So You Want to Be a Hero Again: An Interview with Corey Cole

Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is an upcoming hybrid RPG-adventure game by none other than Lori and Corey Cole, the creators of the groundbreaking series, Quest for Glory, which first hit stores in 1989. After four years and two successful Kickstarter campaigns, the first in a planned series of games that will see players returning to the universe of the classic Sierra adventure games is nearing completion with a backer-exclusive Alpha test just around the corner.

“The roots reach back to Quest for Glory, but are quite distinct from it.”

The Coles were gracious enough to take a break from their crunch to chat with me about Hero-U and the unique challenges that have come along with it, including funding a large portion of the game directly out of their pockets, managing a largely remote development team, and combining two dramatically different game genres to create something that looks truly special in today’s gaming landscape.

GamerHUD:

Hi Corey and Lori,

Thanks so much for taking some time to chat with me about Hero-U. With your most recent update on Kickstarter, I get the sense that you and your teams are really in crunch mode now, so I’ll try not to monopolize too much of your schedules.

For my own part, Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is a project that I’m very emotionally invested in. It’s one of only a handful of Kickstarter projects that I’ve backed and for good reason. I grew up playing the Quest for Glory series, and I mark it as one of the most influential works of fiction in my life. As a kid, I used to daydream about one day becoming a paladin. Naturally, I jumped on board as soon as I heard the Coles were planning a return to the universe I had fallen in love with so many years ago.

First off, can you tell me what the original catalyst behind Hero-U was? Have you guys been wanting to return to the Quest for Glory universe (i.e., Gloriana) for a while, or did you originally conceive of it as an entirely independent story and setting?

Corey:

A fan who is now a successful fantasy author – Mishell Baker – co-wrote the first of a planned series of young adult novels loosely based on themes in Quest for Glory, “How to Be a Hero”. Mishell came up with the idea of a web site to promote the books, and Lori and I later took it over. We expanded it into the School for Heroes website and thought we should make a game based on that.

So the roots reach back to Quest for Glory, but are quite distinct from it. In particular, I’ve been very careful to avoid anything remotely resembling infringement of Activision’s copyrights on the Quest for Glory games. Gloriana is “our world”, going back to D&D games we ran at least a decade before we started work on Hero’s Quest / Quest for Glory. One of two worlds actually – we had another “pocket universe” in the parallel world of Coriann, whose amazingly creative name comes from “Corey” and “Lori Ann”.

“Hero-U is different from most adventure games in that we’ve mostly avoided having arbitrary puzzles… mostly the game is about exploration, discovery, and relationships. Oh, and fighting bad creatures for riches and glory.”

GH:

As a project, Hero-U outgrew the original Kickstarter pitch almost immediately. I remember some reluctance to even call the original version an adventure game, and you were demo-ing (if memory serves) a sort-of turn-based combat system. Now it’s a full-blown adventure game and RPG hybrid like the QFG series was, which was always something that was unique to those games. How does Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption combine elements of both genres in new and interesting ways?

Corey:

As for “outgrowing”, I think we were overly ambitious from the start. The Kickstarter campaign barely met its goal – a fraction of the budget of a normal adventure game – and we pretty much promised a game as rich as a Quest for Glory to get there. We modeled our campaign after Broken Age (the “Double Fine Adventure”). That campaign got 8 times as much as we did, and still ended up going over budget. Our proposed one-year schedule was based more on the budget than on reality, but we always wanted and intended to deliver much more game than could realistically be done under that budget.

Combining adventure and RPG was probably a silly idea. Then again, combining RPG and adventure in Quest for Glory was crazy too. This time, we have turn-based combat that is more tactical than in Quest for Glory. We also have a broad selection of weapons, armor, and other combat tools that QfG did not provide. Hero-U is different from most adventure games in that we’ve mostly avoided having arbitrary puzzles. There are a few “find this and use it to solve that” puzzles, but mostly the game is about exploration, discovery, and relationships. Oh, and fighting bad creatures for riches and glory. Most of the combat is optional; players who want a pure adventure game can stealth past the monsters and focus on discovery.

 Showing off the updated lighting effects afforded by Unity 5.5 in the latest Kickstarter update

GH:

The general premise wasn’t the only thing that changed. It wasn’t long after the initial Kickstarter campaign got funded that the general aesthetic of the game really started to take shape. Eriq Chang had produced some really gorgeous artwork for the initial pitch but departed the project shortly afterwards, and since then you’ve announced a number of artists on the game including John Paul Selwood and Terry Robinson, both of whom have created some more classical-style artwork for the game. This leads me to a few questions:

How has the overall feel and tone and atmosphere of Hero-U changed for you in terms of writing, artwork, and gameplay (both conceptually and in development) since you first started?

Corey:

“At Sierra, when it became clear we needed more people, they assigned more people to the team. It’s much tougher as an indie long after we paid out the Kickstart funds.”

The changes we made in Hero-U from the original concept were mostly forced on us, but we’re very happy with the improvements they made. The original programmer quit a month into the project, followed shortly by the lead artist, both for personal reasons. Terry didn’t like the cartoony flat tiled graphics, so moved us to pseudo-3D isometric art. The programmers we brought on had a hard time making that work, and I had a hard time finding excellent 2D animators. Eventually that forced us into going almost-full 3D.

This added a lot of additional time and expense to the project. It’s actually reminiscent of Quest for Glory V, where we changed graphics and development engines two or three times, and the game took two extra years and $3 million more to develop than the original plan.

Other than the visual look, we’re actually making the game we originally proposed on Kickstarter. However, we made a lot of promises that have turned out to be very time-consuming. In particular, our focus on social interactions with other characters requires a huge amount of dialogue. Total game text is on the order of the largest Harry Potter novel – Order of the Phoenix – 255,000 words and climbing.

GH:

I understand Lori does most if not all the writing in the game? That sounds like a monumental task! How do you manage it?

Corey:

“Total game text is on the order of the largest Harry Potter novel – Order of the Phoenix – 255,000 words and climbing.”

Lori wrote essentially all of the dialogue in Quest for Glory with just a few contributions from me, and she is doing the same on Hero-U. This is possible only because we’ve stretched the schedule – she’s been at it for over four years and is *almost* done. I had planned to write all the non-dialogue text, but that’s been a challenge. Fortunately, Josh Mandel joined the team and has taken over the lion’s share of writing descriptions and object interaction text. I doubt you’ll be able to tell his writing from mine in the game; we have similar styles. Josh previously contributed much of the writing in our Shannara game.

GH:

Because your team seems more dynamic than one might find in a smaller project, but also markedly different from some AAA game dev studios or when you were both at Sierra, what challenges has that presented for you, and how has it enhanced the (near) final product?

Corey:

It’s been very challenging. Many terrific team members left the project for better paying or longer-term opportunities. Each time that happens, we’ve lost knowledge and expertise, and had to search for new developers. I’m very happy with the team now, and I’m hoping they’ll all make it at least to release. If the game sells well enough initially, we hope to keep most of them on for the rest of the series.

At Sierra, when it became clear we needed more people, they assigned more people to the team. It’s much tougher as an indie long after we paid out the Kickstart funds. Now Lori and I are paying team members out of personal loans and our own rather shallow pockets. Once the game releases, we might or might not make some of that back. That’s a lot different from working for a company on a fixed salary.

GH:

Final questions. First, do you have any plans for immediately after Rogue to Redemption launches? You’ve said before that you envisioned Hero-U as a series of games, for example, but do you think you’ll head right back into development on the next game?

Corey:

We have a ton of work ahead of us after launching Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. We’ll need to work with distributors, try to get publicity, fulfill physical orders such as game boxes, posters, and art prints, fulfill new direct orders, and so on. We owe a visit to a fan in Germany as a Kickstarter reward, and hopefully we can meet with European gaming press while we’re over there.

What we do after that depends on initial success of the game. We might add foreign language localization, speech, ports to consoles or tablets. Then we’ll get started on the design of Hero-U 2: Wizard’s Way. But if the first game sales are dismal, we’ll instead refund pre-orders of the second game and try to figure out how we can dig our way out of massive debt. Every game production is a gamble, and this is a distinctly personal one.

We are very thankful for our backers who have enabled us to take on this ambitious game project, and we are doing our best to give them a beautiful and fun game experience.

GH:

One last question: will we see any Liontaurs in Hero-U?

Corey:

There are no Liontaurs currently enrolled in Hero-U.  However, there are many statues and paintings commemorating famous people, fabulous creatures, and Heroes. And of course quite a variety of fantastic and terrifying creatures guarding the dungeons and catacombs beneath the castle.

“We are very thankful for our backers who have enabled us to take on this ambitious game project, and we are doing our best to give them a beautiful and fun game experience.”

GH:

Thanks, Corey!

To learn more about Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, visit the official website at http://Hero-U.com

Divinity: Original Sin 2 Looks Incredible

   This past week, Belgian developer Larian Studios announced that Divinity: Original Sin 2 would be following in its predecessor’s footsteps by heading to Steam’s Early Access program. If you played the first game, that’s probably enough information to get you to pull out your wallet, and all you need to know is the release date (September 15th, by the way). But if you missed out and have any interest at all in RPGs—or, you know, objectively great games—you’re going to want to start paying attention to D:OS 2.

“As a lifelong RPG fanatic, I get giddy when I see an interesting character creation tool in a game, and what Larian showed off already has me dreaming up possible builds.”

   The first Divinity: Original Sin was the single most pleasant surprises I’ve encountered in PC gaming over the last decade. A turn-based, isometric RPG in which players control up to four characters at any one time, D:OS felt like the first bright spark to a cRPG renaissance. Larian has explained since that it was something of a Hail Mary for them as the studio was facing overwhelming financial challenges in spite of their typically high-quality release history. They eventually sought out additional funding for D:OS via Kickstarter where they had an extremely successful campaign, raising over $1 million.

   Divinity: Original Sin released in 2014 to critical acclaim with many critics likening it to the classic isometric cRPGs of the late 90s. It was affectionately compared to Baldur’s Gate, and while I always felt that D:OS played dramatically different than BioWare’s classic, there was an undeniable spirit shared between the games that made it very easy to fall in love with Original Sin. D:OS didn’t have the strongest showing in terms of narrative, but its turn-based combat, its open-ended character development, and its incorrigible (and welcomed) sense of humor made for an exceptional and unique experience that you don’t often find in triple-A titles.

 Source: http://divinity.game
Source: http://divinity.game

   Larian was unafraid to take risks with D:OS, and it paid off for them. The game was a critical success as well as a financial success, and went on to win GameSpot’s Game of the Year award. In 2015, Larian released an enhanced edition of the game to PC and consoles with an updated story, fully voiced dialogue, and splitscreen co-op—its original network-based co-op having been one of the best received features of the vanilla release. PC owners of the original game even received the upgraded version free of charge as a thank you from Larian for supporting the game and the studio.

   In August, 2015, Larian took to Kickstarter once more to gain funding for Divinity: Original Sin 2. The campaign promised a large number of improvements to the series including a stronger focus on story, multiple playable character races, and an even better co-op experience in addition to an all-new PVP multiplayer game mode. Eager fans of the series swarmed to their support, and it met its $500,000 goal in less than twelve hours. By the end of the campaign, Larian had raised over $2 million and surpassed every one of their stretch goals.

   They have since done a good job of keeping Kickstarter backers in the loop over the past 12 months with regular videos featuring game director and studio founder Swen Vincke, whose energy and enthusiasm for the game is always infectious, but as the last update prior to this month had been just after PAX East ended in April, it had been a while since we’d seen anything really significant from the team on the game’s progress. This month, Larian’s released a ton of new news and footage, and during Gamescon, they gave attendees—press and fans alike—an opportunity to actually play the game, and they announced that it would be available for Early Access on Steam by the middle of next month.

“Divinity: Original Sin was the single most pleasant surprises I’ve encountered in PC gaming over the last decade”

   I haven’t been able to play the game yet, but what I’ve seen so far has me feeling very optimistic. As a lifelong RPG fanatic, I get giddy when I see an interesting character creation tool in a game, and what Larian showed off already has me dreaming up possible builds. In D:OS, players started their game with two player characters: a human man and woman for whom you chose their appearance, starting skills, and stats. There was a certain novelty in creating two player characters rather than one, but I remember feeling that it had a bizarre impact narratively on my ability to really identify with either. As a result—as I played singleplayer, anyway—the characters felt particularly shallow, and there was something awkward about controlling both sides of the dialogue whenever the PCs disagreed in a system that worked far better for co-op gaming.

   This time around, players are limited to only a single player character, although NPC companions can still be recruited throughout the course of the game (this is a party-based RPG, after all), but the ability to customize and personalize your protagonist have been greatly enhanced. There are four races available to play as: humans, dwarves, lizard people, and elves. The elves in particular look to have been given a Larian twist: tall and lanky with skin that resembles tree bark and who consume the flesh of their enemies in order to absorb their memories. It makes for an unsettling appearance that at least on the surface feels like it subverts many of the standard fantasy tropes.

 Source: http://divinity.game
Source: http://divinity.game

   Players may also choose one of several pre-fabricated origin stories for their PCs, or they may craft one for themselves. In the case of the former, you’ll step into the shoes of a character who already has a certain set of goals and motives in the world. PC Gamer showed off an hour’s worth of gameplay, for example, as the Red Prince, a noble Lizard person stripped of his royal birthright. One other origin has you assuming the role of an elf and freed slave who keeps a hitlist of those who’ve wronged her tattooed to her skin, and as you progress through the game and exact your revenge on those individuals, you mark their names off with an ink pen included in her inventory.

   Larian’s shown glimpses of two other origin stories, and they’re promising more as development continues, but if you prefer not to take on the role of an already existing character in the game, you can craft your own origin through an innovative “tag” tool that Larian’s developed in which you select your character’ss aspirations, motivations, and other background. It helps to establish your role in the fantasy world Larian’s crafted, and your origin tags will impact how other characters in the game react to you or your actions. And as for those existing origin stories that you chose to leave behind? They’ll appear as NPCs you can add to your party over the course of the game with the same motives and personalities.

“The elves in particular look to have been given a Larian twist: tall and lanky with skin that resembles tree bark and who consume the flesh of their enemies “

   The same basic philosophy to character development appears to have remained intact from Original Sin. Players choose from a large number of classes at creation or create their own, but your starting class doesn’t lock you into any one playstyle, and skills can be leveled as you wish. It’s a system that feels more Dark Souls or Fallout than The Elder Scrolls, meaning that choices about where to invest earned skill points and talents are important but open-ended.

   One major change has been introduced to how skills and stats work, though. A new stat called memory now dictates how many active skills you can equip from your library at any one time. Players can choose to invest very little into this stat, limiting the number of active skills they have during combat but potentially increasing the effectiveness of those that they do equip, or they can increase this stat and therefore have a greater variety of skills to use albeit at potentially lower levels of effectiveness.

   Beyond the improvements Larian’s making to the mechanics of the game, they’ve set out to really overhaul their approach to narrative design. The writing in Divinity: Original Sin was often hilarious, but it always felt a little shallow. The number of fully fleshed out NPC companions available to you in the original release of the game was a paltry two (eventually increased to four), and even these characters felt a bit two-dimensional. From a tactical standpoint, it often made most sense to hire one of the far more varied henchmen-style NPCs, but doing so meant that there was even less meat on the narrative bone as they were not fleshed out with any sort of backstory or side quests.

 Source: http://divinity.game
Source: http://divinity.game

   Original Sin put players in the roles of “Source Hunters” on a quest to rout out dark magic. Taking place a thousand years after the original, D:OS 2 has inverted your role, and you now play a Sourcerer (i.e., the bad guys from the last game) struggling to survive in a world run by an inquisition-like Divine Order who blame your kind for the death of the “The Divine” and the plague of troubles that have taken root across the world since. You start your journey somewhere on an Alcatraz-like prison island for Sourcerers where you’ll meet other victims of the Order, some of whom can join you on your quest.

   The companions this time around promise to be far more interesting than in Original Sin, too. Remember that elf origin we discussed earlier? If you choose not to play as her and encounter her in the game, she’ll maintain the same motives as she would have as the player character, sometimes to the detriment of your PC or your other companions. Key to her character’s backstory is her tattooed hit list, and she’ll stop at nothing until she’s had her revenge, which could prove complicated if you intend to keep one of these characters alive.

   Interestingly, these potential conflicts remain even in cooperative multiplayer. Both players in the game share one journal for general quests, but each is given his or her own private journal that tracks progress on their unique personal quests, and it’s possible that the two may be mutually exclusive from one another. Imagine saving an important noble’s life in the game and having your vengeance-driven friend slit his throat on your way to deliver him home.

   Yeah, this is a big step from the rock, paper, scissors “arguments” of the last game. (For those who’ve never played it, there was literally a rock, paper, scissors mini game for settling disputes amongst characters. I can’t make this stuff up.)

“Imagine saving an important noble’s life in the game and having your vengeance-driven friend slit his throat on your way to deliver him home”

   Characters can form other bonds with one another, too, beyond that of wary allies of necessity. Divinity: Original Sin at one point advertised the possibility that a romance could form between the protagonist characters, but that thought never really materialized. But in D:OS 2—thanks to a stretch goal that was met during the Kickstarter campaign—romance subplots will be present between characters. In-game romance can be a divisive subject for some, with most players either loving or hating them and very few landing somewhere in between. It doesn’t sound like they’ll be required, however, and I don’t doubt that we’ll see an interesting Larian spin on those that do end up in the game.

   It’s worth pointing out that the writing team for D:OS 2 is significantly larger than the one that worked on the first game, and Larian studios announced that the venerable Chris Avellone would be involved with the project as a writer for “at least one the playable origin stories in the game.” Avellone, who left Obsidian Entertainment within only the last year, is legendary in the industry and was one of the leading creative minds behind Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Fallout: New Vegas, and Planescape: Torment. He’s so well-respected by RPG fans, that his involvement in the game was actually one of the top requests that Larian received from Kickstarter backers during their campaign.

   Beyond character creation and storytelling, D:OS 2 should feature even more tactical depth in its combat system. The last game was widely praised for its dynamic approach to elements on the battlefield. Players could ignite grease on the ground to set enemies on fire, for example, or call down a storm to douse the flames. D:OS 2 is increasing the number of these types of interactions. Their demo footage showed players enchanting flames to heal their allies or cursing enemies to reverse the effects of said healing magic. It’s a system that looks to be particularly fun in the new PVP mode where high-level players face one another in combat.

   In one backer update, Larian showed off some new combat mechanics that came into play during a PVP match. Swen Vincke demonstrated how higher terrain could lend an advantage to ranged attackers with a 30% increase to their damage and an increased effective range for their attacks. You remember in Star Wars: Episode 3 when Obi-Wan warns Anakin Skywalker not to attack because he had the “high ground”? Yeah, it’s kind-of like that.

   As Swen and his opponent moved around the map, he also showed off “source points,” fonts of magical energy that enable the use of powerful and aptly named “source” skills. “Sourcery” plays a big role in the lore and story of the series, and this feels like a smart way to intertwine the gameplay mechanics with the narrative. In one such attack, Swen was able to unleash a hail of arrows on his opponent, but there were a number of other skills available on his toolbar that he didn’t demonstrate.

   One of the more dramatic changes being introduced to combat for D:OS 2 is its armor system. Two new armor stats are present in the game: magic armor, which renders the player immune to status ailments and/or control effects as well as absorbs elemental damage, and physical armor, which naturally acts as a layer of protection to physical accounts that must be eliminated before damage to a character’s HP can be dealt. Armor appears as an alternatively colored healthbar in the UI, and it looks reminiscent to the barriers and armor of the Mass Effect series. Larian’s explained that certain types of attacks can circumvent or pierce armor altogether, adding an additional layer of tactical depth to the combat.

   Even though D:OS 2 looks to be taking a more mature approach to storytelling than its predecessor, it looks like we can still expect a healthy dose of humor in the game, for which I’m very thankful. One of the more hilarious attacks that Swen unleashed during PVP, for instance, was a weresheep that he summoned to pester and damage an enemy character. Watching him launch the sheep through the air from across the map, I couldn’t help but laugh, and while the unique attack was humorous, it wasn’t ineffective. In other words, just as in the Worms turn-based strategy game series, D:OS’s humor shouldn’t come at the expense of tactical depth in the game.

“Even though D:OS 2 looks to be taking a more mature approach to storytelling than its predecessor, it looks like we can still expect a healthy dose of humor in the game”

   D:OS 2 looks to be improving on its predecessor in virtually every way imaginable. If that proves true, it’ll be a title that no RPG fan should pass on. Divinity: Original Sin 2 will be available on Steam Early Access September 15th. As was the case with the original Original Sin (I had to write that just once), it sounds like the version of the game available pre-release will feel more akin to a demo than a traditional Early Access title, with only limited progression available to players (e.g., the first chapter of the game).

   If you’re already a backer through Kickstarter, you’ll be able to claim your Early Access key by way of their official tool. However, Larian’s cautioned backers that while the final game will be available on both Steam and GOG, you’ll only be able to select which platform you want to play it on once. Early Access is currently scheduled exclusively for Steam, so GOG fans will need to decide whether it’s worth giving up their preferred platform to play an early build of the game.

   Divinity: Original Sin 2’s final release is still currently slated for the end of this year, but as the first was delayed several times before commercial release, take that with a grain of salt.

First Impressions: No Man’s Sky

 There are very few games that have developed the kind of hype that No Man’s Sky has successfully done in the 3+ years since we first learned about it during the VGX 2013. From game delays to street leaks, there is no denying that the team at Hello Games has had their hands full, and all that time with the whole world watching in anticipation. Now there is no way that we could see every single part of the gigantic universe that is No Man’s Sky. However, with the PC release imminent and the console iteration having been in the wild for a few days, the crew at The Gamer HUD wanted to give you their first impressions of the game to help guide you in your purchasing decision and a final review set to release in the days to come. 

Cole’s Take:

 I have now spent a little over 18 hours playing No Man’s Sky, and one thing has been vastly apparent to me since I pressed “Start.” The individual that beats this game in 30 hours or less has made it their purpose to get to the “Center of the Universe”, with no time to slow down to enjoy the game in between. In my play time, I have learned new languages, discovered hundreds of different species, upgraded ships and weapons, and the list goes on and on. While I know that I am still several hours away from completing any story line, that is not really what No Man’s Sky is. It’s about the journey, not the destination (Very ‘meta’ of me, I know). While I will wait till the final review to go more in depth on mechanics and moment to moment gameplay, I will leave you with the thought that I have not been this engrossed in a video game in a long time- and there are no signs of stopping. This game is not going to be for everyone- and in the end, it will prove to be divisive, however, if you are looking to get lost in a vast universe with countless things to do, you have found your game.

Joe’s Take:

Love it of Hate it, No Man’s Sky is something to be experienced. I didn’t understand the hype of this game. Leading up to its release, the gameplay videos, and E3 reveals didn’t convey what this game is trying to make you experience: the thrill of discovery. 

There are very subtle details and game design choices that force you to venture out and discover. Everything has a cost. Your spacecraft uses fuel to fly. Your exo-suit requires recharging, and the tool you use to acquire these resources needs energy to function. This simple gameplay feature forces you to explore your surroundings and gather essentials to navigate No Man’s Sky’s universe successfully.

While this is just a small aspect of what makes No Man’s Sky special as the thing that truly fascinates me about this game is its vast potential through updates. The game has created a quite literal universe to build upon, and the directions the game can take from here is endless. 

You’ll also encounter creatures that defy logic and haunt your dreams. So there’s that.

Tina’s Take:

     When I first heard about this game, I was definitely not excited for it. I have a hard time playing first person style games, so I typically will stay away from those and stick with the third person styles. This struggle has caused me to have a bitter taste in my mouth when it comes to first person games. It wasn’t until about a month ago that I finally swallowed my opinions and made the choice to purchase this game when it came out. This has since become my new gaming addiction. Despite the fact that it has a first person view angle, I found that the controls and movements came to me very easily. I appreciate this because every time I have tried to play any other sort of first person game, I always end up running around in a corner like a chicken with her head cut off. The controls were very reminiscent of ‘Minecraft’. If you want an idea of what this game is all about, think of it like ‘Minecraft’ met the movie ‘Interstellar’ and the two decided to drop acid while reading 80’s Sci-Fi novels. That’s what No Man’s Sky is like. If that sounds like something you are interested in one thing to keep in mind is if you are going to get this game make sure you keep in mind that this game strongly encourages exploration. In fact, that’s what this game is pretty much all about. There is a slight story involved, but you have to find it. It’s not going to be thrown at you from the very beginning, which I personally enjoyed. It was almost like a reward for discovering something new. I also appreciated this game for the sheer possibility of discovering what’s around the corner. You start on one random planet in the middle of a random solar system. When you finally leave the planet, and you get out into the open space, it really dawns on you how massive this game is. It took me roughly 4-5 hours to finally leave my first planet and when I did, I finally saw that all that time spent exploring what I thought was a large portion of the world I landed on, was in actuality no more than the size of New York City. The developers at Hello Games made each planet truly life-size. When that dawned on me, I cried a single tear of joy knowing I will probably NEVER fully explore this game. Once this stunning realization wore off, I shot off to the next nearest planet to see what it had in store. If you liked ‘Minecraft’, this is a must add to your collection. If you didn’t, I’d recommend you steer clear.

Preview: We Happy Few

*Please Note: The Gamer HUD was given a preview build of the game since the final product is still in development.

     It has been almost a full day since my last meal and the lack of sleep has also begun to take a toll on the stories character, Arthur Hastings. Since my rations at the bunker have long since been consumed, I now find myself combing the darkened streets of Wellington Wells, the setting for Compulsion Games next title We Happy Few. With my vision now becoming blurry, I come across an rather worn looking building that has some kind of a hand made security alarm rigged of cans and string. Glancing inside, I see a gentleman standing over a fire with a pot of some kind of food slow cooking over it- and it’s at this moment that I start to realize that this has become a “better me than you” situation. While I normally find myself taking the high road in nearly all previous games where they offer a choice system, it is becoming more apparent that Arthur is starving to death and his time is running out. It is once that I have accepted this terrible reality, I burst through the front door of this mans home, causing the cans to crash to the floor and him immediately turning towards me, ready to defend his meal. Using a rather large stick that I had found on the street outside, I take the man down in a few solid swings- dodging his counter attacks. As he melts to the floor and I realize the fight has been won, I make my way to the score. Just as I pick up the food and am now considering scavenging the rest of the flat, I hear a woman running past the doorway saying aloud, “This means more food for us!”- and once again I am fighting for my survival. 

     Probably the best part about this entire scenario that I just walked you through, is there were at least 10 more moments that I could have chosen- none of which are scripted, but rather random events that I stumbled upon while exploring the immersive world of Wellington Wells. Thanks to the procedurally generated world, my version of Wellington Wells and yours, although both will have the dark and ominous presence that is intertwined with every aspect of the world, both will be setup differently. In my 5+ hours that I have spent with the preview build, I am happy to say that the gaming community will have a lot to look forward to when the final version releases sometime in 2017.

     We Happy Few is a first person survival game with RPG elements in which you have to monitor your characters well being such as: water intake, sleep deprivation, and food consumption. From weapon creation and item gathering, this game has a lot more depth than I had originally anticipated. For the alpha build that we were given to preview, we did not have access to any additional narrative content other than what was shown in the E3 gameplay demo, however we were given access to its open world of Wellington Wells and some of its side quests that it offers.      

      When first approaching the preview and learning that it would not include anymore of the incredibly enticing narrative shown off during E3 2016, I was interested to see how the rest of the game would hold up. It is safe to say that it will not only be the narrative that will keep you coming back for more, but for the gameplay loop that challenges to you survive as well as the interesting side missions they offer. One quest in which I was challenged to stop a runner by the name of “Crazy Legs”, was an interesting feat for me to complete since I had to time it perfectly and those around me immediately wanted to join in the fray when it would begin. So what started out as a task to stop an individual from running, turned into an all out street brawl between some of the towns citizens and Crazy Legs himself. 

     One thing that I have been asked now on multiple occasions, is the games comparison to the Bioshock franchise. Coming out of the E3 gameplay preview, people were buzzing about We Happy Few since it offered a similar artistic style to that of Bioshock Infinite, however that is where the similarities stop. While it is understandable to get that impression initially, its gameplay and ominous tone offers a completely different take- leaving this comparison rather flat. We Happy Few will be a title that stands on its own two legs, rather than the fame of another. 

     Both PC and Xbox players have the ability to check out the alpha now via the respective systems Preview Program. Compulsion Games has promised that players will get to experience the continual expansion of the procedural world over the course of the games development, but we get to use this small taste of the game as a chance to get acclimated to the rules and features of Wellington Wells before We Happy Fews final release next year.  In the mean time, I think I’d better take my ‘Joy’ and try to blend in, people seem to be getting suspicious of me and I’ve got to avoid detection if I’m going to survive. Wish me luck.