We Happy Few has been around for a couple of years now and is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. The game has just recently received a fresh batch of content in the form of the “They Came From Below” DLC, that Gearbox Publishing have assisted in releasing, and is once again back in the spotlight. Is the base game worth playing? And does the latest DLC right the wrongs of the past that tarnished We Happy Few’s name? Let’s find out shall we.
In We Happy Few, players will take on the role of one of multiple characters in a dystopian British setting. Set in the 1960’s in an alternate timeline after World War 2, the British have struck a deal with the Germans which involved doing something extremely bad in exchange for their freedom. This comes at a high price though and led to the development of an experimental anti-depressant drug known as “Joy”. “Joy” is used to control and repress the bad memories of the war and the years after that followed, and it effectively shaped British society into the current dystopian nightmare the player will find themselves in.
Playing as Arthur Hastings, players will work as a “Redactor”. A “Redactor” is someone that works in a media company and censors the news so as to not induce panic or anxiety in the populace. Anything bad that happens, and was reported, is suddenly wiped away. Censorship is rife and nothing except for happiness will suffice. However, things are not always peachy keen and a recent Joy shipment has been deemed bad. Our hero comes across an article while doing his job which triggers a repressed memory of his and ultimately, he decides that taking Joy is not a good idea anymore.
Eventually players will escape the confines of their work environment and start to discover the real world while trying to figure out just what exactly happened in the past that was so terrible that a drug was needed to sedate and control the populace. The story in We Happy Few is incredibly intense with its hard-hitting revelations and the dark nature of the themes it deals with. Loss, betrayal, psychosis, you name it and the game will feature it in some way shape or form. We Happy Few is absolutely not a kids game and the topics at hand can be extremely sombre at times. Compulsion Games truly outdid themselves when building this game’s world and setting.
Gameplay in We Happy Few is a mixture of first-person survival and stealth gameplay with combat interspersed throughout. Players are encouraged to be as stealthy as possible but the game does not explicitly make this clear to you. Only through dying multiple times from facing off against hordes of enemies will it sink in that stealth is better than running in swinging a cricket bat. The survival elements show themselves quite early with a full fledge crafting system being made available extremely early in the game. Players will have to gather resources and can then craft different items based on recipes they’ve obtained or based on their progression through the game. It is a tad formulaic but then again, so are many other games that employ this kind of system.
Unfortunately, where We Happy Few suffers is in its buggy gameplay. Even now, a year after its full release, there’s still bugs present that need to be ironed out. Watching an enemy disappear and then suddenly reappear elsewhere is disconcerting to say the least. Especially in a game that rewards stealth gameplay so much.
There’s a skill tree too with the steady stream of unlocks and buffs available to you as you play through the game’s story. The game tries to let you make decisions regarding how you play but it still pushes you down a linear major pathway with regards to its main storyline. Thankfully though, there are multiple, truly amazing side quests available that will keep you entertained when the main story starts to slow down somewhat. Many of these sidequests deal with complex topics filled with moral choices much like the game’s main storyline itself.
The controls in We Happy Few are well suited for the game and are easy enough to grasp and master. Everything important is right at your fingertips and the easy to use quick item menu is a blessing in game design. Being able to quickly swap between healing and offensive items in the midst of battle is always a good thing. Combat on the other hand can feel a bit clunky but this may be due to the character’s rigid animations. Players will have to block and shove their way to victory in addition to throwing some heavy punches or smashing some heads with melee weaponry.
The They Came From Below DLC expands upon the base game by introducing new gameplay features and follows the story of 2 new characters that have been added to the title. Roger and James have a full-fledged adventure that is miles apart from that which the base game delivers and it’s a shame that the DLC experience is so polished compared to the original title. The robot uprising in the DLC is a memorable experience and is well worth picking up and playing because of how well it’s executed. If the base game was as good as the DLC on launch, We Happy Few would have etched itself into gamer’s memories as a truly successful title.
It’s not too late for the game to succeed though. With the season pass and 2 more DLC on the way, Compulsion Games and Gearbox Publishing can still create a work of art much like the DLC that just released.
The soundtrack used in We Happy Few is excellent with 60s music and tense musical themes throughout building up a believable atmosphere. The graphics are great too with the game world being extremely gorgeous. Both the drugged-up version and “real world” versions of the world are great and there’s a clear distinction between the two that is artistically conveyed really well.
The cartoon-esque character designs are perfect too with the only gripe being the fact that character animations can look rigid and stiff, especially in combat.
Overall, We Happy Few is a game that’s definitely worth picking up. The story and the themes and subject matter at hand are extremely heavy but the game delivers a solid experience from start to finish. The addition of a survival mode and sandbox mode round off the package and gamers can easily spend up to 100 hours with this game just enjoying all it has to offer. If We Happy Few wasn’t on your radar before, it certainly should be. The planned upcoming DLC may also interest you so be sure to keep an eye on this game in the near future.