Rectify Gaming sends a wishlist of improvements to Compulsion Games for We Happy Few in our hands-on preview article of We Happy Few’s Alpha version.
We Happy Few. It isn’t just the title of the game: it’s the best way to describe the small batch of people who are satisfied with the way it turned out. I’ve been a huge fan of Compulsion Games for years. Contrast was one of my first next gen downloadable titles. It wasn’t perfect, but it was ambitious in its creative platforming and held some memorable moments. Fast forward to the We Happy Few Xbox Preview, and it looked like we were about to be graced by another future-classic IP. Fast forward again to the We Happy Few preview release copy. What we have now is an incomplete version of a game riddled with glitches, mistakes, and questionable design choices.
Compulsion Games have been updating the community for a year and Rectify Gaming has faith that We Happy Few has enough fans to influence some necessary changes over the next few months. 18 hours of gameplay and I’m ready to share 18 reasons that would earn this game a big fat F if it were reviewed today. We Happy Few still has time to be a fantastic game… but not before addressing some of these challenges first:
- We Happy Few’s live-time inventory selection blows.
I said it: and I can’t think of a better way to explain the frustration of a live-time inventory screen. The player is forced to select any health upgrades or weapons from the inventory screen no matter what. While the player is given a chance to preset certain items, everything needs to be set on the Inventory screen. This means that during a fight, the player is basically screwed unless all of the necessary items are already equipped or quick-keyed.
- Color me clueless – All inventory items are set by two monochromatic colors.
We Happy Few is home to some dangerous people, elements, and status ailments. The only thing worse than starving to death is not being able to identify food in your pockets before you faint. Or likewise when you die of thirst. When I’m trying to fend off enemies by scrounging for another grenade, I could care less about empty syringes. Sure, if I could stick them with used syringes, it would be a different story. Since I can’t, color code my inventory before I see red.
- Broken weapons typically mean death or retreat.
Nothing takes away from the action of the game like a broken weapon and for an incredibly dumb reason. If your weapon breaks, you have to enter the live-time inventory screen to select the next weapon. You also have to wait an excruciating amount of time before a weapon equips (no joke… it’s about 5 seconds). If you try and equip a weapon, you’re almost immediately pummeled to death because every time you take damage, the equip command is cancelled. So what’s the reward for me when I preemptively create 3-4 Pointy Sticks (spears) before I go into battle? It’s bogus.
- Allow more creative uses for mixing items
This seems greedy. There are so many items, and there’s a pretty decent range of craftable/upgradable items. However, there are sometimes when items could be used for legitimate emergency situations and are limited to what they’re used for on a regular basis. I can use charcoal to make random items, but if I’m dying of fatal food poisoning, I can’t eat it to induce vomiting. If I’m bleeding to death, I can’t use that sewing thread to patch up my wound but I can use it to thread up some new duds? I find 1000 bottles, dirty bandages, and chemical sludge water but I can’t make a single Molotov?
- Crafting a suit is so frustrating it makes me want to punch a kitten.
There is a good amount of strategy to what you wear in We Happy Few. Wear a Torn Suit in the slums and a Proper Suit in the better neighborhoods: it makes perfect sense. Starving people want what’s in your tailored pockets, and the folks in the well-to-do Wellington Wells don’t want to get mugged by some plague-infested gutter trash. The problem is that there’s no way to craft a Torn Suit, which is the basic starting point of any of the suit upgrades. Why would you need a Torn Suit if you start the game with one, you ask? Well…
- The player can craft their way into permanent suspicion.
Because the game allows the player to use their only Torn Suit to upgrade to a Padded Suit (required for most randomly generated playthroughs). Torn Suits require Proper Suits to be crafted (and vice versa). Now the player is forced to find a random Proper Suit or Torn Suit just to get by without being constantly suspicious to everyone.
- Everybody hates you.
I’ve never seen a game where so many people want you to die. Try stealing something from a ruined home and someone tries to kill you. The mantra makes perfect sense: don’t steal my crap. Hey, I can even appreciate a family of people in the home trying to kill you. Don’t steal my family’s crap. But you mean to tell me that in a post-apocalyptic world filled with starving people who aren’t capable of forming complete thoughts… that everyone wants to rise up to the occasion, band together, and kill you for stealing a rotten onion? If a rotten onion was all it took to unite the people, then why did the world get so fubar? It goes beyond a neighborly bond, too.
One random encounter asks that you steal a Constable’s keycard. During the fight, the bobbie blows his whistle, and suddenly a swarm of baton wielding officers are ready to beat a bouquet out of your unconscious body. That’s fine, but why all of a sudden are the nearby citizens joining the party? It doesn’t make any sense, and it takes the wind out of the sails of these action sequences.
- Waypoints, please.
- Too many invisible Objectives.
A number of the game’s randomly generated encounters don’t have a hovering objective marker on the world map. Since the game randomly generates and changes on every playthrough, it makes it difficult to pinpoint where to go for necessary quests.
- Too many dead Objective markers.
- Failed Objectives can end the game.
One of my playthroughs ended completely after a failed attempt at a progression-based objective. First, I needed to fill a power cell to enter a gate. I then needed to find some sort of scientist bookworm type to help me fill it. When I showed up, he was being beat to death by some bad guys. In the process of saving him, I accidentally killed him. Sure, it’s my fault so I left and came back. This time the guy was only being attacked by a single bad guy. Perfect! I saved him, but I never received an opportunity to speak with him no matter how many times I repeated the cycle (at least 3 times).
Eventually, I killed him hoping it would start the cycle over again. Nope. Instead, I failed the objective and was forced to restart the game from scratch.
- Some encounters fail too often.
One encounter in particular requires the player to save a charred doll for a crazy person living in a tree house. Sometimes, he doesn’t accept the doll, and the player loses access to all of the unlocked schematics in this encounter’s mission strand.
- The first encounter with the plague is cheap.
There’s nothing funny about an incurable disease on a permadeath playthrough. There’s also nothing funny about a Looney Tunes inspired wooden sign next to a dead body that says “plague” in letters so small that the player gets close to read it … and catches the f@%*ing plague!
Okay… in hindsight it’s kind of funny… but it’s still annoying and cheap.
- The plague should be uncatchable before the antidote can be crafted (or at least better prefaced).
One playthrough I caught the plague while standing in a toxic pool (encounter based). I caught the plague, and it would still be a while before the game allowed me to craft the antidote. I died but luckily turned off permadeath on this playthrough. Ok, Compulsion Games. My bad for standing in a toxic cesspool… but seriously: Plague + Permadeath – Education = disinteresting game.
This goes triple because I’ve walked around in that same encounter-based toxic cesspool in numerous playthroughs and never caught the plague. In other words, there was little precedence that I could even catch it in any way other than being near a plagued body.
- Things start to fall apart in the Wellington Wells area.
We Happy Few’s slums seemed to be pretty polished, but it was glitches galore when I entered Wellington Wells. Some doors in this area will only open if the player has the Joy effect. One time I had enough to make it into a checkpoint but not back out of it. Naturally, I ran around the room and jumped and punched the walls.
I wanted to trigger some sort of attention from a guard to at least knock me out (and spawn in the safe room). Instead, I fell through an invisible wall and escaped the area. Unfortunately, the world corrupted in my save file, and all of the objectives, houses, and things I could interact with were literally missing. Huge empty plots of land were sprinkled across the Wellington Wells map. What should have been a magical experience was tainted by glitches.
- The player can overdose on Joy without being warned.
In Wellington Wells, I quickly learned Joy is the only thing keeping the police off your back, and it’s absolutely necessary for passing any security checkpoints. When I discovered that the faucet is laced with free Joy, I naturally guzzled it by the liter. Unfortunately, I passed out and “lost all memory of the previous day’s events”. Overdosing on Joy is the least of my worries in We Happy Few, but it’s still an issue.
This is another example of a status ailment unexplained beforehand. After all, wouldn’t the main character know he could OD on Joy? Why wouldn’t he at least say something out loud? This was another missed opportunity to immerse the player without breaking up the action.
- Pointlessly low pickup bonuses
We Happy Few gives the player the chance to find special books that add a multiplier to certain stat lines. These ‘upgrades’ include things like greater chances of performing critical strikes or drag a body faster. These would be awesome if the percentage of the upgrade wasn’t so ridiculously low. I think a number of the books I found were 1-2% upgrade chances.
In a full-bodied playthrough, it wouldn’t be as bad. If We Happy Few wants to paint itself as a survival action game that begs multiple playthroughs… the player doesn’t have time to stack and grind out upgrades. Give more meaningful and helpful multipliers!
- The Lore’s a Bore.
We Happy Few also features tidbits of backstory that can be found on hidden page pickups. These stories tell about the world, the characters, and the environments in the game. It’s actually a really neat delivery system, but it just needs some pizzazz. For example, instead of the same exact recycled graffiti on the walls… why not draw up some lore-related images or blurbs that unlock lore when the player interacts with it or encounters it? Also, get someone in there to spruce up the crazy-pants level of the lore material (and allow the player to unlock/stack the lore found throughout each separate playthrough… let the player read them all off the main menu page).