“If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely,” was the verdict spoken in Huxley’s novel. If you stand out in the drugged society of We Happy Few, though, you might just get beaten to death. This upcoming stealth survival game by Compulsion Games made me gasp and clap in anticipation. Set in a dystopian à la 1960s England city, Wellington Wells, the game deals with the question of conformity. The town’s population is kept docile and supposedly happy thanks to Joy, a drug consumed regularly and whenever one becomes slightly rebellious or starts questioning things a liiitle bit too much. Soma, anyone? Mindless TV entertainment, anyone? Our modern society, ANYONE? But I digress. Check out the early trailer first!
So basically, your goal is to survive and escape this psychedelic nightmare. The antagonist of the story seems to be Uncle Jack, the creepy guy you see in the screens around the city. He’s constantly transmitting propaganda and telling you not to be a Downer, which you obviously are. Not quite the Orwellian Big Brother, but he’ll probably notice if you’re out of step. In fact, you’ll have to be extra careful to blend in with other Wellies, even sprinting or crouching will make them suspicious. Should you decide to climb into someone’s house through the window, don’t expect a warm welcome either.
Once the mob gets agitated, you’ll have to make a run for it and look for a phone booth, where you can inhale some strawberry flavoured Joy. Sounds easy enough, right? Nope. You need to monitor your drug levels so as not to OD and crash, while food and water is essential for your survival too. Problem is, all regular consumables in Wellington Wells may and will contain traces of Joy, so you’ll have to craft your way out of this one.
I particularly like the game’s aesthetics, the retro-futuristic look, the English style and the 60’s mod inspired clothing. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wear one of my dresses the same way again, heh. The fact that all Wellies are sporting their happy masks makes the atmosphere really eerie, and you never know what’s actually hidden under the plastic smile. It kind of feels like an uncomfortable acid trip with flashbacks of Dishonored and Bioshock.
We Happy Few is in its pre-alpha stage, so it’s still not entirely clear how emergent the gameplay will be, whether we should expect side quests and friendly encounters. The creative director of Compulsion Games, Guillaume Provost, simply described it as a “social stealth game”. For now, let’s leave it at that. Be subtle and love thy neighbour!
All photos courtesy of Compulsion Games.