When a coordinated set of bombing attacks strikes, London and its DedSec branch are plunged into chaos and brought to the brink of collapse. In response to these acts of terrorism, PMCs now control London’s streets and oppress its people, intelligence agencies no long have any impediments to who they target or how, and the true culprit behind these bombings, Zero Day, is still at large. In Watch Dogs Legion, players must retake London from this authoritarian regime one borough at a time and rebuild DedSec’s resistance from the ground up with the only recruits available, London’s very own citizens.
The core feature Watch Dogs: Legion is built around is that anyone you encounter in the streets of near-future London can be recruited to the DedSec cause, and each one brings something unique to the team. Recruiting street artists and spies can give you access to new varieties of weapons, construction workers and beekepers are great at manipulating drones, and even recruiting a barrister or an EMT can provide party-wide effects that help keep all your operatives at peak efficiency. Of course, there are also quirky characters to recruit, such as elderly folk and drunks, that may not be the best operatives strategically to employ, but still bring some fun to the table. For example, one of my first recruits was an elderly woman by the name of Jette Lund, who despite having a broken hip and low mobility, could still hack her way through New Scotland Yard’s precinct and bust out a hefty Rex 357 revolver when she got compromised stealing files from the main server.
However, this freedom to choose from anyone to play as acts a double-edged sword. While each of these characters may sport an in-depth bio of their schedules and achievements, none of that will translate over to how these characters act in cutscenes or their personalities out in the field. Watch Dogs: Legion reverts back to the dark themes of first game, and as a result, it feels like every piece of dialogue was written strictly for Aiden Pierce to perform. This created some jarring issues, where my party of eccentric artists, cosplayers and grandmas all acted like they were trying to be dark, brooding vigilantes. After a while, the novelty of the “play as anyone” system wore out once I recruited a hitman and a spy. Because these two archetypes had the best tools given for any given job, they were my go-to operatives 95% of the time.
Mechanically Watch Dogs: Legion is just a structurally sounds as its predecessor. Areas and missions are still open-ended, allowing players to reach their goal in a variety of ways, whether that be through stealthily hacking your way past doors and guards, or simply taking the more direct approach by bringing an arsenal of weapons and drones to bust your way through. A lot of essential hacking abilities are also unlocked right away, unlike the huge tech tree of Watch Dogs 2, and your abilities can be upgraded even further by using tech points you obtain on missions or by exploring the world. I primarily played Legion as a stealthy hacker so I made sure to use my points to upgrade my drones, as well as to manipulate my enemy’s drones to either be disabled or outright betray their own allies.
Watch Dogs 2’s cringey dialogue has definitely aged poorly as time has passed, but the one thing I can safely hand that game is that it had a large amount of personality and character in its cast. The members of DedSec felt like an extended family to one another and developed together through their victories and failures, which made me grow attached to them. Legion’s cast on the other hand are just so forgettable and one dimensional that I couldn’t attach myself to anyone because they were effectively blank slates with two-character traits, especially the villains.
Watch Dogs’ antagonists have a serious issue of being cartoonishly evil and there’s never an explanation of their motives to really make me understand why they went this course outside of the stereotypical tropes of for money and power. There is one saving grace in Broca tech’s CEO, Skye Larsen, whose story centers around developing a new wave of AI assistants, but I’ll stop there before I start pulling out spoilers because her chapter was definitely my favourite of the game and one worth experiencing. Nigel Cass and Mary Kelley on the other hand are just egotistical, power hungry bosses that do so many illegal and unethical things, it just brings up the question how their own systems they’ve put in place don’t point them out as bright red targets that need to be eliminated.
While the actual characters of Watch Dogs: Legion suffer a great deal, London and her boroughs have been recreated with a great attention to detail. Everything about the map simply pops out, from the world- renowned landmarks, to the distinct architecture, even to the ray-traced reflections that make the puddles on the streets act like mirrors. But all that style means nothing if it’s not worth exploring, and thankfully it is. By completing a handful of objectives in one of the 8 boroughs of London, that area will begin to uprise and unlock a special mission held in one of London’s many landmarks, including breaking into Big Ben, the London Eye and the British Museum. If sight seeing isn’t your cup of tea though then players can partake in smaller activities around the map, like a game of darts at a local pub, some dribbling practice at a park, or taking part in one of the underground bare-knuckle fight clubs and duke it out.
Sadly, Watch Dogs: Legion’s multiplayer component is unavailable at launch, but will be released sometime during December this year if Ubisoft manages to keep to their schedule. More single-player content for Legion will also be coming down the pipeline in 2021 in the form of new characters, missions and a New Game Plus mode. These features will be available to all players for free in a future update, but players who purchase the Season Pass will also get access to the upcoming Bloodline storyline, which features returning characters Aiden Pearce and Wrench, along with a few other exclusive characters.
Running off a Ryzen 7 3800X and an RTX 2080 Super I was able to play Watch Dogs Legion at 1080p with a mix of high and ultra settings, including high RTX reflections, and still achieve a comfortable 65-75FPS experience. The game would stutter occasionally during driving sections, but I chop that more up to my slowly dying hard drive that needs to be replaced. Overall, the experience was quite smooth and the handful of glitches I encountered weren’t any bit game breaking, but just funny ragdoll physics when taking down some enemies.
Watch Dogs: Legion may be as structurally sound mechanically as its predecessor, but the novelty of the “play as anyone” system has damaged Ubisoft’s ability to create a thrilling story in this latest installment, instead creating a cast of very forgettable heroes and villains that lack any semblance of flair or personality. Legion stepping back into the noir-esque darkness of the first game only reaffirms to me that Watch Dogs as a franchise is best kept in a lighter tone where the studio can focus on designing exciting missions and objectives that fit the open-ended gameplay style of being a skilled hacker much better.