The journey from Early Access to full game launch can take a variety of twists and turns. None more so than We Happy Few, which started as a crafting/survival game set in an alternate timeline. Yet the team at Compulsion Games have developed and created a story that is thought-provoking and unnerving at the same time. It’s a story that makes you think about how one deals with tragic circumstances.
We Happy Few takes place in the small island town of Wellington Wells. Somehow, the citizens survived a German invasion during World War II. Through the dialogue and visuals, you discover that a terrible price was paid to survive the German invasion. Something so horrific that they take a mind-altering drug called Joy. When the citizens take Joy, they are on a psychedelic trip, which is a much better option than thinking about what they did in their past.
Through three different characters, you get a glimpse of societal hierarchy. Those at the top have plenty of Joy and comfort to help them pass the time. Those who are at the bottom of the hierarchy live in the slums – war-torn pockets of Wellington Wells with many dangers. With the lower class, you get a glimpse of life without Joy, since these areas are full of “Downers” who can’t take Joy anymore. The class warfare takes on a whole new meaning, as each section of society hates each other and are extremely violent to one another.
The story itself is incredible. There are many moments where I stopped and reflected on how these people are, in many ways, like our own. You can see many story elements reflect real-world issues regarding class prejudice, violence, and dependencies on pharmaceuticals. Not only do we see real-world storylines in We Happy Few, but we also see some dark humor that is top notch. I never thought that we would get such a fantastic story from Compulsion Games, so kudos to them.
So how do you survive in We Happy Few? By crafting, sneaking, and combat. Each character you control will have their own set of skills. However, you will spend the majority of your time finding the resources you need and making a variety of tools to survive. Sure, you will make food, medicine, and weapons. But We Happy Few takes it a step further by providing ways for you to survive around the upper and lower class of Wellington Wells. One small example is making suits to get through specific areas. Going into the slums in a nice suit will get you killed, so you better make a ratty suit to blend in. Another interesting survival mechanic is dealing with the effects of rotting food, which is prevalent in the poor parts of Wellington Wells. Eat a rotten potato, and you will be sick and need medicine. Some resources are harder to find than others, so use caution.
Crafting is not enough to survive. Completing missions to upgrade skills is crucial to surviving We Happy Few. One of the first skills you learn, which is sneaking behind enemies and choking them out, is critical to your gameplay. You can slowly upgrade through the main storyline, but you will need to complete side quests to level up faster. The side quests are all tragic and hilarious in their own little way. To get the full picture, I would spend some time on these side quests.
One of the best features is the customizable difficulty settings. When playing on medium or hard, you will need to watch your health stats, like your food and water intake, along with sleep. I will happily admit that I am pretty terrible at survival games. And in the case of We Happy Few, I wanted to focus on the story. Setting the game on Easy will take away the survival aspect of the game. However, you can turn off the survival settings and still play the game on medium and hard. I would love to see this type of customization in future games.
As I mentioned above, the game is thought-provoking, but filled with dark British humor. And the art design fits so well with the themes. The slums are appropriately dark and desolate. But the high society is colorful and psychedelic. The white masks that are worn throughout are very unsettling and show a society that is forcing you to laugh and forget. And the game’s melee violence is a bit comical but works really well in this setting. It is a beautiful game that fits the tone so well.
One thing to keep in mind is that We Happy Few is still a bit buggy, even after the full game release. Some side quests don’t work as well as they should, and there have been reports of crashes (I experienced some bugs, but never had a crash). Compulsion Games has a Steam patch available now, and consoles should see the patch any day now.
We Happy Few is an interesting look at some of today’s pressing issues in our society, all told through dark, British humor. The survival and crafting aspects of the game keep you engaged while you try and figure out what went wrong in Wellington Wells. Right now, the game is a bit buggy. But with future patches, We Happy Few will be a game that is worth playing.
We Happy Few is available now on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC. It is also part of the Play Anywhere program on Xbox, meaning one copy will work on Xbox and PC.
Note: GameOctane editor Jason Germino received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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Easy to use crafting mechanic
Survival can be turned off while leaving difficulty high
Beautiful art design
Many hilarious moments
Hard to find resources