At the end of Watch Dogs 2 it was strongly hinted that a future iteration of the game would-be set-in London. In fact, Watch Dogs: Legion was intended as a standalone game in the series before it became the third in the series. Set a few years into the future time has not been kind to London. After the hacker cooperative led by cracker Sabine and A.I. Bagley are framed for multiple bombings the city has become controlled by private police. They are called Albion and will be the only authority to be seen on the street – besides brutal gangs such as Clan Kelley. It is up to the player to resurrect DedSec and retake the city. Doing this conforms to the now well-established Ubisoft formula: take mission, liberate areas and gear up for the next challenge. Yet the dark theme that pervades this series dominates the story.
Play as anyone in Watch Dogs: Legion
With everybody having a reason to hate Albion’s control of London it should be possible to play as anyone. At least that was what the design team considered. Since the first game it is possible to hack into anyone smartphone and obtain a summary of their lives. Now this ability is used to recruit anyone suitable into the ranks of DedSec. If you want you can play the game with just a few core characters that you have levelled up. Or you can recruit a whole team of specialized members. Anyone in London is playable, including Albion guards. Together with a clever system of in-game cinematics and voice-over it means everybody’s experience will slightly different. The system does lack depth however. Apart from the cursory profile the characters do not have an apartment, or social live. They have jobs but there is nothing to actually carry out.
Smooth but also too familiar
As mentioned, Watch Dogs: Legion uses the tried and tested open-world gameplay from Ubisoft. Gameplay such as sneaking, combat and interaction is similar to previous Watch Dogs games as well as Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry. For this iteration it is all well-polished but also too easy. Using drones, I managed to drop explosive canisters on an Albion strongpoint before sneaking in to steal some tech. As guards huddle around their dead colleagues to ‘investigate’ I could make quick work of them. This gameplay style breaks the game, something that should have been anticipated by the designers. Meanwhile the little puzzles of rerouting power to open a door were silly even in the first game. I had hoped for some serious hacking using tools such as Nmap or Metasploit. Such a possibility should have been implemented with a higher difficulty setting.
Location, Location, Location!
What sets games such as Watch Dogs and Grand Theft Auto apart from other open-world games are their locations. Large cities are infinitely more interesting. And few cities are as interesting as London. Despite the dystopian makeover it still feels like the real deal. Ubisoft has concentrated on recreating the inner boroughs of London, roughly from Whitechapel in the east to Westminster in the west and Camden in the North to Imperial War Museum in Lambeth to the south. They have not recreated it to absolute scale but the main landmarks are recreated to with surprising detail. The city also supports a working Underground for fast travel and plenty of stores. The city also contains more accessible buildings than ever before, though I think more emphasize on that should have been made. Alas the number of extracurricular activities is also limited, I hope future expansions will address that.
Despite the fantastic setting the graphics are however a mixed bag. For the most part the game looks brilliant, especially at night. Yet it will also tax your PC a lot. On my high mid-end system equipped with a NVidia RTX 2060 I frequently failed to hit 30 FPS which is especially problematic during high-speed chases. By switching off fancy setting such as bloom and advanced texture settings I got things to run smoothly. But even with the absolute highest setting not everything in London looks brilliant. There are plenty of parts of the city that merely look so-so. A lot of the cars and pedestrians look bland. Quickly you realize you are operating in a sterile environment. While driving at high speed you also tend to experience a lot of pop-up. This can be partly mitigated but at the cost of a lot of GPU memory.
What’s to come in Watch Dogs: Legion!
As Watch Dogs: Legion is a Ubisoft title there is plenty more additions to come. For $99.99 I purchased the Gold Edition which includes the season pass. That will give access to two extra episodes in which you can play as Aiden Pearce. The first episode is entitled Bloodline and should arrive in 2021 followed by second episode later on. So, in the meantime you will have all the time in the world to play Watch Dogs: Legion. In December the game will also the release of co-op. With the season pass also comes extra DedSec missions, extra heroes (including one from the Assassin Order) with specific abilities and a fancy skin for a car. On top of that you also play the original game. If you are still unsure then just purchase the regular edition of the game and purchase any DLC as they arrive.
To summarize, Watch Dogs: Legion is a good game, just not a great game. I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Sabine and Bagley make for excellent companions throughout the story and the dark humor is surprisingly biting. The setting is also great, as are the graphics but with a few minor caveats. I suspect a lot will be polished out over successive patches. Sadly, the gameplay has changed little from the first game. This iteration ramps it up in quality but a dated A.I and sneaking system cause the gameplay to feel repetitive. There are a number of minor side activities but they also feel underwhelming. It feels as though this series fails to find greatness even if it improves with each successive iteration. I do recommend Watch Dogs: Legion. I like it a lot, even if it just for driving around London.