Open world survival games have become a common sight in recent years, but none of them are anywhere near as interesting and unique as We Happy Few, a brand new title out on Xbox One and PC. Featuring compelling survival gameplay, an intriguing and dark world, and exemplary presentation, it is only held back from perfection by performance problems.
We Happy Few takes place in a fictional city within the United Kingdom called Wellington Wells. At some point, the citizens of the city had to do something unspeakably terrible, and in order to forget it, they invented a hallucinogenic drug called Joy. Joy quickly became popular with the citizens (dubbed "Wellies") and soon afterwards, taking it was made mandatory by law. Those who refuse (Wastrels) are beaten to death by Wellies and the police.
You play as one of three characters who refuse to take their Joy. I played as Arthur Hastings, a man who worked in an office censoring parts of the newspaper for the government prior to not taking his Joy. Once his co-workers realized this, he was labeled a "Downer" and was exiled from society.
After your character is thrown out of their previous life, you are tasked with surviving and learning more about the past that everyone else is desperate to forget. Food, water, and sleep are all things you need to stay on top of, as well as avoiding disease and injury. This is done by searching the world and using resources that you find in it to craft things, like bandages, weapons, clothes, and more.
We Happy Few strikes a perfect balance on difficulty. In order to ensure your survival, you need to be thorough in your searching and mindful of your surroundings, but doing so will always reward you with useful items. This means the game is challenging, but not frustratingly so, and the result is a compelling and addicting gameplay experience.
Gorgeous, but glitchy
Visually, We Happy Few is stunning. Everything from plants, to city streets, to stacks of paper all look incredible thanks to the title's stylistic art direction, and this is further enhanced when paired with the powerful lighting engine. We Happy Few also makes use of a broad range of colors, tones, and saturations; this lets the game successfully create several types of atmospheres during the dark, dreary nights or vibrant, sun-soaked days.
The one area We Happy Few struggles in is with performance. Generally, the game runs well, but the framerate will start to significantly drop whenever you do something that requires more hardware horsepower, such as fighting several NPCs or walking through fields of highly detailed plants. This can have a very harmful effect on the gameplay experience, especially if it starts occurring during melee fights, since a stable framerate is crucial when timing attacks and blocks.
I reviewed the game on my high end PC (i7-8700k processor, GTX 1050Ti graphics card, 16 GB RAM) so it's likely that the Xbox version will struggle in the same way and that this is an optimization problem.
Should you buy We Happy Few?
Despite the performance issues, We Happy Few is a must-own title for any gamer who loves survival open world titles and quality world building. Unless your PC doesn't meet the minimum specifications (visible on the Steam page) there is no reason not to pick this fantastic game up as soon as possible.
- Excellent survival gameplay.
- Dark, disturbing world.
- Gorgeous visual presentation.
- Framerate issues are fairly frequent.
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