- Developer: Ubisoft Toronto
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Release Date: 29th October 2020
- Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, Microsoft Windows
- Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
- Game Supplied by: Ubisoft
Watch Dogs Legion is the latest entry into Ubisoft’s critically acclaimed hacker franchise. In Watch Dogs Legion, you are recruited by DedSec, who have been framed for a series of terrorist attacks across London. Albion, a corporation drafted in by the UK government to restore order and eliminate DedSec, have turned the city into a surveillance state. Citizens are monitored at every step, and those who question Albion’s methods are arrested or disappear. Civil unrest is rife, and it’s these embattled citizens who you must recruit to build up your resistance force and takedown Albion.
Legion takes its leave from the USA, where the previous two games were based, moving to the UK and a dystopian future London. This has proven to be a nice change, provisioning a built-up city environment teeming with a culturally varied populous that brings the world to life.
This leads to the biggest change in the game compared to the previous titles, which is the transition away from playing as a single main protagonist. In Legion, you are building a resistance with operators you recruit off the streets of London; every single person has their own personality, skills and traits and is fully pliable. This means that you can complete the story with a huge variety of characters you find, adding a completely different vibe and attitude to dialogue and the way the character reacts to and handles each event.
This was a worry for me, remembering the attachment I grew for Marcus and Wrench in Watch Dogs 2. It was hard to imagine having the same connection to a character when you have so many to play as. After a few hours of play, though, I found myself playing favourites. I found an NPC that had a career as an Esports professional, a similar accent and language to my own and a non-lethal AR. This resonated with me, as I have never been predisposed towards killing everyone – I was a fond user of my drone and taser pistol in Watch Dogs 2. So, when I found a character in Legion that seemed to represent my hobby and values he quickly became one of my favourites.
Next, I found an older gent who was a drone expert, dressed in the kind of attire you’d find at Cyberdog in Camden, and speaking like he had come straight out of an old British gangster movie. He too became one of my elite rebels, as his drones and abilities made easy work of infiltration. I donned the tactic of sending my drones in to do the hard work, putting every enemy to sleep, then casually strolled in without a worry.
The moment I truly realised I cared so much for my team was when my drone expert got caught out by surprise by a riot drone: One lapse in judgement and not enough attention being paid to my surroundings led to my drone expert getting peppered and killed. With permadeath on, that was the end for him, and I genuinely felt destroyed. He was gone forever, I spent a couple of hours driving around praying that the RNG in the game would bless me with a replica of my beloved drone expert, but that never happened. I had to face that he was gone for good. It truly proves that you don’t need a focused protagonist to connect with them, a randomly generated character can become just as loved as any other.
I have to say however, I would have loved the chance to create my own character, even if it was end-game content or something. With the amount of variation in NPCs, I could easily imagine them putting a robust character creation system in place, but I understand the decision to not have this as it would have taken away from the premise of building the resistance with real citizens you encounter around the city.
There is still some customisation, as you can personalise the characters you recruit by buying and changing every character’s clothes and mask. This allows you to angle your characters toward your personal style, but the characters own clothes already fit their personality and personal brand of resistance pretty well.
Although I generally kept the character’s clothing as I found it, I always changed their masks. Masks are used in restricted areas to hide your identity, so in my mind, it’s the only way enemies ever see and identify your Dedsec operatives.
Having bought the Collector’s edition and the Resistance of London statue, I had access to the Ded Coronet and King of Hearts masks in-game. I would be lying if I said I didn’t use the Ded Coronet a lot. I loved the helmet so much, but now I have a mix of the Ded Coronet, King of hearts and Defalts mask. These masks have become the symbol of my resistance.
As for gameplay, Watch Dogs Legion is quite similar to previous titles, mixing the open-world freedom of GTA with the parkour antics of Assassin’s Creed (and at least one eagle jump as a nod to Assassin’s Creed itself), and the gameplay feels fun and free. The hacking mechanics are again fairly similar, you can still do the usual hacks like Distract enemies, set traps from electrical equipment, make roadblocks rise and lower.
Though there are some changes to the available equipment depending on the character you are using. The biggest difference is the tech screen, which is where you spend tech points found throughout the world to unlock new abilities and equipment. This is different from the Skill tree in previous titles as you don’t have to go through one to teach another. You can unlock whichever one you want at any time as long as you have the points, and some of them have multiple tiers. For example, the riot drone skill will allow you to first temporarily disable the riot drones, next you can get them to fight for you autonomously and at the highest tier of upgrade you can fully take them over.
This adds diversity to your playthrough and allows you to guide your operators’ progression to suit your play style. It’s an effective way to ensure that no matter the operator you can to some degree equip them to fit your style rather than being forced to stick to what you have. Some skills are operator exclusive, though, like having a personal vehicle or being able to call in a cargo drone at any time.
Like previous games, you can bring up the map and use it to fast travel, set markers and track objectives. New to Legion is that the game world is now divided into districts, and each district has side activities you can complete that will turn the district defiant towards Albion. This essentially symbolizes that the district supports Dedsec in its movement to take down and rise up against Albion. It’s a nice system, quite similar to what we also see in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla with the alliances.
It’s really satisfying to see the areas turn green and reap the reward of a new skilled operator in return for your work. The end missions for each area also led to a pretty cool cutscene of iconic areas taking down Albion propaganda and replacing it with Dedsec visuals.
On a different note, there have been some changes that took me a hot minute to get used to. The system we saw before where you would pop your phone up and pick an app for all your menus is gone and replaced with a traditional menu screen with tabs for everything. This was disappointing to me, as it takes away from the immersion for me, and I really liked the old system.
The use of the call-a-ride app has also been removed. Granted, there are cars everywhere in London so you don’t really need it but I used to love slapping liveries on my supercars or driving around in the DedSec covered Cyberdriver car. Now, only certain operators have their own cars that they can call in, and they only have access to the one car. So far I’m struggling to find someone who owns a supercar that I can call in to blast around the streets.
One mechanic that hasn’t improved over the years is the driving, and more specifically, motorcycles. They are horrid to ride in Legion, they are super flighty and just don’t act the way you expect. In all fairness, no open-world game that I have played so far nails motorcycles, but they just don’t seem to have been given much thought in Legion.
Watch Dogs Legion looks fantastic on the next-gen consoles, taking full advantage of the ray tracing technology to nail the neon future-London aesthetic. Night-time in Legion is where the game shines brightest. Lights pierce the dark city, with every screen plastered on the side of a building illuminating the night. It’s impressive right down to even the smaller details, like reflections in puddles and the way different coloured lights bounce off your character as you walk around. I spent a good while staring at a puddle on a busy crossroads just looking at how good it looked as it reflected everything that passed by, the reflection of lights streaking across the cars that were driving past and seeing the building behind me reflected from the side of a passing bus. Legion looks great and I can only imagine what Ubisoft will be able to do moving forward.
The detail does not only reside in the lighting and reflection. The city of London is incredibly detailed; roads have convincing textures and buildings have a great variety in design and aesthetic, ranging from old weathered buildings to new futuristic buildings covered in glass. This aesthetic can be as small as a single building or extend to a whole street. Some of the less affluent areas represented in the game look more aged and closer to what we see today, whereas central London looks fresh and new.
The world itself is teeming with life; NPCs are everywhere going about their business, autonomous and manned cars passing by and the sky is full of drones flying around. The best thing is that every drone can be controlled with the right skill, every car can be driven and every NPC is a potential recruit, with their own skills, personality and dialogue. The detail in NPCs life is remarkable, you can hold LB on any person around and it will tell you what they are doing, what their skills are and even if they are related to one of your current recruits. This all brings the neon London of the future to life. Never do you feel alone or that the city is dead.
The missions throughout Legion are quite varied. While most will revolve around finding your way into an area and hacking something, there are often differing routes to achieve each mission, keeping them fresh and fun. I always look to find a way of doing the whole mission without ever actually entering the area; I start by hijacking every camera I can find to plan my route to the objective, and following that, I will attempt to make my way to the objective with my spider bot. Sometimes this may seem impossible but with some creativity, it can be done. For instance, you can hack a nearby cargo drone and land it near you, throw out your spiderbot, get it to jump on top of the cargo drone, then fly your spider bot to the ideal location for infiltration.
There is also the odd mission that will have you searching areas for AR clues. Bagley, your handy AI, will recreate senators from local CtOS data and present them to you in AR (Augmented Reality) for you to analyze. This could lead you to a clue or even end in following a reconstructed AR van through the city.
One of my favourite missions is the one to destroy operation Themis, which first has you stealing schematics for micro drones before you have to infiltrate an Albion building that holds the plans for project Themis. After obtaining the key to a Locked elevator, this will lead you to a locked corridor full of laser security systems. You then need to get in with your spider bot, carefully manoeuvre your way past the lasers and inject the micro-drones into the system.
That leads to my absolute favourite part – working your way through the inside of a server system while flying a micro drone. This whole section looks pretty cool, and it’s very entertaining. Navigating through the server system, some areas are overheating, and you will need to make a timed crossing to follow cooling pipes to avoid the draft from a fan pushing you into an electrically charged part. It’s a super fun and unique mission that shows the diversity of gameplay available in the world of Watch Dogs Legion.
Luckily cars are still fairly fine to drive. There’s been a slight change in driving mechanics giving cars a bit more personality in how they perform. Pressing B while slamming the steering will now lead to a satisfyingly sharp drift around a corner. They have only made minor changes, but it makes a huge difference when it comes to the enjoyment of driving around London.
While Legion has been worthy of well over 50 hours of my time it’s not without its issues. As previously mentioned, I am not a fan of the choice not to allow personal cars. I want to be able to drive around London in a Dedsec themed car all the time and not be forced to use one of my least favourite operators to do so.
There has also been the odd graphical glitch. When you are hacking something from a good distance away and you exit, a few times when I zoomed back textures and scenery took a while to pop in. The second is much less important but still exists, and it relates to the area images and names that appear on the map. Once fully zoomed out you will see that each area has an illustration with its name hovering above it. If you move around the map like this, everything glides around smoothly except these emblems, which stutter around in an unsatisfying way. Neither of these is a game-breaking glitch by any standard, but it does detract from the immersion.
Far more damaging glitches that were causing game freezes, save game corruption and loss of progress have largely been fixed by patches since release. These have arrived alongside performance and stability improvements. If you were holding out on picking up Watch Dogs Legion until it was fixed, you can be assured that it performs much better now, and the game-breaking glitches have been resolved.
Finally, I’m a little disappointed that multiplayer never made its way to Watch Dogs Legion at launch. I wish we could have just had access to it straight away, as I am craving some good spider bot battles and I’m dying to get stuck in co-op missions. No firm release date has been announced for the multiplayer component, but it’s expected to arrive early in 2021.
Watchdogs Legion is a brilliant new take on the world Ubisoft built with the previous two games. Rather than the colourful Hacker culture focus of Watch Dogs 2 or the vendetta fuelled antics of the first game, Watchdogs Legion has a grittier, more Anarchist vibe about it. London has been re-imagined as a futuristic big brother state, and it’s your job to free it from the controlling eye of Albion.
Watch Dogs Legion is an absolute must-have in my opinion, for new and old fans alike.