Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
Developer: Compulsion Games
Release Date: 08/09/2018
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We Happy Few is a stealth action game in vain of BioShock. The premise is actually really interesting and fresh. The game takes place post-World War II in which the Nazis won the war and took over Britain. The citizens must take a drug called Joy that makes them see everything for what it isn’t: A cheery, delightful, and stress-free world. You play Arthur Hastings who is a reporter that decides to not take his Joy one day. People quickly catch on and start chasing you and this is when the game starts kicking in.
We Happy Few isn’t exactly an open-world game, but there are large areas you can explore and have various missions to partake in. Outside of the main quests, there are side quests. There are also two types of areas to explore. The first is outside the cities where Downers are kept and you must make sure you look trashy like they do and are off your Joy. Just make sure you don’t take anything from them or run and you should be fine. When you are in the cities you don’t really have to take Joy, but you can’t run, jump, sneak or do anything crazy or everyone will catch on. It’s not as simple as this though as there are a lot of variables in the stealth mechanics that make the game very frustrating. There are various gadgets that can sniff you out and detect you are off your Joy and doctors roam the streets sniffing you out. You also can’t run and sneak around here either or you will be swarmed and killed. There is also a curfew so being out at night is a huge disadvantage as everyone will come after you and kill you.\
Sadly, other variables make this further compounded with frustrations as you can’t skip time at night and can only do this sleeping in your own bed in your secret hideout in each area. Not to mention this is kind of a survival game with crafting involved so many mission items must be crafted or obtained elsewhere and it can seriously halt progress. Combat kind of takes a backseat as you are really at a disadvantage here as most of the time you are overwhelmed with too many people to handle. Sneaking around is a must and being able to see footsteps through walls helps, but sometimes the game is just so overwhelmingly repetitive and has flawed AI that I died dozens of times throughout the game trying to figure everything out.
There are plenty of gadgets to craft to help you out from weapons, distractors, healing items, and buffs, but most ingredients needed for healing are really rare and you won’t find better blueprints until late game. I mainly relied on just sneaking up behind people and choking them out or distracting them with glass bottles. If you get caught you can run and hide in various places until the enemies lose interest, but sometimes this doesn’t always work. Some enemies won’t go back to their patrols and I was stuck darting out and hiding somewhere else. I felt no matter what I did I was always too hindered by the game’s mechanics and felt suffocated and always frustrated, the game rarely felt fun.
If I died there were weird checkpoint placements sometimes putting me back several objectives behind and requiring long stretches of repetitive nonsense. Sometimes I would be put back at night and would have to run through enemies to get to where I needed to be. I appreciate the number of gadgets and ways to sneak around objectives, but sometimes the easiest was always the quickest way through by just running through everything.
Once again, combat consists of just swinging things around and blocking until the enemy dies. It’s clunky and not very fun, but it works in a pinch. As you progress you can level your character and add new skills and abilities which wound up being really helpful, but then I would always have more materials to craft for things I can’t make rather than ones for blueprints I had. I was always overburdened and throwing stuff out that I could never use.
The story is enough to push me through the frustrations, the dialog was witty and the voice acting was superb, but I just felt there was something missing. There just wasn’t enough of it between long stretches of repetitive gameplay to make it worthwhile at the end. It’s a very interesting world and I felt it got lost in the survival stealth aspect of the game. I wanted to explore more freely but I was on a time limit, I couldn’t run and climb where I wanted, and doing anything besides being a good citizen got me caught and took five minutes to become not wanted.
Artistically the game shines and has great-looking art and designs that look similar to BioShock, but it’s technically dated. The game looks almost last-gen and is poorly optimized with framerate dropping below 60FPS on an overclocked GTX 1070. It’s not going to make your GPU sweat, just confuses your drivers.
Overall, We Happy Few is a great idea that isn’t executed as smoothly as it could have been. The story, dialog, atmosphere, and characters are there but they are held back by repetitive gameplay, boring exploration, and pointless side quests.