We Happy Few the moody game by Compulsion games is centered on Arthur Hastings followed up by acts from Sally Boyle and Ollie Starkey. To me the big story here is Arthur and his struggle to understand what is going on in Wellington Wells. It all starts when he sees a newspaper clipping and has a flash back of his brother Percy. That is when Arthur starts on a path that will see him encounter old friends, avoid the police and search for every item in his grasp to help him escape. There is very little for him to be happy about and the threat of others figuring out he isn’t on his joy is constant.
The main ingredient for We Happy Few is how this game is played within its surroundings. The game plays like an open world survival game with hunger and thirst meters. I never felt this mechanic to be a dire threat to me but that didn’t stop me from crafting and searching like a crazy person for items. Do not expect this game to hold your hand though. You will be stuck in learn as you go mode for quite some time until you get the hang of things. Let’s touch on some key points of the game.
This is something you want to learn quickly. You will need to craft lock picks, healing balm, clothes, weapons, etc. it does feel at some point that you have spent way too much time crafting items but in the end it’s necessary. It never gets absurdly difficult but it will become annoying when you just had that one piece in your hand only to leave it back in your hideout. While the crafting menu is a little difficult to navigate you will soon realize it is on par with using any of the menu options. My advice would be to craft healing items ASAP because you will need them. The biggest problem with crafting was the stations, I never felt they served much of a purpose. Anything I wanted to craft I could on the fly.
The fighting in the game is basic and if you have ever played Zombi then you know how it works. Now I suggest as does the game that running can be the best option in most cases but if you have to fight you better be prepared. You can fight with your fists, sticks, umbrellas, shock wands and numerous of other things. While the combat can feel a tad clunky at times it was always fun to punch, whack or push your way out of confrontations. Pick your battles carefully though as certain constables and doctors will bash your face in with superior aggression. The game even tells you that if you see a doctor you should RUN! Stealth is also a tactic you need to learn quickly. Sneaking in an army base or any NPC filled area is not easy. If you are spotted in the high traffic areas you are in some serious trouble. I really enjoyed the stealth in the game. You can sneak through bushes and stay hidden in order to sneak up behind that pesky guard and take him out from behind. Always remember though, running away is a viable option.
Towns and Navigating
The towns in the game are separated by folks that are not on joy and those that are still taking their joy. This makes for a lot of fun when it comes to the differences between them. When you start off nobody really cares that you are off your joy but mess with their things and the fight is on. It is fine to talk to anyone as long as you are like them and you don’t steal. Once you make it to the part in the game where you must take joy things become difficult. Appear unhappy and you get your butt kicked. Take off running and get your butt kicked. Take something or be in the wrong area and you get your butt kicked. Hey but everyone is happy and the colors are amazing. The people jump in puddles and they smile at you as you pass. There is only one problem though. You cannot stay on joy or you will completely lose your mind and all memory loss. You must find other ways to appear happy. Good luck.
Now navigating these towns can be frustrating and you will find yourself turned around so often you will give up on setting a custom marker. I found it useless and only added to my frustration. A major addition to frustration was the loading screens that would pop up at random times. I’m assuming it was when you entered another part of town but it hurt the flow of the game. Another problem in the game is the lack of quick access to the map. You will be clicking into the menu often and it will become cumbersome. This should be fixed if possible. The open world map is fun to explore but after a while you will stop so you can get to more important things.
The gameplay in We Happy Few at times is fantastic and adventurous. Then at times it will make you want to grab a joy pill and take it yourself. The detail in some areas really put it together nicely such as things like signs, wording on walls or a backdrop of the city. Honestly it was beautiful in certain areas of the game. Problem is the framerate can drop on a dime and things become indistinguishable. It was very upsetting seeing this and it happens often. Nothing would upset me more than when it would start raining and I was like wow this is awesome only for the rain to stop in midair and just be there. Talk about midair some of the NPCs in the game would randomly appear in the air, this broke up what would have been a cool moment in the game.
One thing that brings it back though is the humor. We Happy Few is very dark but it isn’t afraid to have a funny moment and I loved it when it happened. The other characters in the game had purpose and a personality. That is one thing you can’t take away from the game. Unfortunately during some of these great cut scenes the characters would freeze or even worse, it would crash. These crashes happened to me at least five times during the game and the last one was at the very end corrupting my data. This was a huge problem in the game and the developers should be working on a patch right now to fix this issue.
We Happy Few is a trippy ride of a drug infused culture. Everyone wants to be happy and have that quick fix to achieve it. I feel this game touches on those issues perfectly. Nobody wants to hear about your sadness and all they want is to be happy. Pop a pill and all is good. However buck the system and its bad news for you. Don’t be a downer in other words. I loved that aspect and with the amazing music making me reminisce of David Bowie I ultimately had a fun time playing the game.
As I ran from town to town searching for a hatch so I could fast travel I found myself distracted by side quests. Why? Because I was having fun in this sad dreary situation. From the shocking amount of “F” bombs to the scene of a man hanging from a tree as his friend wept, We Happy Few entertained me highly. The story is great and feels fresh even in the most depressing situations. I wish this was enough to save it from the disastrous performance issues it suffers from. Drops, lags, crashes and things not working correctly was unacceptable during important parts of the game. I should be able to open a door or pick up an item when needed. That didn’t always happen. I should be able to get through a cut scene without a crash. That didn’t always happen. But I absolutely should be able to get through a scene without the picture freezing on my screen with me wondering what the hell was happening. That never happened and during the ending scenes it was a major let down. For a game that kept me interested and intrigued in the end it left me searching for my joy.
Last thing I want to add. We need to remember this is an indie title regardless of what people say or think.
Thank you to Compulsion Games and Gearbox publishing for giving me the opportunity to review their game. I look forward to seeing if this developer will fix some of the issues within the game and if they do I will certainly give We Happy Few a more leisurely play through.
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Rating 6.5 out of 10