We Happy Few
Let’s talk about ‘We Happy Few’, developed by Compulsion Games, published by Gearbox Publishing and launched recently on August 10, 2018. This is an Open-World Action-Adventure-Game by genre but leans biasedly towards ‘Survival’. One of the major attraction of this game, in my opinion, is the fact that the developer has the balls to try something new. We Happy Few is not your typical hero oriented video game, your main character(s) does not come equipped with awesome inherited magics or armed to the teeth with advanced weaponry. The fact that I mentioned the game leans biasedly towards ‘Survival’ should already give you a clue, the game requires you to plan your moves carefully and makes you rely on doing things stealthily. We’ll explore more on why I said the developer should be commended for their courage as we visit more on the game below.
The story of the game takes place in a fictional universe where England had lost the World War 2 to Germany. As a result of the defeat, people in England began relying on drug capsules “Joy” to battle their depression, the hierarchy of the society is formed with those who rely on Joy at the top, followed by those who didn’t (or couldn’t) at the bottom. Those who do not use Joy are considered as “Downers”, for their constant moody and depressed state of mind. The developer did a great job in creating a convincing game world and landscape that suits the overall depressed tone of the game. Village slum with damaged building structures and inhabitable living conditions where people are forced to source for clean water is an example of the developer’s attempt to portray a pathetic way of life.
You start off as Arthur, one of the 3 playable characters in this game. Arthur belonged to the upper tier of society in this game but one day, he accidentally discovered that he has a brother (whom he has conveniently forgotten about him due to taking Joy). In his bid to never forget his brother again and to find him, Arthur refused to take his Joy fix. As the result, Arthur became enlightened to the reality of the world he was living in. In his attempt to find an escape, he has to rely on his wits and craftsmanship to survive the journey.
In poor neighbourhoods, Arthur has to dress poorly in order not to raise any suspicion from the locals. Vice versa, in a good neighbourhood, Arthur has to dress appropriately. Craft your path to victory by collecting materials to make weapons, healing balms, water canteen, bandages or antidotes to counter the food poisoning you got from eating rotten food. There are more than just your HP to look after in this game, you need to ensure your character has enough sleep, food and water to sustain himself. There are also certain scenarios that will deplete your health in this game like Bleeding, Food Poisoning, etc. They can be tackled by using the appropriate corresponding items to counter their effects. Depending on which difficulty you start the game in, there are less or more elements that you need to watch out for. Resources are scarce, so plan what you wish to do carefully and don’t pick a fight you cannot afford to engage.
It may be confusing at first on why NPCs in the game are wearing a clown mask or why does your main character’s dialogue always seemed awkwardly out of place/sync with the conversation. But these are all part of the game’s setting where people wear a mask to hide their emotion from others and to avoid revealing their true state of mind. The mumblings of your character are part of a disguise your character is trying to put up, to convince others that he is in fact under the effect of the drug (Joy). These details are not revealed early in the game, in fact, the game sort of just threw me into starting it with no effort explaining or visible hints telling me on what is it exactly I was are dealing with. If you start this game, you must bear it in your mind to be patient and that the game encourages self-exploration to find out more on the game’s lore and direction.
What I liked :
- Game Settings. The game is an absolute air-freshener in today’s action hero oriented gameplay norm. The humble ability of the protagonist really puts me in a new position. I wasn’t there to save the world, some princess or future of a kingdom. I was just there for myself, to find an escape.
- Game Environment. Accurate depiction of a depressed world I would say. When governance and society fail as a whole, this is what the world would probably look like.
- Daring New Approach. We Happy Few is a product of people with balls made of steel. The storyline and setting cannot be possible if the writers were lazy. The game is not perfect, but this is a good beginning.
- Meaningful Day and Night Cycle. NPC goes to bed at night, allowing you to rob them more easily. Different things spawn at night, including plants and herbs. The game world literally translates into a whole different realm everytime day and night exchanges.
What I wished could be better :
- The game starts off extremely slow. For such a niche game, I would advise the developer to insert a cinematic or any form of storytelling to at least bring the players up to speed. Throwing us into the wild and let us explore our way until we find it interesting only works if the game is already well known. If I wasn’t reviewing the game, I would find it extremely demotivating to continue.
- Art Style. This is extremely subjective but I’m putting it here anyway. I cannot get used to the art style of this game. The characters all looked like they were duplicates of Tim Burton’s work.
- Only First Person View. If only the game comes with a ‘third person view’, this game would have looked and feel much better. The sluggish combat mechanism of this game is justified by the non-combatant nature of the main protagonist, that I understand. However, such sluggish moves only induce dizziness (because it is first person view). If it was a ‘third person’, it would have been much more bearable, furthermore, this game’s world is quite good looking, so why not?