When I had the chance to sit down with Compulsion Games’ We Happy Few for the first time out at E3, I loved the witty humor and odd narrative that they had weaved together. I’ve recently sat down and run through the entirety of the full game and I say that my opinion hasn’t changed too much from my initial impressions.
Let’s jump into Wellington Wells together and explore the world of We Happy Few which launched back in August on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
Lovely Day For It
Something isn’t quite right in Wellington Wells, a land where citizens are constantly on “Joy,” a drug that makes them happy, while also making them forget things. You begin the game as Arthur, whose job it is to help redact old newspapers. It’s an ordinary day at the office until he comes across a newspaper clipping about him and his brother Percy, and thus begins the road to remembering and trying to escape from this land full of crazies.
While on the journey to reclaim his past, Arthur will come across an odd cast of characters who range from the other two playable characters in the story; Susie, a childhood friend and chemist, and Ollie, a veteran of the war; to a scientist that has a bee cannon that she uses to help pollinate her flowers. As you progress through the game, the bigger story is unveiled through special cutscenes you can collect, and by reading some of the letters that are scattered around the game’s environment, ultimately leading to some fairly shocking revelations. The more I played, the more I wanted to learn about this wacky, yet dark world. The storyline rarely felt like it dragged for me, always giving me something, someone, or somewhere new to experience.
Happiness is a Choice
The gameplay of We Happy Few offers a wide range of things for you to have to keep up with…or not. One of the best features this game has is allowing you to create a custom difficulty mode when starting out, determining how much of the game’s systems you want to have to deal with. At it’s hardest, We Happy Few requires you to stay hydrated, well feed, and well rested, all while having your each and every move being crucially judged by those around you. At it’s easiest, you can turn off the need to keep up with hunger and rest, and make citizens less suspicious of you.
This level of accessibility is wonderful, and lets the player set up a game that they feel comfortable in, letting them worry less about whether or not they should eat moldy bread, and more about exploring the world and enjoying their time in it. That being said, two of the three playable characters offer some kind of status that you have to constantly keep an eye on apart from the simple ones, such as hunger or rest. Ollie, for example, has to use a glucose syringe to keep his blood sugar up, and those have to be crafted with items found in the world. Failure to do this will have negative effects, such as reduced stamina, which will start to hinder gameplay if left unchecked.
One of the systems at the core of We Happy Few is crafting. As you wander through the world, you can search many of the desks, trash cans, wardrobes, and even berry bushes for items used to craft. Empty bottles, scraps of cloth, duct tape, and more can all be found and used to craft a variety of items such as medicines, tools, weapons, and clothing. Crafting healing items will absolutely be a must during the journey and luckily there are berry bushes scattered all around Wellington Wells for you to pick from. There are also tools you can create such as lock picks or safe crackers. Some items that are used to create things are a bit harder to come across, but it adds incentive to explore (and intrude) into the areas of the game with the hopes of coming across that last sewing kit you need so you can finally make that suit to protect yourself against bees.
The combat in We Happy Few is fairly straight forward. You can choose to use your fists, or you can wield weapons that are either found in the world, or that you craft with the ingredients that you find scattered throughout Wellington Wells. The game also gives you lethal and non-lethal options to choose from while you play, allowing you to craft weapons such as a flaming axe, or letting you duct tape a pillow to a pipe wrench. Depending on your weapon of choice, you can cause bleeding on enemies or even shock them or set them ablaze.
Lastly, each character has a skill tree that can be filled out as you play. Various actions or survival traits can be unlocked, allowing you to handle more weight in your inventory, sprint faster, or increasing your total health.
Have You Taken Your Joy?
The narrative of We Happy Few makes for an interesting world when paired with the happy and sometimes chilling soundtrack and all of the systems that come with it. One minute the game will provide you with some horrible war time stories, and the next minute, have you walking past several warning signs telling you to “turn back now or face the wrath of the yam” while preparing to face a group crazy cultists. The world itself is intriguing, and easily allows the player to invest themselves into the bizarre setting, making them wonder what the hell is actually going on.
This world, however, isn’t without its flaws. On several occasions I’ve found NPCs either clipping into the environment, having odd placements, or behaving more oddly than they should be. The construction of the open world also creates some odd moments where you can essentially walk around an entire district, avoiding any NPCs as you move across the game world. These fields on the sides of the districts are often void of things to interact with.
Even worse are the sides of the buildings you see when you go around these districts, making it almost seem that some of these buildings and associated assets were simply dropped or pasted into the game world without a second thought. Being able to simply walk behind whole groupings of buildings like this, with virtually nothing around, feels like a detriment to the concept of an open world.
We’ve Come to the End of our Time
We Happy Few is an interesting game. It has a story that can quickly switch between dark and hysterical as you move through it, leaving you wanting to know more about the world of Wellington Wells. Because of the optional difficulty choices, Compulsion Games has created an interesting world that anyone can enjoy, regardless of their gaming skills and that in itself is something that should be applauded. At the end of the day, however, this world can present some odd bugs. While not perfect, We Happy Few is an interesting narrative that should be experienced.
~ Final Score: 7/10 ~
Review copy provided by Gearbox Publishing for PC. Screenshots provided by the publisher and taken by reviewer.