We Happy Few Review - Not So Joyous

 

We Happy Few showcased compelling teasers, but between the dull combat, outdated visuals, and weak narrative, the final product turned out to be a complete disappointment

In We Happy Few, you take control of Arthur, a young man who realizes his life has been ruined by an awful drug called Joy. This drug makes the user see everything in a positive light, and We Happy Few depicts this in creepy ways. The first example occurs early in the game, where Arthur is taken to a party and asked to hit a pinata. When he smacks this pinata, everyone is covered in blood as Arthur realizes they’re eating the guts of a giant dead rat. I've also watched as citizens jumped up and down in a pool of liquid fuel, which clearly indicates that these people believe they’re playing around in something else.

Joy exists as a way to keep citizens docile and happy, preventing them from rising up against the government. The drug also prevents the user from recalling painful memories. As Arthur decides to abandon the drug, people quickly find out he’s a “downer”—someone who is off of Joy—which forces him to run off into the wilderness. Once he gets his bearings, he recalls that he lost his brother, Percival, many years ago. Arthur starts heading to Germany in an attempt to find Percival, marking the beginning of his journey.

Bland Gameplay

We Happy Few could have been fun if it had a unique way of approaching combat. Creating additional melee mechanics would have definitely added an extra layer to this, but instead, the gameplay consists of smacking people with a stick until you run out of stamina. The lack of variety in combat gets old after the first hour, and it’s easily one of the worst aspects of the game.

You're able to sneak around and stealthily take down enemies, but the level design and AI movement patterns aren’t creative enough to make these mechanics interesting. Additionally, it takes much longer to finish levels through stealth than it would to just beat everyone to death. Compulsion Games should have attempted to strike a balance between these two mechanics by making direct combat risky, therefore the decision between going loud or quiet would be tough.

Skills & Crafting

Although the combat isn’t particularly fun, some of the unlockables in the game’s skill tree make it slightly more competent and amusing. It also helps keep a sense of progression so you don’t get completely bored. Additionally, you can use the items you find in the world to craft special weapons and throwable items that spice up the combat. For example, shock grenades and “bangers,” or just regular grenades, help add an extra layer to the mechanics.

Visually Underwhelming

It’s hard to appreciate We Happy Few when it’s visually subpar. The low quality textures on character give them faces that seem to be made wool, and the animations feel like they’re missing frames that would make them more smooth. If a game goes for a more cartoonish style, there needs to be satisfying fluidity in its cinematics. This isn’t the case with We Happy Few, as some things looks painfully outdated and robotic.

The Story of We Happy Few

We Happy Few’s most interesting aspect is its bizarre and fascinating world, so it’s disappointing that most of the story is a snoozefest. And while the voice actors provide a solid performance, the main story has lots of mixed moments. The best parts of the campaign are the interactions between Sally and Arthur. Alex Wyndham (Arthur) and Charlotte Hope (Sally) do an excellent job of capturing the bittersweet relationship between the two characters, and the dialogue is written in a way that properly conveys their complicated dynamic. On the other hand, the game also loves to shove a mountain of exposition down my throat whenever I find a “memory” in the world. These are the worst because they provide no interesting animations, performances, or story developments.

However, the big problem with the plot is that there's nothing drawing us to Arthur’s journey. The objective is to find his brother in Germany, but we know very little about him and don’t have enough of a connection with either of them to care. Not only that, but using poorly animated cutscenes to illustrate their relationship causes an even larger disconnect.

Additionally, We Happy Few really tries to be charming and clever in a lot of ways, especially with Arthur’s monologue throughout the game. For example, if you kill someone, he might say something like “that’s for knocking down my blocks in primary school.” Although it might be amusing the first time, it’s pretty obnoxious to hear over and over. At one point, I looked into the options to see if I could turn off his narration. Unfortunately, you can’t.

Uninteresting Start

We Happy Few has a rather rocky start, throwing you into a monotonous open field where nothing happens. It takes a few hours before it gets to something more thrilling like the cities filled with creepy guards that will destroy you. Sneaking through crowded streets and trying my damndest to blend in was quite thrilling. The most terrifying moments of We Happy Few are when I'm out after curfew and have to make it to a bed without getting caught.

No Morale System

It’s strange that there’s absolutely no consequences for murdering innocent people. If the guards can’t see you, you have complete freedom to murder whoever you want. This is awfully out of place, especially since similar games like Dishonored usually have some sort of karma system that changes the world depending on how you approach specific situations.

Lots of Content

While the game is underwhelming, there is a lot of content to shift through. As I approached what I thought was the conclusion after 16 hours of playtime, I was giddy to get the game over with. My journey had exciting and dreadful moments, but it definitely wasn’t engaging enough to get nostalgic over at any point. Then, once I witnessed the “final cutscene,” my reality was shattered when “Act II: Sally” appeared on the screen. At this point, I knew my journey was very far from over.

Rarely does a game manage to surprise me with how long it is, but We Happy Few definitely did. This was both a good and bad thing, as it impressed me with its amount of content, but that content wasn’t engaging enough for me to continue it.

Verdict

Although We Happy Few had a lot potential, the experience is severely displeasing. Sure, the aesthetic is amusing, there’s lots of content, and the skill tree adds an extra layer of fun, but the uninspired combat system is a detrimental to your enjoyment. Unfortunately, We Happy Few is more entertaining to look at, and think about, than it is to play.

Score

Good Bad
Lots of Content Underwhelming Combat
Some Solid Performances Outdated Visuals
Intriguing World Boring Story
Skill Tree
Crafting

- 5/10 -