In the same way as the violent stretches of the inhabitants, the joy of We Happy Few is a facade. The game's fascinating setting for a drug-based society that fades into fake happiness is being erased on repetitive environments, poor paced and simply dull search design, and a number of confusing mechanics who never find harmony with each other. Its three individual stories of survival manage to deliver some surprisingly exciting moments, but We Glad Some do their best to deprive you of playing long enough to see them through.
We happy few take place in a timeline where Germany ruled victorious after World War II and has England bowed to its whims. Children are sent to the German mainland for no reason, and the quiet city of Wellington Wells is thrown into a drug prevention mirage of peaceful, happy coexistence. With pills called "Joy", which helps residents forget about the cruelties of the past, the uprising is far less likely. But this false sense of calm brings its own problems. Citizens who refuse to live under Joy's medical spells are excluded to the city limits, forced to live in abandoned crumbling houses while waiting to starve to death. The residents of Wellington Wells are always happy to see you, but only if you comply with their rules. ”
Enter Arthur, Sally and Ollie – the three characters you want to control through three actions that show all sides of this awful community. Arthur suffers from posttraumatic stress, revives the moments where he lost his brother to the German kidnappings. Sally hides a secret within the walls of Wellington Wells, while providing black market drugs to those who pay enough. Ollie is just a confused war veteran, disturbed by past events that have shaped its future. The more personal aspects of each character become more interesting than the myths surrounding them. Each new perspective relates to past confusing interaction to create clear "aha" moments, and the stories have strong themes of forgiveness, parental sacrifices and indulgent guilt. Everyone finds a satisfying (if not always happy) end of their journey, despite the fact that the mechanics actively fight you when they reach their climax.
In Early Access (where the game lasted for almost two years), We Happy Few was a survival game. It has largely remained the same, despite the fact that the structure of the design changes around it. As any sign, you must control meters for starvation, thirst, fatigue and more (Ollie may actually see the blood sugar of all things) which imposes penalties and movements on your fighting and moving skills. Early on, it is difficult to manage these statuses, with a lack of resources while still coming to grips with We Happy Few's many rules. But they will soon be frustrating. The resources to fill them are not hard to find, but it's hard to get them when they just want to get along with history.
There are an incredible number of things to pick up and bring in. We Glad Get, but only a small handful end up being useful. You will often be forced to pick up flowers to make healing conditioner or bobby pins for lockpicks, for example. But vials that can kill or kill enemies give you no reason to choose one or the other. The design menus for each character change based on their capabilities, but the core elements that are shared between all three, are probably the only ones you will actually exploit. The specialized items hardly require their complex requirements. It feels like such a waste that has a huge design system attached to a game that never puts you in a situation where it feels necessary. We happy few have many ideas that extend across the menus, but nothing mechanical that requires use.
This frustration is only exacerbated by the lack of interesting assignments to carry out in We Happy Fews relatively large open world. The inhabitants treat you like their delivery boy, never giving you anything more complicated than going to an area, picking up something and going back. Quest design works counterintuitively to the idea of having to scrounge to survive. Even if you wanted to get into the hooks and hooks of the world to find something interesting, curious eyes will rarely meet with any rewards apart from the amount of items you probably have already stashed in your inventory. There is a point in Arthur's story where he breaks out, after a multi-page task, "All that, just to start a bridge?"
What attempts to break up this simple structure are the rules of Wellington Wells. Outside the walls you will be forced to dump clothes to fit in with the rest of the depressing crowd as well as combat temptations to steal from their pasture homes. Inside is another story altogether. The residents of Joy-infested cities will be quick to throw up arms if you do anything but go. Haunting guards and eerie Joy-sniffing doctors pose a threat to your mix, which may force you to breathe some pills from time to time. Their effects keep you hidden for some time, but have destructive withdrawal symptoms that prevent you from masking your depression, which may have a full bang on your tail in seconds.
The setting sounds exciting on paper for social interactions and compliance. But its implementation is missing. Compliance with the strictly imposed rules is trivial and only slows your progress towards the next quest marker, and ignores any sense of excitement they may have imposed. Outside, the rules are resolved, but it is also far less to look at. You will spend a lot of time just sprinting through empty fields without noticeable landmarks, just to be met by another bridge to another strict state that progresses to a crawl. It is a disappointing abuse of a system that might otherwise have been engrossing.
It feels like we're happy. Few people understand that many of its mechanics are a part to begin with.
The character progression system is even more underdeveloped. While each of the three characters has some unique features, the ability you can buy is largely shared between them and many give you ways to beat any of We Happy Few's rules completely. One allows you to bounce through cities without waking the alarm for example, while another allows you to ignore annoying nightclub ban entirely. It feels like a convention – as we are happy, few understand that many of the mechanics are a part to begin with.
When rules are not (merciful) removed, they often do not work. For example, the nightclub ban will make the guards get hostile if they see you. But hide yourself on a bench and the inexplicable ignore you completely. Melee match is monotonous and predictably boils down to you exhausting your stamina swinging your weapon and then just blocking until it is uploaded. When you're not forced to fight it, you'll sneak around enemies with a hard-working stealth system. Enemies are inconsistent in their ability to spot you, sometimes walking your way without a certain suspicion. Their patrol lines are easy to spot and never diverge, making the reward for successful infiltration feel incredibly hollow. Most times they are just too predictable. They will stare for extended periods of distractions you highlight and fail to search for an area after spotting you shortly. We Happy Few's stealth is so transparent binary that it just feels like you cheat the system most of the time.