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WE HAPPY FEW Gets Serious With Making-Of Documentary

I’d always wondered about the story behind We Happy Few. It all started as a modest project with a simple yet immediately compelling concept. In a world where everyone is hopped up on drugs, you play as the one sober man. Having peeked behind the veil and seeing society for the dystopic nightmare it is, you must blend in to avoid detection by the thought police. It’s a unique take on the open-world survival formula. Instead of surviving bears in an empty woods, you’re surviving the authority in a populated city. That concept alone carried We Happy Few to over $200,000 on Kickstarter, and center stage at Microsoft’s 2016 E3 Press Conference. One of the flagship games for the newly announced Microsoft Game Preview program, We Happy Few was granted an immediate spotlight that most indie studios can only dream of.

Then We Happy Few came out, and was immediately savaged by critics. I was one of them. While those bright brilliant ideas were still visible, it was behind a thick layer of frosted glass. There was no denying that somewhere along the way, We Happy Few had lost its sense of direction. The open-world survival elements didn’t mesh with the linear narrative focus. So much of the game’s core systems felt at odds with themselves. Even if the world itself was compelling to explore, doing so quickly became a tedious slog.

Artist’s depiction of the game’s reception upon release

Which leads back to that initial question: what’s the story behind We Happy Few? Was that spotlight so many companies crave actually a curse? Is this another case of “No Man’s Sky syndrome?” How exactly do you pronounce Guillaume Provost? All these questions are more are set to be answered in the new documentary, The Cost of Joy: The Compulsion Games Story. Slated for release on December 19th, the film tells the story of Compulsion Games and We Happy Few from conception to release.

Now, I don’t normally like media industry documentaries. Too often they are transparent marketing stunts, ego boosters that exist to either rehabilitate a tarnished career or add mountains of coal to an already out-of-control hype train. However, the trailer for The Cost of Joy jumps into the tough questions right away. Was We Happy Few overhyped? Did it suffer from the marketing maelstrom that has sunk far mightier ships? Or was Compulsion Games themselves at fault for not managing their audience’s expectations?

I’m presently making my way through We Happy Few‘s DLC, which so far has been a far more rewarding experience. These smaller stories are more focused mechanically and narratively, allowing the game’s unique voice to shine. The most recent episode, We All Fall Down, released recently, so expect a review shortly. Until then, let me know what you thought of We Happy Few below!