Want to spice up your franchise? Here’s how you make things feel new again: set an entry in the future! It worked for Final Fantasy! It worked for Saints Row! It worked for The Flintstones, because we’re going to assume that’s what The Jetsons was! Today, we’re going to check out Watch Dogs: Legion and find out if it’s going to work for Ubisoft’s hack-tastic franchise.
In a future London run by the CTOS system seen in previous Watch_Dogs titles, the hacktivists of Dedsec are pitted against the jackbooted thugs of the Albion mercenaries that now run the city. It’ll take more than just one hacker to save the day this time, though. In fact, it might even take more than a few. You’ll control the members of Dedsec on their adventures and recruiting efforts as they fight to take back London.
The basic foundation of the Watch_Dogs series is alive and well in Legion. It’s basically a stealth game, though you typically aren’t penalized too harshly for going in hard if that’s what you’d rather do. You’ve got a selection of both lethal and nonlethal weapons that can come in handy for doing just that, in fact, and you can collect Tech Points to upgrade Dedsec and unlock more. More subtle players might prefer Legion’s selection of gadgets, ranging from controllable spiderbots and drones to an augmented-reality-based cloak. You’ve got numerous ways to approach any given scenario, from hostage rescue to sabotage, and in true Ubisoft fashion, Legion is pretty content to let you do your own thing.
The future setting isn’t just for show, either, and actually does a couple interesting things for the gameplay. Futuristic fun stuff like offering summonable drones that you can fly around on and auto-driving cars you can steal off the street without any concern.
Of course, we can’t really discuss the game without talking about its big selling point. It’s possible to recruit and play as basically every NPC in Legion. I don’t have to tell you that this has its ups and downs. Legion doesn’t really have a main character, for instance, and the story is best framed through its rotating roster of villains rather than any single recruit. On the other hand, Legion tries its damnedest to make you care about your team as a whole, and it’s interesting that each recruit has their own set of abilities, perks and potentially even hindrances that they bring to the table.
And yes, much like in all the promotional material for Legion, you can play as a shotgun-wielding old lady. Just find her, chat her up, do a quick favor for granny and make it happen.
This is actually made significantly more interesting if you activate Legion’s permadeath option. This might seem like an unnecessary toggle to make the game harder, but it really does add a lot to Watch_Dogs’ stealth-lite gameplay if you’re constantly considering whether a bad move might lead to the loss of a beloved teammate. Do you really want to take substantial risks if they mean putting yourself in danger? It’s such an improvement that I’d almost have suggested that it was the default, but that’s not the case. Make sure you turn it on.
As one of the games coming around in the transition to the next-generation of consoles, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Legion looks pretty good. It doesn’t run particularly well on modern consoles, since presumably it’s been optimized for the more powerful – and ray-traced – PS5 and Xbox Series machines. It struggles in particular with more crowded street areas, which are places you’re going to spend a lot of time in so that you can find recruits.
On the other hand, the PC version is just fine and dandy, provided you have the hardware, so if you want to get in on the ground floor (something Legion only moderately encourages, since a promised multiplayer mode isn’t coming out until December) then you’ll want to go that direction. I can’t speak to the various streaming alternatives, i.e. Google Stadia, but the game is available on those platforms if hardware is an issue (and bandwidth is not).
While the recruitment system that serves as its main selling point is cute, Watch_Dogs: Legion doesn’t stray very far from the same kennel as the previous two Watch Dogs entires. Still, those were perfectly passable open-world stealthers and Legion’s just as solid. With a few weeks to go until the newest and hottest games of the season start dropping, you could probably do worse than spending some time liberating London – with shotgun granny in town, of course. Cheers.