First Impression: We Happy Few (PC – Steam) ~ Pop Goes The Joy

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Being happy is a wonderful thing. Now imagine that you can take a happiness pill that makes you happy and joyful all the time. And on top of that, imagine that participation is mandatory, and you live in bliss… That’s the situation we have in We Happy Few, the game I want to talk about today. Now, to say that this game had a rocky release with a lot of bugs and glitches is an understatement. But, now that the game isn’t in early access and out for several years and the last update being from 2019, I think it’s the best time to take a good look at this game and if it’s really worth our time or that we should pop a Joy to cover up this game. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game. Ready, let’s go!

Pop goes the Joy

In We Happy Few, we take on the role of Arthur. Somebody who is working for the newspaper and censoring unhappy articles. When he suddenly sees a picture of his brother, he gets a lot of flashbacks that makes him stop popping his mandatory Joy. What is Joy? Well, like I explained in the introduction paragraph of this article, it’s a drug that makes people extremely happy and that’s mandatory to take or else you will be killed or exiled to the slums. People who don’t take Joy and don’t see the dangers of the world be camouflaged by the drug’s effects are called Downers and are shunned by all the Joy takers.

Now, how did the world get to this place? Well, that’s something for you to find out. The concept and setup of this game is excellent and I personally think it’s amazing. I feel like I’m playing a game like Bioshock or Prey again. Somewhat open-world yet linear-ish games that take you on a journey through a deep and rich story. And from what I have played so far, We Happy Few certainly delivers upon that front in my opinion.

Couple this with amazing voice acting that really helped me to get even more immersed into the world and the game, I don’t have any complaints about the story and the delivery. The pacing is also good. Everything gets some depth, but it doesn’t stay on one subject for too long. Some sections feels a bit too small in my opinion but thinking about it again, it would ruin the great world building that this game does.

I can forgive the fact that there are a lot of lines repeated when you talk to the townsfolk because the way the towns are populated adds so much to the atmosphere, and it makes the game even more immersive. The fact I can interact with every person on the street, and they play a random line with the accompanying animation, it’s delightful. If this concept is tried again, I think it would be great if it had a bit more lines and variations between the townsfolk.

Anyways, that’s more then enough about the story and the setting. Let’s talk about the other aspects of this game. It’s possible that even when this game has a nice story and setting, the game isn’t fun to play. Remember that I talked about various technical issues in the opening paragraph of this article? Well, I’m sad to say that there are still several technical issues. Thankfully, most of them are visual oddities but nothing game breaking anymore. I once had a dead enemy instead of dying, t-posing and following me around the map.

Only I time during a mission, I was afraid that my save file got cursed by a technical glitch, but exiting and restarting the game solved that issue with me loosing only 2-ish minutes of progress, since that isn’t too bad. The auto-saving in this game works miracles! And you can still manually save whenever you wish in 10 save slots just in case you want to experiment in this game. Or want to make a safety save or make a safe you can use whenever you want to also finish side quests.

Emotional Telephone Booths

You could play this game without using any Joy, but I highly recommend against it. Simply because it isn’t that much fun always running from everybody, and the stealth in this game isn’t that good to hide away. Since, when you are seen, you can’t hide until you are off the radar, and you find a good spot. And if you think, let’s fight the enemies then… Do think again. Since, when you get violent, people act like Zombie Pigman in Minecraft. They make other people around you hostile, and you quickly get piled up.

In those moments, it’s recommended you find a telephone booth to pop Arthur’s favorite strawberry Joy and try to go to an area where the folks people aren’t angry at you. Since, the Joy is a timed mechanic. At the upper left part of your screen, you see a sort of timer that indicates for how much longer you under the effects of Joy. When that meter runs out, you better find a source of Joy OR hide from the surrounding people, since not taking Joy is a crime. Oh, and don’t overdose on Joy either since that’s going to be a bad trip.

So, how does this game play like? Well, this game is more a sort of adventure game. You can pick up various items to either play this game more stealthy, or play like me and go all in and don’t care about what happens. The difficulty of this game highly depends on how good you understand the mechanics of this game. Do you understand the crafting system and where each item spawns or do you understand how to skill tree works and how to use your points to buy the best abilities…

Something that you will have to understand is how the compass at the middle of your screen works. It tells you a lot about your situation and nearby quests. You can even select which quest you are tracking, like in the Fallout games. I wish other games had that too, since in Prey for example… You have several tracks on the screen that all lead to your active quests. Sometimes markers even say: “multiple objectives”.

There are several other mechanics in this game like a hunger, thirst and sleep system. While those meters can deplete, they don’t affect the game too much, sadly. Most of the effects in the game you have from this system is that your stamina depletes a bit faster, and you have to attack more. It’s a shame, really, since it could be an amazing mechanic. It feels undercooked and it shows. The fact that finding food and drinks in the world isn’t easy, or beds for that matter.

So, when you lose all your health, you get set back at the latest checkpoint, and you can try again. Overall, the game is somewhat forgiving in my opinion. I have seen games that are more difficult. I personally felt I was able to breeze through the game somewhat and if I did die or hit a roadblock, just trying it again from another angle seemed to help. During my playthrough, I didn’t have a lot of weapons, so I had to improvise and running in the open fields with a quickly recharging stamina bar helped me quite a lot. Since, most enemies aren’t THAT fast.

Something this game does quite well in the UI. I find the UI spotless and to the point. You get a lot of information without it having too much information or getting confusing. Some things in the UI are a bit clunky, like how you can’t multicraft or discard multiple items at once when you are overburdened, but I got extremely quickly used to it.

While this game has some minor negatives, I find this game quite enjoyable to play. I really like solving the puzzle in taking just enjoy Joy and the right items to craft the right things, so I can survive another mission and encounter. Since, experiencing the humor and world building that this game provides is so fitting for the gameplay and so enjoyable.

To Joy or not to Joy

I could start and go nitpicking on how certain animations look a bit weird or how some bodies ragedoll extremely weird, but honestly, I think it doesn’t really matter because the art team of this game did an amazing job on this game. Not only does this game run smoothly on my 1050Ti, it also looks pretty good.

I really have to applaud the effort in the difference you can see if you are or aren’t under the influence of Joy. It looks very differently depending on if you take or don’t take any Joy. And it even looks different when you overdose or take drugs. Speaking of which, I really like the intrusive messages that discourage drug use in real life. It talks about how your combat abilities in the game are improved, but it has very negative and different effects in real life.

Apart from some very occasional nitpicks, visually this game looks great, and I’m sure it’s going to hold up for quite a while. The lush fields and the amazing cities with a lot of attention to detail are really commendable. No wonder that with so much visual stuff going on, that sometimes residents are sitting on the air in front of a bench. You can’t simply account for every edge case. If I can give one sort of nitpick in terms of the visuals, I think a bit more character models for the citizens would be great since once I tried to get the whole city to chase me and I did see a LOT of duplicates… I don’t mind duplicates, but if you have 10-ish of the same guy chasing you… ah well, it ruins the good character model just a bit.

On top of this great visual design, you have some amazing sound design. The sound effects in this game are great. They fit the art style and the atmosphere quite well, and it gave me the right information to assess the situation. And not only that, it helped to immerse me quite a lot into this game. The little sirens for example to let you know you are caught and people are looking for you are a great tool to know you have to escape and hide until the sirens stops.

If you have read my blog in the past, you know I find the music in a game quite important. And does this game deliver? Yes. Yes, it does. The soundtrack is quite pleasing and fits the atmosphere quite well. It wouldn’t surprise me that I’m going to add the soundtrack to my playlists after I have played the game a bit more or if I have beaten it. Actually, I think I might just add it to my playlists after publishing this article.

All in all, this game highly surprised me when I saw the trailer, and I was afraid when I heard the news of the technical issues. But, then I gave this game a try and I have to say that I really like this game. It has its quirks that I had to get used to but it didn’t take long before I was running around with the fluent and responsive controls. I might have to learn the combat system a bit more, but I panic too easily in those sorts of situations and I tend to “mash the attack button and strafe” mostly. Whoops.

Do I recommend this game? Yes, I do. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys playing adventure games in the genre of Bioshock, Prey, Alice in Wonderland… but might want to have a bit less shooting action in the game. It’s a unique game that really deserves a chance. It won’t be a perfect, flawless experience, but it doesn’t matter. And no, I didn’t take a Joy to write this segment. I really do enJoy … sorry, lame pun. I really do enjoy playing this game and can’t wait to see how it continues. Together with Prey, this game is going to fill my summer quite nicely. A summer full of joy and amazing adventures, one in space but this one… it’s an adventure on earth were not following the norm is going to move you forward and it teaches some nice life lessons when you think about it in that way.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Gamer’s Thoughts/Rant: “So, you play game X?”

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“Oh, you still play games? Grow up, man! Games are for young children or for people who have no life.” Have you ever said something like this or have you ever been on the receiving end of a question like this? There are a lot of statements that I get annoyed by in the gaming community and today I want to talk about some. Please, keep in mind that these are my opinions and that I’m not you. So, I invite you to tell me your opinions in the comments and/or give me suggestions for other questions to do another article like this. 

Before I begin

Now, in some cases, I’m going to talk in very general terms. And let me be clear on one thing. I’m not going to deny that there are edge cases for everything. Things like game addiction and compulsion do exist and are very real problems.

If games stop being a leisure activity and everything else needs to make way or room for a game, please seek help right away.

In addition to that, parents and friends, if you find any negative change in the behavior of your child, friend or loved one; please help him or her.

Also, in most of my arguments, I talk about the people who can still separate fact from fiction and/or aren’t struggling with game addiction.

“Games are just for little children or are for losers.”

I love turning the tables on arguments like this. I love to ask them if they enjoy watching sports. Technically, sport is also a game. If you follow the definition of what a game is, like the one by Kevin J. Maroney, where games are a form of play with goals and a structure. Well, then you can fit all sports in that definition.

So, if games are for kids, then explain to me why board games have age stamps like “for ages 3 AND UP”. And in addition to that, if games are for little children, why are games like Civilization and other strategy games so popular?

The “games are just for little kids” argument is so easily debunked if you simply watch to our community and how much money it brings in. So, please, if you are still convinced that games are for little kids, please explain to me why games aren’t for older people.

“But older gamers are people who don’t grow up or can’t let go of the past.”. Oh, please! If you give that argument, you have already lost the debate. I can give many arguments to point out the flaw in that statement. For example, there are a lot of extremely complex games on the market like Civilisation and Europa Universalis 4 who tend to be pretty complex to younger children. And if games would be created for younger children, why would they put effort into developing a game like that?

In addition to that, “can’t let go of the past.” Man, I hate that argument with a passion. So what, that I’m nostalgic? Why is that even an issue? I have grown up playing video games and I love playing games since it brings me back to my childhood or gives me new and interesting experiences.

Making the statement that games or for certain demographics of people. Please, don’t be so close-minded. It’s like saying that football (soccer) is only for men and ballet only for women. If you find enjoyment out of a certain hobby or profession, why would it matter which gender, age, nationality…. you are?

Making the statement: “Games are just for little children or are for losers.” just proves that you are ignorant and that you are pretty close-minded. So please, be a decent human being and don’t say things like this when you mean it.

People who play games sit all day in their room and do nothing else than stare at a screen.

And to be honest, so what? Is it a problem that we sometimes do nothing else than stare at a screen all day and play games all day? I’m sorry that I engage in an activity I enjoy in my free time.

But did you notice the keyword in the previous paragraph? “Sometimes.” While I’m not going to deny that there are people who devote their whole life to video games and do nothing else, the same can be said about people addicted to something else, like movies and books.

Take me for example. I see myself as a pretty big gamer. I play a lot of games in a week. But besides that, I fix people their computer, I work full time in the education sector, I’m part of a folk theater group… I can go on for quite a while, but I think you get the point.

To counteract this statement, I love to bring up the argument of mobile phone games. There is an extremely huge player base for those games and those are also being played by people who don’t really play games but have some time to kill on the bus, train or while waiting on the doctor.

But the best debunk for this is the issue of generalization. It’s like saying that every metal lover is an aggressive person and similar things like that. Nothing everybody is the same, and thankfully so.

Aggressive/the violence in games make your youth more aggressive and/or train them to be killers.

I’m going to keep this brief since this statement really boils my blood. But, I wanted to talk about this one for sure.

First, violent movies, violent books and such… why are they left out of the argument? Because they aren’t interactive? Or is it because games are the new kid on the block and haven’t got the respect that movies and books have?

Two, if a game is very violent or aggressive; shouldn’t you be the responsible parent and talk to your kids why they aren’t okay to play at their current age? Or at the “M for mature” or “18+” label just part of the artwork on the front cover? Why would Steam age-gate these games?

Three, while I’m not going to deny that there are people who are sensitive to violence and get introduced to these things by games, the same can be said for movies and other violence in media too. Thankfully, not everybody is like that and those people are a minority.

Four, isn’t it possible that the youth has another stress reliever? That they can vent all their frustration from their daily lives without harming a fly.

And my final point, there has been done quite a lot of research on this subject. And the results are quite divided. An interesting overview can be found in this amazing piece by TechAddiction: http://www.techaddiction.ca/effects_of_violent_video_games.html

“Nintendo games are for kids” / “PC is the master race and should be the only way to play” / …

If you say things like that to me, you will hear a heavy sigh. Let me first start with “Nintendo games are for kids.”.

First of all, family-friendly doesn’t mean “for kids”. A lot of Nintendo IPs are family-friendly and they might have a childish outlook, but they are far from that.

Secondly, if Nintendo games are childish, why do so many adults play games like Pokémon GO? They grew up on it and makes them nostalgic. Okay, sure. But, aren’t you generalizing here too much?

Thirdly, just this Reddit thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/nintendo/comments/1kge42/why_do_people_think_nintendo_games_are_childish/

On that page, there are so many arguments why Nintendo games might seem childish but actually aren’t.

The other argument of “PC is the master race and should be the only way to play.” is such an easy one to debunk. Dear console gamers, do you actually realize what the definition is of a computer?

computer is a device that can be instructed to carry out arbitrary sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. The ability of computers to follow generalized sets of operations, called programs, enables them to perform an extremely wide range of tasks.

Thank you, Wikipedia for that definition. The difference between your console and computer is the input device. That’s all. So, you are basically playing on a computer with a different shell and operating system. So, technically, computer gaming is the only thing that exists.

Oh oh, wait, I hear the PC elitist gamers already: “You can replace hardware in a console!” Oh yeah? You are sure about that? So, the manufacturer isn’t able to replace any broken parts when something breaks? Or the guides on iFixIt like this one: https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/PlayStation+4+Optical+Drive+Replacement/24720. That is just a hoax?

Oh, and the other argument: “You can’t upgrade a console, so you are restricting the customer!” So. What. Some people don’t have the technical knowledge to do so anyway. Why stop them from buying a pre-built computer that can play games without having to maintain a lot of parts?

“You can build a very strong gaming computer for real cheap if you do the research.” If you do the research. You can also learn a new language if you do the research. You can do everything if you do a little research. If you are actually able to do it, it depends on your skills. I almost have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science – Networking. And let me tell you, there are people who don’t have the time to do the research nor the technical skills to actually put the research to use. For example, I’m not that good at writing code, I tried various times to educate myself on it but alas. If you don’t get the right guidance, this research can be a big issue.

“But there are many more games for the PC than for console.” And that’s a problem with PC gaming as well. Yes, I call it a positive and a problem. There are too many games and barely any quality control. It’s also a problem for game developers. Just try to get noticed in the vast sea of computer games.

“There are many more options and features like mods for the computer.” Okay, I give you that. But, it’s a problem as well. For example, as a developer, try to optimize a game for literally millions of different combinations of hardware. It’s an extremely difficult task.

Conclusion here: don’t be elitist about a certain gaming platform. I love playing games on as many different platforms. I also love portable consoles like the 3DS and the Nintendo Switch since they have something over computers. I’m on the go a lot and gaming laptops are either extremely expensive or too bulky to play on the train and such.

There is nothing wrong with saying that PC or console is better, but I do have a problem when people belittle others because their preferred platform of games is “better”. Just no. Let people play games the way they like. If it sells, people want it. If there is a better alternative, the market and consumer will find out.

Oh, and a shoutout to BulletBarry. While I don’t always agree with him, his Console Peasant Quote videos are just really well made.

In conclusion

I can ramble about things like this for hours. While sometimes, I wasn’t telling anything new, I do think that it’s important to educate yourself and have respect for everybody. Don’t belittle because somebody has a certain hobby! Also, don’t believe everything verbatim what the news tells you. Read up about it.

If you think all gamers are male, please talk with them. You will be pleasantly surprised that there are female gamers out there. If you think all metalheads have a beard and/are bald, please talk to metalheads. Don’t be close-minded either. Not everybody is the same, you know.

While you could say I’m biased towards games since I’m a pretty big gamer. I honestly think that isn’t a problem in this case. I think it’s good for us gamers that we can give our opinion on the subject you know?

In any case, I’m quite interested in the comments for this article. Remember, I’m the kind of person who is open to civil discussion and I’m always very understanding that not everybody thinks the same way. So, please, if you have something to say or ask, the comments are here.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog but until that time, take care and have a great rest of your day.