We Happy Few is a trippy, psychological, survival game in a world filled with forced amnesia, and a surprising mix of dark and charming tones. Developed by Compulsion Games and Published gearbox publishing.
Now with the formalities out-of-the-way, I can safely say, without a shadow of a doubt, We Happy Few is a mess of a game. It is broken, buggy, and so disjointed in so many ways it kills me that it takes away from what could have been a somewhat decent, or dare I say it, good game.
Before I rip the game a new hole, you know, next to the other holes already existing within it, let me just start off by introducing you to the game as a whole.
We Happy Few is a world set after the events in World War II, with a bit of a change. In this universe, America stays out of the War, Germany tries to invade Great Britain, twice, once in 1942 (which was repelled) and once again in 1943 but this time, they succeeded. From this moment on, the world changed, and every person who evacuated to the town of Wellington Wells did something horrible to pacify the German’s, and started drugging themselves silly to forget just 10 years later. This pill was Dubbed JOY, since it made you so out of it with happiness that made you forget. With continual use, you could forget friends, family, or the fact that your Pinata’s are actually rats.
So yeah, the best solution created one hell of a problem, but who cares?! You’re so happy you don’t need to remember “The Very Bad Thing”.
In We Happy Few, you take control of three characters, for the three acts you will have to playthru: Arthur, Sally, and Ollie. Each of them meet each one another, and knew each other from before, and pretty much push the plot ahead for each story.
At least I knew so for the first two, because I couldn’t get past the intro to Ollie, the game was poorly designed so I had to stop before the end. Yes… I didn’t actually finish the game, it was THAT broken.
From there, each character is dropped into the world, Arthur, the most new to the survival element, so much so that you are taught everything, from blending in, to basic needs, crafting, etc. Which I have to admit, my favorite run was Arthur in the end, even though by the end of it Arthur isn’t exactly the best example of humanity but oh well. Sally, who is already versed in survival but doesn’t have Arthur’s swiss army knife adaptability, can’t craft well or fight, but she is a damned good chemist. Ollie, from my understanding, is a slower, older, brawler who can’t craft but is effective at violence.
Each is on a quest to escape Wellington Wells, and see just what the outside world is like.
The game itself is like, as many people have compared it, 3D Fallout, like Fallout 3 or 4, but on a much smaller, and limited scale. You can still lock pick, pry open boxes, stealth kill and hide bodies, the standard affair in open world games. Yet instead of a broad, open map, each island is a medium-sized square. With Arthur, you can ran across an entire island within a minute or so. There are about 5 islands, I think, each has their own villager type (Wellies, Wastrels, Plague Victims), and set ruined or abandoned houses, if you’re in the good part of town, its shops and people’s homes. You can steal from others, sneak around, which is flawed in its own way but also better than some stealth games I’ve played in awhile.
While trespassing and sneaking, you have the ability to see people’s footsteps through walls, tracking their movements. There is also a detection triangle above their heads indicating when they’ve seen you, and when they’ve turned hostile. You can also use items, both crafted and picked up around the world, to throw as a distraction, ranging from broken bottles to Rick the Stunt Duck, which is a rubber duck on wheels that quacks and explodes.
Sometimes these stealth areas are easy as hell. Seeing the footprints makes everything easy to plan around. However, some enemies seem to be able to see through objects and detect your presence. While in a house, where I haven’t been seen by anyone, people started talking like I tripped an alarm. It made no sense. Then other times, I could be sneaking and not concealed by flower patches, just walking right by someone staring at me, and they do absolutely nothing. It is hit or miss, but the one sure-fire thing that works? Sitting down in the open and reading the newspaper. Even after curfew. Works every time.
Crafting items is simple, especially when you’re Arthur, because there is just crafting ingredients just lying around. To craft lockpick and Jimmy Bar are even given hot keys of sorts, if you try to pick a door but don’t have a lockpick crafted, yet the parts are available, it allows you to hit the button to craft and use instantly. Which was a plus, saved me from pausing every 5 minutes. But par for the course, this system, too, is flawed. Sometimes the lockpick animation glitches and you start unlocking air. Or a wall. Or just get stretched from behind the desk to in front of the desk, right back behind the desk. It is jarring how much it pulls you out of the game.
The rest of the crew, Sally has a harder time finding materials for lockpicks, though she is in the same world Arthur is in, and each door he could unlock she has to as well, and yet can hardly EVER find a scrap of metal to make one. I think I maybe made one or two my entire playthru of her, and one door is required to unlock for her story to progress. It makes no sense, I get the characters are supposed to be different in skill and survival, but why require something by story progression and yet hold off any or all materials, forcing you to go out and buy lockpicks. Then once you enter the room… you get another lockpick. The logic just… escapes me here. As for Ollie… well I wouldn’t know, most I saw is he could make chemicals, the workbench would explode.
The game also has a skill tree, which showcases some base items, as well as some characteristics that define your character. Arthur’s state he is British (Repressed), Defensive/Sarcastic, and Unremarkable, meaning he can blend in most anywhere and uses sarcasm as a weapon. Outside of that, you can use skill points, which are gained WAY too easily through missions and side quests, which increase if people can see you at night, how hard you hit, and so on and so forth. So I noticed I broke the game around the end of each act, I became unable to be detected at night, could run silently, didn’t have to adhere to curfew, and had plenty of “Lucky Strike” chances to one hit kill people. I became almost invincible. I did the same on Sally’s playthru, which she didn’t have all the same skills but still had some similar ones that made collecting, foraging, and crafting for mission objectives so much easier, and allowed to break curfew just like him. Given enough time, you can break the game, even more so than it already is.
Combat is very linear, so much so that I don’t feel the need to go in-depth because it isn’t broken, at least not much. You swing weapons like a bat, you have a block feature and a durability meter. The types of weapons you find later on are interesting, like the one I used the most dubbed “The Winning Argument”, which is just an enhanced metal pipe. One after that was a metal pipe, with a thing of sheet metal with nails. They are pretty damned cool. The only flaw in combat is the enemy AI during combat, either they sit there and hit the space in front of you, which does you no damage, but they continue to hit that exact spot, or they stand there staring at you, weapon draw until you move then they instantly whap you across the face. The enemy also has the ability to throw bricks, which I guess you do too but their’s seem to be ten times stronger somehow. They also like to attack in pairs, if you get more than three attacking you, and you don’t have the perk for stronger defense, then you die… often. Hence why at the start of Ollie’s act I couldn’t progress. I continued to get overwhelmed with weak stats with at least 4 or 5 attacking at a time. Limited health, and even if I did manage to kill them all and progress, I was in the “You’re dying, heal now” state, with again, no health pack or healing balm. To overpower the character whose health is already the weakest, since you know you can’t upgrade them yet, with constant attacks is just unfair. Yeah sure, people have gotten past that point to be able to tell the story, but you can’t deny the levels of janky this game produces.
Story and World
The Story, as I talked about above is the jist of it, the world is an alternate view of Britain if the German’s won/America didn’t join the war. Throughout the game you learn about the individual events of the character, as well as what happened in the world. I wont spoil too much, but at times it goes from campy fun in the 60’s era in Britain, the fashion, the music, and the speech, then suddenly the darker story elements emerge and are so dark, so heinous that it even makes the main character sick.
Plenty of dark moments pepper the good ones, making for an even balance. However, when the characters meetup in their different perspectives, the become drastically different. From Arthur’s point of view, he says specific lines of dialogue, yells at Sally or Ollie, Arthur does ALOT of yelling, and Sally said her own response and then vanishes while Arthur’s back is turned, yet from her perspective, the dialogue has completely charged, some of it baring a secret you found out with her in Arthur’s playthru. Then how the event took place from his perspective changes, he walks away from her! It is so damned inconsistent. Ollie is no better, he has only one scene with Arthur, the one I thankfully saw, not only does the dialogue change, an object Arthur gives Ollie breaks the world’s story down completely. So basically let’s say it involves paper mache and a big reveal, well on the paper mache from Ollie’s perspective, it is dated for 1964, the year you are currently in, when the paper would have been used in 1943. It breaks down the game story completely. It kills all continuity, and was one of the final nails in the coffin with this game.
As for the world, well it looks cheery and cute, an enjoyable sight, at first. After a while you find yourself seeing people clip through walls, or standing on invisible walls inside buildings. You also see NPCs stuck on objects, like benches, rocks, or other people. Some people, who I assume are supposed to be tapping their feet, have glitched out leg patterns that get all skewed and warped.
Some environments from the first act, in a world that you both have to explore mind you, one in which every single place is supposed to be the same, these environments are ripped straight out of their previous location and moved to the center of town. Damage done to the security, the lab exploded, and everything. With no cause, no reason, just convenience and lazy design. Then certain set pieces are used and reused for different reasons, but somehow what sits on top of certain cliffs changes drastically without even blinking. While clever use, it also serves to be SUUUUPER lazy. Secret Hatches always take forever to fully load, revealing a destroyed looking rock, then when it renders, looks like a broken valve hatch, then finally what it’s supposed to look like. There are so many graphically hiccups, so many that my PS4 crashed every time I ran to fast by a certain number of different looking or differently animated objects. It also crash because one room had too many people in a confined space, which made me resort to manually load a save file since it forced a crash EVERY TIME I LOADED. Then when I finally got it loaded back 20 minutes before I was, I got to Act 2, and the glitches got worse. One of the things different for Sally is you have to collect butterflies, yet you can catch in different spots around the world. The world then glitches, the butterflies show back up in the same are yet become uncatchable. It breaks down, and limits your catch rate. Sure, limits farming, but why make them show back up in the first place then?!
I could go on and on, I mean hell when the first thing you encounter is getting stuck between a tree and a rock while trying to explore around, forcing me to jump and crouch over and over again until I FINALLY got free, does not bode well for the state of the game. Hell, if for whatever reason you buy this, avoid touching or jumping over rocks in general. It tends to screw with the momentum of the game or get you stuck.
If you couldn’t tell, I don’t think very highly of this game at all. It is a broken mess of a thing, and the worst part is that it’s technically been out since 2015. It was on early access or something like that for PC and was crowdfunded on kickstarter for console releases. It was buggy back in the day, but it was to be expected, early access. Then 3 years later, we get a FULL Version, and it is almost as broken as the first. Sure it’s enjoyable, and some of the older bugs are flushed out by how on earth could it still be so BAD?
I had been looking forward to this game for so damned long and yet, here I am, only able to defend it a tiny bit before I just say, eff it and never look at the thing again. Hell I was half tempted to break the game, put it back in the case for my collection, so that when people asked me what it was, I could show them a broken game, inside and out.
Anyway, if I had to give a score, I’d say between a 3/10-4/10. Couldn’t decide if the good was enough to push the score just below average, or just a terrible game flat-out. I mean I loved the parts that were good, the attitude of Arthur, if they didn’t let me play him first, I’d probably be done after the first hour or so if they started with Sally. The first 40 minutes with Ollie… I sank way too many hours into this game and I feel… jipped.
I don’t recommend buying this, unless it was in the bargain bin, or as a gift. Not worth full price, not worth half price at the point. They’re talking about patching it, so maybe by the time it goes on sale, you can buy a better functioning game than I did.