We Happy Few just recently launched from early access as a full title on PC, Xbox One & PS4 so we finally decided to do a review of it!
We Happy Few takes place in an alternate 1960s timeline where I can only assume the Germans and/or Russians won WWII even though it’s not specifically stated. Except in this alternate reality, it’s not the typical “Wolfenstein” vibe you would expect with them winning, but more of a “joy” filled reality.
Lets Get The Downer Out The Way
There is definitely joy to be found in We Happy Few as long as you can find the diamond in the rough here, but first you have to get through the dirt. We Happy Few has glitches and/or bugs that often times may have you restarting the game so you can reload to see if the issue is fixed, which is probably one of the biggest gripes with the game so I wanted to mention it first. Not only are there issues with that, it is commonly mentioned that there are framerate issues and/or pop-in issues. I didn’t really experience many of those issues, but I also was playing on a PC and not a console.
Bioshock? Or A Cult Classic?
Now that I’ve mentioned probably the worst parts of the game and you stuck with me this far, let’s get onto the actual joy filled parts of the game. Many people have compared We Happy Few to Bioshock and I feel as though it’s very misleading. Bioshock was a triple-A developed game by some of the best developers in the industry, meanwhile Compulsion Games crafted this game out of love and the help of Kickstarter backers. It has the same feel of a Bioshock game though as far as the world that Compulsion Games has created, an “alternate timeline” of sorts where basically everyone has completely lost it, but that’s about where that comparison ends.
If I had to compare We Happy Few to other games, then I would have to take it back to the original Xbox days where you had those special original games that were never really popular, but developed a cult following over the years. If I had to name just a couple of games, it would probably be Destroy All Humans & Stubbs the Zombie. We Happy Few feels that special and I don’t think people are going to gravitate to it at first, but in years time I think it will become one of those games that is remembered fondly by those that played through its entirety.
Three Lengthy Acts
In We Happy Few, the first character that you are introduced to is Arthur. A journalist who just happened to stop taking his joy when he came across an old photo of his brother. This photo sets him off on a journey in search of his brother that was sent to Russia during the war. Arthurs journey takes him throughout the different districts in the game, most with their own look. Arthur also meets another character along the way that you’ll end up playing in the next act. I don’t want to spoil who because I found it to be pretty exciting, but I’ll say “she” comes with her own unique abilities and gameplay style that differs then what you’re used to with Arthur. There is a third character that you’ll play as well for the last act of the game that just like Sally, shifts things up for you the player. Each act took me between 15-20 hours to complete so Compulsion Games has put a lot of effort into each act, and honestly they felt like their own game or similar to a large “dlc” expansion.
With any typical open-world game, the core gameplay loop is to go somewhere, get a quest and either “fetch, kill, destroy, spy on someone or beat a boss”. Some will say that this game feels repetitive, but if you compare it to any open-world game and look at what you’re doing, it’s essentially those few things with a few exceptions. The game doesn’t feel repetitive to me because between the writing and the amazing crafted stories of the quest, each thing felt different.
If you were to push just straight through the main story line, I think you would enjoy it, but the real joy of this game is found in the side-quests. Compulsion Games told some of the best stories that fleshed out the world around you in We Happy Few. Whether I was impersonating a game show host, fetching “strange meat” for the butcher or sneaking into an old ladies home to find out she might not be as innocent as she seems, I felt like every side-quest just kept getting better and better.
Are You Off Your Joy?
There is a core gameplay mechanics that some would compare to survival games as there really isn’t a “game over” if you chose to ignore them, it would just affect some of the stats for your character. At it’s core, all of the three characters that you play is affected by the following traits: hunger, thirst, and sleep. You can literally ignore these traits and just suffer that negative stats it gives or you can unlock a skill that eventually ignores the negative affects. If these traits don’t bother you, then I can literally say I’m not the biggest survival element fan and I still found these very easy to manage.
There is another core gameplay element within the game called “joy”. You’ll hear this word a lot, that you must take your joy. I say ignore those nay-sayers and join our wonderful group of downers and experience the beautiful disgusting world around you! Joy isn’t required to be used in the game, but it will make certain parts of the game easier to navigate. I went through most of the game with only actually taking my joy pills a few times, most parts where you would think it’s required can be easily avoided. If you are an addict to joy, then beware because there are negative effects when you take too much.
Other characters that you will posses throughout the game, have different survival elements, but I like I mentioned with the ones above, they can be ignored or you can basically unlock a skill or item that helps you virtually ignore it without the negative effects.
Masterful World Building
The world that Compulsion Games has created with We Happy Few is phenomenal. They’ve set up a world that I wanted to learn more about. The side characters often times steal the show with the fantastic writing in this game. Also, you’ll come across Uncle Jack whom is broadcast over the radios and TV throughout the entire game which brings to life the world as you traverse it and listen in. Even Uncle Jack has a crazy cult following that you’ll want to check out. Not only are the people within Wellington Wells interesting, the world itself is fun to explore where you’re traversing it’s neon filled streets in the city districts, or it’s abandoned disheveled garden district, there is something for everyone.
We Happy Few is a joy filled game, if you can get over all the downer parts of the game.
I would recommend to fans of the following:
- Open-World Games
- Games such as Bioshock, Deus Ex, or Dishonored
- Fans of cult classics such as Destroy All Humans, Stubbs The Zombie, etc.
I would not recommend if you:
- Can’t look past the occasional bugs or glitches that you might encounter
- All you do is push through the main story-line in games
- If survival elements annoy you