Resistance & Revenge Without Retribution

HIGH A unique and lengthy list of playable characters.

LOW The story suffers severely with no central protagonist driving it.

WTF The quirk of “Dies Randomly”

When I previewed Watch Dogs: Legion before launch, I was impressed by the diversity of options it had to offer, and how each character felt unique in their own way. Being able to play as anyone gave the open-world structure a new spin as it incentivized players to explore to see what (and who) they could find. Now that I’ve spent time with the full experience, I found that the value of this diversity evaporates quickly, and the game suffers for it.

Legion is the next iteration of the Watch Dogs series of third-person open-world action games where players take control of a resistance group known as Dedsec. After a series of bombings in London are pinned on them, most Dedsec members have been arrested or killed. Players must choose from a list of procedurally-generated operatives to rebuild Dedsec and clear their name while helping London get back on track.

Any NPC in the world can be recruited to join Dedsec, and they each come with unique quirks and features. PC experts can hack things from greater distances, construction workers can summon a cargo drone to fly around London, hitmen have unique weaponry, and more. These vocations also provide interesting stealth options — dressing as a professional can let certain characters gain access to areas that others can’t. No one will notice a construction worker in an area being remodeled, and so forth. 

Further, players can customize their characters any way they desire. In-game money is gained rapidly, and mostly used for cosmetics at any of the plentiful shops scattered throughout the world. While it’s a small thing, I did enjoy taking time to get each member of my crew some new garb that fit the image I was trying to create for each one. 

On a more subtle note,  personality quirks separate each character players can recruit. One assassin I had was a compulsive gambler, so my money would randomly raise or lower if I wasn’t actively using the character. Another one had allergies and would randomly sneeze while sneaking around a guarded warehouse. I enjoyed these little touches.

It’s worth noting that unless permadeath is turned on (the default is off) characters can be critically injured from combat or falls and be sent to the hospital, making them unavailable for about an hour of real time. They may also be captured and sent to prison with similar restrictions. Recruiting a lawyer or nurse can help reduce the time they’re unavailable, and some characters have perks on their own that will get the back in the fight quicker.

While all of this sounds great on paper, one huge problem with the wealth of recruitable characters and the variety in options is that there’s no central protagonist, so the story feels a bit vague and generic.

Legion‘s plot is about London rising up against gangs and corrupt corporations, but it falls a bit flat when the dialogue has to be generalized. The script can’t name specific characters because anyone in the world could potentially be the star at any moment. Whether the player chooses John Smith the hitman or Jane Doe the trendy model, the story has to progress.

There’s also noticeable weirdness in nonessential dialogue. In one scene, I was using a hitman known for their high kill count, and they called another one out for being violent. In a different interaction, one character was complaining about the cops to a teammate who was a cop.

In a mechanical sense, the choice to allow any possible character to succeed in any possible mission means that challenge in Legion is minimal. Further, players get a spider drone that (when fully upgraded) can do nearly everything a human can do without putting an operative in danger. Since any character can have one, not just tech characters, it nullifies the need to utilize diverse skillsets.

There’s also a lack of options in mission design. For example, there are only so many ways to recruit characters — rather than just appropriating them, players must do a quest to convince them to join. The result is that there were a lot sick friends who needed medicine the potential recruit couldn’t afford.

Watch Dogs: Legion is far from perfect. It tries to tell a story about resisting oppression via the power of the people, but the concept of making any character in the world a viable choice means that the experience ends up being too broad and vague. I was able to spice things up by bringing my own roleplay to characters and used items that weren’t necessary, but this was my way of compensating for the ways in which Watch Dogs: Legion falls short of what I want from a triple-A adventure.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Ubisoft Toronto, and published by Ubisoft.  It is currently available on PC, XBO, and PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 25 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes currently, but will be released later.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Gore, Drug References, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, and Use of Alcohol. There’s a lot of killing, execution, organ harvesting, slave trading, and swearing. Definitely not for kids.

Colorblind Modes: There are multiple colorblind options. Players can modify nearly every every aspect of the game from gun reticles, notification arrows, map markers, and text.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles can be turned on, and they can be resized and recolored. The game is fully accessible.

Remappable controls: The game has fully remappable controls.

Eugene Sax
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2 years ago

I’ve put this game on hold, as I’m playing it on PC and waiting for the online components, and also some patches as the framerate is kind of horrid any time I use a vehicle. It reminds me a lot more of the first bland Watchdogs than its sequel, which was a blast. I don’t hate it, it’s got that “Ubisoft polish,” and all that entails, but it just feels like there were so many odd or wrongheaded conceptual choices. London looks like a bland wasteland compared to bright and perky San Francisco, and the abundance of drones everywhere makes… Read more »