Developed by Compulsion Games Published by Gearbox Publishing Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on PC and Xbox One)
We Happy Few was released on Steam as an early access game back in 2016 on PC. Now two years later, it’s finally been released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One but was that enough time for this game to make you feel joy or is it a downer?
We Happy Few takes place in the mid-1960’s in the fictional city of Wellington Wells that gives off the atmospheric vibes of Rapture from Bioshock as you wander through. You play as three different characters throughout the game. The game is played entirely in first person and you’ll start out as Arthur Hastings works as a “redactor”, censoring and approving old news articles from Wellington Wells’ Department of Archives, Printing, and Recycling. Then you’ll play as Sally Boyle who is an experimental chemist and finally you’ll play as Ollie Starkey, a former soldier from the British army. The game takes anywhere from 40 to 50 hours to complete while doing side quests here and there.
The game’s universe takes place within an alternative post World War II timeline in which the United States did not join the Allies, leaving the United Kingdom to fend off the German forces alone. The Battle of Britain was eventually lost, allowing the Nazis to occupy the entire country. Most of the volunteer forces of the Home Guard became complicit in helping the Germans with only a few attempting to resist.
At some point during the occupation, the population of the island town of Wellington Wells did what they considered to be a Very Bad Thing. This caused the German occupation to voluntarily leave their island, allowing the British citizens there to live free. However, the repercussions of the Very Bad Thing left the citizens with immense anguish and guilt over their actions, leading to the invention of a new hallucinogenic drug called Joy, which suppresses all unhappy memories and leaves its user in a chemically-induced euphoria that also brightens how they perceive their environment. However, its many negative side-effects include addiction, short-term memory loss, loss of appetite, nightmarish hallucinations, and being susceptible to manipulation.
We Happy Few is pretty engaging to play from running fetch quests to discovering new areas within the game. While in certain towns you’ll need to make sure you’re on the drug Joy to blend in with the town’s people. This adds a stealth element because when your Joy starts to wear off, the town’s people will start turning against you as they don’t like people not taking their Joy, who are referred to as Downers. When your off Joy, you can hide in tall grass fields, trash cans, in houses under the bed, showers or in the sewers which later becomes your safe space to store inventory and use as fast travel to other towns. Not only is there a stealth element in the game, there are also survival element as well. You need to make sure you’re eating food and drinking pure water not laced with Joy.
The story in pretty interesting but can be hard to follow if your not used to British accents. I had a few times where I just couldn’t make out what an NPC was saying. Since its a British game there’s also British humor, which is very dry humor and not might not be for everybody. If that something you can look past, you’ll definitely be just fine playing the game. We Happy Few requires you do a lot of quests and side quests which is fine but going through Wellington Wells can feel slow. You can’t run to get from point A to point B as it alerts the town’s people something is off and they’ll eventually start attacking you. A lot of the cities and building look as if there was a lot of copy and paste going on when developing the game as most cities and buildings look the same. While traveling in the giant open world map, you can see some texture floating in the air totally out of place. As there are little flaws here and there We Happy Few is mostly a fun game. However, as quickly as it sucks you in, it can also become a repetitive and stale experience leaving you to move on to the next game.