Watch Dogs: Legion is a unique game. Its message about rising up against tyranny and fascism is especially relatable within the aspects of today’s society. On the other hand, Legion‘s gameplay feels entirely bland and uninspiring, despite its ambition on making every character in the game playable. The story sometimes gets lost in the random filler and constant need to meet everyone in the city, and it’s here where Watch Dogs: Legion loses its heart. A forgetful cast of characters and repetitive missions keep Legion from reaching its true potential.
What Is It?
Since 2014, Watch Dogs has improved upon their unique hacker style gameplay, where players can use their smartphones to hack into basically anything in the world to use to their advantage. In previous games, you could hack into traffic lights to turn them all green for you in a chase, or disrupt fire hydrants to spray water everywhere on the street. Anything you see could be controlled thanks to ctOS, a central operating system that controls everything in the city. DedSec, the hack-tivist group from the first two games return, however, their members might seem a little bit different as many are killed or captured in a mission gone awry.
Another group known as Zero Day has framed DedSec for an attack on London and now the city has incorporated private security and lockdowns for protection. Anyone in DedSec is deemed a traitor to the city. Since most of DedSec is now gone, it is your job to reform the group and take down the corrupt leaders that are using ctOS for their own gains around London. From the start you are given the option to recruit anyone around the city to DedSec and it is here where the heart of Legion shines, if only a few aspects of the game didn’t fall short.
Why Should I Care?
For starters, anyone can be recruited and no one is off limits. Cop on the street, construction worker, lawyer, street performer, anyone can join you and help you fight back and regain control of London. To recruit a player, you simply have to do a recruitment mission for them, and these usually involved going from one place to another, performing a task for them and they are in your group. Simple enough, but these missions become increasingly repetitive and droll after you have done them fifteen or so times. I even repeated the same type of mission a few times in a row where I had to beat up a street hustler to whom my recruit owed a debt. Perhaps I picked two shady characters to join my team in a row, but this also boils down to repetitive and questionable gameplay designs to inflate the length of the game.
That’s not to say recruiting people to your cause isn’t fun, it’s what the game encourages you to do and I had a blast spending hours just walking the streets of London and scanning every individual person to learn their traits, occupation and perks that they would give me as a member of DedSec. The beauty of this system is how every character has their own unique perks, stats and name based on their occupation, so characters aren’t just some generic one-off. The construction worker can deploy a construction drone to fly on top of buildings while the banker in my group gave me extra cash at random and had better computer hacking skills. During my time roaming the streets, I stumbled upon a group of people street racing and managed to recruit one of them as my getaway driver, complete with souped up car. It’s little details like this that makes Watch Dogs: Legion shine, every character’s job is associated in some way with their perk and it’s fun to explore and try to check out as many different people as you can.
This is why it is a shame that the gameplay and mission structure is so dull. Many of the missions are nothing more than hacking from one camera to the next, sometimes using a spider drone or other ability to get through a locked door and head to the roof to activate a beacon. Sure, hacking is the heart of Legion, but the game shoehorns how much you needlessly needed to do in every mission by making them all feel the same. There were times when I could easily bypass many of the missions entirely by using my construction worker recruit to fly his drone to the roofs of buildings and end them that way. A weird design choice that seems to be prevalent in almost every mission.
What makes it weirder about the aspect of missions is that every recruit has basically the same abilities. Although police and other members might have better weapons than say a hacker, every character knows how to hack doors, melee fight, shoot guns or do whatever they need to get the job done. Its an off-putting structure since you can basically stick to one character for the entire game since they simply know how to do anything. This is where the boring recruitment system comes back into play, I often found myself not caring about performing these repetitive missions again once I found a character I liked or had enough members on my team already.
To expand on missions, the game suffers from incredibly dull AI as well. Many of the enemies behave unnaturally, even on the harder difficulties. A lot of times you can just lose their line of sight and they will forget about you entirely, even if you are hiding four feet in front of them. On one specific mission I ran through a laser grid door and set off alarms, so I simply ran in a circle around the area and hid behind a tree like a cartoon character. Even with my head poking out from the sides, the enemy deemed the area safe from my presence.
If you somehow cannot manage to dumbfound your presence from the enemy, fighting them off becomes a necessity. Gunplay is simple enough as aiming and shooting and activating gadgets such as stun rounds (to pacify and not kill) or drones to help you in combat is a lot of fun. Hand-to-hand combat is necessary for doing stealth takedowns, and it’s as simple as pressing a button right before they attack to perfectly parry them for a counter. It’s all very simplified and basic and as previously mentioned the enemy will do as little effort as possible to stop you. Even using stun rounds is unnecessary since enemies seem to not care you have left a pile of bodies in their wake and shrug it off and forget about this murderous intruder.
Missions aside, where Watch Dogs: Legion thrives is its sandbox atmosphere. London is beautifully recreated here, with a street by street mapping in a modern day setting. Even as an American, I recognized the famous landmarks and smaller districts and the banter between citizens walking around the city makes it feel as lively as ever. The streets are always moving and every character follows a schedule like a real person, they go to sleep at a certain time or to their jobs, so they aren’t always standing on the street corner twenty-four hours a day. It adds a sense of realism to the wide assortment of characters, and when you use your phone to recruit them and learn their name and jobs, it adds an incredible amount of depth to every person in the game, not just members of your team. It can be a double-edged sword, however, as every character, whether random or on your team, has similar voices and blocky facial features. Many of the characters look and sound the same, which is a bummer for a game that thrives on individuality against the masses.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
There is plenty of here to enjoy if you are a fan of Watch Dogs’ style of gameplay. You can spend many hours hacking away with the city at your disposal, covering up authoritarian graffiti with positive messages, driving around the city and messing with other drivers or doing anything you can think of. I took a break from a few missions by just gliding around the city on my cargo drone, getting a bird’s eye view look of London and seeing the bustling crowds below me go about their business as it was a typical day. The sandbox aspect in Watch Dogs: Legion might be the best Ubisoft has created in any of their franchises, as the city is a thriving, sprawling, lively adaptation of London where anything goes. It’s incredibly over-the-top and some of the best moments of the game were just doing whatever I wanted.
Watch Dogs: Legion is unique in that it draws me in with its open-world, recruit anyone style gameplay but ultimately falls short in terms of everything else. The story missions are repetitive and lack originality and the combat is as basic at it comes. The highlight of the game, its recruiting component, gets tiresome after a while and becomes more of a chore than an enjoyable feature. The rise up aspect of the story ends up falling short too due to a nonsensical ending and a cast of characters who are highly forgettable. If you are looking for a good story-driven game look elsewhere, but if you just want to have fun in London hacking whatever your heart’s content,Watch Dogs: Legion is still an enjoyable game.