Watch Dogs: Legion

aka: WATCH DOGS: LΞGION
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Description official descriptions

Watch Dogs: Legion is an action game and the third instalment in the Watch Dogs series, and the sequel to Watch Dogs 2. The game is set within an open world, fictionalised representation of London, and features the ability to take control of any character that is encountered. Characters can be recruited across the game's setting and can be permanently lost during the course of a playthrough if players have the permadeath option enabled. Each character has a different background and abilities that allow for a large amount of different approaches to completing missions working for the hacking group DedSec with a narrative that focuses on fighting back against a surveillance state. The game has action both on foot and using vehicles. The game features cooperative multiplayer that allows up to four players to work together.

Spellings

  • ウォッチドッグス レギオン - Japanese spelling
  • 看門狗:自由軍團 - Traditional Chinese spelling
  • 看门狗:军团 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

6,486 People (6,200 developers, 286 thanks) · View all

In memory of the fallen operatives
Lead Producer
Creative Director
Production Director
Game Director
Technology Director, Gameplay & AI
UX Directors
Product Director
Producers
Live & Technology Producer
Associate Producers
World Director
Mission Director and Content Closer
Online Director
Narrative Director
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 74% (based on 58 ratings)

Players

Average score: 2.9 out of 5 (based on 4 ratings with 1 reviews)

* London Calling

The Good
* Ability to play as anyone is a neat mechanic, especially when combined with permadeath features.

  • The hacking and stealth sandbox is as fun as ever.

  • Gadgets are enjoyable to use with some clever platforming and puzzle elements.

    The Bad
    * So many cut features from the first two games.

  • In-game currency is pointless outside of cosmetics.

  • Not enough differentiation or uniqueness between operatives.

    The Bottom Line
    Since its debut in 2014, Watch Dogs has secretly become one of the more fascinating AAA franchises out there. One could simply write it off as yet another Ubisoft open world title, just one more in a slew of franchises that all deliver their own wrinkles on a uniform set of mechanics. However, its dystopian techno-thriller vibe, varied gameplay approach, and unique hacking mechanics really do make it a standout amongst games in its genre. Watch Dogs hasn’t exactly been a critical darling, yet for me it defines the freedom of what open world games should be about better than Rockstar’s restrictive theme parks. Yes, I’m saying it, I actually prefer Watch Dogs to Grand Theft Auto, despite many of its concepts being lifted wholesale from the latter.

    The latest installment of the series, Watch Dogs Legion, has finally arrived after a massive delay pushed it way back from its original March release date. Taking place several years after the events of the first two games, the Blume corporation has continued to work with installing ctOS, the city control system, in several major metropolitan centers around the world, and their latest happens to be post-Brexit London. The newest version of ctOS has allowed for improvements such as a system of self-driving cars and augmented reality contacts installed into every citizen. Now, the city has been taken over by both a PMC named Albion and a gang called Clan Kelley. Not long after the game’s introduction, a new hacker group named Zero-Day is discovered, causing several explosions around London and blaming the series’ main hacker group, DedSec, for it. With their backs up against the wall, Bagley, a friendly AI working with DedSec, decides to start recruiting individuals frustrated with the system across London to free London from all of these factions.
    The story definitely lacks any kind of nuance: it really comes down to DedSec and hackers good, corporations and military bad. It would have been nice to have gotten some alternate perspectives on both the actions of the player as well as the positives of why a country such as England would want to enter a technological police state. That being said, it does occasionally offer some nifty twists and some really neat set piece moments. Luckily, the story isn’t the main reason we’re here, and expecting truly exceptional video-game storytelling from Watch Dogs is a bit futile at this point.

    For better and worse, Watch Dogs Legion is perhaps the most grandly experimental, even risky AAA game to release in 2020. It forgoes the more polished and contained experience of the first two games in favor of something that’s a bit more freeform, even a bit jazzy in the ways it brings its dystopian London to life. That’s because this time around the protagonist isn’t a single person: it’s an entire movement.

    In Watch Dogs Legion, you can recruit any character off the streets to join DedSec in order to free London. Each character you recruit has different strengths and weaknesses. They might be better at hacking, but a poor climber and unable to take cover. Or, they could be a pro at melee combat, and can blend in with whatever faction runs the area you’re infiltrating. Or, they could be a senior citizen who struggles to climb objects and cannot take cover. The choice is always yours. All of your operatives can pick from a default selection of non-lethal weapons and various gadgets, but some characters also have unique weapons, gadgets, and/or vehicles they can utilize in combat or driving. Other recruits, while not necessarily suited for field work, can bring general advantages to your whole team should they be recruited. For instance, if one of your team members ends up in the hospital, having a paramedic on your team will allow you to release them immediately. The game will often recommend and pinpoint certain characters which are the best to recruit should the need arise for a specific type of character.

    The catch to all of this is simple: if an operative dies, they are gone for good. There are exceptions to this of course: operatives can get “arrested” or “injured” in certain situations, in which case they will need to spend time in jail or the hospital before they can be used again. The game is also surprisingly generous when it comes to keeping the story rolling when this happens. One time, I had my operative die during a mission to hack a server, yet because I had already completed the main task, the story continued to move forward following their death, since DedSec had gotten the information it was looking for. And as a testament to the game’s level of commitment to this mechanic, the death of every operative will actually result in the credits screen rolling, with each dead operative’s name listed; a very cool touch indeed. Honestly, even though these weren’t real characters, it was hard not to feel just a twinge of sadness and regret as my bad playing would lead them to their death, knowing that I would be one step closer to losing all of my operatives.

    In order to recruit a character, you’ll need to complete one or more missions for them. You can start the recruitment process for most characters by simply talking to them in person, however, other characters, including those from the antagonizing factions, will take a bit more convincing. To recruit these characters, you’ll need to use the Deep Profiler to examine their schedule and find subtler ways to get their attention. For an example of this, one person I recruited was an Albion guard I saw standing outside of Buckingham Palace. I tracked him down to a nearby pub and challenged him to a game of darts. After winning, I could talk to him to begin his recruitment mission, and was able to use him in a later main mission to easily infiltrate an area guarded by Albion. If you fail the recruitment missions too many times, those characters will despise DedSec and be locked from recruitment permanently. It also doesn’t take long before you start to see the exact same recruitment missions in the same locations pop up; an inevitable limitation of this system perhaps, as there’s only so much of the map that can be used, but a disappointment nonetheless. There’s only so many times one can break into the same building and hack the same server or steal the same car just to recruit a new character.

    Surprisingly, however, this system is actually a bit deeper than in initially appears. Each NPC not only has their own statistics, but also their own schedules and their own relationships to other NPCs, which can lead to some rather interesting consequences. For example, if you manage to kill or injure an NPC, there is a possibility that their brother or sister will try kidnapping one of your operatives, and you’ll need to save them. Recruting someone’s relative or lover or trainer can give you the connections you need to recruit a not-so-easily convinced operative. Even something as simple as rescuing a potential operative as they are being accosted by Albion can be enough to convince them to join the DedSec cause, without needing to complete a recruitment mission.

    The best thing about Watch Dogs has always been its freedom of approach, and Legion adds some very cool new toys to the hacking sandbox. There are several new types of drones, including a cargo drone which can be used to fly the player up to high places. There are also several types of gadgets you can utilize on each mission. One will let you turn invisible for a few seconds, another allows you to place mines which shock and stun enemies, but perhaps the most versatile is the spiderbot, which serves as this game’s replacement for the jumper drone from Watch Dogs 2. It pretty much works the same, but it is faster, can take down enemies from behind, and can even be thrown over walls and onto ledges that the player cannot reach. It’s also used in some really cool platforming sequences, as you navigate it through office buildings, security measures, and at one point, up through Big Ben’s clockwork.
    A surprisingly large number of tasks can be accomplished using the spiderbot alone, and perhaps the game could be a bit more punishing on what happens after the bot is seen and destroyed, as all you really need to do is wait a minute before using it again. One minor issue is that you can’t quickly swap out weapons and gadgets on the fly: you have to enter your character’s screen in the Team menu and manually switch, and of course this cannot be changed while you’re inside a restricted area. Curiously, there are certain missions which demand the spiderbot in order to complete, and most of the time there will be boxes which allow you to call spiderbots which are nearby the objectives. These bots don’t have the same kind of capabilities as the ones which you can personally use, but they are available nonetheless.

    Watch Dogs has always been a stealth game at its core, though players have the ability to fight back should the need arise. Playing with a combat-centric approach in Watch Dogs Legion is more stressful and nerve-wracking not only due to the possibility of losing your character at any given moment but also because the guns you have, even lethal ones, do a pretty low amount of damage to enemies. It takes at least two, and in some cases more, headshots from your starting taser to actually knock out even basic enemies, and lethal weapons are not that much better. Even if you plan on playing stealthy, you’re going to want to pack some heat just in case things end up going south, and I highly recommend grabbing either the grenade launcher or the shotgun as a secondary weapon as soon as you can. While the gunplay is solid, the lack of blind fire and sometimes wonky cover system make playing combat more difficult than it needs to be at times. Player characters are also quite frail even with the upgrade that allows them to take more damage.

    One new feature in this installment is a melee system. Previous installments had merely a button press for melee attacks, however in Legion each fight takes a significantly longer time, and you’ll need to punch, break guard, and dodge your opponent’s attacks to win. As long as you don’t pull out a gun, most enemies will be willing to fistfight you rather than start shooting. While not overly complex, it does make melee a significantly more interesting tactic than the simple button press of the previous installments. The downside to this is that melee isn’t something you’re going to want to get involved in if you need to get away quickly, and good luck fighting more than one opponent at once with the slightly wonky targeting system. This system gets primarily showcased in a side mission where you can participate in London’s underground bare-knuckle boxing league.

    There will be times when the character you’re playing as will be thrown into a mission that isn’t entirely suited for their skillset. Generally the game will try to keep you informed about what you could expect, but there will be moments when you’re almost certain to be caught off guard. There were a few moments when I was unexpectedly forced to fight waves of enemies despite only being prepared for stealth, and I almost always died during these moments. Until you get the more powerful weapons/hacks on your side, expect these moments to be among the most frustrating in the game, as you’ll keep throwing operatives at the problem until something works.

    While Watch Dogs Legion has opened up a lot of possibilities with the character system, there are some small but significant cutbacks from the last two games. Development of the franchise has been handed over to Ubisoft Toronto from Ubisoft Montreal, and it’s clear that the new dev team has their own, different take on the series. It’s less of an iterative game and more of a sidestep into a new direction, but it’s hard not to feel disappointed by the things which are missing or diminished from the older games. Several of the classic hacks from the first two games, such as blackouts and traffic lights, are non-existent in Legion.
    In the first two games, you could use the cash you earned to buy better vehicles and weapons, giving you an edge for future missions. Yet despite Legion’s insistence on needing to save some “quid” for DedSec, there is absolutely nothing to spend your in-game cash on apart from new clothing options thanks to the fact that certain characters have unique weapons/vehicles, and even this aspect is much less detailed, since there are no longer individual interiors for clothing stores you can enter. Not to mention of course that almost all of the absolute coolest gear is locked behind a cash paywall in a fully-priced, AAA game. Ugh.

    Perhaps the most egregious cutback is the near-total lack of side activities to engage with. The first Watch Dogs in particular had a truly dizzying array of side-content to tackle, but each subsequent game has seen these activities dwindle further and further. The only real side activities in Watch Dogs Legion are the aforementioned bare-knuckle brawling tournaments, delivering packages, and playing darts and football keep-up. You can also get drunk (after one beer, really?) at any of the numerous pubs, but this isn’t advised, especially near cops. But where are the drone races? Where are the digital trips? Why is there so little to do outside of the missions? True, when potentially every NPC can offer their own side mission you probably won’t have a lot of time to engage with these features, but they really added some life to the city and helped fill your downtime as you travelled from one area to the next, breaking up the monotony of the otherwise fun core gameplay. At least participating in the fights can net you opportunities to recruit strong melee combatants for your team.

    The sound design is overall pretty solid, with nice ambiance when wandering the streets of London, as well as impactful sound effects during combat. The game features an unmemorable soundtrack when participating in standard gameplay, but there is also some licensed music featuring UK acts which plays in the car’s radio stations. I wish it was easier to actually pick the songs we want to hear and listen on-foot like in the first two games, but that’s another thing that’s been cut. One of the side missions actually involves one of these artists, as the player helps real-world rapper Stormzy, who I’ll admit I had never heard of before this game, debut his new music video on the side of a London building.

    In terms of voice acting, Watch Dogs Legion is both an interesting technical showcase but also very bizarre. Every single operative is given their own voice from a pool of voice actors, and from there, the game modulates the voice to make it sound more unique. However, the number of unique lines these characters use is surprisingly low, and I’ve heard more than my fair share of repeated lines from both DedSec operatives and Bagley, the AI which coordinates your operatives. There are some biographical details that you can view for each operative, but these hardly seem to reflect on the character’s personality. Regardless of their former profession, once they become “your” characters, they kind of seem to act like everyone else. And pretty much everyone swears all the time. Yes, the first two games had an excessive amount of profanity, too, but here the swearing seems to indicate a Canadian developer’s idea of “Britishness”, rather than something that feels more authentic to the setting.

    Watch Dogs Legion is one of the very first new games releasing on both current and next-generation consoles. Despite this, Watch Dogs Legion doesn’t necessarily scream “next-gen” in any particular aspect of its presentation, apart from maybe its use of ray-tracing effects on the latest GPUs. For the most part, it’s typical Ubisoft: a slickly presented and detailed open world. I do have to be completely honest however and say that certain aspects of Watch Dogs 2 looked much better than in Legion, and that’s still a pretty visually solid title even by today’s standards. London doesn’t have quite the same sense of variety and uniqueness in each district San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area had in Watch Dogs 2. It’s almost certainly a smaller, if denser, map, and its terrain is relatively flat, while the buildings seem rather homogenized. While the first two games were fairly grounded in current technology, Watch Dogs Legion has a much more futuristic look to everything.. Even the UI has shifted to a more generic sci-fi look as opposed to the leet hacker stylings of the first two games.

    Performance-wise, the game ran decently enough on my PC at 1080p resolution, although it seemed like areas with too many reflective surfaces, in particular near water, would cause my frame rate to tank for no reason. Even turning down reflections seemed to create no real improvement, but I could at least live with it since most scenes don’t have these features. I experienced only one crash, but looking over other people’s impressions, I must have gotten lucky, as others have complained about far, far worse performance and stability issues even on consoles. From what I can tell Watch Dogs: Legion is a particularly demanding game on the CPU, and requires a highly multi-threaded core to really get the most performance out of it, so even those with really high-end graphics cards but low-bandwidth CPUs will probably not be able to get a smooth experience from Watch Dogs Legion. It’s kind of telling that even on the new next-gen consoles the game won’t go above 30 FPS at 4k, indicating some deep optimization problems under the hood.
    After several years of playing their modern games on PC I’ve kind of accepted by this point that Ubisoft rarely has even adequate optimization when it comes to their PC ports. However, if you’re willing to brute-force it or are okay with locking the frame rate and the settings down farther than you’d like then it’s not that bad, and it’s more playable than some would have you believe.

    So, the fundamental question at the heart of Watch Dogs Legion is this: was it worth streamlining and cutting back on the systems established in the first two Watch Dogs games in order to accommodate the ability to play as any character? The answer is complex. If you’re willing to meet it on its own terms by playing with permadeath on and making sure you utilize a diverse range of characters and playstyles for each mission, you’re likely to have a pretty good time. It can be funny to take someone as ill-equipped as a grandmother with gas problems into infiltrating a heavily-guarded fortress, and actually coming out safe on the other side. If, however, not having a meaningfully centralized character without questionable voice acting and a wide variety of side content is a deal breaker, you may want to give Legion a pass, or at least wait for a sale.
    I don’t think many people would have actually asked for a feature like this in the new Watch Dogs game, but while I’m disappointed by the cuts they took in order to implement it, I’m also glad that Ubisoft were willing to take a roll of the dice on an untested mechanic like this. Despite all of the flak they get for not being innovative enough, this does show that Ubisoft isn’t a company unwilling to take creative design risks. And while perhaps it shows signs of “first-implementation” problems, it does mean that Legion is poised to be a unique entry in the genre for several years to come.

Windows · by krisko6 (813) · 2020

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Game added by Elisa Leanza.

Stadia added by Rik Hideto. Xbox Series, PlayStation 5, Windows added by Sciere.

Additional contributors: Rik Hideto.

Game added October 30th, 2020. Last modified July 29th, 2023.