Denial; a state of blissful ignorance brought on by narcotics as the truth is too painful to accept. This is the world of We Happy Few, a carefully crafted survival experience that has players wanting to escape a dystopian 1960’s Britain.
On the surface this is a standard dystopian story but We Happy Few brings something new to too a genre that has been well established by the tropes introduced by George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. Yet one should not brush it off as another generic dystopian as it has a unique setting along with a sense of humor. While not perfect regarding to the gameplay, its story is enough to make one explore this dark version of the 1960’s Britain.
Happy Gamers Have no History
The game is set in the town of Wellington Wells during an alternative 1960’s following an end to the German occupation of the United Kingdom. The residents were able to end the occupation by doing something so horrible (described as a “Very Bad Thing”). As a result, they became addicted to a drug which suppresses unhappy memories and warps the users perspective of the real world.
In this alternative world, residents are shielded from the harsh truth with Joy while the horrors of the past are erased. Those who refuse to conform are branded a “Downer” and forced into exile or beaten to death. The story follows Arthur Hastings, Sally Boyle and Ollie Starkey as they attempt to either end the populations addiction to Joy or find way to escape the island. Each character will be the focus of a unique story while also having a series of challenges that will test their will to escape. At the same time, we are given a glimpse into the past that everyone is trying to forget.
We Happy Few is an unusual horror experience that borrows key elements from classic dystopian works (like Brave New World and 1984) then blends it with British culture of the 60’s. The world that has been created is not new but it has strong sense of originality that it has forged its own identity. Its not all gloom and doom as the world has a sense of humor, one influenced by some of the best British comics. Also, that “Very Bad Thing” is more humorous than terrifying.
Take Your Joy
We Happy Few encompasses a verity of gameplay elements from different genres to tell its story. Players must use stealth and their wits to over come challenges while some good ole fashion brawling does get things done. To blend in with the populations, players are given the choice to take Joy, a drug that will put them in a state of blissful happiness. Like most survival titles, you need to collect materials to craft tools and repair weapons.
While it does succeeded at putting players in an uncomfortable situation, the gameplay mechanics are also among its biggest problems. Very few games have been successful at making a first person with a heavy emphasis on melee combat and We Happy Few is not one of them. The combat is awful as it basically relies on simply hitting an enemy NPC
Also adding nothing to the experience is the need to sleep, drink and sleep. An annoying feature that was (thankfully) nerfed in the final game as it adds no value to the experience. Those who want to an extra challenge can activate this option but they will feel more annoyed than tested.
Taking the foundation established by Orwell and Huxley, We Happy Few brings its own interpretation of the classic dystopian story. While its gameplay has functional issues, the story is what makes it a must play experience. Pop that joy and take a trip to Wellington Wells!
Final Score: 8/10
Disclaimer: Evolve PR provided the game used for this review.