Watch Dogs: Legion is the sequel to Watch Dogs 2, which was released in 2016. An action-adventure series, with each game set in cities around the world, you have the ability to hack pretty much everything from cars to guns, cameras to bombs, with the touch of your smartphone. Legion is the first game in the series to introduce a "Play As Anyone" mechanic rather than have one singular protagonist. You play as a crew of DEDSEC members, slowly emerging from the shadows to take back London from a malicious private security firm called Albion and a crime syndicate called Clan Kelley, after DEDSEC is framed for a set of terrorist attacks which damaged major London landmarks. Watch Dogs: Legion launched on October 29th 2020.
Before we start the official review, I'd like to make two disclosures; one: this is my first major review which I was given a key for, which I'm absolutely grateful for and two: I have a soft-spot for the Watch Dogs series, as they're some of my favourite games and I love the premise around the franchise. Neither of these two things will affect my opinion, as I will remain subjective.
Fall on my Enemies
Set in the near future, Legion starts with you playing as a man called Dalton, an agent for DedSec, who is currently in the midst of reaching the House of Commons to prevent a bombing. However, once you reach and defuse the bomb, it becomes clear there are many more around the entire city which all successfully explode. Many armed men storm the homebase of DedSec and kill many of the team, before a drone kills Dalton. Luckily, the leader of the London DedSec cell, Sabine, stays alive and is hiding out. She reaches out to a random operative which you choose and the story kicks off.
Whoever you pick first is one of the many operatives you'll end up recruiting throughout the game, each with their own set of skills. Some of your characters will have unique weapons, or the ability to be released from prison quicker or others on your team. Some may even have the chance of dying randomly. You can see these skills in all of the NPCs around London, so you don't have the element of surprise when you finally get someone to join your rag-tag team of DedSec individuals. However, to unlock these characters, you are required to do a small mission as a favour, and if they don't like DedSec, you have to earn their trust by doing an even smaller task like finding information on their rivals, or taking down a Clan Kelley dodgy pharmacy. It's all fairly simple but it connects the world in a meaningful way. The elements which link the members of your team feel natural and aren't these "larger than life" moments. We will get into these missions etc. more in the gameplay portion of this review.
The story is clearly masked with political messages, whether it's your own privacy, private military companies or the future of technology and drones. There's one storyline that had such a strong message, and made me feel so sick to the stomach that I needed to turn off the game for a little while; it may sound bad, but this is a good thing! A game that can make even me feel these messages is worthy of a mention. The main string that pulls these stories together is Bagley, the totally not stolen AI that works for DedSec. He's pretty humourous, with a cocky British personality. The game features a mix of what Watch Dogs and it's numbered sequel provided, with a set of serious tonal notes and some cheesy comedy peppered in, which clearly follows a Brits humour of sarcastic and dark nature. It may sound like these are tonal shifts which won't match the layout of the story, but the moments of commentary between your set of Operatives and of course, Bagley, are welcomed before entering another dark storyline, and even during.
Watch Dogs: Legion definitely emphasises on its "Play as Anyone" feature as its main punchline, and I can see why some people may think that it ruins the story, which other reviewers have felt. However, I believe that if you connect with one or more of your players, you'll end up loving them and being able to feel what they feel too! There is the issue of some voice acting feeling choppy, however, but it's very rare and doesn't affect the overall experience. The benefit of playing as multiple people also removes the Ludonarrative Dissonance (a term in gaming which means that the actions of your player during gameplay don't match the actions during cutscenes and the story), which may have plagued Watch Dogs 2, depending on your style. The characters have their own personalities; some may think killing is the only method of stopping criminals whereas another may believe that non-lethal approaches are the only way, and this works to Legions approach of story-telling.
London feels truly alive in Legion, more-so than any other open-world game does. As previously told, the NPCs are all connected, each with their own goals and opportunities to recruit. Actions have consequences, and killing one random Albion Contractor may end up having a potential recruit hating you and kidnapping your operatives. These little moment-to-moment situations add to your own little experience in Legion, where moment-to-moment situations can be completely random and only happen to you. You could tell your story to a friend who had a completely different ending to you, and that is worthy of speaking about.
Resistance isn't built in a day
The gameplay of Watch Dogs: Legion, aside from the "PAA" mechanic and some other small features, follows the similar set that Watch Dogs 2 laid out. There's usually a restricted zone in each mission, which you can check through before entering by using drones, cameras or the Spiderbot (some zones you can even do without entering at all) and playthrough however you want to. It's a small shame that Ubisoft didn't go completely "play your own way" depending on operatives as some missions require certain objectives which can be found around the area, rather than opening it up to interpretation. For example, a lot of missions require the aforementioned Spiderbot, which is a gadget you can also unlock for any operative by using tech points, but when it's required, there is usually a Spiderbot around for you to use. This is more of a nitpick than anything and won't affect your adventure other than a few times where you'll mumble "really, why did I waste my tech points on that if they just give it to me."
There's a load of content to play through, from story missions to side missions, taking over boroughs to going drinking. You'll be hard-pressed not to find something you like in Legion. Around every street corner there's something to find and play with and there's many drones you can hack flying through every street. Each operative you have has a loadout, with guns that can be changed and a single gadget change (if you have an operative with their own gadget, you can play with two). Gadgets, new hacks, guns and other abilities can be bought using tech points which are scattered around the world. There's a staggering amount of collectibles too, so if you're a completionist, you'll have a lot of collecting to do!
Close quarter combat is extremely satisfying and I don't get bored of it. Dodging and counter attacks feel amazing to pull off, and performing takedowns while in the middle of a gun fight is awesome! Compared to the previous games, the small focus on hand-to-hand fighting is amazing and I appreciate it. The gunplay is similar to previous games and still works, and as they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's fairly simple, but it works wonders and it is always fun to shotgun a guy in the face.
Stealth isn't particularly updated from the previous installments, however they have some pretty decent skills to learn which can help your stealth-orientated missions. Gadgets like AR Cloak, which literally makes you invisible and a skill which covers your enemies which you knock-out are interesting enough to make your stealth run more fun while also making it easier to hide from your adversaries. Regarding enemies, any random Albion or Clan Kelley character that you knock-out can end up hating DedSec, making them unrecruitable and turn them into a rival, which means they can appear randomly to attack you or kidnap your operatives so you'll have to save them. It's a small system but as said previously, it connects every character you play as or hurt in meaningful ways.
So, like every game nowadays, Watch Dogs: Legion includes microtransactions, in the form of WD Credits. This can be used to buy premium operatives which unlock for every save you play and are available on the online portion of Legion (releasing in December). There's also costumes which can be used on any and all operatives you recruit.
How invasive are the microtransactions then? Not at all invasive. You could go your whole playtime and never touch the game again and you could not know about the premium content at all. The premium operatives are also fairly basic and some of the earnt recruits can be better than the paid for ones. This could all change with the inclusion of the online portion of Legion, but right now, it's nothing to worry about at all.
Watch Dogs: Legion is a solid game through and throughout. A solid message regarding the state of society and technology which is no longer a warning like the previous games have insisted on. It's now a sign of the possible future. The gameplay is smooth, the world is connected and London is absolutely beautiful. It's hard to imagine that the Watch Dogs series could end up here, but it's an amazing game and worthy of your time.