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Review: We Happy Few

Today’s review is a game that has been a long time in the making. We’re going to be looking into the title We Happy Few ($59.00, Compulsion Games) that is out now for the PS4, XBOX One, and PC. I’m excited to share information about the game with you, so instead of jabbering on, I’m gonna git right to the bid’ness mate!

Features:

‘Suspicion and Joy

“We Happy Few” is a survival roguelike, where you must learn to hide in plain sight among the Joy-happy citizens of Wellington Wells. If you act out of turn, or they notice you’re not on Joy, the locals will become suspicious and will rapidly turn your frown upside down! Forcefully. You will need to practice conformity, stealth, and combat if you want to survive long enough to escape.

A Mature Story

Our playable characters are not typical video game heroes – they are flawed and not particularly heroic, warped by the trauma their world has been through. Each character has its own storyline, reacting to the events of the world around them, and their place within it. Our stories are definitely not appropriate for children, but are laced with dark humour, hope, and even a spot of redemption.

1960s England

Set in a retrofuturistic 1964s, you will find a city ravaged by war and rebuilt by delusionally happy people. Everything appears to be happy in Wellington Wells, including the roads, the people, and its omnipresent television personality, Uncle Jack! However, it’s also a world on the brink of collapse. You’ll discover the history of this world, and how it came to be just so beguilingly happy.

Highly Replayable

If you die in “We Happy Few”, that’s it – there is no reloading your save. It’s designed to be replayed. Each time you die, you’ll restart in a brand new city, thanks to our procedural generation tech. You’ll be able to customize the world to your liking, and play through using multiple characters and playstyles. Each time, you’ll learn a little more about how to survive in Wellington Wells.’

Trailer:

Description:

‘We Happy Few is the tale of a plucky bunch of moderately terrible people trying to escape from a lifetime of cheerful denial. Set in a drug-fuelled, retrofuturistic city in an alternative 1960s England, you’ll have to blend in with its other inhabitants, who have their own set of not-so-normal rules.’

Audio & Soundtrack:

This title’s music is absolutely an alarmingly beautiful combination of many great things. However, we’ll start with the sound effects before we jump into the music. Since this game is using a pseudo-alternate timeline of our own, it features many sounds you may recognize. So many so that this game, if you were to turn the music off, would sound pretty normal. There’s nothing that really stands out about this game in terms of the sound effects. However, what does stand out to me are the voice overs.

They have so many different British accents in this game. The accents run the gamut such as Received Pronunciation (RP), Cockney, Estuary, and so many more. I think that having so many different accents made the world seem more fleshed out. You could assume then that people came from everywhere to live Wellington Wells (the game’s location), but that nobody really sounds like they’re from there. The accents alone didn’t sell the reality alone. Having great actors reading the lines made this game even more believable.

Now, with regards to the music, I have so much to say, but I’m not finding the exact words of how to describe it. The music here more than obviously takes the formula that BioShock and BioShock 2 used for setting the scene. What your ears will hear are brilliant tunes. These tunes are a massive mixture of whimsical, mysterious music with a light dusting of 60’s euro-classic. Something like a mystery that takes place in an elevator during a black and white soap opera that has clashed with a game show. This game gives you full control over all of the aforementioned audio elements. You can control the master volume, sound effects, dialogue, music, broadcast, ambient, and interface.

Visuals:

The visuals in this game also give you the same kind of feeling that the BioShock series gave you. It’s not just the dingy look with lights sprinkled throughout. And it’s not only the retro look of a time past that gives those BioShock vibes. It’s all of that and so much more. You have the Euro-60’s colors and the olden cars and clothes that also set up a mood. And overall, this game has a beautiful art design jammed in every corner.

This game has some homages in it as well. I couldn’t find everything that others could. I think that there are entire articles dedicated to finding all of the hidden easter eggs in the game. But truthfully, I loved all of the ones that I came across. Finding these visual cues not only adds to the look, the time period but also sense of dedication to the game that you get from the developers. My favorite visual homage that I found was earlier on the in the game. The trash cans at the office where you’re first working all look like upside down Dalek’s (Doctor Who) without their upper halves.
Now this game doesn’t seem to have just one gameplay type. It’s another way that it’s similar to BioShock. It’s not quite an FPS or a third person shooter, but it has full control options for aim such as sensitivity and inverting. The visual elements are also in your control. You’ll find that you have full control of whether you see blood, head bobbing, and footprints. That’s not all, of course, the game lets you tweak every single HUD element and sizing options of those elements.
Visually, there are some downers in this game. You’ll come to find that this game suffers from an issue that I haven’t seen since the N64/PS1 era of games. And by that, I simply mean that visual elements from further away pop into view as you get close to them. And that’s not all when they come into view, it’s not very seamless at all. They pop up very matter of factly and all of a sudden. The worst example I found of this actually affected a cutscene in the first hour of the game. When I got to Rorke’s Drift Bridge, the camera zoomed in on him to start the scene and it made me wait 20 seconds to load all of the textures on Rorke and his surroundings and THEN it started the scene. These are easy to fix issues that haven’t happened yet.

Gameplay & Story:

The first thing you’ll notice when you load the game is the long loading screens. And these screens don’t just load once and the beginning of the game and then you are good to go. These happen every so often and give you plenty of time to go get a drink or use the bathroom. They’re really just that long. I can’t imagine how long these screens would be if we were required to load the game fully from the disc like we used to. If you can deal with a three-minute loading screen per hour of gameplay (on average) then this may not be a deal breaker.

As I had mentioned before, this game doesn’t seem to have just one gameplay mechanic in it. There are times that you’re hunting for clues. Then there are times that you’re shooting for your life. There are times you’re simply running across a grassland searching for a hit just to keep your energy up. And at the end of all of it, you have to cycle back and get some shut-eye. All of these elements truly are a blast.

There are some downers for me in terms of the gameplay. For example, I’m very much not a fan of the need to sleep. And elements like fast travel barely needs to exist if we remove the need for sleep. I’m aware that the longer you sleep the more it can benefit your health. But if you sleep a long time you become hungry and thirsty which can affect your stamina. I think they should just have tweaked the food system a bit more and removed sleep as a whole.

I think that what they were trying to do by combining several gameplay types was to break up the monotony of just one type. Which, to me, made the game seem like it was more confused as to what it wanted to be rather than having an even balance of different mechanics.

In this title, your difficulty options are standard ones. But it also gives you the ability to not choose any of them! That’s right, you can opt out of choosing any of the preset difficulties. Instead you can adjust aspects about the difficulty to make the parts challenging that you want challenging. You can also turn down aspects of the game that you don’t want to be challenging. Maybe you’re really bad at the action and shooting and just want to experience the story, you can do that! It’s absolutely crazy to me that they’ll let you adjust the game how you want it to be. That really made reviewing this game almost a moot point as everyone will have an entirely different experience. I chose a normal difficulty for this review though.
I’m really trying to review this game without spilling too much of the gameplay. But if you liked BioShock, the bottom line here is that this game is like BioShock’s younger brother. It still has a dark story, drug use, twisted characters, shooting, eerie scenery. The game also features crafting and also has ways to stash the stuff that you pick up if you have intentions on crafting more later.

Replay-ability & Longevity:

While the game itself has several different difficulty types, the game itself is more of a linear story than other games. And once it’s over, it’s over. You can play it again with other characters, and the items are in different locations on the map, but everything starts back at zero. So it’s not really a New Game Plus mode. We Happy Few is a game that relies more on look and some shock value more than gameplay. Which is absolutely okay in my book. However, since it feels like a one and done sort of thing, just know that there are other things to do.

And be aware that they announced that 3 single story episodes would be coming out soon. These will presumably be paid for. There is, however, a free mode that was added recently called Sandbox Mode. This will make the game longer and add more bang for your buck. Here’s a description for you:

‘This free update will add an infinite mode, set in a world that you can customize as you wish (larger, smaller, more dangerous, less food, more Wellies, etc). You will be able to customize some of the rules of the game, including choosing to play as a Wellie (Wellie Mode!). This mode will bring back the systemic, sandbox world showcased in the early days of We Happy Few.’

So hopefully these post-game launch changes can make you feel like you get more longevity out of the game when replay-ability isn’t really there.

Need the XBOX One/Windows version? Click here.

Want the PS4 version? Click here.

Are you dying to play this on Steam? Click here.

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  • We Happy Few
3.5

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