London has been strong-armed into submission by a security corporation led by a psychopath, terrorized by the bombings of an anonymous hacker group and infested with crime thanks to the shady activities of a well-connected (and well-funded) criminal organization. Citizens are kidnapped for organ harvesting, murdered in the streets, illegally surveilled and violently arrested by Albion security forces daily. The boroughs of London are weakened and without hope, they’ll need to be united if they are to resist, enter DeadSec, and enter – you. Welcome to Watch Dogs: Legion!
The Death of Character Permanence
What is obvious immediately after finishing the prologue of Watch Dogs: Legion, is that this is a game that has banished character permanence. [Spoiler alert] Once your first character dies during the prologue and you are vaulted into the body of a brand new Dedsec operative, you quickly realize that this experience of jumping from character to character is not only a feature, but it’s going to be mandatory. This is just the new norm, so don’t fight it, embrace the change.
Once you’re set free in the open world of London, you’ll notice some mostly familiar mechanics if you’ve played Watch Dogs before – particularly number 2. Mechanics most familiar will be driving, hacking, a weapon wheel, custom outfits, free-running and stealing cars with no consequences. You may notice however that this world is a bit more futuristic than you remember. Some changes are obvious and some more subtle; cars are autonomously driving around the city, news drones and drones carrying deliveries buzz overhead. Holographic advertisements flicker along the side of skyscrapers, and every citizen seems to have an embedded smart device on the side of their head that gives them an augmented reality feed. This is a world of the not-so-distant future and you’ll enjoy exploring every inch of it!
Progression – The Balancing Act
Something that Watch Dogs: Legion is really innovating with in this third chapter in the franchise is progression. Because you don’t play a singular character, the classic mode of progression you’ve seen in other RPGs just doesn’t fit. You won’t find skill trees or level progression in this game. Every operative has a unique skill set, abilities and equipment load-out along with a colorful persona and backstory to match. Even though the skills of your operatives varies greatly, you still have universal upgrades that can be applied to whoever you want. Gadgets, weapons and hacking skills can be upgraded with Tech Points, which are found all over the city of London. These upgrades are universal and can be outfitted to any character you choose. This is the great balance of character diversity and progression that Ubisoft has struck in Watch Dogs: Legion. It’s great to work towards universal upgrades and to seamlessly switch between a colorful cast of operatives that allow you to change up your play-style at a moments notice.
Some operatives have special weapons and combat tactics that only they can employ. Others have greatly enhanced hacking capabilities that allow you to wreak havoc on CtOS systems and Albion guards, or even hijack a riot drone to cause destruction from a far. Other operatives have a more suave approach, Spy operatives in particular are empowered with stealthy takedowns, silenced weapons and even the ability to summon a James Bond-esque sports car equipped with invisibility cloaking and homing rockets! The invisibility cloaking is actually a brilliant feature in this game because it doesn’t work in the typical way you would assume… The cloaking technique (also available as a Tech Point upgrade) actually exploits people’s augmented reality feed, to intentionally blur out your physical shape and make you appear invisible! No magic involved at all, just realistic AR technology – cool!
Futuristic London, Baby!
Exploration of Watch Dogs: Legion, which takes place in London, has been a very positive experience. Fast travel points are available throughout the city, an auto-drive feature allows you to navigate to way points without doing any work (albeit very slowly), Cargo drones can be used to fly to those hard to reach places, and street bikes are reliably the fastest way to cover ground in a new area. The driving mechanics haven’t changed that much over the last few games, although HUD GPS navigation has seen a gradual improvement, now showing on screen arrows that curve to show you where the turns are. And for scouting out those dangerous locations ahead of time, drones are very much still available although they need to be hacked instead of being carried with you at all times as in Watch Dogs 2. This isn’t a downside though, as there is now a lot more to choose from in terms of what you are flying! News and Chase drones are quick and nimble, and quiet enough to be unnoticed by guards below. These are great for tagging targets and scouting out defenses or traps. Riot drones are equipped with non-lethal weapons and can actually take out enemies from a distance. Cargo drones are massive quad-copters that are capable of moving large payloads, or being ridden so you can fly wherever you need to go!
A Darker, Better Dedsec
As far as story goes, this sequel seems to have struck a slightly more serious note than Watch Dogs 2, and that was well received. The version of Dedsec we see in this game has been beaten down, robbed of all of their success. They have a desperate beginning and seem be much more cautious, less cocky even. Bagley, your AI companion throughout the story offers occasional comedy relief, but you’ll find it doesn’t take away from the rather “no nonsense” Dedsec organization that you are working to rebuild. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a cast of colorful characters here to enjoy but you can tell immediately that destroying Albion (among other problem organizations) and freeing the people is a task they are not taking lightly, and this tone is one I’ve really enjoyed so far.
The Good, Bad, and the Ugly.
There is really a lot more to say about this game, and for a in-depth analysis of the benefits and short-comings – I would highly recommend this review from Writing on Games on Youtube. Now without further adieu – let’s get down to the nitty gritty!
- A variety of tech and upgrades allows a seamless progression experience, regardless of what characters you play throughout the story.
- Each location you infiltrate offers a variety of approach options. Whether you choose stealth, surveillance scouting, Spiderbot traversal, arming traps, hijacking turrets and drones or an all-out guns attack – there are tons of options to get the job done!
- Story and characters take a more serious tone which makes things slightly more relatable/believable than Watch Dogs 2.
- Historical locations are littered throughout London to be explored, photographed, climbed or flown around.
- Combat tactics are diverse. There are endless ways to destroy your enemies.
- Operatives are unique and interesting (albeit the unique Borough reward operatives are far more interesting than the average citizen you recruit from the street)
- Main story missions have some super fun sequences. For instance, flying a micro-drone through a series of circuit boards which looks and feels almost like infiltrating the Death Star or climbing an entire watchtower with a Spiderbot!
- Missions eventually get repetitive. After a few side missions and main story missions, the pattern starts to become clear: Gather intel > infiltrate a heavily guarded location > Hack their system > Steal or implant some kind of tech > Escape > Repeat. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a boring gameplay loop, but at after about 10 hours of gameplay you start to see that you’ll more or less be revisiting that pattern in slightly different forms.
- Cops are incredibly easy to evade and combat AI is a little clunky to say the least.
- The game has it’s fair share of glitches, some minor gameplay glitches and other times complete crashes. While I was playing (albeit, some of this may be related to my outdated hardware) I had reliable hourly crashes for a good portion of my play through. Installing the day one patch didn’t resolve this although I will say that my last 10 hours with the game was almost without crashes entirely.
- There are seemingly no punishments for committing serious crimes like running over civilians with your car… Firing a gun at any point will summon police but for some reason running people over is totally okay unless a cop happens to be right there while it happens. This seems inconsistent for an organization that is supposed to be champion of the people and I was disappointed that there wasn’t some sort of consequence for these actions.
What Ubisoft has tried to achieve by introducing the Recruit Anyone mechanic was an ambitious feat, and I definitely give them props for that. To achieve this, 20 unique sets of character lines were created, and the rest were filled in by artificially intelligent voice modulation software. This software causes unique modulations mostly in tone, and causes some very strange, often robotic sounding characters. Most of these characters fail to match their voices by any measure. This mis-match of persona, character and voice causes a disconnect that makes the Recruit Anyone mechanic feel sort of bland. I enjoyed having the freedom to recruit anyone from the streets as I saw fit, but I only found myself compelled to play the few special operatives that I gained from liberating boroughs as they were the ones who felt authentic.
Is it Worth it?
Watch Dogs: Legion has an approximately 20 hour long campaign, with 10 hours of side missions and probably another 10 if you plan to 100% the game with all collectibles/locations/masks etc. For the experience it offers, I wouldn’t say it’s worth the full price of a brand new title right now. If it were 40$, I’d say there’s plenty content and fun to be had to merit the price but I can’t say that the game justifies its 80$ price tag in its current state. If you are chasing the experience of an open world RPG of this kind, I’d recommend Watch Dogs 2 – for 30$ or less, it offers a game play experience that is just as good, albeit with a slightly less compelling cast of characters. After completing that if you still haven’t scratched the itch, check for Black Friday or Holiday sales on Watch Dogs: Legion and give it a try at a slightly lowered price point.
What did you think of our review of Watch Dogs: Legion? Was there something we missed? Get in touch in the comments below or find us on Instagram (@timewasters.ca) and we will answer all of your burning questions!
Game on, folks.