We Happy Few was one of those games that just instantly grabbed my eye when I saw the trailer earlier this year. The groovy art style, the brights colours and the awesome music that contradicted the dark feeling to the game, just ticked the boxes. Also, I really like the concept. A dystopian take on 1960s Britain, where they lost World War II to Germany, the inhabitants of Wellington Wells are forced, by law, to pills to make them see the world in a positive way and forget the troubles of the past. Each of the 3 protagonists must escape Wellington Wells to ensure a truly happy future for themselves. Truly a new and intriguing idea Compulsion Games.
We Happy Few is a survival game, which I’ve been a big fan of since 2010’s Fallout: New Vegas. Thinking about when you got to eat, sleep and drink always keeps you on your toes as you traverse an open world, as the impact of not meeting these needs could mean life or death. In We Happy Few the world isn’t violent towards you initially, it’s all dependent on how you interact with others, how you dress and when you take your good ol’ Joy. Although it may seem like a simple mechanic, this is where the frustration and challenge occurs in the game. One wrong move (quite literally one move) and you’ve managed to piss off the whole town, as they chase you to your manhole. For a town that is supposed to be cheerful, a lot of residents carry around lead pipes and electric prods. You also have to monitor your intake of joy, as, with many drugs, you can overdose and experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can impact the player with a lack of stamina, distorted vision and everyone wants to hurt you in these states.
The inventory system makes the game easier to control as you find it separated into categories as you expect. This is particularly useful in this game as you’ll find your inventory space quickly filled. You can stash your belongings in your pneumatic stash that you find in your hideouts. The game allows you to craft items from your pneumatic stash anywhere in the game, I feel this takes some of the planning for your trips away from the game but the hideouts are far and few between so can see why.
Quick tip, make sure you’ve got all the necessary equipment to go raiding a house or complete a quest. The number of times I found myself leaving mid-quest to go and find some bobby pins was quite shocking. You are truly made to feel like an outcast in this game, not only as you have to watch your actions but you are forced to hide in manholes and break into houses in order to survive, whilst the rest of the village finds life so so easy.
There are also visual cues to when you’re on and off your joy. In the beginning, you witness a pretty drab world, colourless buildings that overhang a street with sinister-looking residents. Following your first dose, the worlds lightens up, as beautiful pink bubbles float around your screen, the colours are luminous and eye-catching and you walk with a skip in your step. Whilst, withdrawal is horrible and grim, all light and colour are sucked from the world and if you’ve ever had a bad hangover, that is what the world pretty much feels like. Although there was a clear definition between these three states, I don’t feel it impacted you, as the player, as much as it should have. When on joy, I would have thought certain actions such as attacking would be impacted in some ways. You become slower walking but I feel more could have been done.
The story to the game seems intriguing enough as you try to escape Wellington Wells and each act is through the eyes of the protagonist, so similar events happen in each act but differently. However, the consistent mindless wandering back and forth between objectives makes the game fall flat and can take a while to complete quests. This lead to a couple of eye rolls as you consistently told to find a pass to cross a bridge and do numerous little things to get this pass. It just felt like a lot of these quests were mind-numbingly boring as they offered little to the story of the overall game, however, there were some that reminded you of the brilliant concept of the game. I also experienced a number of game crashing bugs, one even deleted 4 hours worth of gameplay, which made the experience of playing the game that more frustrating and not in a good way.
Overall, the game was good, but bugs and repetitiveness let it down. I think this is another game that falls victim to the large maps that seem to be plaguing game developers at the moment. Large maps are developed but very little is placed on these maps to keep you entertained as you could find yourself walking for 20 minutes to the next objective. This has led to me getting bored with some games such as Fallout 4 and Assassin’s Creed: Origins far too quickly, the same goes for We Happy Few. At time it was a struggle to get through. The map is randomly generated in We Happy Few but it is barely noticeable as most of the building and NPCs look exactly the same.
I think I’ve been a bit harsh on Compulsion Games here as this is an indie title but charging £45-£55 is a bit steep for a game that seems to lack and crash a lot. If you’re willing to grind through the mindless wandering between objectives, there are some quests that are fun and quirky. One that stands out for me, is a quest where you have to rescue a doll and then craft some camouflage for the doll so they can build a “superweapon”. It just shows the impact on Joy on its users as they remember the past and eventually lose the plot. But these quests are far and few between, as you could spend up to an hour a quest. The game has longevity but not the sort I’m looking for, I feel the game could have been better with a compact map, lots of quests that explain the lore in Wellington Wells.