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We Happy Few Video Review - MojoPlays

VO: Ashley Bowman
Welcome to MojoPlays and today we're reviewing 2018's We Happy Few. Is this game the unique take on stealth we were hoping for? Or will you need happy pills just to get through it?
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MojoPlays Review: We Happy Few


We Happy Few’s history is certainly an intriguing one, originally funded through Kickstarter with the intention of being an indie survival game, the game was eventually picked up by Gearbox Publishing, allowing it to evolve into a full fledged $60 Open World Adventure game. With an original IP from a relatively young but promising development team, can “We Happy Few” make developer “Compulsion Games” a household name? Or is it best to “Pop a Joy” and forget about everything. Welcome to Mojoplay’s and this is our review of “We Happy Few”.


Set in an Alternate 1960s where the United Kingdom had been occupied by Germany during the 2nd World War, Society in the country has devolved into a barely functioning dystopia due to the mandatory state requirement of taking a hallucinogenic drug known as “Joy”, a drug that makes its user see the world in colorful rainbows but also causes memory loss, all this being brought on by a state mandate claiming its better to forget the past and just be happy. The story and lore in the game draws HEAVY inspiration from previous authoritarian works of fiction; like one character’s job of censoring old newspapers, which mirrors that of Winston Smith’s role in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, or citizens in the game are required to wear white smiling masks similar to that worn by the titular character in “V For Vendetta” just to name a few examples.


Never the less, what transpires here is very intriguing as you work to uncover the mysteries surrounding this world. and unlike the aforementioned works that painted a very bleak and depressing setting, “We Happy Few’s” world can be rather lighthearted and entertaining at times within the Joy-addicted cities due to it’s stoned citizens making rather clumsy antics, yet still depressing when wandering the slums of the garden districts filled with citizens who are suffering Joy withdrawals. Yet because of the focus around “Joy”, the stark contrast in tone here works well to create very believable world.


The game sets you in the shoes of three different main characters, whom each have their own unique campaigns. First you have Arthur, whom as we mentioned before works to erase the past for a “happier society” before an article about his long lost brother triggers a repressed memory that sets him on a quest to find him. Next is Sally, a socialite and experienced drug maker who has a secret that is taboo in this society, that it sends her down a rabbit hole of danger in order to protect it. And finally there’s Ollie, a disgraced war veteran and social outcast who seeks on a quest of self redemption to uncover the truth surrounding the coverup of the past. All 3 campaigns end up intertwining with each other yet are strong enough to stand up as their own separate tales, each filled with compelling twists and unexpected moments that can catch you off guard.


The stories altogether are also pretty lengthy as well, as you looking at anywhere well in 30-40 hours to get through the 3 campaigns depending on how many side quests you choose to take along the way, that being said the game’s pacing can be spotty at times due to some story missions lasting longer than they need to, but given the intriguing and mystery surrounding everything, the story alone makes the experience all the worthwhile and is very likely to generate a lot of online speculation and fan theories. (Cue the “That’s just a theory” crowd)


However when it comes to the gameplay “Compulsion Games” ambition may have gotten the better of them. If you got a chance to play the Early Access version on Steam, you might be in for a shock over how much has changed. While that version was more of a roguelike survival sandbox. The Retail release features a linear story stretched across an open world map very similar to ones found in Bethesda RPG’s like Fallout or Skyrim, though nowhere near as in depth. Just like those games you can scrounge for various materials either by scavenging trash in the streets, in abandoned buildings, or by sneaking into other people's houses and taking their possessions by lockpicking their desks and drawers, though doing the latter can be unpredictable as some houses are filled with traps that can catch you off guard if you’re not too careful. Not to mention that it seems that every NPC is gunning for a fight if you do get caught.


Most of the mechanics present in the Alpha build are still the same but a lot of the survival elements that were present in the alpha have been toned down in standard difficulty, meaning that while hunger and thirst meters still exist, their timers are thankfully rather long to the point where you’ll mostly don’t hinder your experience, Though if you are a hardcore survival gamer, the game does offer a custom difficulty to cater to your needs.


I say “mostly” in large parts due to Sally’s campaign, as her playthrough introduces a mechanic that frequently requires her to return to her home, while also requiring you to search for supplies to maintain this mechanic on top of the main missions. As a result this does end up halting the pacing of the game at times since you essentially have to stop what you’re doing then and there. Ollie also has a similar exclusive mechanic, as he’s a diabetic and has to keep blood sugar level balanced. While his requirement can be fulfilled anywhere, we did run into the occasional bug where we were unable to collect key ingredients from certain locations, as a key piece of protective clothing wasn’t doing the job it was supposed to do in-game.


Speaking of bugs there are quite a numerous amount of them, there were frequent times where we had to restart the game when audio tracks stopped playing. We also had cases where NPC’s were either floating in midair or partway through the floor, and moments when the outdoor lighting was not properly reflecting the time of day. Its blips like these that give the game a rather unpolished feel and likely a side effect of its Indie Kickstarter beginnings, it’s not the buggiest game out there but there were enough to notice, especially the ones that require a restart.


Combat in the game is also very interesting here, there’s no firearms in “We Happy Few” as apparently no one makes ammunition anymore. So everything mostly revolves around melee combat where you have the option to attack, block or shove opponent to break their guard. Or you can use one of the many throwable items to attack from a distance, though since throwing items are in very limited supply, most of your fights will end up being a bludgeoning content between others.


In some of your early fights you will get injured a lot if you’re not paying attention which may require you to bandage wounds, though given that no one has a gun in the game, sometimes the best course of action is to simply run from a fight, especially in towns as the citizen can quickly become a massive angry mob that can overwhelm you creating some very tense moments. That said though, while there are different weapons to collect, most of them start to feel the same since they’re mostly swinging weapons, and the combat may start to get repetitive the further you progress into the game, while Sally & Ollie do have exclusive weapons that no one else can use, their reliance on them is few and far between, again due to very limited supplies.


The game also include a “Skill” Tree though I use the term “skills” in strong quotation marks here. As nearly all the abilities you unlock are mostly stat boosts, or inactive perks like enemies not detecting you in certain circumstances that would normally whip us a town frenzy, but with only one or two early exceptions though none of these “skills” give you any new gameplay abilities which doesn’t do well to alleviate the late game repetition mentioned earlier.

Thankfully the quests are a particular highlight in the game, while there are quite a few fetch quests scattered about, the scenarios surrounding each of them do offer a distinct identity. There’s even some cases where side-quests completed on one campaign continue on in the next following the same narrative, and it can be very exciting when you uncover these quests as it makes your impact on the world feel that more immersive. Though as such, if you are playing the game 100% it does mean you may want to ensure you’ve fully explored the world in each campaign before you move onto the next chapter, the game does give you prompts of points of no-return when that campaign is about to come to an end, so make the most of your time if you can.


“We Happy Few” does offer ienjoyment in spades. While it’s gameplay does hit points of mediocracy more often than not, the game’s story and memorable moments is strong enough that we can still give this game a recommendation. You might want to pop this game on your Steam wishlist at least wait until some of the bugs have been sorted out, Though if you can forgive those issues, it will be well worth venturing into this joyful yet depressing world.
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