This year at E3 I had the chance to play a title that’s been on my radar since its announcement way back in 2014 – We Happy Few.
Hurriedly walking down the grey-green hallway above the E3 show floor – it was easy to miss the modest signage used to mark conference rooms. The team at compulsion rose to the occasion – transforming a once spartan conference room into a psycho-delic slice of “Wellington Wells”.
We Happy Few is the tale of a plucky bunch of moderately terrible people trying to escape from a lifetime of cheerful denial in the city of Wellington Wells. In this alternative 1960s England, conformity is key. You’ll have to fight or blend in with the drug-addled inhabitants, most of whom don’t take kindly to people who won’t abide by their not-so-normal rules. Discover the retrofuturistic city’s dark history as you play through the intertwined narratives of three quietly rebellious citizens of Wellington Wells, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, as they face their pasts, prepare for the future, and engage in activities that aren’t exactly status quo in the artificially enthused society.
My hands on started with my character regaining consciousness in a dank subterranean tunnel. Cursing the “bastards” that chased him – he brushed the dust off of what looked to be a bespoke 3-button suit. I gained control and dashed down the hall. Textures were smooth, lighting was subtle – the game looked fit and finished. After trying my luck at several hatch doors, I finally forced my way into what looked like a storage closet. The room was filled with desks, file cabinets, and debris. Walking up to the closest chest of drawers, I was introduced to, perhaps, the most incredible thing about We Happy Few.
You. Can. Pick. Up. Everything.
Collecting items aren’t all for nought. Food can be used to heal, water can quench thirst, stray bottles can be thrown to draw attention. What’s most impressive is the make system. Swiping disparate shards of metal can be used to create everything from a crowbar to a lockpick. Cloth scraps can be combined into bandages – or combined with a sewing kit for a quick change of dress in a pinch.
Loot drawers, throw people, pocket every bit you find, build out your collection of glassware, and YEAH – throw people. But not in the sense you may think…
In a world where Nazis won, a town struggles so profoundly with their moral compromises that they spring for a life of blissful ignorance. The team at Compulsion wastes no time revealing the dark and twisted lives of those living in this altered timeline.
Emerging from the underground bunker, I was met with a shortlist of objectives as well as an autosave and fast-travel notice. An explorer at heart, I decided to spend some time off of the beaten path. The map was littered with small moments of heartbreaking horror. Desolate playgrounds, abandoned tea parties, and lone toys strewn about all pointed to a town that once focused on its future – children.
Story is a huge part of We Happy Few. Floating “masks” are placed throughout the game, revealing a personal story layer for your character. Dynamic gameplay allows you to experience the story any way you choose. Do you despise confrontation? I do. Compulsion feels you – and has developed a robust stealth system for conscientious objectors. Feeling feisty? Not to worry – there’s a button-mashing hook-dodging fight system waiting for your to take out your day.
At the end of my demo – pulling my hands away from the keys was excruciating. After waiting for what’s felt like decades, being able to see what the team at Compulsion has accomplished was nearly tear-jerking. With stunning maps begging for exploration, a novel-worthy narrative, and some of the best gameplay mechanics I’ve experienced in recent memory – it was a mix that tipped the scales from great to absolutely legendary.
We’ve got a lot of special treats in this article, including an interview with the team at Compulsion Games, brand new trailers, and the first 15 minutes of gameplay. Be sure to check out our footage for a peek at this incredible game and visit the official site for more information on We Happy Few.
We Happy Few will be available for $59.99 on August 10, 2018 for Xbox One, Xbox One X (with HDR and 4K support), PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 4 Pro (with HDR and 4K support).