Watch Dogs: Legion is the third entry into Ubisoft’s hacktivist sandbox franchise, but is DedSec really a group you’d want to be a part of..?
Set in mid-2020’s London, the game opens with the failed attempt by hacktivist organisation, DedSec, to disarm bombs placed around the city. The bombings are blamed on DedSec, and the organisation is all but wiped out by Albion, a PMC that gains a contract from the government to usurp the metropolitan police. DedSec must rebuild itself and discover the truth, not just to clear its own name, but to help free London from the authoritarian nightmare it’s facing.
The unique thing about Watch Dog: Legion’s premise is that you don’t control a particular protagonist, but the organisation of DedSec itself. After the sole survivor, Sabine Brandt, recruits a new operative for the organization, you are free to approach anyone you want to join DedSec. That means any and all NPCs, including enemy units, can be recruited for the cause.
But, of course, DedSec’s reputation is in the toilet, and so even a humble janitor’s going to need convincing you’re on the up-and-up. The game allows you to undertake a variety of missions to help the potential recruit, based on what’s going on in their life. If they’re an immigrant, you might go to the deportation office and wipe their file; if they’re a media personality, you might help them out of a blackmail situation. Whilst the missions do repeat time to time, there’s plenty of variety, and more dynamic options to get people on your side, too – every NPC has relations, and if you happen to come across, say, their spouse being harassed by Albion guards, you can help them out and earn your recruit’s gratitude. It’s a nice touch that helps the game world feel alive.
In addition to their own connections and histories, everyone also has their own skills. These are largely based on their professions: your IT analysts tend to be decent hackers; your bankers decent crypto-currency investors. Some people will come with a job-appropriate weapon, like a carpenter and his nail gun, whilst others may simply happen to own a weapon or vehicle, or just be able to play the harmonica. Not every skill is good, though – some older candidates may not be able to run, others may have gambling problems that’ll affect your cash, and others may have a terminal illness that means they can drop at any time. But even so, scouting people, and finding someone who happens to have a lot of favourable skills is always a fun time.
But it is best to not get too attached to operatives if you tend to play on harder difficulties with perma-death enabled. You will lose them. And whilst having a granny is a hoot, chances are you’re going to get her killed because she just can’t get away quick enough. Combat is unforgiving on higher difficulty levels, and you need a good variety of weapons and a good support gadget (like the turret spider), to make it out. Which makes being unable to purchase lethal weapons and cars for operatives an unfortunate omission – especially as you can buy them seemingly billions of clothes.
But the NPCs aren’t the only characters in Watch Dogs: Legion. There is, of course, the grand city of London. It’s large, diverse, and well realised. Ubisoft has always nailed the location research for their titles, and they don’t slouch here: Although it’s scaled down a bit, the layout is fairly accurate to the point you can go to locations and landmarks you know the rough location of in the real-world city. You can also tell which borough you’re in by the style of the buildings. There’s a lot of loot scattered around the city to encourage exploration, too – masks, crypto currency hacks, and tech points (used to upgrade your team gadgets) abound.
One thing I don’t like about the map, though, is that it’s far to easy to avoid actually experiencing it. The London Underground acts as the game’s fast travel, and you can access most stations off the bat: It’s quick and easy to hop from one location to another via the tube, allowing you to zip around the city in a matter of seconds. Whilst this sounds good, it also means you can end up zipping through missions if you don’t space yourself out.
And the missions themselves are…ok. Perfectly serviceable. But a lot of the time, it feels like each mission follows a particular routine: Go to place, infiltrate it, hack something, leave. Or fight your way out due to artificially triggered alerts that happen regardless of how stealthy you were on the way in. The plot doesn’t really make up for the lack of variety either; The opening sets up your goal, and it doesn’t really deviate from that. You encounter other characters who help you along the way as you fight fairly cartoonish villains, and save the day. There’s some genuinely interesting moments (such as Skye Larsen’s house), but otherwise it’s pretty standard stuff.
There’s a few mini-games in the world, but nothing too deep; darts, kicking a soccer ball. I hope they patch in some more stuff, like the Spider Bot game from Watch Dogs 2, or something along those lines. Online play is being added in early December, allowing players to infiltrate and hack eachother’s operatives as in older titles, so that’s fun.
One less fun addition is the in-game store. Yes – you can buy this game’s fun bucks with real world money to spend on unique operatives, weapon and car skins, clothing, and masks. Considering the game has two planned expansions and other possible DLC, this title could be a money sink if you let it.
And yet, despite these faults, I find myself coming back to Watch Dogs: Legion daily. The team-building, the sandbox stuff, the tough – but indeed enjoyable – combat mechanics really are that good. If you’re a fan of Ubisoft’s other open world games, it’s definitely worth picking up – if you’re unsure, wait for a sale, but do indeed wait for it. DedSec London is a pretty fun group to be a part of at the end of the day, and you should definitely apply. Here’s a link to a free operative for when you do!