We Happy Few is an action-adventure survival game developed by Compulsion Games.
Originally intended to be a small game for a small team to make, the game expanded in scope through its years of development, even getting support from 7,433 backers on Kickstarter. After four years of development and a delay, the game was released on August 10th, 2018.
Compulsion Games describes the game as a "game of paranoia and survival, in a drugged-out, dystopian English city in 1964."
- 1 Plot
- 2 The Game
- 3 Downloadable Content & Other
- 4 Reception
- 5 Controversies
- 6 Trivia
- 7 Gallery
- 8 References
In 1943, Germany successfully invaded and occupied England during World War II. During the Occupation, all citizens of Wellington Wells sent all of their children under the age of 13 to Germany, without knowing what was going to happen to them, or if they'd ever return.
Because of this event, every citizen in Wellington Wells was left feeling great guilt and sorrow over what they had done, getting upset over the mere sight of a child. This caused General Byng to commission a drug that would make the consumer go through drug-induced amnesia in order to forget the past, and because they wouldn't remember their tragic past, they'd instead be happy again. Four years after the Victory, Joy was created.
Soon afterwards, the citizens began to favor the future and decided to rebuild part of the city to reflect their newfound perspectives, though it didn't take long before they were divided.
Hamlyn Village is the area where society thrives, having gone to great lengths to conceal their awful past. The historic buildings are covered in colourful stripes, inspirational propaganda posters, and Joy Detectors; futuristic technology meant to detect and alarm when someone hasn't taken their Joy. The inhabitants are called Wellies, and they do their best to keep the past where it belongs. If they find someone who is sad or worried about something in their past, which is typical behaviour of a Downer, they'll quickly be lethally subdued by the authority.
The Garden District is the area where the outcasts try and survive another day. All of the inhabitants are former Wellies, now called Wastrels, who are forever stuck in the scraps of their former civilization. They live in houses that are barely standing, and fight over the last remaining food, as newly grown vegetables go rotten as soon as it hits the air. Wastrels are unable to take Joy even if they wanted to, as it makes them see eyes everywhere, with some even hallucinating their children speaking to them.
The bridges have been purposefully built to keep everyone in their place. The Wellies never have to face the truth and come to terms with their past, and the Wastrels are forever stuck where they belong, far away from being able to spread their gloomy mood onto any more Wellies.
It's only a matter of time before three certain Downers collectively, though unknowingly, aid each other in revealing the truth to the rest of the Wellie population regarding their dwindling food supply, and has to stop taking their Joy.
There are two modes the player can choose, Story Mode, which explains most of the city's history and teaches the player how the game works, and Survival/Sandbox Mode, which focuses on the player surviving and escaping Wellington Wells with the knowledge they've gathered from Story Mode.
There are three Acts that all have their own protagonist which the player gets to play as, each of which have a somewhat different play style.
Arthur Hastings, protagonist of Act I, is the basic tutorial character that the player spends most of their time as. He's the typical, unremarkable English everyman, suddenly turned Downer after being reminded of his lost older brother, Percival Hastings, while at work. He's chased into the Garden District, and has to work his way back to the Parade District to get out of Wellington Wells, as Britannia Bridge is the only bridge that connects to the mainland. Arthur has very little negative aspects to his character, and has knowledge in both Stealth and Combat.
Sally Boyle, protagonist of Act II, is somewhat more challenging than Arthur, mostly because she's not very useful in Combat. Instead, her character is focused on Stealth and Survival. After an accident with synthesizing Blackberry Joy, Sally finds that it's gotten far more dangerous for her to live in Wellington Wells, and decides to escape with a very important. personal secret by her side.
Ollie Starkey, protagonist of Act III, is a lot more challenging than the previous two, as he has no experience in Stealth and has trouble fitting in among the locals. Instead, he's excellent in Combat and Survival. After Arthur told him about the tanks in the Victory Memorial Camp, and refused to go back to Sally to completely forget the truth again upon request of the General, Ollie decided to take matter into his own hands and inform the public about the truth of their food supply, using an old enemy of his to his advantage.
Survival, and by extension Sandbox Mode, has the player dropped in the middle of nowhere with their only goal being to escape.
At the beginning, the player chooses which of the three protagonists they want to play as, what the environment should be, and if permadeath is on or off. If permadeath is active, it means that when the player dies, the entire world resets with a new map layout and set pieces.
Regardless of the previous factors, the player has to find five Boat Capacitors and five Bridge Keycards. There'll be five islands, each of which has two set pieces with either a Boat Capacitor or a Bridge Keycard, with one of the islands also containing the boat safe house that needs the five capacitors to be activated.
The mode is a return of how the game worked during its Alpha/Early Access stages, with a heavier importance on exploration and survival. If the player doesn't eat food in this mode, they'll die.
A big part of We Happy Few is NPC interaction and hiding in plain sight. NPCs will let the player know what's making them suspicious, and will quickly get aggressive unless the player conforms. There are different social rules in the Garden District and Hamlyn Village that the player learns in Act I, the rules must especially be followed in Act III.
Skill points are earned through completing quests (Story Mode), or by gathering Gilded Pleasure Masks (Survival Mode). With skill points, the player can unlock skills that'll benefit the player in various different ways, though what skills the player can get is dependent on the playable character. The player can also gather books for smaller benefits.
As each of the playable characters, the player has to gather items and food supplies to survive in the harsh world. Crafting materials are especially useful for crafting weapons, outfits, gadgets, food, health items, drugs, and other chemicals that'll aid the player on their journey forward. The player can also buy these materials from shops or vending machines.
All items has its own weight that'll slow the player down once it reaches a certain threshold. The player can lighten up their inventory by placing items they don't currently need in their pneumatic stash, as they're still usable from the crafting menu (this does not apply to Survival Mode). Additionally, each item also has its own currency value, the player can sell unwanted items to shopkeepers in exchange for some sovereigns.
The player's stamina also matters a lot, as most interactions are reliant on how high their stamina is. Actions such as running, jumping, climbing, attacking, and shoving uses a bit of the player's stamina, the player has to not perform any of the previously mentioned actions in order for their stamina to replenish. Blocking will still increase one's stamina, albeit slowly. Certain foods and drugs give stamina bonuses, while Sanitol and Dexipam permanently maxes out the player's health and stamina bars. During Story Mode, if the player refuses to eat and sleep, it'll take a fairly huge cut of their stamina.
Combat is fairly simple, though still somewhat challenging to get the hang of. Each weapon has its own damage value, and will use up some of the player's stamina when swung. Lightweight weapons tend to swing faster than heavy weapons, meaning they'll use less stamina at the cost of dealing less damage. The weapons also have their own durability that'll lower every time it's hit during a block, once the durability reaches 0, it'll break.
Whether the player is forced into combat, or just happens upon it while out and about, fighting enemies is inevitable. It's important to note that anything that the player can do, the NPCs can do as well, with the only exception being climbing up ledges and jumping. The player has to observe what the opponent is doing and act accordingly; block when the enemy attacks, and attack back when they're vulnerable. Running away is also perfectly viable.
Downloadable Content & Other
- We Happy Few: Uncle Jack Live VR
- We Happy Few Season Pass
- We Happy Few Official Soundtrack
- The Art of We Happy Few
- Time Capsule
On Steam, 74% out of 6,700+ reviews are positive.
Gearbox Publishing Partnership
On the 16th of August, 2017, Compulsion Games announced they were entering a partnership with Gearbox Publishing, increasing the scope and price of the game significantly. After the release of the Early Access in 2016, the developers were approached by Gearbox Publishing who were interested in the game and suggested it could become a retail release. However, in order to do so, the developers needed to reinvest and make the game bigger.
With the partnership, it meant the game was not only going to be localized to a wider audience, but also get released on the Xbox and PS4.
Because of the extended scope of the game, We Happy Few's price tag increased from 30£ to 60£, causing many players to get upset.
Contrary to popular belief, this change was not on Gearbox Publishing, but rather on Compulsion Games themselves, as they believed 60£ gave them the best chance of earning back the huge investments they made. "We want to be able to continue to make great games after this one, and making enough money to keep growing and thriving is essential to allow us to deliver that. The right approach here is to make sure that you build a game that’s worth $60, and that’s what we’re doing."
Gearbox Publishing did not help with funding the game, but instead helped with QA, localization, ratings, user research, and marketing.
On the 21st of May, 2018, The Australian Classification Board refused to classify We Happy Few, effectively banning it. According to the ACB, the game was banned for it's drug mechanics, reasoning that the in-game drugs makes the progression less difficult, meaning it rewards drug-use and therefore exceeds the R 18+ classification. "Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted".
As well as that, ACB also pointed out that if the player doesn't take Joy, the other NPCs become aggressive, with one specific NPC being able to smell out if the player isn't drugged up (Joy Doctors). While they admitted that there are alternative ways of completing the game without taking Joy, the gameplay essentially requires the player to take Joy in order to progress.
In the Australian Government Documents listing the exact reasons why We Happy Few was banned, one of the side quests, Edie Goes Downer, was used as an example; "In one sequence, an NPC is viewed on the ground, convulsing owing to a reaction from taking a Joy pill, which has subsequently turned bad. After several NPCs encourage her to take Joy and she refuses, fearing that it will have an adverse effect, they beat her with steel pots and a shovel, until she is implicitly killed."
In response, Compulsion Games wrote on one of their update blogs "It’s a society that is forcing its citizens to take Joy, and the whole point of the game is to reject this programming and fight back. In this context, our game’s overarching social commentary is no different than Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or Terry Gilliam's Brazil."
Australia unbanned We Happy Few on the 4th of July, 2018.
Australia 2019 (Electric Boogaloo)
Around the 20th of August, 2019, Australia banned We Happy Few again upon the release of the Lightbearer DLC.
According to the Compulsion Game's producer Guillaume Provost, “For context, Lightbearer is fundamentally a story about someone coming to grips with a terrible addiction problem and breaking out of its grasp, it’s a more pronounced anti-drug message than the base game was, and the arguments behind the decision reversal last time should apply even more strongly in this case."
"By the end of the DLC you’re actively prevented from using any drugs (including alcohol) except coffee – and there are parts of the DLC that are positioned as horrifying drug experiences or withdrawal issues – so thematically it’s about as crystal clear as it can be without just glossing over the issue.”
Sam Abbott, the Chief Operating Office, said that the second ban was a surprise, as they didn't expect the DLC would affect the original classification.
- We Happy Few was mainly inspired by the Dystopian film Brazil (1985).
- Other influences include The Prisoner, A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, V for Vendetta, and Doctor Who. The humor was inspired by Monty Python, and the game's aesthetics from Blowup.
- Despite comparisons to BioShock, Guillaume Provost have stated that although they're flattered by the comment, it was never a big influence.
- The credits still list people that cannot be found in the game, such as Mary Bailie and Isembard Brunel.
- It's very likely that some of the additional voices weren't used either, or were removed during later developments.
- During the early development in 2014, the game was initially titled "Glimpse"; then, later, it was renamed We Happy Few.
- The name of We Happy Few is inspired by St. Crispin's Day speech in Shakespeare's Henry V. "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers".
- It is possible to go through the entire game without ever taking Joy, with the exception of Arthur in Act I, as he is required to take the drug on two occasions during his Act.
- The player could, however, go through all of Survival Mode without ever taking Joy.
- At first, We Happy Few was purely a survival game, with little to no focus on the story. However, as the game got more attention and more people started asking what was going on, the developers put in more and more story elements.
- After some time, modes were added to the game that were intended to suit the player's playstyle. 'Birdwatcher' (Story oriented, no intention for scavenging or combat engagement), 'Downer' (blends story and survival aspects into one), and 'Vigilante' (Increased importance of scavenging for food, and combat is challenging). These modes were tweaked and replaced by the current Story/Survival modes.
- At first, most of the voice actors were Canadians who were asked if they could do a British accent. However, it was discovered early on that the performance wasn't that convincing. This lead to every actor getting replaced by actual English people.
- The voice actors also helped somewhat with the script, making sure they were using the right words (such as 'Sweets' instead of 'Candy') as well as other small details to make the experience more authentic.
- Despite this, there's minor discrepancies in the subtitles.
- When coming up with the concept of We Happy Few, Whitney Clayton stated in the book, The Art of We Happy Few, that the team liked the idea of a dystopia, but she didn't want to make it into "a bleak, gloomy place where people stomp around in work suits." Hence the idea of making the game set in a Utopic-Dystopia, in which everyone is focused on being happy.
- Metascore for We Happy Few on PC Metacritic, Retrieved May 20, 2020
- Metascore for We Happy Few on PS4 Metacritic, Retrieved May 20, 2020
- Metascore for We Happy Few on Xbox One Metacritic, Retrieved May 20, 2020
- Compulsion Games Weekly Journal 1
- Compulsion Games Weekly Journal 2
- Reason for the Ban
- Australian Official Documents Kotaku, Retrieved June 16, 2021
- Compulsion Games Weekly Journal 3
- The Second Ban
- Insight into the game's development and comment on BioShock
- Steam Discussions - Developer's Comment