Watch Dogs Legion: The Full Monty of Video Games
At the beginning of the generation, Watch Dogs represented the electrifying excitement of possibility. Hack anything. Anyone. Reality was more restrained than that, and clunkier, but it was the first step on the path to this. Watch Dogs Legion. Where the whole of London is your potential team. I played 45 minutes of the game this week, and it’s fit for a queen.
You know the story. An evil corporation (Albion) is running the show. Government is bought and paid for, and it’s up to freedom fighters DedSec to stop them by any means necessary. Our hero is, well, literally anyone. Every single character in Watch Dogs Legion can be recruited. That alone is staggering. But yet more baffling is that they’re all voice acted. Ubisoft Toronto is even leveraging AI voice modulation to increase the variety of people you’ll encounter. But it doesn’t end there.
The staggering scope of this simulated London means that every person has a fully realized schedule, acquaintances, and motivations. If you want to recruit Betsy Wilkins, you’ll have to investigate her life. That might involve solving her problems, but how tightly connected the simulation is to the gameplay is very unique. I could foresee some of that becoming repetitive, but the team members I talked to were quite confident in the diversity of experience that’ll be available.
The character hole goes deeper still with permadeath. If you decide to resist after being downed, the next time will be your character’s last. The alternative is to surrender, where your character will literally go to jail or the hospital. And yes, busting them out IS an option. I put this concept to the test when a rather brazen midday carjacking was, uh, observed and escalated to a 4 alarm chase. Spoiler: I didn’t make it.
“But couldn’t you just recruit new agents?” Sure you could. Watch Dogs Legion also features a robust perk, trait, and levelling system, so the stakes are sky high if your star operative gets into trouble. In a practical sense, there are 3 character classes: Enforcer, Infiltrator, and Hacker, which are all pretty much what you’d guess. I leaned toward Infiltrator in my demo for their AR hacking (invisibility) and brawling abilities.
Combined with the gameplay traits each individual has and upgradeable perks, the incentive is there to build out a diverse squad with a wide range of capabilities.
I’m a bit worried that the lack of a central main character might hurt investment in the narrative, but while playing I felt strangely free of shackles in a way I haven’t in open worlds before. You’re free to find the operatives you want to use, so the back story can be whatever you want. There’s no pressure to play a certain way when you can feel free to ignore any operatives you aren’t on bored with.
Kent Hudson, the game’s Design Director, assured us that the Watch Dogs narrative focus will be retained in this new entry. They have a dozen script versions, so things will definitely twist and turn along the way, and it seems that they’ve done a solid job integrating the random citizens into cutscenes. If you told me any of the cutscenes I saw featured the game’s singular main character, I’d probably accept it.
Put bluntly, Legion feels much more polished than past entries. Shooting is tighter, driving has improved weight, and moving around is more direct. From minute 1 holding the controller, I felt comfortable, free, and most importantly, capable. Kudos to Ubisoft Toronto for building a game that just feels good.
Speaking of feeling good, Watch Dogs Legion will never force you to kill someone. Yup. And almost half the weapons are non-lethal. That’s great news for role players, who could easily build head cannon that says which characters are and aren’t cool with murder.
Watch Dogs Legion releases in March 2020. It’s got some stiff open world competition in Q1, but it’s making a very strong case so far. What are your thoughts on Ubisoft’s latest and greatest? Let us know down below, or hit me up on Twitter @yvr_paul.