Having been burned by the first Watch Dogs game, something about Watch Dogs: Legion piqued our interest.
That something was the ability to play as anybody you run across in Ubisoft’s imagining of a futuristic London.
But as we quickly learned, Watch Dogs: Legion is less of a sequel to the previous two games and more like its own game with a statement to make.
We reviewed Watch Dogs: Legion on a PC on the high preset at 1080p with the following specifications:
- AMD Ryzen 5 3600
- 16GB DDR4
- AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT
- 512GB SATA SSD storage
We did experience a strange bug during our playthrough. Whenever water entered our field of view our FPS would tank down to 4FPS from a locked 75FPS. Ubisoft has said that a Day One patch will resolve a number of performance issues so we will update this review if this patch, and new AMD Radeon drivers solve the problem.
Let’s dissect this shall we.
Citizens of London
Players are dropped into the game playing as the rather cliche Dalton Wolfe. Dalton is a spy for DedSec which has suspicions that the Palace of Westminster is about to be the target of a terrorist attack.
After successfully stopping a terrorist attack on the Palace of Westminster, Watch Dogs drops a bomb on the player and while we won’t spoil it, we will say that this is by far the darkest opening to a Watch Dogs game we’ve seen.
We are introduced to the big bad of Legion, a hacker collective known as Zero-Day though Albion and Mary Kelley are also villains you will need to attend to.
During the ruckus, DedSec falls prey to a raid and multiple members of DedSec’s London collective are either dead or scattered in the wind.
This is where you the player come in.
After many months under the rule of private security firm Albion, DedSec is reborn and you will have to pick your first operative to join the team.
As we mentioned, you can play as almost anybody in London, so how does that work?
Ubisoft is using procedural generation to create ever “NPC” (they aren’t really NPCs if you can play as them) you come across. Holding the middle mouse button will generate a ton of information for you.
This information includes what occupation the person holds and a blurb about their personality. You will also find information such as whether this person has access to any special areas via a uniform, whether they have special weapons and the unique skills they can offer DedSec.
This is quite incredible to see unfold before your eyes and during one play session we walked down the high street for 30 minutes just checking out what people do.
When you find a potential recruit you can save their profile and investigate them further. From here you can find out how to earn DedSec’s favour with this person. This involves breaking them free of debt or breaking them out of a hostage situation or some other sticky situation they find themselves in.
We can see this process becoming laborious for some but given how much we love card games, Legion quickly became a game of building the best “deck” of operatives we could and swapping between them depending on what a mission called for.
Unfortunately for everybody in London, Construction Workers can deploy a cargo drone which is the best tool in the game so we’ve spent most of our time playing as that character despite having a literal hitman in our squad.
Terror on the high street
For those who think politics and videogames shouldn’t mix, avoid Legion.
This is not because Legion is “slightly” political, politics are at the centre of Legion. That also means it is so very hard not to draw parallels between this fictitious London and the state of the UK. Actually scratch that, the state of the world right now.
We’re dropped into a world where technology is so deeply entrenched in our lives that citizens have given up every piece of data they have for the sake of convenience. Lives are shared online through social media, data is hovered up and turned into a product by the richest, most influential firms and it has come back to hurt the citizens.
As always, London is run by Watch Dogs series staple ctOS and this has given the government and its private security watchdogs Albion to be able to control citizens with an alarming degree of efficiency.
Throughout our playthrough we had the distinct impression that the citizens of London had allowed this to happen. Following a terror attack, citizens had trusted their governments to do the right thing and had stayed in their homes, obeyed a curfew and trusted that the Prime Minister was going to keep them safe.
Instead the government misused that trust, hired a private security firm to help police and now that security firm rules the streets with an iron fist.
The similarities between what is happening in Legion and what we see unfolding in the real world are rather shocking to see and we’ve had to stop and think out loud who the real villain is in Legion. Is it Albion and its leader Nigel Cass? Is it the UK government? Or is it us, the folks that let these huge corporations take control of our lives so that we could hire a cab from our smartphone?
Skills and bills
Most characters in Legion have a special perk. This includes things like getting your operatives out of jail faster or them spending less time in a hospital after falling from the roof of a building as you checked whether fall damage was a thing. We can report that fall damage is a thing.
As you cruise through London you will be shown people of interest on your mini-map. Usually these people have interesting perks but sometimes, they have perks like a chance to die randomly or they gamble your money away.
These perks are locked to a character but you can also unlock DedSec gadgets and hacking abilities with Tech Points scattered around London. These gadgets and abilities are shared among your operatives and can we switched in and out as you please.
As regards combat, you can play passively with non-lethal weapons but the way enemies go down with a well-aimed headshot has us thinking non-lethal is just as lethal as guns.
Melee combat is a lot of fun and we found ourselves getting into brawls with Albion officers just to break up the journey between mission objectives.
When you are fighting with the law you can break line-of-sight to start evading them but watch out for drones. They’re fast and aren’t prone to crashing into a London Bus.
Permadeath was a feature touted alongside the Legion reveal and it is present but you can turn it off before you dive into the game.
The currency in the game is ETO and this is earned during missions and through special abilities.
Then there are the microtransactions.
Watch Dog Credits are purchased for real money and with it you can unlock cosmetic items for your operatives. Our review copy of Watch Dogs included the Season Pass which has three new operatives as well as Aiden Pearce when he is introduced to the game.
What bugs us is that these three operatives are the only Prestige operatives we’ve run across in the game and from what we can tell the only way to unlock them is by buying them. As of time of writing it appears as if this is the only way to unlock Prestige operatives and that sucks.
Quite frankly there should be a chance of finding these folks in the game world and being able to recruit them. We also hated having these operatives unlocked from the start of the game as it made crafting our team almost pointless as we had three superstars we could rotate between already.
Buy at launch, wait for a sale, or avoid
Should you buy Watch Dogs: Legion at launch?
The story is good, but starts to lose a bit of steam later in the game, though it still keeps you anxiously waiting for the next reveal.
The gameplay can we switched up at the click of a button as you can toggle between operatives at will so if you start feeling a bit bored, pick a boomer and enjoy the thrill of them being able to die at a random moment.
For those who want to play this game alone, get it now and play it before the release cycle crushes us all.
But in December, the online component comes into play and there you will be able to wrest back control of London with your mates. While we are yet to test that it is likely going to be a lot of fun given what we have in front of us today.
Yes Watch Dogs: Legion touches on politics but we’re glad it does because in 2020 it’s unavoidable to pontificate about the power big tech and our governments have. It’s almost enough to have one considering donning riot gear and revisiting our anarchy filled youth.
Watch Dogs: Legion has kept us engaged, eager for our next play session and kept us playing for hours on end without feeling sour.
Well done Ubisoft, we can almost start forgiving you for the first Watch Dogs game.