Ubisoft had started the last generation with some new IPs including Watch Dogs. It was originally thought of as a competitor to Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto, however, over time this turned out to be wrong. Watch Dogs established itself as a solid new IP in Ubisoft’s portfolio that they could rely on throughout the last generation with Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, and others.
Watch Dogs Legion sees the return of DedSec, which is a hacker group that was prominently featured in the previous games. In this fictional version of futuristic London, the hacker group had a fallout after it was accused of a terrorist attack. The version of London seen in Legion has been transformed into an authoritarian state policed by Albion. This is portrayed as an evil mercenary company that goes against anyone who even dares to resist their rule.
The basic concept in the Watch Dogs series was that the player had access to a variety of hackable devices from CCTV cameras to a drone, which allowed them to perform their objectives. All of this was possible thanks to a fictional interconnected network called ctOS that was hacked by the DedSec allowing them to control its various functions. The first two games were set in Chicago and San Francisco while Legion is set in London, but in a post-dystopian future which feels quite different compared to its predecessors.
One of the biggest changes this time is that there is no pre-defined character now. Instead, the player has the ability to recruit almost anyone from the streets of London. As cool as this sounds, it ends up feeling overwhelming due to the procedurally-generated nature of the characters. Their identity is generated through an algorithm and it is usually a mixed result. The ability to play as a character that can become iconic, like Aiden Pearce, is sorely missed once the novelty of the hundreds of different playable characters wears off after spending some time with the game.
The ability to play as any character means that there is now a permadeath mechanic as well. This will basically force the player to keep a suitable alternative in case their main character is dead in the game. However, it can also be turned off which is what we recommend doing for the first time. If the permadeath is turned off, the characters are usually inaccessible once they are killed or captured but this only lasts temporarily and they are back in action again.
The random mismatch of the characters means that this is one of the worst Watch Dogs when it comes to the story. It feels incredibly disjointed and I failed to find any attachment to the characters. While it is cool to see that they have been given a diverse set of abilities that can prove useful depending on the nature of the mission, the story suffers from this implementation making it a better fit for something like an online multiplayer game.
I remember the initial reveal received a lot of positive reaction because of the possibilities of recruiting random characters. I mean, how cool is that we can even play as a grandma, or a hitman if you prefer to recruit one of them. However, the way the story is structured and the gameplay loop is presented, these soon become more of a gimmick than a cool new addition to the Watch Dogs series. It would have been better to see the series go back to a pre-defined main protagonist.
The main story missions are not the only thing to do in the game. There are plenty of side missions too but once they start repeating themselves, it is at this point that the game runs out of stamina. Thankfully, the main missions are genuinely fun to play due to their design. You pick the best person for a job by looking at the requirements of the mission so they don’t feel linear at all. Most of the missions offer multiple approaches to complete them all limited by your imagination and the people that you have recruited in your team.
Ubisoft has taken special care of the driving, shooting, and other gameplay mechanics. While the story is not as enjoyable this time around, I feel like the other aspects of the game were greatly improved. The driving feels smoother now, easily ranking as one of the best offered in an open-world game, The third-person shooting is satisfying and it is hard to pick fault with it. There are plenty of unlockable gadgets and robots that can be hacked to assist in a mission, thus offering a range of freedom that is unlike any other game on the market right now.
Putting aside my issues with the story and the lack of a central protagonist, I would rank Watch Dogs Legion as a highly enjoyable open-world game that is unfortunately flawed but more by its design. There were also some technical issues and bugs that I faced during my time with the game that I hope are ironed out with updates shortly.
Watch Dogs Legion Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Final Score - 8/108/10
Watch Dogs Legion is an ambitious albeit disappointing successor to Watch Dogs 2. It fails to offer a compelling narrative but the gameplay is still as enjoyable as ever.