We Happy Few Review: Just Keep Smiling (Or Else)

We Happy Few Review: Just Keep Smiling (Or Else)
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We originally had a chance to take a look at We Happy Few WAY BACK at PAX East in 2015We Happy Few is a game based on one of the most intriguing historical “what ifs”. Intriguing because of just how terrifying the consequences would likely have been had events been slightly altered. What if World War II had played out differently? What if the consequences of that change brought on such horror that people could only carry on by forgetting. What if putting on a happy face meant, literally, wearing a mask? One of the first signs you see during your journey states, “Happy is the country that has no history.” But, what if history finds a way of breaking in anyway, and we are forced, then, to deal with our hideous choices?

The game takes place in a dystopian version of a 1960s United Kingdom. You will follow the paths of three characters, each with his or her own choices to reckon with: Arthur Hastings, Sally boyle, and Oliver Starkey. Arthur’s job is to redact unpleasant information from newspapers and other records. Sally is a chemist with her own drug store, and Oliver is a soldier who isn’t quite operating on all pistons if you get my drift. While each has their own story, you will spend the most time with Arthur Hastings.

Arthur is slender, unassuming, and certainly not a man you would expect to survive on his own. However, Arthur finds himself suddenly off his Joy, a hallucinogenic drug that suppresses memory and also possesses euphoric effects. In a world where everyone is expected to take their daily dose, Arthur soon finds himself on the run from his fellow citizens of Wellington Wells, and on a journey to discover his own dark history.

Though the game does have survival elements, it is more heavily focused on the completion of various quests you will find yourself involved in along the way. The quest system works almost exactly as you see in games such as Skyrim or Fallout 4 with new locations appearing on the map, and a floating in-game marker that helps you keep an eye on the direction you need to go. You will also discover elective areas such as a thieves den you can then choose to raid or leave in peace if you don’t feel confident in your ability to stay alive. You can mark this destination on the map if you want to come back to it in a bit once you’ve gained a bit more courage, or found or crafted a better weapon.

Crafting is incredibly efficient. You can craft certain items anywhere such as healing balm, a lockpick, or a metal dart to throw at unsuspecting enemies. In some cases, the game saves you the trouble of entering the crafting menu altogether. Need a lockpick? Try opening a lock, and as long as you have the crafting materials, one will conveniently appear in your hands. The crafting menu will tell you what items you can make, what materials you need, and how much of each are needed as well. Simply select what you want, tap a button and you are done.

Some items, however, require the use of a crafting bench or a chemistry lab. Early on, you can use the chemistry lab to create a poisoned dart. You can use the craft bench to build better weapons. The longer you play and more you pick up, you will notice a wider variety of items you can make. In order to learn how to create new items, you must steal blueprints that you will find scattered throughout the game. So, be diligent.


Fighting in We Happy Few is simple to learn, but sneaking is usually the best method. Some times, however, you are forced into combat.

Also, while you can be weighed down by carrying too many items that will slow your movement, you will come across Pneumatic Stash machines in which you can store an unlimited amount of items. These are usually housed in safe areas wherein you will find your crafting bench, chemistry lab, and usually a bed so you can get some rest.

Yes as I said earlier, there are survival elements, but We Happy Few is not really a survival game as much as it is an action-adventure with some RPG elements. You do need to watch your water, food, and sleep. But, neglecting these will not kill you. Rather lack of proper nutrition and hydration will affect your stats. Getting thirsty will slow you down, but being properly hydrated will give you a bit of a boost. You can also turn the need for these off completely. The game comes with custom difficulty settings, so for those who want their only survival needs to involve not being stabbed to death by a bayonet-wielding soldier still waiting for the war to flare up again so many decades after the fact, you are in luck.

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The Good

  • Surprisingly beautiful scenery
  • Suitably disturbing atmosphere
  • Simple crafting
  • Well-tuned sneak and quest mechanics
  • Interesting overall backstory

The Bad

  • Character’s individual stories are revealed too slowly and feel like they could have been better integrated
  • Doesn’t quite stand out from other dystopian fiction titles
Alisa Hail

Lifetime gamer, professional nerd, and amateur cosplayer. Owns a working copy of Duck Hunt (with the light gun). Has never hunted real ducks. Loves horror games but is also afraid of the dark. Journalist, game reviewer, and marketer by trade.