While WE HAPPY FEW managed to wow spectators when it was initially unveiled at Microsoft’s E3 2016 press conference, the finished product wasn’t quite what fans had in mind. Rather than the mind-altering cinematic adventure they wanted out of the game’s fantastic dystopian aesthetic, they got a survival game that was rough around the edges. However, developer Compulsion Games has shown a willingness to listen to their community ever since it came out and has supported it with plenty of patches that took care of existing issues. The first-person action title’s first DLC, Roger and James in They Came From Below, finally delivers the cinematic experience many gamers were looking for, even if it has a different focus from the main game.
Rather than dealing with the main game’s themes of drug induced happiness and freedom, They Came From Below focuses on Dr. Faraday’s two assistants Roger Bacon and James Maxwell. After an experiment goes awry, Faraday winds up going through a portal and has gone missing. The duo pursue their missing boss and eventually stumble upon a species of alien robots that Faraday had been secretly experimenting on. To make matters worse, the robotic creatures are now trying to murder every human they see due to her cruel behavior.
The themes in They Came From Below differ greatly from the main game and that can be seen from it mostly taking part in an entirely new area, an underground laboratory filled with inventions and puzzles. However, these scientific achievements came at a price, as James struggles with the revelations that the robots seem to recognize pain and suffering even if they can’t truly feel it. Even though the standalone DLC only lasts a few hours, it manages to tackle the topics of slavery, what it means to be human, and mankind’s place in the world, with much more nuance and tact than Detroit: Become Human did over 20 hours and multiple branches.
We Happy Few They Came From Below Review | A vastly different experience
Those that didn’t enjoy We Happy Few‘s survival elements will be happy to know that they are entirely absent here. In its place is a tightly constructed, linear cinematic adventure. Almost everything here is new, including the weaponry that James winds up using to fend off the robotic enemies that have found their way on Earth. The protagonist gets his hands on some cool futuristic technology in a ray gun that can turn into an electric baton with a push of a button. These two forms complement each other as the ray gun needs recharged after use and a few blows with the baton will do just that. It creates a very different combat loop from the original game.
James also happens upon several other inventions that are used to solve puzzles inside the experimental laboratory. One is a device that is able to slow down time, which is a great way to get out of overwhelming combat scenarios and take care of some enemies, while the other is a device that allows the player to push and pull control panels. The puzzle solving in They Came From Below is always enjoyable and a highlight of the experience, as I enjoyed that a lot more than the combat. It never reaches the peaks of The Witness or other top-notch games of the genre, but it will certainly make you think and will test your grey matter.
Despite all of the futuristic and campy overtones of They Came From Below, it’s ultimately a gay love story at its core. The town is mostly oblivious to their taboo relationship. In one of the funniest moments of the DLC, the town pawn shop mistakes their nervous behavior for the duo being secretly Irish rather than gay.
The adventure that ensues winds up testing the couple’s resolve and shows their differences in opinions. Roger has a much more stern viewpoint, seeing the robots as tools made to be used, while James wants to save them. Despite these conflicts, they wind up coming out of the stressful encounter stronger than ever. It’s a beautiful love story that doesn’t fall into the dreadful “bury your gays” trope.
We Happy Few They Came From Below Review | Existing issues hold it back
Despite the many strengths of They Came From Below, the DLC still suffers from a number of issues that emanate from We Happy Few. For starters, the combat always feels rather clunky, even if it has been largely simplified by giving players a single gun to use. It becomes more manageable once players get a few upgrades, but early encounters can be frustrating. Bottomless pits complicate matters and running away from foes can quickly lead to a frustrating accidental death.
There is also a general lack of polish that permeates the entire gameplay experience. This revealed itself right off the bat, as I went to talk to a character during its peaceful introduction scene and they magically transported 20 feet from where they were walking to a bench. I encountered this issue several times early on, but thankfully there aren’t many NPC interactions past that scene. It’s just frustrating to see such a great idea, as They Came From Below is a wholly enjoyable standalone experience, tarnished by the shortcomings of We Happy Few‘s core.
While there are certainly some rough edges that keep it from being truly great, They Came From Below is We Happy Few at its best and then some. It’s the dark cinematic adventure that fans wanted from the original game, even if it tackles very different themes. The interactions are full of memorable dialogue and it’s a fun homage to the campy sci-fi films of yesteryear. Despite many ups and downs, Compulsion Games is finally delivering on the promising premise of We Happy Few and that’s worth celebrating even if it is a tad late.
GameRevolution reviewed We Happy Few Roger and James in They Came From Below on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.