We Happy Few takes place in an alternative English society, Wellington Wells, where from the inside everything seems perfect, but beneath everyone’s Cheshire-like grin lies something truly terrifying: a game that’s unable to realize its lofty ambitions.
The year is 1964 and day-to-day life goes by with everyone smiling and overly giddy. The reason for this glee is a pill called “Joy”. With the country having just survived a Nazi occupation, the horrible times still linger in everyone’s minds, leading those to take Joy in order to forget such tragedies.
Taking notes from Nineteen Eighty-Four, the government holds supremacy over its people as they surveil everyone’s activity. You take control of three main characters who have refused to continue taking the drug. With each character having their own campaign, you will try to escape and survive in this world gone mad.
We Happy Few is full of intense survival moments that does an impressive job of making the player feel panicky and distraught while skulking past guards and uncovering conspiracies. Just walking down the street can be incredibly nerve-wracking.
Crafting is key in this dystopian setting, but the feature runs dry in a short amount of play time. It can become quite bothersome as most of the game has you traversing long distances just to find items to craft with. Players will find themselves crafting bandages when critically injured, lockpicks and weapons. Any item in the game that you’re able to pick up can be used as an ingredient. As advanced as the mechanics may sound, the requirement to craft so frequently leads the player to spend more time in the menu than in the game.
More often than not, most side missions require you to bring a certain object to an NPC. The issue with this is sometimes you must travel to opposite sides of the map to find particular items that are needed to craft the requested item. This process becomes apparent as poorly-voiced NPCs bombard you with such fetch-quests. There were instances during the main story my progress was halted by these repetitive side missions.
First-person combat is straightforward and even though your weapons can break, there was always a sufficient amount of them lying around. The fighting sequences are not as intensive as I would have liked with the combat mechanics lacking any level of complexity. Outside of fighting, the game mostly asks players to be stealthy and avoid dilemmas anyway.
The chilling characters complement the setting to deliver a well-executed design of the oddly overjoyed world. Technical issues bring this worthwhile feat to an end as it is obvious the developers didn’t use the time since early access to the extent they should have. There will be times where characters fall through the ground or the player gets blamed for trespassing inside a home when walking down the street. This doesn’t break the game per se, but it does ruin the immersion.
The final product has been stuffed full with overused errands and lackluster quests. It is difficult to want to continue the main story because of such objectives. It almost seems that the development process changed in mid-development and threw in repetitive gameplay elements to suppress their excited fan base with a mediocre experience. The survival horror-esque game that We Happy Few was supposedly thought to be, is only a piece of that reality — only truly delivering that atmosphere during the first mission of the game.