We Happy Few Review

We Happy Few Review Darryl Linington
A Joy-filled adventure.
User Rating: 7.4 (2 votes)

Developed by Compulsion Games and published by Gearbox Publishing, We Happy Few has finally arrived on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. While the game sat in early access for quite some time, We Happy Few has finally hit retail release. With this title being one of my most anticipated releases of the year, is it the Joy fuelled action-adventure we were hoping for… or is it just another Downer that needs to be chased out of town? Well, it’s time to find out.

Set in the mid-1960s following an alternative version of World War 2, We Happy Few is played from a first-person perspective. The game follows the story of three very unlikely protagonists who are desperately trying to escape the fictional city of Wellington Wells… a city that is on the brink of societal collapse due to its citizens being forced to take a fictional drug called Joy. While on Joy the residents of Wellington Wells have no memory of the past monstrosities they took part in… the drug leaves them oblivious to the dreadful world around them and allows them to live their best life with not a care in the world.

We Happy Few kicks off with the player taking control of Arthur Hastings, one of the most unlikely protagonists you will meet. Arthur is a fairly timid man who works as a redactor who censors and approves old news articles from Wellington Wells’ Department of Archives, Printing, and Recycling. While working on various newspaper articles, Arthur finds an old article on the war effort against the Soviet Union, with Arthur himself along with his brother Percy receiving the Scrap Gathering Prize for donating scrap towards the Victory Against Communism Bond. This triggers strong memories for Arthur, causing him to neglect taking his Joy in order to find out exactly what happened to his brother Percy.

Arthurs storyline is an interesting one and one that takes up around 20-30 hours of the game. After Arthur’s story, you take on the role of Sally and Ollie… another set of unlikely protagonists also searching for an escape from the plucky and delusional citizens of Wellington Wells. While their campaigns are not as long as Arthur’s they will last roughly 10-15 hours.

When it comes to storyline, We Happy Few exceeded my expectations. While We Happy Few was essentially meant to be a survival game, the end product turned out to be a truly interesting story-driven game with colourful characters and an equally interesting plot. You see, the plot in We Happy Few comes across as cheerful and colourful; however, it transforms into a much darker monster. While this is revealed through the narrative, it is also brilliantly told through beautifully environmental story-telling, which comes in the form of words scratched onto walls or the way a house may be designed and set out. It’s actually done rather well and makes exploring the world even more intriguing.

On the downside, however, this is about the only incentive for exploring, this and some loot, as the outside world of We Happy Few offers very little to do. Granted there are side-quests; however, these are few and far between and often become annoying fetch quests. To add to this, the world is procedurally generated, meaning it’s pretty random, so finding things can be a struggle or a ridiculous chore. In one quest I had to run close to 3000 in-game metres just to collect an item… I then had to run another 3000 in-game metres back to return said item. This made me ignore the side-quests and rather stick to the main storyline.

Moving away from the story and world, We Happy Few does have a fairly decent combat system, although the game pushes you to be more stealthy than aggressive. While stealth and combat are decent, I do feel that they need a little more work. Arthur and the rest of the protagonists have very few options when it comes to hiding… this came in the form of dustbins or a certain flower bush. I found hiding in buildings to be beneficial, although you can get cornered by an angry mob or a ridiculous amount of overly aggressive Bobbies. For a game that pushes you to play the game in a stealthy manner, I feel that We Happy Few could have offered the player more options in this department.

As stealth is key, so is crafting. We Happy Few has a pretty easy-to-use crafting system, which I rather enjoyed using. While some items can be crafted on-the-fly others will need a workbench. This makes things a little harder in We Happy Few, which is not a bad thing. As this title is also a survival game, you will need to eat, drink and sleep. While not eating, drinking, and sleeping won’t kill you (on lower difficulty settings) it does have a negative effect such as lower stamina as well as Arthur and the gang dealing lower damage to enemies. I quite liked this as it brought a bit of a realism to the game.

Moving on to visuals and the world of We Happy Few, I cannot help but be slightly disappointed. This is due to the world feeling like something that was copied and pasted. While travelling throughout the towns you will see a number of identical characters. Granted, they each have their very own name, but still, a little more variety would have made this a bit less noticeable. The same can be said for the different areas which are supposed to be different, but feel and look very similar. I do however take my hat off to Compulsion Games as this is only their second game and they should be applauded for developing a game with such a powerful narrative and intriguing world.

It may have its issues and glitches, but We Happy Few is a great game overall. Not only does it feature a truly brilliant storyline, but it also introduces us to an interesting world that is filled with some highly intriguing characters.

Overall, We Happy Few may not be perfect; however, as Compulsion Games’ second title, it is most definitely a step in the right direction. I cannot wait to see what else this studio has in store for us in the future.

By: Darryl Linington
Contact: Darryl@techitout.co.za
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Follow @DarrylLinington on Twitter

Editor of Tech IT Out. Former radio host of Cliffcentral.com. Former Editor of IT News Africa and ITF Gaming. All round techie, gamer and entrepreneur. For Editorial Enquiries Contact: Darryl@techitout.co.za or via +27788021400.