If you’ve ever wondered how the world might feel after the fall of European democracy, the team at Compulsion Games have you covered with their latest title We Happy Few. The player takes on the role of Arthur Hastings, an office worker in the 1960s living in a world where Germany won the war and the United States didn’t even bother to turn up. A world where a drug known as Joy is part of everyone’s diet, stabilizing their behaviors and keeping a smile on everyone’s faces.
It’s a game compared by many to Bioshock, with what I felt controlled a lot like Fallout a combination that can be either a massive hit or a big wide miss. All it needs is a story to tie all together but does it have that?
In We Happy Few you find yourself starting in Arthurs place of work, going about your day as per normal he decides with some help from the player that he isn’t satisfied with this anymore and he needs to know more about the real world. From that moment the choices begin and that’s one of my favourite things about this title, from the very beginning the choices are put in the players hands.
Now I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews and I’ll keep on mentioning it but I’m not here to give you a step by step run through of the story itself, the basis of the story involves you controlling Arthur as you search for your brother to make things right.
After getting chased out of the office for not taking your ‘Joy’ you find yourself out of the city and on your path to finding your brother with just one issue, you have to go back through that city to find him and without your Joy that’s going to prove difficult. Thankfully that’s where another option comes in, you can take your Joy and go on a drug filled adventure similar to an old episode of H.R Puffinstuff or stay drug free and sneak through the city with the constant danger of being seen and attacked.
That’s right, those people on Joy to make them happy also happen to be the most aggressive NPC I’ve seen in a game. This is where one of the biggest issues with the title comes in, the use of Joy is frustrating and while it opens up giving you options to counter it and you learn to manage it. The path to learning Joy almost drove me to needing some of my own, there numerous side effects to the tablet that all result in attacks from the NPC. Run out of Joy and you come down, attacks likely. Overdose on joy and well, you overdosed and attacks are likely. There is also the issue of abusing the Joy that results in memory loss, that’s not from overdosing or running it it’s from attempting to keep up your supply. Any reactions to Joy will result in NPC attacking you until you come down from it and take a fresh batch or manage to run away and hide without being seen.
The NPC are a ruthless bunch, trespass onto someones property and as expected you’ll be attacked as well but the issue I have is that if you step over onto their property and then back away instantly they’ll still attacking you. There is no real break from the anger of NPC on happy pills (Joy).
Throughout the game you scavenge for items in generally weird spots, from toilets to cupboards you find all sorts of odds and ends. Some can be crafted into useful items like lock picks and jimmy bars while others are just there to take up space. For the items you can craft, you’ll find tables around the world giving you a place to craft more advanced items while simpler things like lock picks can be crafted through the in game menu. Crafting tables can also be upgrade using tools you find throughout the world and your safe houses contain both tables and storage for all the gear you find as well, the safe houses are one of the aspects of this game I find well done.
In each section of the world you unlock a new safe house, all are simple to find but unlocking them requires a new challenge each time from a simple clearing out of NPC or fixing a gas leak before you choke and die. Each safe house is then connected to the rest via a tunnel system that enables not only safe passage to each part of the world but quick passage saving time on having to cross each bridge on the surface.
On offer as well is the typical leveling system found is most open world titles, allowing you to earn skill points and evolve your character to suit your play style. These points are key to how you play and while I found it easy to forget they were there they also changed how I played as I activated each one. Whether it’s making the attack easier so defense against those ‘happy’ NPC was easier, or changing how I drained myself meaning I drunk less, slept less and could out run more. While you’ll be able to unlock every option by the end, it’s important to note your play style as you unlike the right skills at the beginning.
The issue with open world titles, full of NPC is the fact they get repetitive. There is only a few times you can hear the same old dialogue before it gets tiring and the NPC become a chore to deal with, unfortunately in We Happy Few talking to the NPC on a regular basis is somewhat required for a safe play through so it would have been nice to have a little bit more dialogue added. Even the witty one liners from the protagonists while charming at first become a bore just as quickly as the Joy system.
Graphically this game is also a hit and miss, while some moments showcase the art style perfectly others are let down by the pop ins of scenery and buildings. I couldn’t count on one hand the amount of times I’ve been getting chased and I see those fields in the distance offering me the perfect place to hide, then suddenly a massive building pops up in my face and all hope is gone. Don’t get me wrong, the transitions of art style as your character progresses across the various stages of withdrawal are amazing but in time the glitches around you take away that feeling completely.
This is a game I wanted to love but kept on hating, from sheer frustration over the Joy system to boredom from the repetitive dialogue and drawn out story. While Compulsion games had the right idea and for the most part it came out alright, after a few hours frustration set in and it became a chore to finish. This isn’t a title I’d suggest you rush out and buy nor is it one I’d tell you to turn down if offered free, it’s simply a solid effort from Compulsion that has me wanting to see what they do next while forgetting what they did this time. We all learn our lessons as we progress, this is their chance to learn what not to do while improving on what they did do.
Will Muscat is an avid gamer and has been gaming for many years, from playing on an Amstrad that his dad found at the tip to his Xbox one now. Will enjoys plenty of variety in the games he plays and while he can be found in the world of Gears of War and Halo, he can also be found writing letters to RARE asking for another Jet Force Gemini.