool how much info gathering they were doing based off suggestions.

Bad Guys

Real quick, here's a good indicator of what you need to avoid. The indicator. Do you see this man? This seemingly cool guy who looks like he's giving you a fistbump? Take a look at the yellow icon over his head. He's suspicious. He's suspiciously going to kill you. If you see this, you are too close. You need to run. You seriously need to run. If you see a granny with this notification, not only do you need to run but you need to get the hell out of dodge cause she's going to summon dozens of these mask-wearing psychos after you. The Granny is a very easy woman to trigger, as if you're just looking at her, she will follow you (and she is FAST) and will call on others to "help the little old lady". In other words, kill you. She's not hard to out run, but running in general is bad when you're trying to keep a low profile.

Most of them will chase after you with whatever they have. Crowbars. Big paddles. You can run into a house to avoid them, use your weapon to fight them, or just keep running through the procedurally generated town to get away from the crazy. Yellow is hello, red is dead. 

The town looks vibrant, with the roads painted or the cobblestone colored with lights. You can't escape into the stores, but trespassing in houses is fair game. And in most cases, you'll be able to find there tea and apples and other food to stay alive. BUT...the houses themselves are booby-trapped, from small trackers to bombs.

Hidden away in alleys are special puzzles that will offer you different rewards. They're randomly generated at the start of the level (and funny enough, I happened to spawn right near one when I demoed myself). These will be scattered across the map and you'll need to solve the puzzle to get the chest. I was told it takes around 6-8 minutes to solve one. That may change later in development.

And remember the drug I told you about? These people are all on Joy. Drink the water or eat the food and you'll be one of them. Balance yourself, and you'll be able to escape. Just have enough to reach that immaculate high and you'll actually trigger some special moves. Just don't deep dive and you'll be just fine. Whether you are actually on Joy or not is part of the story, and what you will discover as things unfold in the game.

These monitors with Uncle Jack? They track you. The others will track you. If you run, if you jump, they will track you down. Anything not of their utopia of joy is met with pain. The tea on the table is drinkable. The pills, however, you must stay away. And when they catch you, they will kill you. Because after all, you could have just had a nice day.

We Happy Few.

Final Thoughts

I had a blast playing the pre-Alpha. I can think of many ways why this game will be extremely replayable, judging by the crafting system and the use of corpses. Traps alone can make the game wildly fun. The idea that I can craft on-the-go, coupled with an urgency of not dying to starvation or dehydration, makes the idea of running around fun.

However, I can also think up different ways how this game can "lose the point" on players, if they focus too much on the plot. There is a compelling enough story with what is going on with the town's citizens, as well as Uncle Jack and all that, but at the same time, for a game that hits a randomness factor of how the map is generated, I only hope that the story is engaging enough to want to continue trying out new things, despite already knowing who's the bad guy or what happened to Wellington Wells.

I'm happy this game exists. Sounds strange to say it like that, but the environment and the people are creepily interesting enough. I want to know who Uncle Jack is. I want to know what messed up the town. But at the same time, I want to bash some heads. Bring it on, Compulsion. 

TL;DR Fun to play already and it's only in pre-Alpha. Definitely worth a go.