Available to purchase on Xbox, PlayStation and PC. Also Available to play on Game Pass
I’ll be honest with you here, folks. I saw this game during the development and watched as it got to completion and release. It’s undoubtedly one of my favourite games in concept, at least. In practice, We Happy Few didn’t quite stick the landing, but there’s been over two years since it first released and over 3 major patches to make sure the game works as well as we were promised by Compulsion Games and Gearbox Publishing. The story of how this game came to be is almost as riveting as the story in the game, and I’ll get to that in this week’s Op-Ed.
What’s The Story (Morning Glory)?
The game is set in an alternate version of the 1960’s England, in which the UK lost World War 2, as we follow Arthur, out main (but not only) protagonist. Arthur is a censor, who is constantly working for the government, but his medication starts to fail on him, and suddenly, this world full of bright colours starts to fade, and everything he thought was well turns out to be… well, to be honest, I’m allowed to swear, so I’ll say this: His wonderful world full of bright colours changes to a dystopian fucking nightmare, with a particularly memorable scene involving a pinata coming straight out of a horror film.
Arthur’s medication fails, as you can see in the video embedded, and he has to escape and into the safe areas on the outskirts of Wellington Wells, as he begins his search for the truth as to why people take the hallucinogenic drugs and maybe find his brother. His game play is basically just stealth and lock picking, but he gets the best game play mechanic (and we’ll get to that later).
Arthur isn’t the only protagonist in this game, as we have both Ollie (and we’ll get to him) and Sally Boyle. Sally is a single mother, a rebel, and from a storytelling perspective, one of the most interesting things about this game. It’s incredibly rare to play as a woman in dystopian video games, much less a single mother looking after an infant, and the developers at Compulsion Games and Gearbox Publishing haven’t let us down. The story is designed to make even the hardest of hearts soften at her plight, as she tries to bring down the system keeping people blind to their situation, whilst trying to help her infant daughter safe and steadily recovering from measles. Her game play is set around a mixture of skulduggery and short amounts of combat that can be tricky to master, but adds to the difficulty curve. Although, gamers, I can’t lie to you, the amount of fetch quests you have to do either as her or as Arthur for her gets really fucking annoying.
And finally, we get to talk about the third protagonist, Ollie. Ollie is possible the most insane bastard I’ve ever played as in a videogame, and when we’re first introduced to him, we became quickly aware that he’d lost his marbles some time ago. Talking to his dead daughter, and going absolutely crazy with a shotgun, Ollie is completely aware of “the very bad thing” that happened years ago in the games’ lore, but the genius of this game is that you don’t believe it when you first hear it from the mad Scotsman and ex-soldier. You just think he’s gone on one of his tangents. Honestly, he’s possibly the most fun to play, but has the saddest story of all three of the protagonists.
So, what’s this mechanic then?
Well, what makes We Happy Few better than your average survival-horror game? The “Joy” mechanic, simply put. How it works makes this game truly unique, and by god, it’s good fun to watch your TV effectively go crazy, as when your character takes their “Joy”, the world around them goes from drab and dreary to an upbeat, garish and bright wonderland, and your character walks in a Vince McMahon-esque chicken walk. It’s brilliant to experience, and instead of just ranting on regardless, I’m just going to embed a video for you to see. A word of warning though: This video embedded in this review isn’t just what happens if you take your joy, it’s also how to get the “quick” ending. It seems that the developers don’t like videos of people playing their game going up on YouTube. Please, whatever you do, if you want the full experience, don’t do this:
The Joy mechanic doesn’t just make the game brighter and less drab, however, it makes the game far easier to get through with the stealth parts of the game, and thus, you have to measure how far you progress with your Joy levels, making this game more than just your average survival game and ramps the difficulty up when the Joy runs out of your system.
Should We Take Our Joy?
Well, dear readers and gamers, there’s only one option in this suitably-endowed author’s less than humble opinion: YES. There’s a good 48 hours of gameplay (if played in the right order), there’s a fair amount of DLC, and thanks to the major patches over the last 18 months, there’s very little in terms of glitches and bugs, which allows the game to work far more than it did when first released. It’s a genuinely fun game to play, and it’s very easy to get lost in the world of Wellington Wells, the voice acting is some of the best you’re going to get in a video game, and dear god, the visuals are incredibly unique. I put this game in the same bracket as Bioshock. It’s brilliant, immersive, unique in concept and the gameplay is superb. However, like a lot of Bioshock fans, I think this like Bioshock is a game that doesn’t require or need a sequel.
I’m not entirely sure as of the time of writing this review as to the price of the game across the online stores, but I’m happy to inform you that this game is indeed available on Game Pass, so if you’re got a PC or a Xbox like myself, then I highly recommend that you download it, and take your Joy.
So, that being said, there’s my verdict. If you don’t agree with me, or for some reason want to tell me as to how wrong I am, and wish to question the validity of my parents’ marriage, then we do have a comments section for you.