We Happy Few Review:
Drug addiction runs rampant in the town of Wellington Wells and shows no signs of stopping. However, 3 people want to change that, join Artur, Sally, and Ollie in their quest to free themselves from addiction, slay their demons, and regain control of their lives.
We Happy Few, which originated as a KickStarter, is an action-adventure game released by Compulsion Games. It originally showed up in Early Access back in 2016, and just received a full release in August 2018. The studio, Compulsion Games, was recently bought by Microsoft and will become one of their newest first party studios. Despite the joining of forces, We Happy Few will still be released on PlayStation 4 and Steam, alongside the Xbox One.
The game is set in an alternate timeline of World War II, in which the United States did not join the Allies and left Great Britain to fight the Germans with very little help. Desperate to be free from the grips of the Germans, the town of Wellington Wells does something so heinous, that they can no longer be happy. To fill that void, they begin taking a pill known as Joy which makes you see pretty colors and forget your memories, among other things. Taking Joy is mandatory if you want to be a citizen of Wellington Wells and not outcasted, but not without the cost of becoming a mindless robot.
We Happy Few crafts a narrative that is intertwined among three main characters, Arthur Hastings, Sally Boyle, and Ollie Starkey. Each of these characters has their own demons and memories they would like to forget. Despite their hardships, they strive to be free from the grips of Joy, regain their memories, and move on with their lives. In the game, you follow each of these characters as they seek to find freedom outside of Wellington Wells.
A large amount of the game is spent running from place to place in order to accomplish various tasks, so you better get used to it. For example, you may have to run to one character in a different town to get an ingredient, but before they give it to you, you must run back across the map and do a favor for them (sometimes 2 or 3), then run back to finish the mission. This is one complaint that I have because at times I felt like I spent half of my play session running back and forth to places with different items. While there are a few fast travel locations, there are not near enough. The addition of a few more fast travel locations would not only save the player time, but would make the game a little less monotonous.
We Happy Few features two mechanics that are essential to the game–crafting and skill points. Crafting is especially important when you are in need of more health. Throughout the game, you’ll need to collect materials which are used to craft medicines, health supplies, weapons, or various other items essential to your journey. Finding items can sometimes be difficult, so it’s best to know what you need to craft some specific items so that you can keep your eye out for them.
Skill points are earned as a reward as you complete various quests. Each of the three players has a different set of skills, so it is vital that you pay attention and keep up with your upgrades. Having upgraded players enhances gameplay, allowing a smooth and easy transition since you are playing to that specific player’s strengths.
After a rocky start with some framerate drops, the game finally tolerable to play, it still isn’t where I wish it was, but it’s playable. Prior to the update, playing the game was choppy, glitchy, and overall not the best experience. However, since the update has been pushed, playing the game is now more smooth, the graphics render quicker and show more detail, and the random framerate drop issues have also been fixed.
The controls are pretty basic and are comfortable because they are similar to the controls of other games, so you do not find yourself frantically searching for buttons. Using them in gameplay is simple and mindless. This is not one of those games that you are going to have to play a while to remember all of the controls and become familiar with them. After just a few minutes, you’ll know exactly what to do and how to do it.
We Happy Few is telling a dark and mysterious story, so it is only right that the music matches that theme. The game has phenomenal background music that is upbeat, yet equally as dark and creepy as the game. I love that the music does not take away from the game or story at all, but rather serves as a supplement to the strong narrative that the game presents. The story aspect of the game is the cake, and the music is the icing on top.
Graphics are probably the weakest part of the game. At launch, there were framerate drops everywhere, rendering issues, and an overall laggy feeling. However, since an update that was pushed a few days after launch, things have all of these issues were fixed, which is a huge plus.
The game still disappoints graphically. It is fairly basic and there are a lot of repeating buildings, landscape, and characters. The cities, for the most part, all look the same. The houses are all very similar and the insides are all essentially the same design. There are about 4 different characters that walk the street, so seeing the same character constantly is normal, especially this little old lady that constantly screams loudly when she is scared. It would have been nice to add a little more variety to the NPC’s.
Despite a stale environment to explore, there are many sidequests that can be done in the game, which only adds to the story. Again, the story is where the game succeeds. Hidden throughout the main quests and side quests are memories, and when you find them, they fill in a little bit about that character’s past. This is a really nice touch to the game and makes you want to search out those little-hidden gems in the game as an added bonus.
My favorite part of the game is the three intertwining narratives. I don’t want to say much because I would like to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t played, but I will say this. The folks at Compulsion Games are master storytellers. The game received a little bit of pushback because of its main selling point seems to be about a bunch of unhappy people trying to find joy (no pun intended) in drug addiction. But the game is telling so much more than that. It’s not a game about drug use, it’s a game about living with your mistakes, overcoming your demons, moving on with your life and finding true joy in everyday life.
Overall, We Happy Few is a solid game that I would definitely recommend playing. Despite being a bit monotonous at times and having some graphical issues, the story it tells outshines the issues it presents. Playing through three characters allows you to see the same world through three different and unique perspectives that you may not have noticed while playing as a different character.
This review of We Happy Few is based on the PS4 version of the game.
We Happy Few has a strong narrative that is not seen in many games. Despite many graphical issues and monotonous gameplay, it is still a fantastic game that everyone should consider playing.
Andrew is a college student who loves to keep up with the gaming industry. His favorite character of all time is Mario. You can find him on Twitter @_andrewtsmith.