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access_time June 28, 2019 at 8:00 AM in PC/Mac by David Poole

E3 2019 Preview | Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory

During our time at E3, we checked out several Bigben Interactive titles. Some of which were based on tabletop RPGs like Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Earthblood. Another one, interestingly enough, would be Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory, a game set in a dystopian setting based on a game from 1984. Unlike Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Earthblood, which is an action game, Paranoia is a point and click CRPG. Similar to games like Torment: Tides of Numenera or even Baldur’s Gate, Paranoia is an RPG for those that love a deep narrative.

Paranoia’s setting, Alpha Complex, is very artificial and unnatural. You work as an troubleshooting engineer under the rule of a defective AI, Friend Computer. To Friend Computer, their rule is law, and breaking those laws can be punishable by “termination”, aka death. Somewhat like We Happy Few, the citizens of Alpha Complex take pills to maintain their happiness. They also are assigned various roles, for example, the player character can only walk in red areas in the beginning. Walking in a yellow area will raise the treason level and can even earn a punishment.

One thing that Paranoia does to immerse the player is that they put Friend Computer’s eye at the top of the screen. It’s here that it will always watch wherever the mouse moves, sort of breaking the fourth wall in this instance. It’s a nice touch to the presentation, which already has a sort of Fallout Vault Boy aesthetic. Players will be able to make dialogue choices to determine how conversations and the story play out, often leading to humorous situations.

Players will eventually meet up with Friend Computer to create a team to go on missions. In our demo, this mission involved going to a facility (where Friend Computer can’t see) to fix a cleaning drone, which ended up needing an escort. It’s here that we get a taste of combat, as there are enemy robotic drones to attack you. Combat is a bit interesting, as players can control all four of their units at once, or each one individually. Units are capable of auto-battle but the player can also direct them to something more specific. One thing that’s useful is to use cover, as debris could be used to increase evasion.

Each character will have set skills, either to use in offensive or defensive situations. If a player should fall in battle, they’ll have extra lives in the form of a clone. It’s pretty common in stories like this, but it’s still a fun explanation nonetheless. It may also be worth letting one of your teammates die, as they could give their loyalty to Friend Computer. It would be too obvious if you make it seem intentional, so this situation needs to be done to make it look like an accident.

In some situations, players will have various obstacles to overcome. Sometimes this will need a specialist on the team, but sometimes the player will need to handle it themselves. In these moments, the player may want to give themselves specs towards various uses. During my demo, I ran into a situation where I needed to hack a security system. Not only would I need a high enough hacking skill, but I would also need keys from a vending machine. It’s also here that one of my teammates could report my actions as treason. Obviously if I can hack things, it wouldn’t be a good thing for Friend Computer.

The hacking minigame itself is fun, having a string of letters moving quickly like a slot machine. The player just has to stop the right letter in the slots with careful timing. It’s not easy at first, but once you know the timing and understand what to do, it’s not too bad. Using the vending machines could also help to gain useful items and equipment. Players will have the option to customize their equipment, just like many RPGs. Being that I was playing in the early stages, it was hard to get an idea of what options there were, but it was likely basic RPG rules with upgrades in stats.

Overall, Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory is a pretty nice change of pace for the genre. I usually see a lot of apocalyptic and fantasy titles, so having a dystopian setting makes quite a difference. One thing that could be better is the ability to continuously move with the mouse. The control pad or WASD keys work, but it would be a good change for players of other games in the genre. Other than that, fans of the tabletop series and RPGs in general should definitely keep their eyes peeled for this one. Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory is scheduled to come out later this year for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Are you excited for this release? Let us know in the comments below!

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