I do not usually complete games I start because the end often feels like a culmination of something I've been working on for several hours and thus already understands. So I'm impressed that We Happy Few the second game from Canadian Studio Compulsion Games, kept me obsessively linked to the last minute. Less impressive, I was so obsessed because I only wanted the game to be what it promised, not what I had played in the last 28 hours. We Happy Few is a unique piece of dystopian world-class building.
The Colorful Weird We Happy Few is set in a British city called Wellington Wells in an alternative 1
The main character of the game is a weedy censorship agency called Arthur Hastings, who goes by his pleasure when a newspaper story dreams old memories of his lost brother. But it is divided into actions with three main characters with different playing styles. After joining Arthur, it's moved to childhood friend Sally Boyle, a lion-focused chemist who secretly (and illegally) raises a baby. It ends with the story of its old neighbor Ollie Starkey, a military veteran who prefers the brute force and hallucinates the ghost of his young daughter. The characters' stories cross, but each seek redemption for another, imperative regret, while trying to survive a world where the attack is a deadly sin.
We happy few draw from classics of British dystopian fiction, evolution Fangenes Sakkarinly Sinister City, Brazil's Euphemism-Shaped Retro Futurism, ] Brave New Worlds drug-based fauxutopia, and 1984 s Oceania with its constant rewritten past. But it has a distinctly creepy kind of bucolic coziness. Your characters literally know everyone in the city by name, since the game generates (extremely arctic British) name for each opponent, enemy and body.
Wellington Wells The repressive oligarchy drives the city from a handful of brutalist monoliths, but the most common threat is casual citizens who will spontaneously attack you for things like wearing clothes in the wrong district. A torn dress in a fancy area reminds residents that something is wrong, and a fancy dress in a waste district reminds the outside of what they've lost. The whole city is on a collective mission to forget, and if you name someone, they will insist that you become "happy" while bludgeoning you to death.
Many meetings are dark, absurdly funny because they involve characters that hand out a shadow of normal life in a convenient post-apocalyptic landscape. This goes a long way in making We Happy Fews High Definition Setting Durable. The game reveals the city's cruelty early, but it elutes most questions about how Wellington Wells established its super high-tech society and what the rest of the world looks like. This is a solid piece of narrative discipline, so it's so bad that most of the game is such a mess.
We Happy Few were initially launched as an "early access" sandbox survival game in 2016, while the team worked on a historically focused campaign. The final product rests uncomfortably between a gritty running simulator and a Dishonored style, narrow, immersive sim. I found a useful balance between history and survival early, but the survival parts soon became annoying to unlock the story. Sally fights primarily by injecting or injecting enemies with drugs, which means that every single takedown requires the use of limited resources. Ollie is ambiguously diabetic (the game just calls him "uncle"), so I hugged, slowly put together a bee-proof dress to collect honey that he could inject with a scavenged syringe. It's the kind of video game that makes it mock as you actually print it out.
The inhabitants of Wellington Wells are alternately so inhumanly stupid and so inhumane boldly who master their simple, dumpy and lumpy close combat fighting meaninglessly. My PC copy of We Happy Few was also glitched all the time. Characters treated gravity as more of a proposal than a law, and I had to leave or start up quests because objects had disappeared or important characters had stopped responding. And attempting to fix errors by loading an auto-saved checkpoint creates a capture-22 because you have to connect to a main menu to save a storage, but quit overwriting auto save with your last progress.
But the biggest problem is that We Happy Few go far, too long – especially because it approaches Arthur, Sally and Ollie, serves as a continuous story. Arthur has the most expanded and revelatory arc, and his story bookmarks the game, which sets Ollie and Sally's actions as tangential.
The overall framework sets a strange, borderline misogynistic spin on Sally's section. Arthur and Ollie are both reconciled to clearly harmful choices they made during the occupation, and their arches follow a defined pattern to remember a minor offense, go on a redemption journey and come to a far more terrible revelation about themselves. Everything we learn about Sally, however, suggests that she tries to zone to get into relationships with violent men. The narrative structure does not tempt this as unreasonable self-esteem, but resolves to be similar to Ollie and Arthur's decisions.
I do not believe We happy few are actively trying to draw these equals. The game just loses control of its own plot and world building when it goes, to the point that I'm not even sure if any strange moments were wrong and whether any narrative choice was intentional or not. Some of the scenes that different main characters share with each other, for example, change script or placement depending on who you play. The map of Wellington Wells alternates between characters as well. This is probably a result of narrative streamlining and coercion's trust in process generation because it does not serve a clear purpose for the plot.
Finally, We happy few managed to push me into a state where I simply built an alternative version of the game that was deliberately confusing and nonsense, from retrieved quests that involved grabbing an object 10 meters from the applicant until the moment everyone's eyes became red and the sky spelled with orange lines. (Unless it really was appropriate?)
I doubt this should happen, but it is some appropriate: while my version of the game may not be real, it makes me happy at least.  We Happy Few are available now on PC, Xbox One and PS4.