In Watch Dogs: Legion, London is a rich city known for multiculturalism and technological prowess. Then, after a series of bombings, private military corporation Albion steps in to help keep the city safe — whether they like it or not. Add to this Mary Kelly, leader of the biggest crime syndicate in the city who profits from selling anything from drugs to people on the Dark Web.
With this scenario in mind, Watch Dogs: Legion isn’t just getting revenge or taking down a tech mogul, it’s about liberating London and giving it back to the people.
At first glance, Legion looks similar to the previous entries in the series. Players will explore London and its many suburbs while using a phone to hack nearly everything in sight and getting one over on those keeping London in lockdown.
The city itself is a joy to explore, and it feels alive and vibrant. There are protesters in blocks where the Albion presence is high, people enjoying their time in local cafés where things are more chill, and in general, the citizens are living their lives in this dystopian London.
However, while there are many superficial similarities, it’s soon revealed that Legion offers more than just the same Watch Dogs experience. The biggest divergence from past installments is that player doesn’t follow just one individual, but a host of characters that the player can choose.
Anyone can be recruited to the resistance — a drunk at the bar, a construction worker, senior citizens, and even Albion employees. Not everyone is ready to drop everything and help out the resistance movement, though — some may need convincing before they’ll jump in.
Personally, I recruited a street musician and a pharmacy researcher turned “Beekeeper” (meaning she researches mechanical bees in parks for wildlife conservation). Each character like these has a unique set of skills, gadgets and attire that can help or hinder any given mission. Take a construction worker to a mission at a construction site, and it’ll be easier to move around. Take that same worker into a pharmaceutical research lab, and it’ll be difficult to get anything done without drawing attention.
With each character also comes a new way to play. “Hacker” characters can summon drones to do their work remotely. My construction worker had a devastating wrench for melee combat, and could summon a drone to drop cargo and explosives on their enemies. The Beekeeper can summon a swarm of bees to distract and damage enemies. Recruit a nurse to the resistance, and they’ll decrease the amount of time injured characters will be out of commission.
While this new reworking of Watch Dogs looks like a great start, there was one thing that gave me a bit of pause. As just mentioned, you can recruit a nurse to decrease the amount of time a character is injured, but that seems to be a bit of a divergence from when the game was first announced.
I went back to the first announcement at E3 2019 and realized that a rather key element has apparently been removed — permadeath. When first announced, Legion gave players the option to be arrested or to resist arrest when an operative was critically injured. If the character resisted, they could be killed. While it’s as yet unclear if permadeath is still in the game and if so, how it’s implemented, I am curious how that element might impact character management.
I was happy to see that Legion offers a host of accessibility options. Subtitles can be resized, there are multiple colorblind options and a 1-10 scale to adjust the sensitivity of the changes, text-to-speech for menu items, and color options for the subtitles and HUD elements. It also provides options for what aspects of the HUD are visible. Don’t want a mini-map? Turn it off. Want more guidance? GPS arrows will show you to your next waypoint.
Watch Dogs: Legion seems to take the best parts of the previous two games and expands on them, while also bringing more life to its city with a wide, diverse, and colorful cast of characters to recruit. I’m looking forward to taking back London when Watch Dogs: Legion releases on October 29th for PC, XBO, and PS4.