Watch Dogs: Legion is set in a dystopian future, years after the events of Watch Dogs 2. Legion’s world is loaded to the brim with content like its predecessor and yet, still brings some new and exciting features to the table. I only wished I liked London as a setting more.
It’s not like a London backdrop is bad; the world here feels so lively and active. The pubs are full of patrons, people are walking in and out of buildings, targeted digital ads are riddled throughout the city, and there is growing unrest that emanates through London’s culture. From spoken word on the street, graffiti, vandalism, to talk radio, London’s top brass and private police force are not being portrayed too kindly. You feel the world, and I felt like I was a part of it. For me, it was a stark contrast to the San Francisco of Watch Dogs 2. London is represented as dark, gritty, and very mellow; whereas San Francisco was bright, warm, and easy-going. London didn’t feel as if it were a world I was welcomed in. Which to its credit, is more than likely what they were shooting for with its dystopian vibes.
When it comes to Watch Dogs: Legion’s story, unfortunately for Dedsec, public opinion has turned on them. After a large-scale terrorist attack occurs within the city, leaving some Dedsec members killed in action or missing, Dedsec is blamed and the government uses their new paid-for police force to hunt down all Dedsec operatives. From here the game departs from your standard Watch Dogs game. You’re not following a single protagonist, but instead, get to choose from a city-wide selection of players. Ubisoft has really taken the “N” out of the acronym NPC, non-playable character. Anyone you meet in the game has the potential to become a Dedsec operative, one that you, as the player, are able to control. Increase your roster of those loyal to Dedsec and you’ll find that some missions become easier with special skills you’ll find in recruits. Maybe you need access to a construction site populated by those hostile towards you, you’ll want to find a construction worker who has the perk of walking on to construction sites and no one bats an eye.
If you’re looking for a challenge, send out an operative that has a terrible skill, like say, flatulence. That “perk” has the character constantly passing gas, making stealth that much harder. Also, randomly funny, but harder. You’re able to play the missions using a variety of skills and with all those options given to the player, you’re able to honestly play however you’d like.
The number of skills and stats available to these “N”PC’s aren’t endless though so you’ll encounter repeats constantly. Although, as a result, your Dedsec pool of talent will be absurdly diverse, yet the same. The limits of the system become quite apparent after a few hours in-game. Especially if all you end up doing is recruiting people instead of story missions in those hours. Voices started to become similar, faces will begin to match one another, and yes perks will start to repeat. Thankfully you’re able to profile anyone prior to recruiting them so you can judge whether or not they will be useful to your roster.
Speaking of the story, it’s not the best. I think a lot of that stems from the fact that they had to water down the protagonist to be fairly generic. It must be difficult to write a compelling character arc when your character can’t have a set personality. I didn’t feel the story character were quite as strong as a supporting cast compared to those in Watch Dogs 2. I believe it all falls back to the fact that they couldn’t be written in a way to respond to a singular protagonist personality. If there’s anything that hinders Watch Dogs: Legion, it’s the story.
While this does make it hard to get invested in the story or create a sense of connection to the scripted cast of characters, it is still fun to see my hired recruits interact with the events and with each other while in cutscenes or random city encounters. Even if I didn’t care much for the story, I did become invested in my own head cannon for each recruit in my team. I had a handful of recruits who were all family and I gave them all the same outfit as if they were actually tourists who decided to get caught up in this whole Dedsec thing. It made the immersion even better when you find out that they are all scripted with a daily routine, so I found that one of the girls would go meet with her cousin at lunch and so I ended up adding her cousin to my roster, gave her the same outfit and now they probably talk about Dedsec during their daily lunch meeting. Ubisoft also included a permadeath difficulty if you wanted to really dive headfirst into connecting with your characters. I didn’t play this way because I don’t want to deal with the grief of losing my touristy family, but if you do choose permadeath, you are able to switch back to standard at any time. You can’t return to permadeath once you leave it though.
As for the gameplay in Watch Dogs Legion, it’s on par with previous Watch Dogs installments. You do the shooty shooty, you partake in sneaky sneaky, and you’ll traverse mostly by car, I mean vroom-vroom. Legion separates itself a bit regarding those mechanics though. Legion tries to guide the player into playing non-lethally with the use of blunt objects and things like stun guns. You CAN use live rounds and kill people, but story-wise Dedsec frowns upon that. The stealth plays almost identical to Watch Dogs 2 with having equipment like drones to unlock doors and hacking computer terminals. In Legion, you get a spider drone that’s more nimble than the drone used in WD2 so you’ll find yourself using this little guy a whole lot more while you hide in the shadows. Because it is the future, cars are automated now. Ubisoft has given an in-game reason for the “auto-drive to waypoint” feature recently seen in a few of its open-world games. Any vehicle in the game can operate on its own or you can take the wheel. In fact, you’ll see empty cars roaming the streets just driving to their destination. You’ll know for a fact that it’s operating automatically because there’s an A icon glowing in the window when they’re on autopilot. Along with all that, you can still hack drones and other vehicles like lifts to help with your traversal. Which you’ll need to access all the different items to collect or interact within the game.
It is a Ubisoft open-world game after all and that map of London eventually gets littered with icons. Personally, I enjoy the Ubisoft formula but unfortunately, using the map on a 40” 1080p TV is ridiculous. It’s hard to see what icon is what and where exactly it’s supposed to be. Everything is so tiny. For all the good accessibility options added to the latest set of Ubisoft games, adjusting the size of the map icons was not one of them. You’d think that as you zoom in on the map the icon would get bigger, but nope, it stays the same size. Please, as we move into the next generation of consoles, give those of us who play on small TVs the ability to adjust the sizes on everything UI. Every. Thing.
Watch Dogs Legion is good fun, even if I’m not a big fan of it’s setting. The “Be Anyone” mechanic is a welcome addition to the series and one I would miss if it were not included in future titles. In fact, I think you have to include it in all titles going forward as it’s that fun to have. I do hope they improve on the storytelling and voice modulation for future titles using this feature though.
A PlayStation 4 code was provided in advance by Ubisoft for review purposes