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We Happy Few: They Came From Below Review - Am I The Monster?

Gaming article by Alex Santa Maria on April 4, 2019 at 4:00 AM
Review
Release Date
April 13, 2018
Genre
Survival
Purchase (Some links may be affiliated)
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It's been eight months since I last visited Wellington Wells, and a lot has changed in my absence. The developers at Compulsion Games have released numerous patches, fixing many of the bugs and issues that plagued me on launch day. While playing through the entire campaign again feels like a tall order, I'm still curious about seeing this world as it was meant to be. Thankfully, that's exactly what We Happy Few's DLC campaigns hope to provide. The first, dubbed They Came From Below, follows the original game's gay couple Roger and James as they try to stop an invasion of killer robots. As you'd expect from We Happy Few, the story gets a bit more complicated than that as you play. Thankfully, the gameplay remains simple, letting We Happy Few finally play to its strengths.

we happy few they came from below james gameplay
James is just NOT happy to be here. Still smiling though.

 

If you remember Roger and James from the original campaign, you'll know that they were the assistants of the mad scientist Dr. Faraday. Over the course of the original's three campaigns, she worked on a portal device to try to escape. Now, it seems that it's ready for use and she fires it up. However, instead of zapping her a safe distance away from the deteriorating city, it's transports her underground. Now, playing as Roger, you have to climb down into the basement you didn't know you had and rescue the doctor from her own peril. That's not even mentioning the race of robots that seem to live in the cavernous tunnels just below the house.

All of this introduction plays out rather quickly, launching you into a facility filled with mechanical beings who'd prefer that you leave at once. Thankfully, Faraday left a ray gun lying around, and it turns out that it's pretty useful. You can charge shots to blow away enemies and charge wall panels as you solve puzzles. You can also convert the ray gun into a stun baton that doubles as a way to recharge your blasts. This is your only weapon throughout the DLC, although you also get a pair of gadgets to play around with as you go.

 

we happy few they came from below ray gun gameplay
They robots haven't taken their Joy.

It's worth noting that the ray gun is completely unique to They Came From Below, as are the robot enemies and gadgets. This DLC throws out all of the main game's survival and Joy mechanics, replacing them with a completely new gameplay style. I struggled early on trying to slip back into stealth mechanics that just weren't present in this new environment. However, once you acclimate, you'll find gameplay that feels much better suited to the tools at your disposal. While it's secondary to the storytelling, the gunplay and puzzles both work well and give you a good forward momentum. The environment is a bit drab throughout, but the dialogue and missions compliment this arcadey combat well. It all proves to be a great juxtaposition for when the story turns serious, leading to a much more satisfying narrative than anything in the main campaign.

 

In fact, it's almost a shame that you can rush through this entire story in a couple of hours. If you doubled the length, I'd see no reason why this couldn't be an expandalone a-la Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. That length would also suit all the twists and turns that Compulsion Games pack into this overstuffed content. As it is, you're stumbling from one huge moment to the next, and it doesn't all sink in until near the very end. My initial reaction to playing was one of tedium, but that quickly turned around once everything really clicked. For all the faults of We Happy Few at launch, there was always some great narrative chops there, and those transfer over seamlessly to this campaign.

we happy few they came from below escape hatch gameplay
It's easy to forget that there's this whole Nazi thing going on when you're laser blasting robots.

Of course, the developers aren't miracle workers. While They Came From Below has an excellent combat style and wonderful story chops, it still suffers in a few key areas. For one, there's an abundance of first person platforming here that just feels off. There are moments where you can feel an invisible force pushing your character in mid-air. It's almost as if you're noticeably locking on to your destination. The end result has it feeling like the game itself is making up for some wonky physics mixup that was too annoying to overcome naturally. In other spots, your character falls through impossibly small gaps, making you replay jumping puzzles that take far too long to repeat. None of it is game breaking, but it all feels a little janky and not all that pleasant.

As far as the story goes, as much as I like the writing, it's hard for me to invest all the way in a few of these scenes. That's mostly due to the animations and character models, which still feel static and lifeless. Those signature white masks really do take something away from conveying emotion, and pivotal scenes just fail to land with any grace. It almost seems harsh to criticize this area, as a low priority DLC is never going to get the polish of a full product. Still, considering that this is the best storytelling in We Happy Few so far, it's a shame that it doesn't live up to its potential.

 

we happy few they came from below robot gameplay
After a long day of terrorizing the countryside, robots just really want to unwind.

At least We Happy Few seems to have worked out its technical problems. There wasn't a single floating citizen or weird bug that stopped me throughout the content. This could be due to the general lack of characters or an open world, but that's fine with me. While I do miss some of the elements of Wellington Wells proper, everything that is here works well and gives you a good hit of this unique world. Plus, if this is any indication on where the main game is at these days, I'd say that it's now much more worthy of your time.

As I loaded into They Came From Below, and even during my first few encounters, I dreaded going back to We Happy Few. Reviewing the original game was a sad slog through misplaced potential that I didn't want to revisit. However, this DLC campaign won me over by the time the credits rolled. There are some who took to the survival aspects of the game in Early Access and others who just wanted to see more of this strange universe Compulsion Games has created. I'm firmly in the latter camp, and this DLC delivers exactly that without overstaying its welcome. If nothing else, hanging with Roger and James has gotten me pumped for whatever new project the developers have cooking. Microsoft bought the studio for a reason, and We Happy Few: They Came From Below plays like an exciting teaser of what could be coming next.


TechRaptor reviewed We Happy Few: They Came From Below on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. It's available via the We Happy Few Season Pass or as a standalone purchase.

Review Summary

7.5

They Came From Below focuses in on We Happy Few's greatest strengths and really shines because of it. While its short length and weird quirks hold it back from true greatness, this is probably the best thing to come out of Wellington Wells yet.

Pros

  • Focused Arcade-Style Gameplay
  • Great Writing and Storytelling
  • Lack of Technical Issues

Cons

  • First Person Platforming
  • Short Length That Packs Too Much In
  • Static Character Models

About the Author

Alex Santa Maria TechRaptor

Alex Santa Maria

Reviews Editor

TechRaptor's Reviews Editor. Resident fan of pinball, Needlers, roguelikes, and anything with neon lighting. Owns an office chair once used by Billy Mays.