Unlike the first two games where you played as characters with their own backstories, this time you run a hacker organization called DedSec. Your objective? Regain control of London from Albion one borough at a time. “Overthrow the bad man with hacking” isn’t exactly the most unique story idea, but video games have the advantage of being able to make up for it with solid gameplay.
In a year absolutely ripe with dystopia stories, how does Watch Dogs: Legion stack up? Read on and find out.
You Are Legion
So the coolest thing this game has going for it is its absolute lack of a main character. Rather than playing as one grumbling hackerman a la the original Watch Dogs, you play as Deadsec. This hacker organization has people everywhere, and is trying to overthrow the tyrannical Albion.
The game presents Deadsec’s reach by having you play as any of the NPCs in the overworld. These can be recruited at-will to your cause, joining your roster of operatives almost like Pokemon. No one operative is good at everything, so having a balanced roster is essential.
While many of the operatives can fall into archetypes, even different members of those archetypes can have different skills. This a great improvement from previous Watch Dogs games, where NPCs would have fun titbits of information about their life if you scanned them.
The other great thing about this system is that just like a Pokemon party, there’s nothing stopping you from stacking your party with personal favorites if you don’t mind the added difficulty. As is, a lot of content creators are having a good laugh creating London’s most senior hacker group by only recruiting grandmas.
One of my biggest gripes with the Watch Dogs series was that the world was always inherently boring. Hacker stories are usually bogged down by one of two things- one, that hacking is inherently a boring act, and two, it therefore makes for a boring game mechanic. There’s a reason why so many games are usually about doing sick combos while someone else hacks, and it’s that the act itself has no tension to it.
Legion seems to get around this with a fairly obvious solution. Just make not all hacking equal, of course.
For simple things like making cars stop or distracting guards, there’s the quick hack. This is a fairly mindless thing to use, and is as simple as just pointing at the object that needs to be hacked and having it be hacked.
The great thing about this is that it’s used for stuff you really don’t wanna be spending more time on, like when you’re driving down the road and just need another car to stay out of your way.
For the more elaborate stuff, there’s the advanced hacking. These are menu-based, and can have a variety of effects from disabling guns to subjugating drones.
There’s also objectives like CCTV boxes and secure doors, These will require you to be physically present to hack, making the third layer of difficulty. These can be the most frustrating ones to deal with, since you’ll be risking your operative more to do these than the other two hacks.
The slightly more involved process is great because you’ll actually have to think about what you want to do with these. If everything had been relegated to quick-hack levels of simplicity, this stuff would get boring. Similarly, if everything was a two-click process, I’d simply figure out ways to get through a level without using them.
The mix of these adds some nice texture to what in other games would have simply been a boring mechanic.
Just Open World Things
Of course, as a big open world sandbox, it’s not like there’s no combat. You have your standard melee and gunplay. They’re not exactly revolutionary, but they do tie into the game’s NPC system. Certain NPCs can have different abilities to help, such as having guns by default or carrying melee weapons.
The ability to tech into non-lethal guns is great from a roleplay perspective, since your operatives are supposed to be regular people on the streets. I don’t care how much your Nan hates Albion, she’s probably pretty set in her ways about not committing murder.
The combat’s not particularly noteworthy, but it doesn’t have to be. The game makes it pretty obvious you should be paying more attention to the hacking stuff, anyways. But if you do want to play the guy who hacks computers with a wrench, you’ll probably have to put in a little elbow grease and accept it’s not as involved as the game’s other systems.
The game’s missions are pretty straightforward, with objectives like getting blackmail material on local public officials. You’ll need to access restricted areas to do this, and that means prep work.
In fact, the way this game changes difficulty with the amount of prep you do is pretty impressive. Choosing the right NPCs, disabling cameras, these are all pretty integral to making sure you get your score without a hitch. Even better, you can do things like hijack cargo drones and leave with your ill-gotten information like the Green Goblin, atop a flying drone.
The less combat-focused approach to this game does show a flaw when you lay out the game’s mission structure like this. Ultimately, this is a Ubisoft game and does follow the same formula every other Ubisoft open world has, where you do missions until you “take” an area and then move on to the next one.
Of course, as an open world game, there has to be more to do than just the main story quests.
You can recruit certain NPCs by completing tasks, which would probably take up most of your playtime. The idea at work here is that they won’t initially be open to the idea of DedSec, but they can be won over with these side quests.
These can be quite difficult especially at the start, when your operative selection is more limited. However, you’ll soon find them fun distractions as the NanSec gains yet another old lady.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Ubisoft game without some cultural immersion activities. There’s a football game minigame available, where you can start juggling a football competing to keep it in the air for as long as possible.
It’s a pretty fun game to do, especially since you can lose a lot of time just trying to beat your previous scores. That being said it is kind of shallow, providing no real benefits. On one hand, that does make it all the more fun since it’s just a thing out there in the world you can do.
There’s also the Bare Knuckle club, where you can practice your melee combat. While it doesn’t give any direct stat increases, it’s a fun way to practice the game’s melee combat.
Of course, there’s also a photo mode, so you can dress up your NPCs and take cool photos all around the virtual London.
Watch Dogs: Legion is a great example about a game using its sequels to iterate on what fans loved most. By embracing the sillier side of the game, you get a game that feels less like it’s trying to ape a “grown-up story” and more like it wants to be its own thing.
The game’s tech-dystopia is really cool, and being able to play as various operatives is a great way to feel immersed. The sheer amount of hackable objects leads to some fun chaos, and the game’s actual missions also feel great since they’re about more than just running between knee-high walls.
While zoomed out it still plays like yet another Ubisoft area-based clear fest, they’ve done enough to the moment-to-moment gameplay to make being in this world a lot of fun even if you’re feeling tired of open worlds.
There’s also more content on the horizon with the game’s multiplayer coming next month. These will add new game modes, as well as let you tackle future cyber-London with your friends. We won’t know more about these until the mode launches next month.
Even without that, building your team of every day Londoners to overthrow Albion is a lot of fun. It’s good to know Watch Dogs has found itself such a nice and unique gameplay mechanic, and it’s interesting to see where the franchise goes next with this.
|There’s always something to do||The driving can be frustrating|
|Hacking to cause chaos is fun||AI isn’t always the best|
|Varied NPCs is actually really cool|
Game reviewed on a home PC. Review copy provided by Ubisoft.