So last week after a long cycle in Steam’s Early Access, Gearbox Publishing and Compulsion Games had finally released their second major title We Happy Few for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. Since its release, its reception with critics and consumers have been lukewarmly received praising it for its story however being muddled within its bugs and issues on its console counterparts. So what went wrong?
Personally being some hours into the game so far, the biggest issue with its gameplay is that it lacks the same allure as its setting and story to keep me wanting to progress. The story, being presented with 3 different protagonists living in post WWII attempting to escape the fictional Wellington Wells and its denizens who force to partake in a hallucinogen called “Joy”, is presented very strongly with good voice acting and a great sense of immersing the player into the world. During its initial announcement and then presentation back at E3 2016, its allure was extremely inviting. Being akin to the shrouded mystery that existed with previous game announcements like the original Bioshock, that demo presented at E3 was very strong, lauding a very grim and creepy atmosphere and characters/scenery that had an air of nothing being as it seemed through all the smiles and supposed happiness.
When it was in Early Access/Xbox Game Preview, reception from most turned fifty fifty with some being rather positive for its story elements holding true but also negative for its heavy focus on survival for your starting character. With Compulsion Games starting out with only 6 people to the team and eventually growing in number, they announced that with the help from Kickstarter and eventually Gearbox Publishing, they would make We Happy Few into a full retail game. Fortunately, this development that the game would also come to the PS4 as it was prior to only being an Xbox One exclusive. Unfortunately also with this promise into making it a full retail game, it meant that some contrivances were made such as the game going from its initial $30 price tag to a full $60 and a season pass already available for more stories coming as future DLC.
However with this change into being sold at full price, it comes with the weight of it being compared as such to other full priced titles as well, and in its current state it unfortunately doesn’t stack up. Things like its broken save states which don’t respawn you directly where you originally save makes for serious losses in progress, which in a game like this that stealth makes up a great percentage of the game can be a huge hindrance on progress. Even within the towns you reach later in the game that make it required that you be on Joy the entire time loses a strong bit of its tension when you find some of the tricks of making it through by dodging the right people, save for some selected checkpoints that can detect if your on the drug or not. Plus the A.I of the NPCs can be rather finicky to deal with in means of stealth when it comes to being able to detect you or easily losing them by the nearest hiding spot.
With most of these nuances getting in the way of the very strong narrative, its been a relatively hard battle recommending this game at its current standing. As it stands, We Happy Few is a relatively decent game, but with some gameplay issues that unfortunately turn the game’s standing from a full buy to a immediate recommend of waiting for a sale.