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We Happy Few is an action-adventure game developed by Compulsion Games and published by Gearbox Publishing for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. It was released as an early access title in 2016 for Windows, with all versions of the full game seeing wide release in 2018.
Played from a first-person perspective, the game combines role-playing, survival, and light roguelike elements. Taking place within the mid-1960s, following an alternative version of World War II, players take control over one of three characters, each of whom seek to complete a personal task while escaping the fictional city of Wellington Wells - a crumbling dystopia on the verge of societal collapse, due to the overuse of a hallucinogenic drug that keeps its inhabitants blissfully unaware about the truth of their world, while leaving them easily manipulated and lacking morals.
The developers focused on creating a story with strong narratives, while underlining gameplay with a sense of paranoia, and designing in-game decisions to moral gray areas and weight, which influence and affect later parts of the game. Design of the game's setting was based on various elements of 1960s British culture, with Compulsion Games seeking inspiration on dystopian societies from various influences in the media, such as Brazil, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Brave New World. Work on the game began with a Kickstarter funding campaign in 2015, before the developers were acquired by Microsoft Studios in 2018 while they supported them with work on a version for the Xbox One.
We Happy Few is an action game played from the first-person perspective that includes elements of stealth and survival games. In the normal game mode, players control one of three characters in the game's three different acts, each having their own skills and abilities, each trying to find a way to escape the village of Wellington Wells. The game uses procedural generation to create the layouts of some parts of the game world at the start of each playthrough. Each Act presents the player with the main story goal, with a series of main quests to follow, but several optional side quests can also be completed to gain additional rewards. Completing objectives can earn the player-character rewards as well as skill points which the player can allocate among a skill tree to improve the character's attributes or give them new abilities.
Through the game, the player can collect melee weapons, items, food and drink, and wealth. Items are used to craft various tools to help progress in the world or medication, like lockpicks or healing salves. Food is used to maintain nourishment or thirst; staying nourished improves certain character attributes while being hungry or thirsty can negatively impact these attributes. The player also must make sure the character gets rest to also maintain these attributes. The player is able to gain access to safe houses for recovery as well as to fast travel between other unlocked safe houses. Wealth can be used or gained through various vendors in exchange for items.
A core element of We Happy Few is Joy, an addictive hallucinogenic drug used by most of the citizens of Wellington Wells. If the player opts to have their character use Joy, they will see the town in a colorful, joyful environment, and will be able to walk through the town without attracting undue attention from its citizens, but this does impair some of the character's abilities. As their Joy depletes, the town will revert to its dismal, war-torn state, and while the character will have full control of their abilities, they will be seen as a "downer", an enemy of Wellington Wells, and either must fight off the "Wellies" police force through melee, or use stealth to sneak around the town; furthermore, the player-character will suffer withdrawal effects from coming off Joy, impacting their health and thirst. Should the player-character take too much damage from enemies or the environment, they will have to restart at a recent checkpoint. Optionally, the game allows the player to enable permadeath, requiring them to restart the game should the player-character die. The player also must consider the type of residents in each district within Wellington Wells and make sure they also do not stand out due to clothing or other appearance aspects. Residents of a wealthy district may become suspicious of the player-character if they are dressed in rags, even if they have taken their Joy.
A sandbox mode will be added as a free update to We Happy Few some time after its release. The sandbox mode is an infinite play mode that allows the player to customize some facets of the game's world before starting a game to make it closer to a survival game, such as making hunger and thirst lead to character death if they are not remedied or changing the availability of certain items in the environment. Additionally, through a season pass, the game will include three shorter narratives the player can play through.