We Happy Few has an incredible premise. Taking place in a fictional version of the United Kingdom, in a world where the Germans won the Second World War and are now in control of the British population, players are thrust into the midst of a pill-popping society, all forced to take their "Joy" and keep them blissfully unaware of the despair that lies around them.
This is something we become accustomed to very early on in the game, when our first of three playable protagonists decides to rebel, throwing his Joy into the bin and escaping the clutches of the violent authorities. From that moment on, we go through some brilliant highs, but also some major lows.
At one point, We Happy Few was going to be simply a procedurally-generated open-world survival game, but following feedback from a lengthy beta process, Compulsion Games decided to go with the more linear narrative. This allows for eye-opening character development and interaction, and certainly brings the player much deeper into this bleak and dreary world.
As we push along and learn more about the surroundings we're a part of however, gameplay elements such as scavenging for quest items and being forced to look after other aspects of our character's personality on top of their health becomes a tedious and frankly annoying prospect. Pacing is scuppered and any flow that the person behind the controller or keyboard picks up is tossed out of the window, mainly because of the luck aspect involved in finding said quest items.
Fortunately, the story writing on We Happy Few is good enough that you won't be so put off by that direction of the game that you stop playing all together. Taking on each of these characters gives the player a responsibility that the majority should tend to take very seriously pretty much from the trio's opening minutes.
They're people you care about and who you root for to succeed. They each come with their own set of problems, but together you work to defeat them and see them take on this tragic world that they've been made to be a part of. In also making yourself a part of that world, you go through the same struggles.
Combat isn't the most exciting part of We Happy Few, but it does just enough to feel challenging. You'll have to manage a stamina bar if you're to be successful in your battles; there's no room for mistakes and simplistic button mashing as is often the case in a game of this type. Weapons do however do a good job of bringing the thrills; there are a whole host of different options when it comes to creating the next item to whack over your adversary's heads.
Playing from launch for around a week, there were a number of glitches that I came up against. There was one moment I got stuck behind a bench and had to go back to a previous save that I'm not sure I can ever forgive. Patches should fix these moments up, but there are really no excuses when a title has been in development and available in beta for such a long time.
Overall, We Happy Few is a title that plenty of gamers should pick up, especially if they're a fan of this genre. It's imperfect, echoing the world that it stirs up for us to explore, but not so bad that it should be ignored entirely. A great start to what could be an interesting franchise if Compulsion Games decide to turn this into a series rather than a one-off.
We Happy Few is available now on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.