independent

Monday 16 September 2019

We Happy Few a victim of developers' ambition

Game Review: We Happy Few (PC/PS4/Xbox One), 5/10

We Happy Few is a confused mess, with no identity amid the quagmire of gameplay elements and baffling environment design.
We Happy Few is a confused mess, with no identity amid the quagmire of gameplay elements and baffling environment design.

Chris Hayes

We Happy Few has suffered a rocky development. Initially designed and promoted as a survival game light on narrative and runtime, Compulsion Games' latest offering hits the shelves a shadow of the original concept, bringing to the table a lengthy game who's strength lies primarily in the story rather than the somewhat limp gameplay.

We Happy Few tells the story of an alternate universe Britain that came out on the losing side of the second World War. The United Kingdom portrayed by the game is one of grim dystopia, where civilians are pressed into compliance under the yoke of Joy - a mandatory government-sponsored drug that coaxes citizens into a state of obnoxious and overly-positive compliance. It's a thrilling premise, one which the character and plot development certainly capitalize on.

We Happy Few in its current state is the product of a change-of-heart on behalf of the developers, and it shows. Originally designed as a survival game, the developers quickly changed their tack once they gleaned that the only thing the public were actually excited for was the narrative aspect of the game. As such, the game has emerged a confused mess, never really taking on its own identity amid the quagmire of gameplay elements and baffling environment design.

The flaws in the environment design can be boiled down and attributed to something that has become rather popular in gaming recently: procedural generation. The only parts on the environment that deserve any praise are the baked-in ones integral to the game's plot.

Mechanically, the game gets progressively more overwheling. Features are introduced at a quick fire-rate: weapon durability, power for tools, curfews, gathering reagents, stealth mechanics. We The Few spends so long bombarding the player with quests, abilities and gameplay features that the chilling narrative of the game often gets lost beneath the busy-work.

The final criticism but certainly not the final issue with We Happy Few is that the horde of AI characters are almost embarrassing in their shoddy design. We Happy Few's AI's are utterly devoid of personality and interest, which is a huge waste of potential given the riveting subject material. We Happy Few is a victim of its own ambition and indecisiveness on behalf of the developers. What could have been a fabulous title is relegated to the always-growing tower of 'had potential' releases.

Wexford People

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