We Happy Few (PC Game Review)

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We Happy Few is one of these games that caught my attention right from launch day... I had even followed quite a few of the pre-launch reveals and announcements. The art style and game setting just had me hooked... So, I was pretty happy when I did eventually buy it when it went on sale... however, like many other games in my library... it was relegated to the eternal backlog, until the day that I could finally sink a week or two of playing it!

We Happy Few is a strange almost open world, survival First person sort of game. Hard to describe... it is very similar in gameplay to Skyrim and Fallout (the new ones), with a light RPG and inventory management section combined with ranged and melee combat from a first person perspective. However, the setting is very very different!

Released in 2018 for PC (and boxy things...) by Compulsion Studios (published by Gearbox) it had quite mixed reviews. I was really interested in seeing which side of the divide I would find myself in!

The Setup

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We Happy Few is set in an alternate post-World War 2 timeline in which the United States never joined the war, and the United Kingdom was invaded by Nazi Germany. However, in return for committing some unnamed (but often alluded to) atrocity, the Germans left the island and allowed the United Kingdom to live "freely". Your player character (Arthur Hastings) begins the game at the Wellington Wells Ministry of Truth, in his capacity as a censor of newspaper articles.

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However, on this particular day... something inspires Arthur to forgo his Joy pills... the pills that allow the citizens to forget their past, and revel in the bright technicolour happiness of the present.

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Needless to say, Arthur starts seeing his reality in a different light... and is soon discovered to be a "Downer", and is chased forcibly out of the office by the Joy police. This is the start of the game, with Arthur just barely surviving the escape and alone in a strange wasteland of the post war island, with roving gangs and lunatics inhabiting the areas between the Joy-infused townships.

The Game

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The first thing that jumps out you when start the game is the crazily surreal visual art style and atmosphere of the Joy-infused reality. Everything is just so beautiful... and the gameplay and interaction with the environment is quite reminiscent of Bioshock, quite a fitting similarity as they have a sort of similar setting... well, quite different, but there are echoes there!

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However, once you are out in the wilds and free from the reality that is imposed by regular doses of Joy, you start to see that everything is not quite as chipper and cheery as you had originally thought.

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In fact, the game is quite bleak in this regard... and Arthur is quite shocked by how he was never able to see any of this beforehand!

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Throughout the game, there are hints and allusions to the great terrible event that allowed the Germans to leave. The population is either in complete denial (the Joy infused) or driven to grief and insanity by the unnamed atrocity... as you progress through the story, you will uncover more of the horrible truth... but there are little scenic allusions all the way through. It is pretty creepy and quite atmospheric, I will have to give points for that!

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Half the time, I'm not entirely sure if I'm more creeped out by the actual roving gangs and lunatics... or the "allies"... although, allies is perhaps a bit of a stretch... they just don't kill you on sight!

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So, you will have noticed that I've not really mentioned too much about gameplay. Well, to be pretty brief about it... it has been a pretty terrible experience from the gameplay front. Combat feels light and floaty, and there is glitching with movement from the enemies and sneaking and stealth is a nightmare. I had one pretty aweful experience where I was sneaking up to an enemy, just about to take him out with a stealth kill... when he suddenly glitched all around the room, spotted me (because he was everywhere!) and the proceeded to beat me to death whilst alerting the entire room of enemies.

Yup... that was the last straw.

Visuals, Sound and Performance

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We Happy Few is so beautifully presented! From the unique Joy infused art style that is contrasted with the heavy reality dose... the atmospheric world and the sheer beautiful vistas that exist in the area that Arthur explores. Honestly, it is such a beautiful world to explore and to play around in.

On the Dell XPS15, there was no problems running the game... however, you will need at least that amount of power to have the game running smoothly... despite its somewhat non-realistic looks, this does require some power under the hood!

My Thoughts

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We Happy Few was a game that had so much potential... such a gorgeous presentation and a really interesting story/narrative. However, the struggle with the gameplay was just too much for me in the end...

I'm afraid that I've not had a great experience with this game so far... I've given up for the moment. However, I do love the setting and the story so much, that I will want to give it another go... but I will try to give it some space to recover from gameplay trauma... and hopefully allow a few more patches to fix what can be fixed.

Review Specs

DELL XPS15 (9560)

CPU: i7-7700HQ
RAM: 16 GB
Storage: SSD
GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050

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