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We Happy Few PC review: A dark, twisted world of secrets and intrigue

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.

Stay alive, discover the past

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.

Pros:

  • Excellent survival gameplay.
  • Dark, disturbing world.
  • Gorgeous visual presentation.

Cons:

  • Framerate issues are fairly frequent.

We Happy Few is available on Xbox One and PC for $59.99.

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

18 Comments
  • Hi! Thanks for the review. Are these concerns about framerate valid on the Xbox One also, or only on PC's with low-ish specs?
  • My PC has high end specs, which is where I reviewed it. I'm not sure how it runs on Xbox One, as I didn't receive a copy of the game there, but I imagine the issues would definitely be similar if you use a Xbox One or Xbox One S. Xbox One X might solve the issue, but I think its an optimization issue honestly, since my PC is has an i7-8700k, GTX 1050Ti, and 16 GB RAM.
  • You say "high-end," but then you say "1050Ti." Do you mean 1080Ti? The 1050Ti is FAR from high-end.
  • I would disagree with you on that. It's certainly not the beefiest card, but the 1050Ti is a great entry level card for high end gaming. I've played the latest AAA releases on highest settings at 60 FPS no problem.
  • That's fine, but it doesn't change that the 1050Ti is, at best, a mid-range card. The XB1X carries a customized chip whose GPU most directly compares to the RX 580, AMD's alternative to the Nvidia GTX 1060. Both are more powerful than a 1050Ti, and the 580 has twice the VRAM (8 GB over 4 GB, while the competing 1060 models are 6 GB). Having performance issues on a 1050Ti-powered PC means nothing against how one should expect the game to perform on console, especially an XB1X, where optimization is better and the GPU is stronger than what you reviewed the game on. When GPU prices aren't inflated, the 1050Ti is a $150-175 card. You're running a CPU that is more than twice that expensive, and if the RAM in your PC is of good quality, it is likely more expensive as well. Generally, in a high-end PC, the video card is the most expensive component. They are the heart of gaming performance and can get pricey in a hurry, so it makes sense to put the greatest portion of a budget into that component (as a comparison, my build had about 40% of its cost committed to the video card). Fact of the matter is the 1050Ti is just not high-end, even if it really SHOULD be adequate for this game, which might be pretty, but is far from a technical powerhouse. Fair to note performance issues in this game, but if you are cracking settings on a 1050Ti, I wouldn't be surprised to see performance dips in general.
  • Well, regardless, even if the card isn't I would say my PC qualifies as high end, at least on the tail end of that term. Agree to disagree I suppose. At the end of the day as you said, We Happy Few is hardly a photo-realistic mindblower, so it shouldn't have this problem anyway, lol.
  • I would consider your PC a high end gaming rig as well. Disregard what Keith said.
  • I was concerned about this too but i think a 980ti i have would be a fair bit stronger than the 1050ti. I have the 8700k as well. Such a brilliant processor for gaming.
  • Yeah the article wasn't specific. Low frame rate problems on low specs PC's? What about Xbox one X?
  • PC is high end. And unfortunately I don't own an Xbox One X. (Didn't get a copy of the game for Xbox either)
  • I wouldn't worry about XB1X performance myself, but definitely look for multiple console reviews before committing to the game, if you want to be safe.
  • The setting and premise seem fantastic, but I'm a little concerned about the gameplay. I think this would've worked very well as a primarily story-driven game with very minimal combat and more focus on stealth and deception (e.g. dialogue choices where you have to "say the right thing". Also, it's a shame this isn't a Play Anywhere title.
  • It's really fun! It's slightly overwhelming at first but getting the hang of things is pretty easy.
  • "Also, it's a shame this isn't a Play Anywhere title."
    It's a PA title.
  • That'd be helpful if you guys added that information to the review.
  • Thanks for going so in-depth...
    Performance issues isn't the only con. 🤣
  • These days the phrase 'High End' should not be used anywhere near a PC without at least a GTX 1070 inside, just my opinion.
    I see the GTX 1050ti as being grossly impractical, especially when used to review newer titles, thanks to the much better and similarly priced GTX 1060 3gb
    (Unless the extra 1gb vram is essential)
    ....and even then another 40 GBP gets you the truly 'competent' GTX 1060 6GB.....moot point. It is kinda weird though, good enough CPU, right amount of gaming memory, you probably have at least one SSD too...so why the sub-par GPU? Please dont take offence at my asking.....I am genuinely interested...... I am still running a water cooled GTX 970 in one of my rigs.....from 2014.....which still outperforms a 1050 ti substantially...even though it was released 2 years later.
  • Now that I've had a chance to play the game, thanks to Game Pass, I am impressed with the setting and premise. The theme permeates the entire game well, the music perfectly complements it, and the story is intriguing. I'm glad I played the game, but there were some downsides. I encountered slow loading times, some bugs, and some poor design decisions that preclude you from competing some quests (e.g. if you accidentally kill a necessary NPC, that's it for that quest). I don't like the procedurally generated worlds (that is, I like the worlds but I dislike that they're procedurally generated, which is obvious in the game and makes it feel artificial), and I think the world is too big (you spend a lot of time running around and back tracking, and with sprint on a cool-down timer, this is a lot of wasted time). There are too many side quests and most of them are repetitive fetch quests (come on, developers: we really need to move beyond fetch quests over and over; there is nothing fun about going and finding an item, bringing it back to an NPC only for them to have you then collect a new item and bring it back to them, repeat ad nauseam). It would've been better to ditch these repetitive, non-innovative side quests (the game is already way too long, anyway) and focus on fleshing out and polishing the story quests more. I didn't really care much for the survival aspects like monitoring food, water, sleep, and health levels (although I did like the Joy aspect of it, as that felt unique) while also having to constantly collect items and craft things from them. Not every game needs to be Minecraft. The combat is pretty janky, and it can get really frustrating how quickly hordes of enemies hunt you down relentlessly as soon as you make a slip up (like simply wearing the wrong clothes in the wrong town). They should've toned that down big time. Still, I enjoyed this game, despite its flaws, and I think it has a ton of potential in a sequel, which they should name We Happy Too. This shows that Compulsion Games was a good pickup by Microsoft, as they are creative, but they need more technical help and more focused game design. (That said, Crackdown 3 is way more fun than We Happy Few, but Crackdown 3 got panned, which I still don't get, but, thanks to Game Pass I still got to play too).