I don’t ask for much from my games – Just that they be fun and maybe, just maybe, actually be fucking playable. We Happy Few has sat high on a pedestal of Early Access internet praise for what feels like forever; honestly I think I’ve seen ads for this game painted onto cave walls. Or was that just Reddit? Whatever; either way everyone’s been talking about this game for a while mostly because of its’ visuals and theming which can only be described as creepy as balls.
So what is this game even about? Ever read 1984? I haven’t but apparently the game has that kind of vibe so we’ll roll with that. Starting early, leading man Arthur works for a firm, censoring documents whilst popping strawberry flavoured pills called Joy. Joy seems to be a ridiculously OP version of an anti-depressant that makes everything look pretty and colourful, which is just what you want when your world looks like the shit hole that is Wellington Wells. Wait… Did you think I meant the environment is designed to look terrible? Well yeah it is a bit… Though actually it’s more because of the generated world and a minimal amount of optimisation that makes the game world look shocking; sure the flowers and buildings are well designed on their own, but they don’t meld well together when they’re shoved into random locations and break the flow of gameplay.
Anyway, back to the story so far – Arthur, a man who everyone calls skinny even though EVERYONE in this world is skinny, one day decides he’s had enough of taking Joy and almost immediately starts to see the world for what it is upon suddenly coming off of his Joy – Dark, damp and grey… So yeah just like real life Blighty. During a violent incident involving a rat that looked a bit more like a piñata when he was on Joy, the situation being revealed in all it’s gory glory leads to all of Arthur’s co-workers calling him a “downer”, as he’s chased out of the city all the way to the countryside. Now this is where I had a bit of a problem with the game – Arthur mentions wanting to get back to the city but doesn’t seem to want to just walk back the way he came; he instead chooses to just wander about the Garden District and find a really complicated way home.
So what do you actually do? I mentioned it already, you wander about in a confused haze, pick up anything you find because it MIGHT be useful and fight any fucker who looks at you sideways. So basically you roleplay as a violent tramp. We Happy Few suffers from the usual roleplaying issue that Arthur, a meek everyman, is suddenly very fucking handy with a bat / stick / any blunt instrument and can tackle any challenge at all – If anything it’s actually easier to kill your way through and objective rather than sneak… Although sneaking is also remarkably easy because baddies can’t even seem to see you if you’re stepping on their toes like a bad dancing partner but on other occasions they’ll see you from half a mile away through a wall and on the roof. How about a wee bit of fucking consistency? Either way you’re screwed because if the sneaky segments are broken then so is the combat. During my battles I found it hard to work out when the guy you’re fighting was going to try more than one hit, and breaking through a block seems to just be down to hitting so hard that their weapon breaks. You’d better hope you win though because good god you don’t want to live through ANOTHER loading screen. Each one takes what feels like hours, and they crop up all the time and for absolutely anything. I went down one street in a town and before I got to the next, there I was staring at that slow moving loading bar.
If you’ve seen anything about this game already then you likely already know about some of the glitches people have been experiencing – A couple of examples for me have been random items firing around the map after I lightly touch them or sometimes finding enemies spawning in my path like they’re all Nightcrawler wannabes – Worst of all was the glitch that stopped my gameplay in its’ tracks. After a mission where I had all of my weapons taken off me, the following objective left me locked in an alleyway with 3 unkind looking ruffians who were all packing shovels. Needless to say they won. After Respawning (Push the brand!) I was sat on a bench. And that’s it, I couldn’t stand up, and if I reload the save still I was stuck. The game was over before it even really began, and you know what? I’m fine with that. I have not been sold on this game from the start and I think this was just another case of the hype getting the better of us all.
You want a run down? We Happy Few is a clever idea stuck in a badly optimised broken mess with game breaking glitches and dull repetive objectives and combat. Though there’s a certain humour to the game, there’s not enough to make this really worth looking into; at least not until we get a pretty sizeable patch like we did with No Man’s Sky. You get a pass for some aspects because you’re an indie game… But with the length of development time and amount of Kickstarter donations and funding from Gearbox received, you could have done so much better.