Sometimes a decision to ignore all the evidence and jump into a game anyway because it just looks that interesting to you just doesn’t pay off. This is one of those times. I suppose the campy 60’s faux-British style should have been a big red flag to begin with, but the similarity to games such as Bioshock and Dishonored, as well as a dose of survival mechanics, had me interested anyway. It’s true too, that this game very much wants to be like Bioshock, Dishonored, and a lite-survival game in the vein of Dead Island/Dying Light, which is clearly quite an ambitious direction to take. Unfortunately, We Happy Few doesn’t mimic any of these games particularly well.
Oh, it’s not a terrible game. It can even be fun at times, but in a way that’s kind of worse than a blatantly bad game. A clearly terrible game you can just turn off and forget about almost immediately, but with a middle-of-the-road game like this, you can spend who knows how many hours hoping that things will get better, but eventually you come to the realization that it never will and you probably just wasted a lot of time. That’s how this game made me feel anyway.
It’s even more annoying when you think about how this game could very well have met its potential if they’d just bothered to finish the fucking thing. This is a game that was announced and teased back in 2015 and then spent the next three years or so being delayed over and over again and seemed like it was going to be in Early Access limbo forever. I imagine that their publisher and/or Kickstarter backers pressured them until they gave in and just released it anyway, but I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that this is one of the most blatantly unfinished mainstream video games I’ve played in a long time.
It’s embarrassingly buggy, enemies teleport and glitch through walls, random objects can be seen hanging motionlessly in the sky, you can walk through objects on uneven ground and fall through the world if you approach things from the wrong angle, and etc etc. It’s not just that though. It’s the fact that so much of the world is made up of empty space, identical NPCs (almost all of which are entirely useless), and exploding with worthless garbage items.
This is supposed to be a survival game, one where you’re supposed to live or die based on the important items you can scavenge before your time runs out, except as it turns out, the survival mechanics are as worthless as the NPCs. When your food or water bars run down to zero…you don’t die. You don’t even lose health. You just take a stamina penalty until you eat and drink. Not that it even matters, because food and drink are fucking EVERYWHERE. You won’t even be able to handle how much food and drink you find in this damn game. Really, you literally cannot carry it all because there’s so much. Even the tiniest, most common food items completely fill your health bar too, so why should I care about hunting for rare sandwiches when I have a stack of forty berries that literally grow on trees that do the same thing?
Other items in the game are similarly disappointing. You’ll find piles and piles of crafting materials and money, but very little to actually craft or spend money on. Many items are only used to gain access to…more of the same items. You’d think it’d be useful to craft weapons, since they have limited durability in this game and you always need more, but when you’re in enemy territory most enemies drop their weapons anyway, so there isn’t much point to crafting/carrying your own. Money can be spent at vending machines and what do you think they sell? Yep, more crafting items. The same ones you’re already finding all over the place. I never saw a single item I needed or wanted for sale.
So what else is there to this game? Well, there’s the combat, which is as basic as can be. Imagine Bioshock if everyone just hit each other with sticks over and over again. Imagine Dishonored if the stealth didn’t really work and for some reason the game suggested it wanted you to choose between killing enemies and knocking them out, but then never gave you a lethal stealth takedown ability? Imagine if Dead Island gave you nothing but generic, boring weapons and every single battle consisted of the exact same painfully simplistic and clunky sequences of block/attack/block/attack/etc. It’s functional and not so broken that it’s entirely unpleasant, but it’s just so very basic and devoid of even a single unique or interesting feature that there doesn’t feel like much point to any of it.
The story doesn’t fare much better. This world has such potential, offering a world of oppressed people that are controlled through mind-altering drugs. It doesn’t take much imagination to think how many interesting questions are raised by such a world, yet We Happy Few doesn’t care. It’s too busy patting itself on the back over it’s insistence on trying to play the whole thing as some kind of horribly dated, campy comedy. I feel like the designers learned all they knew about Britain in the 60’s from watching Austin Powers and Benny Hill, and oh boy has this kind of humor not aged well.
Again, it’s not a terrible game, but it’s one that I found myself constantly saying things like “maybe it’ll get better soon” or “maybe there’s a point to all this crap I keep spending the majority of my time picking up”. All my scavenging and fighting seemed entirely pointless. I couldn’t have cared less about the main character or his dumb, doomed quest to find his brother. After a dozen hours or so I just don’t see the point of dumping another several dozen hours into this just so I can build an even bigger pile of junk in my safehouse. I just don’t care. I’m done and I won’t be continuing with this or any other game by Compulsion Games (as I didn’t like their previous game Contrast either). As I so often say…OH WELL!