Compulsion Games / Gearbox Games (studio)
10 August 2018 (released)
18 August 2018
If you ever needed more reasons why "drugs are bad, m'kay" then look no further.
For quite some time, We Happy Few has been lingering in the shadows waiting for the right moment to come and take centre stage. Back at its reveal which felt like decades ago, we were all shocked and immersed with its gripping premise and the aspects of survival gameplay being taken to another level. I was worried as it went all quiet until Gearbox came along to took publishing rights. With that came more improvements and thus We Happy Few saw a massive expansion.
I dare ask however if the time since it's reveal has been worth the wait, or whether this ambitious game has lost all joy and become a bit of a downer?
The premise is quite fascinating actually, with players seeing an alternative version of 1960's Britain where we lost the war, the Germans ravaged the lands and everyone wants to forget the horrid affair by burying their heads into some joyful sand. In other words, get massively high until dead rats, corpses and the ruins of society look all colourful and respectable.
It's a compelling idea and once that's very rarely seen in mainstream media. More accustom to a sci-fi novel from the same era, We Happy Few takes a daring idea and makes a violent, gritty satire on politics, mental health and what if we just wanted to forget our horrid past?
From the preview stages of We Happy Few, there have been some major changes. There are now three campaigns to play, ranging from Arthur's adventure and two new ones which take different approaches to the overall theme and pacing. One is centred on a Joy dealer who's taking care of a personal score with some local thugs and the other will take players into the shoes of a war veteran who's fighting off Joy fuelled maniacs and other downers.
There's a healthy mixture of stealth, action and a combination with some depth in customising your adventure. Tailoring if you want to have features like perma-death or factors such as hunger playing a major role in survival.
The world has been vastly expanded upon with new areas, story elements and locations added. While the world does have some immense depth, with plenty of locations to visit, areas to explores and ruins to scavenge from, players will be impressed with the level of detail. Seeing old German world bombers, ruined cottages and locations where families have committed suicide create images which ingrain themselves into your mind.
There’s plenty of memorable stories and every person you encounter, every mission you find and pretty much each location has a compelling tale to share. Even though one of my main complaints is that missions are quite repetitive in We Happy Few. While other RPGs may suffer from the same problem, they at least have dynamic set pieces to make them unique. We Happy Few decides on staying safe and slightly tedious with its mission structures with with the fetch quest objective being the major theme to many of them. But despite this there are some moments which make an impact in terms of gameplay and there are plenty of neat locations to venture too and even more interesting back stories. Even the simplest stories of recovering a war veterans medals is actually heart-breaking, considering the circumstances the story is set within.
There's jet black sense of comedy here, with some brilliant satire that'll make you laugh and cry at times. The intro to Arthur’s story is brilliant and the events leading up to finding his brother will grab players with the story’s cynical edge and surrealistic overtones of drug fuelled paranoid and sadistic obsession of power. Uncle Jack, the bobbies, the secret police and even the towns people who are on Joy all help create an emotional and terrifying journey whether your trying to blend in or fight the crowds. Raising the alarm is one of the most intense experiences I been part of for a very long time in gaming and having to run away from an angry mob is a outshining highlight to the game.
It’s such a shame that the survival aspects are just …. Meh. Nothing that truly does anything new with the genre and again plays it too safe. With generic stealth mechanics and tank like combat which should only be used as a last resort. Even with upgrades, certain aspects to combat are still very limited.
While the early access was raw and a little too ruthless, the survival gameplay did stand out more. The only way to experience a raw survival experience is by playing it on the highest level of difficulty. Even then it’s still pretty average as crafting and maintaining food and water just become tedious chores with very little to make them interesting. It feels generic, subpar and often at times a little too restrictive in creativity.
The only upside is crafting certain grenades such as the vomit grenade which is a ton of fun seeing it's effects in action. Like other gear, its handy to have to either blend in or to fight off the crowds of drugged crazed Brits.
Also, expect a few glitches here and there, mainly graphical and nothing too serious that it’s game breaking. I speak only for the console release that is.
While We Happy Few sadly does not do anything new with its survival gameplay or mission structures, I can’t help but be utterly captivated by its immense world and story. The backbone to We Happy Few is its rich and atmospheric story, it’s diverse and engaging characters and a world that’s so surreal and twisted, you can’t help yourself but to love it from its decaying ruins to the drug fuelled fantasies your create to escape the crippling reality of the world before you.
We Happy Few is a wholesome experience that’s enthralling and despite its lacklustre survival gameplay, it’s still a damn enjoyable and freaky experience.
++ Compelling story telling
+ Immersive world building
+ Some great Gameplay mechanics involving "Joy"
-- Variety of dull mission objectives
- Bugs and glitches
An Xbox One review copy of We Happy Few was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.