Reviewed on a PC using RTX 2080 Super
Every new Watch Dogs iteration comes with a drastic leap in design and focus, this time set in a distant cyber dystopic future – location, post-Brexit London. It’s a familiar theme given we are currently living the age of technology. Ubisoft has set a new bar for the Watch Dogs franchise in ways that’s entirely delightful, yet forgetting crucial open world elements that would complete the series. Despite my time with the game being utterly immersive, I couldn’t help but notice the missing elements that would otherwise deepen my immersion.
A Pleasant Pace
Shortly after London suffers a terrorist attack known as the Toan Bombing, DedSec is forced to disband due to being compromised by an unknown hacker group called Zero-Day; they caused the initial attack and placed blame on DedSec. Their motive seem to bring chaos and render society back to the dark age. In an attempt to bring peace, London’s parliament decides that their local police force are insufficient against terrorist, so they sign a contract with a private military group called Albion – ran by Nigel Cass, who profits on terror and mask it as security and peace; a particular fellow with an obsession on Greek names and utter submission. It it is quickly revealed that Albion seeks to further control everyone by implementing checkpoints, using drones to monitor all of London and random scan checks based on online presence. Themes like anti-immigration, human trafficking, swarm drones to target “threats” based on a algorithm and more plays deeply into the surprisingly dark narrative of Legion.
As you progress through the campaign, your main goal is to strengthen DedSec by recruiting individuals who desire to help fight for the cause; each are playable and with their own unique set of skills – eventually you’ll find that there’s several organizations like SIRS and Clan Kelley that are somehow connected to the London bombing. Some incredible plot twist happens during the campaign and sometimes even allowing you to choose based on your morals – pair that with how you can play any and every mission with any recruit, all uniquely voice acted, really showcases the length Ubisoft went into bringing Watch Dog Legion to life. At the end of my 35hr campaign, some deep themes were challenged and after the credit rolled, more mysteries were left to uncover.
Each mission never felt like it was overusing the same elements, and the open ended approach made each simple data retrieval mission feel unique at all times. Expect side missions, borough missions and recruit missions that suddenly feels less repetitive than their previous Watch Dogs games. Best of all, you are not forced to do any mission a specific way and get punished for it. Icons aren’t distracting this time around, leaving the map feeling very clean and far more bearable. Each borough needs to be liberated, and the way Ubisoft has done it this time is give you 2-3 small objectives, like take a picture for evidence or take out a high profile person and then a borough mission which would net you Tech Points, an operative and cash. There are other side activities like fight clubs, parcel deliveries and more which could also net you some operatives.
Gameplay and Variety
Watch Dogs Legion is a third-person action adventure with cover based mechanics. Each operative has the ability to hack into a network called ctOS – a central system that connects the entire city ranging from buildings, construction, cars, drones, vending machines, ATM, phones and surveillance cameras. DedSec has mastered the ways of simply hacking into anything as long as its within said network, and partnered with you is a very….very hilarious AI unit called Bagley. Think of him as Tony Stark’s Jarvis, but….just filled with sarcastic humor. It also thinks that it’s so clever. It is.
The biggest key change is the ability to recruit literally anyone within London, just about 9 million people – each person has unique character traits, looks and abilities. I found myself heavily reading each bio here more than any previous Watch Dog game because I’d like to know why Jon Anderson carries a G36C and works as a barista…..
Some may be an average person with no fighting skill but can get you a major discount on clothes, and call in a Heavy Drone. Or, one can be a professional that can summon their very own spy car suited with tracking missiles. And I’m sure you’ve seen the promotion, yes elderly folk can be recruited under the right conditions, equipped with a cane and taser as a weapon. It’s honestly truly impressive what Ubisoft managed to do with this game, I often wonder how many voice actors were hired because each person I entered a mission with had something unique to say. It felt really fluid.
Ontop of recruiting, you can swap between each member anytime, anywhere. You will find them doing something hilarious or nefarious, it depends on their personality. Oh and if you’re really feeling up to snuff, there’s permadeath and Ironman mode. Good luck.
There’s ways to make your members better after recruiting them, like Tech Points. Tech Points are used on….you guessed it, tech and gadgets that that your team can use. They are earned via missions or exploration. There’s passive abilities, like my personal favorite, Shroud, which cloaks enemies that are taken down. Gadgets like the Spider-Bot can sneak into areas undetected, non-lethal weapons, the ability to hack turrets and more. This is layered on top of the distinct abilities each operative has based on their assets. I am still looking to recruit John Wick….
London’s Map Size and All its Glory
Ubisoft has made one hell of a gorgeous recreation of London; truly I am playing this on my computer at High Settings, DLSS set on quality and Ray Tracing on high….it’s gorgeous. Each borough is distinct and expertly crafted; from Piccadilly to the Palace of Westminster, I couldn’t help but stop and take a second to look at each location. The NPCs react accordingly, each and everyone has their own distinct dialogue based on actions happening around them and honestly I don’t remember seeing duplicates. It’s truly their best sandbox to date, Ray Tracing really brings out that immersion I long for.
Driving both a car and a speed boat feels like what you’d expect in a game of this caliber – it’s weighty and responsive; I found it strange that there were no boat missions though….however in my playthrough I didn’t find much variety with said vehicles. No auto shops to customize them either….
Speaking of variety….
This is where things starts to trickle downwards. While the campaign and gameplay are top notch, in a place that is as open as Legion, set in London, you’d want to bask in its glory, right? The city offers pubs where your character can get drunk, you can shoot darts, play with a random soccer ball in the street and….that’s about it. I understand that you have a device that can manipulate anything connected into the network, but with as many operatives in the city, you’d expect them to want to wind down from time to time; that expectation would be met with a variety of things to do.
Take GTAV for example – there are theatres, scuba diving, bowling, stock market, buying property, flight school, sky diving, triathlon, bike ride, mountain hiking, partaking in illegal substances, eating food, call upon one another to go on a random hangout session together and more. Sure, these don’t serve any purpose to what Watch Dogs is about, but if you are going to have us recruit literally millions of people, you’d expect they have a life outside of being heroes. And, what’s the point in making London absolutely stunning with nothing to REALLY do in it? You can’t even dive underwater….sure, I may be nitpicking, but what makes GTAV so brilliant is the freedom to do those things and part of my hope was we’d finally do those things. What it all comes down to is the desire to lose yourself in the world you’ve created, and if you limit that desire, it’s hard to not notice that void.
And honestly, that’s about it – Watch Dogs Legion is a game that Ubisoft has refined, but disregards elements outside of it’s enticing approach to being a super hacker. At its core, I had a fantastic ride and one I’ll remember. Just, my desire to immerse in that world restricts me due to limitations.
Watch Dogs Legion will release on Oct 29th, 2020 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC; also at launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
It’s available for purchase at Amazon for $49.99.