The First Five Minutes Of We Happy Few Look Great

We Happy Few [official site], you may recall, is an upcoming crowdfunded first-person social survival game from Contrast devs Compulsion Games. Besides its vibrant aesthetic, it poses an interesting premise: you’re trapped in an alternate 1960s England where everyone in town is high on a hallucinatory happy drug called Joy but you’re just coming off it. Problem is, this town hates “downers” and if they realise you’re one there’ll be hell to pay. It’s sort-of BioShock, sort-of Orwell’s 1984, sort-of Huxley’s A Brave New World.

We Happy Few is heading to Early Access in July, Complusion announced at E3, and they’ve shared a look at its opening sequence too:

Looks alright, eh? What I like best about We Happy Few, from what I’ve seen so far, is what it’s doing differently. While I’m still partial to post-apocalyptic survival ’em ups myself, there are so many of them around nowadays that the concept is pretty well worn. A survival game that isn’t about nuclear/zombie devastation, but tries something new – and looks so pretty too – feels like a breath of fresh air.

“This isn’t stealth – this is hiding in plain sight,” said the game’s Kickstarter blurb. “We Happy Few is a game about blending in, while you look for a way to escape.” And I must say, I genuinely felt a shiver run up my spine after seeing the piñata in the trailer above.

That’s the nightmare situation Arthur Hastings finds himself in, and We Happy Few has another two protagonists with interweaving stories and their own goals and dark pasts.

Pip sampled an early build of We Happy Few around this time last year and, although not without reservation with regards to the genre, seemed to enjoy her time overall:

“I’d say this is the most I’ve enjoyed a survival game because the theme is interesting and feels like it works with the survival idea in a way that isn’t just about aimlessly pitting you against an abstraction of a body. A few runs in I was starting to lose patience in the familiar way I do with pretty much all survival games – curiosity about later game experiences dulled by deaths and restarts and scavenging and punching – but I still had ideas I wanted to investigate.”

We Happy Few will enter Steam Early Access on July 26.

Remember, you can catch all of our E3 2016 news by clicking on that link, if you so wish.

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36 Comments

  1. The Dark One says:

    I wonder how far into development they were before they noticed that someone had beat them to the name SOMA.

    • MrFinnishDude says:

      Yeah could have been a nice Huxley reference, but calling the drug Soma would have made it too much like Brave New World don’t you think? You gotta be/seem original.

  2. SoulForMachine says:

    “It’s sort-of BioShock, sort-of Orwell’s 1984, sort-of Huxley’s A Brave New World.”

    Meaning unoriginal, but that doesn’t really matter because that’s the way things are with AAAs.

    Whoops, guess I forgot to take my Joy.

    • kentonio says:

      It looks a lot more original than 99% of the games we see.

    • AlexClockwork says:

      So… Now everything that takes ideas from something else is unoriginal? I’ve got bad news for you, then. EVERYTHING takes ideas from somewhere else.

      I mean, it’s a game with three protagonists with intertwined stories, in an alternate 60’s Britain, with social stealth mechanics, in a colourful yet creepy world… But it’s unoriginal because it takes ideas from decades old SF books (and some aesthetic ideas from a wonderful game, mostly because of the setting period)? Yep. Pure plagiarism, I tell you.

    • yogibbear says:

      If taking the most brilliant parts of other games means it gets labelled as unoriginal then SIGN ME UP BECAUSE I WANT MORE OF THIS!

    • Alamech says:

      It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.

    • Merus says:

      Considering that the two most well-known British political dystopias are 1984 and Brave New World, saying that a property is sort of like both of them is saying that it’s a political dystopia that’s not much like either of them. A dystopia that has erasing the past as its reason for existence is a unique and modern commentary; there are many who’d prefer to white-wash the past to avoid the uncomfortable present, and willing to delude themselves in the process. It wouldn’t be hard to interpret We Happy Few as a metaphor for Brexit (although I would be the first to admit the pinata would clash a bit).

      As for Bioshock, everyone’s still in agreement that making your level spell out your themes in an obvious fashion is still better than most approaches. No-one has worked out a more nuanced way to do it yet.

      Shallow cynicism is not a good look. It does not make you appear discerning.

      • SoulForMachine says:

        Cynicism, why not? But you are right, I should elaborate.

        What I saw in that video was Winston Smith at his workplace, censoring news articles. Then, something happens and he decides not to take his Soma dose. Then, having broken away from the Matrix, gets discovered by the system and is being pursued. And the design style unquestionably resembles Bioshock.

        Some people would call this “being inspired by something else and taking it to another level”, but I think it is not so. At least not in a way that would make games have more meaningful story. Orwell and Huxley both gave us amazing stories that help us better understand the nature of human society, they extrapolated their present to an imagined future to warn us what our current doing might turn into. And they were both right, only Huxley in a more obvious way. These games do not do that. Stories in these games seem like cerebral onanism of an uninspired narcissistic hacks. They are ridiculous. Take Bioshock for example, which also has a similar theme. I actually finished that game, and enjoyed it a lot because of its game-play, but not for its story, which is, well, ridiculous. It was FUN. That’s all. Was it original? Did it have a deep meaning? NO. Same for this one. Nothing new here. I’ll certainly check it out since it might be fun (like a Joy pill, ironically), but that’s all. There wont be any great story, just tripe with elements inspired by great literary works.

        How does this sound: take failings of current culture and politics and extrapolate them to a possible disastrous outcome? Not easy, because it would take a lot of insight and vision, but it would be original.

        • Arkayjiya says:

          That’s a lot of words to say nothing… You’ve not explained anything, your post is: it’s not inspiration, it doesn’t actually bring anything and no I won’t tell you why, I’ll just tell you “Huxley good, Bioshock bad”

        • Einsammler says:

          ” It was FUN. That’s all. Was it original? Did it have a deep meaning? NO. Same for this one.”

          [citation needed]

        • WJonathan says:

          Well, oddly enough…Orwell (as Eric Blair) was originally a student of Huxley’s at Eton. And 1984 was considered to be, um, *strongly inspired* by BNW. So those are not exactly the two books to use as examples of artistic originality. I would agree with the cynical perspective that so far this game appears to be another murder simulator with Important Themes painted into the scenery. That’s a prejudgement, yes, but it’s based on games like Bioshock that seem to present serious philosophy but can’t really incorporate it into the gameplay.

      • Turkey says:

        I bet my left foot it’s a shallow critique of the internet and internet culture. There’s no way they’re saying anything actual political.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        Does Yes Minister count as a “British political dystopia”?

    • ChrisGWaine says:

      They ought to throw in some crazy ideas that no one else would think of. Like instead of humans chasing you, maybe something surreal like a big, bouncing orb.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Well if those are your criteria then probably only 0.000000000000000000000000001% of any content of anything produced in the last 500 years is actually original.

    • cardigait says:

      Such unoriginal criticism.

    • thelastpointer says:

      Actually it is quite unique in the domain of games.

  3. theapeofnaples says:

    More Dickian than Orwellian, imo

  4. fearandloathing says:

    Holy shit this looks amazing

  5. klops says:

    There’s a 5 min footage of non-gameplay that sure is pretty, but what else is there? The setting sounds interesting but the info on the gameplay is too vague and setting and graphics alone don’t go too far. Then again, that’s how trailers work and money is made and so on, but I’m not sold. Yet.

    Hopefully there’s some depth to this.

    • redredredguy says:

      There are alpha gameplay videos all over the place online. It’s a procedurally-generated survival sim. It’s looks all right so far, but I think these trailers have been overselling the Bioshock-y vibe.

  6. TeePee says:

    Looks extremely interesting, but this is going to live and die by the AI. Believable social interactions (as opposed to just well-written dialogue between characters) are still pretty much the holy grail of gaming, and very few games have ever really done it that well.

    If these guys pull it off (or even get close), this will be fantastic.

  7. Premium User Badge

    PoulWrist says:

    Will this be like Firewatch?

  8. Shazbut says:

    Looks very exciting. I like how it’s not clear, what with him being called a “downer” and how it is some kind of drug people are taking, how much of what the character is ever seeing is the “real” world. Maybe the clean/bright and dirty/scary worlds are both hallucinations.

    That’ll be a hell of a trick to pull off

  9. Louis Mayall says:

    I now this sounds silly, but I’d really enjoy playing game set in England. Don’t get many of those. With the amount of American media/culture I take in, sometimes its nice to take in something British. Its about as patriotic as I get.

    • anHorse says:

      I genuinely kickstarted it just because they mentioned the name of a town near me in one of the early videos

      They picked a weird choice of footage to show tbh given that the intro makes it look like a scripted game whilst all of the gameplay is procedurally generated stealth/survival

    • Premium User Badge

      X_kot says:

      If you haven’t already, you might check out Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. It’s a walking simulator set in the English countryside.

  10. Zenicetus says:

    I like the theme and the art direction, but whether it’s fun or not for me will depend on the mechanics, and how much player agency there is. I’m getting a railroaded/scripted vibe from that preview, but maybe it’s more flexible than it looks.

    Also if there are many failure points (and it looks like it might), then it had better have a decent save system.

  11. oyog says:

    I am not a number! I am a free man!

  12. Holderist says:

    I’m getting some Brazil vibes from the trailer. Mostly because of the tube messaging.

  13. cutechao999 says:

    Question about the pinata, this means there’s a store somewhere selling presumably dead dogs that it passes off as pinatas due to magic context sensitive joy. They are presumably on joy as well (the shop owners), and so where do they get the dogs from, do they think they are just happening to find pinatas lying in the street? Or does the ruling class here have a ministry of pinata/dead dog distribution system?