To say that the “Watch Dogs” franchise started with high peaks and low valleys would be underselling what happened to it. Announced in 2013 and released in 2014, the first “Watch Dogs” promised a truly next-gen open-world experience with an immersive and lifelike rendition of the city of Chicago and visuals that blew our collective minds off. It was hyped beyond belief, with each new trailer and gameplay walkthrough announcing and promising never-before-seen features and a world that was just alive. Needless to say, Ubisoft lied, and the game was not exactly as it was demonstrated. The graphics were downgraded, the city didn’t live up to expectations, the story was incredibly edgy, the main character, Aiden Pearce, had the personality of a piece of wood (I liked him, for the record), and the main draw of the game being hacking was cool but was very shallow and gimmicky. It wasn’t all bad, though, as there was a good game hidden there; it’s just that people hoped Ubisoft didn’t lie and oversell it. 2014 was a pretty bad year for Ubisoft in general with the disastrous release of “Assassin’s Creed Unity” (a great game, by the way) and the debacle of “Watch Dogs,” but if you know Ubisoft, then you know they take criticism to the chin, wear it like a badge of honor, and make their sequels even better.
In 2016, they released “Watch Dogs 2.” A bigger and better sequel to the first game with a massive tone shift. We left the rain-soaked and gloomy streets of Chicago to visit the sunny and vibrant San Francisco Bay area. Everything was better here. The story was cringey at times but hilarious; the characters were, again, cringy at times but endearing; the world was truly the star of the show, and there was a major focus on hacking, as there should have been from the beginning. So, the game did really well, right? I mean, if it was better in every department when compared to the first one, it must’ve sold like hotcakes. Right? Unfortunately, no. It did good, don’t get me wrong, but not very well, as the infamous legacy of the first game dragged the second one down with it. People were just fed up and felt betrayed after Ubisoft lied to them with the first game, so a lot of them bailed on the second without even giving it a shot. It’s a shame, really, because “Watch Dogs 2” is one of the most underrated and coolest games I have ever played. That’s the end of the series, then, right? Two unsuccessful games back-to-back? Wrong again! There came a third in 2020 titled “Watch Dogs Legion.” The most ambitious game in the series that probably has unfortunately died, with this game being the last. “Watch Dogs: Legion” took us away from America and into London this time. Let’s take a look at “Watch Dogs: Legion” and see what makes this game worth playing. Spoiler alert, but this game truly is worth playing.
‘Watch Dogs: Legion’ Premise
“Watch Dogs: Legion” is the third game in the franchise, and while the worlds of these games are connected, the stories and characters are not, so each game takes place in the same world but in its own bubble. Continuing from the trend of previous games, ctOS has expanded to London now, sometime in the near future. Despite failing twice and getting hacked by DedSec, these fools and the governments involved just don’t seem to learn from their mistakes.
The game drops you in the middle of a DedSec operation as your character infiltrates the House of Parliament on account of a bomb threat. Things go awry from there as the threat is real, and you fight your way across the building, defusing bombs with the help of Bagley, your personal assistant AI, and making it to the roof. Once on the roof, another hacker group announced their presence and called themselves Zer0 Day. They are hellbent on destroying DedSec, and to do so, they will blow up a bunch of bombs across London and pin them on DedSec. Your character dies there, and the game skips a few months forward.
Now, DedSec is disbanded, and every member is declared a fugitive and wanted across London for being terrorists, while the city is turned into a police state run by a private military group called Albion. A grim picture. Sabine, who was the leader of the group, reactivates Bagley, and they start working on restoring DedSec to its former glory and clearing their names. Remember how I didn’t mention the name of our character in the beginning? That’s because this game took a very ambitious approach when it comes to gameplay, which we’ll discuss more in the gameplay section. Just know that you pick your starting character and start working towards restoring DedSec by recruiting people and getting to the bottom of the mystery behind Albion and Ze0 Day.
That’s the setup for the plot of this game, and what follows is good. Not great, not bad, just good, and in the context of this game, it works very well. I have to mention and give special credit to Bagley here, as I never expected an AI to outshine and outperform human beings in terms of personality and charisma. Bagley is hilarious, brilliant, and awesome, and is truly the best character that this game had. As for the plot itself, it’s entertaining, with some social commentary and lots of dark themes.
I’ll keep this section short and sweet, as this game’s world deserves an article of its own. The recreation of London is breathtaking and frighteningly accurate. Their decision to set it up sometime in the near future opened many doors that kept the Victorian roots of the city and melded them perfectly with futuristic technology. You’ll see holographic signs over monuments like Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. Holographic trees and neon signs can be seen all across the city. Drones are flying overhead, and automated driverless cars are crowding the streets. A dynamic day and night cycle with the infamous London rains are also in full effect, and all of these things work very well in tandem to make a city that looks familiar yet new at the same time, all the while feeling believable and gorgeous.
‘Watch Dogs: Legion’ Gameplay
The game is an open-world third-person shooter, much like the previous games, with a heavy emphasis on stealth and non-lethal takedowns and a ton of hacking. Let’s get the boringly ambitious feature out of the way before we get into other things. You don’t play as a single dedicated character in this game, as every person you come across in the city can be your next playable character. You can profile anyone you see, learn about their skills and equipment, and talk to them to recruit them. Once you talk to them, they’ll ask you to do some small mission for them, and once you complete it, voila! They are on your team. Some people will take more convincing as they may not be fans of DedSec, while others will straight up refuse to join, but most of them can be recruited. This is so cool because the population of the city kind of becomes like Pokemon and not meat sacks that you’ll run over while driving mindlessly. They all bring different things to the table, as one may carry lethal weapons while the other may have access to a construction cargo drone. Then there are special operatives that join your team when you liberate an area, with professions like a spy, hitman, stunt driver, beekeeper, and more. These are one-of-a-kind operators with unique skills, weapons, and abilities that are well worth unlocking. This way, you can have a team of construction workers or a team of grannies! Your choice. While it is a little gimmicky at times and a little limiting at others, major kudos go to Ubisoft for trying something so new and innovative. Overall, it was very fun.
The shooting here is fine, and the stealth is fantastic. The melee combat is also very satisfying and fun, with a ton of incredible animations. You’ll be driving cars a lot too and driving here is fun. Hacking is obviously the main thing here, and yes, it’s fun. You can hack streetlights, stop cars, or turn them in any direction with the press of a button, just like you could in the previous games. It’s nothing special other than the scripted moments and the grid puzzles, but hacking, despite being very shallow, is cool and appreciated and is something unique to this series. The gameplay on offer here hasn’t changed a lot when compared to the previous games, but I must admit, the stealth systems they added are very welcoming. You can probably beat the game without ever having to kill someone, and in a lot of areas, without ever being seen, and I find that incredibly cool as a major fan of “Dishonored.”
You can run around the city and find skill points that you use to buy skills for your characters, like cloaking themselves or cloaking the bodies of enemies that you knocked out or killed. A spider drone—hacks that can shock and distract your foes for a few seconds and a lot more. Each of these upgrades also has tiers that make them better if you invest in them, and there are a ton of skill points you can find across the city and through missions, so spend them as you see fit. The difficulty is also interestingly handled here, as there’s your standard mode where if one of your operators “dies” or gets arrested, they go to a hospital or police station and are unavailable for a few minutes. Or you can change it and play the game the way it was meant to be played by turning on Permadeath Mode, where once your characters are dead, they are permanently dead. This makes your decision-making even more interesting and asks you to be more stealthy, as losing your character can put a massive dent in your roster. I like this addition, but there’s one more way to play the game. If you want a true challenge, then play the game in Resistance mode, where everything is much more difficult, enemies are more aggressive, there are fewer money and skill points, permadeath is on, and if everyone in your roster dies, it’s game over. How’s that for a challenge?
On paper, there’s nothing that separates “Watch Dogs: Legion” from other open-world games other than hacking. I know it sounds generic and bland, but trust me when I say this: this game plays like a dream, and no matter how generic or samey something may be, it’s always welcomed when it’s fun. Don’t let the looks of this game deceive you; it’s unique, and it does brilliantly what it sets out to do.
I’ll talk about the DLC quickly here, as it’s interesting once again and very worth it, in my opinion. You get extra characters that are unique and one of a kind, including a literal Assassin and a nod to “Assassin’s Creed,” all of which are cool and whatnot, but the main draw is the DLC expansion, “Bloodline.” “Bloodline” brings back not one but two characters from the previous games, Aiden Pearce from “Watch Dogs” and Wrench from “Watch Dogs 2,” in a new campaign that these two heroes share. I won’t get into the story here, and the events of this DLC take place just before and during the London bombings. This might be one of the best DLCs Ubisoft has ever made and is well worth investing your time and money into, and if you have this DLC, then you can play as Aiden and Wrench in the main campaign as well. They come with their own unique abilities and gadgets, and the DLC also brings with it a new type of robot enemy. Not much to say here, but “Bloodline” is just plain fantastic.
The Technical Stuff
The game uses Ubisoft’s AnvilNext Engine, and it is gorgeous. There is the typical Ubisoft jank present here, but overall, it’s a solid experience. On the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, it offers a 4K raytracing mode and a 60-fps performance mode, both of which are fantastic in what they do; however, try the raytracing mode; it locks the game at 30 fps, but it truly transforms the visual experience of this game. The sound design is fine, and the voice acting is fantastic for the prominent, scripted characters, especially Bagley, but your playable characters and others are just all over the place. I can’t blame them, though; they used a ton of modulation to achieve this, and while it ain’t the best, it’s not horrible either, considering the ambition behind this project. Technically, “Watch Dogs: Legion” is a good and sound game.
This franchise started on the wrong foot, and they are still paying the price for it. Alas, this probably will be the last “Watch Dogs” game, as Ubisoft has allegedly shelved this franchise. Such a shame, too, because all three games were good and unique here, yes, including the first one. “Watch Dogs: Legion” was a blast to play, and I still feel that even this game is underrated. There’s nothing I can say to sell this game to anyone, as by the looks of it, it doesn’t look refreshing or original, but when you play it, you realize how well-made this game is from beginning to end. Some people even call it modern-day “Assassin’s Creed,” and that holds some truth, as canonically, these franchises share their universes, and gameplay-wise, they are pretty similar too. If you have the time or the interest, go check out “Watch Dogs: Legion.” It’s not the best game ever made or anything, but it’s a really good game that is cursed by its own past and paying the price for the mistakes it didn’t make. It even has an online mode much akin to “GTA Online,” but not quite as massive, which is fun to play for a while. I hope the rumors aren’t true and that Ubisoft hasn’t given up on this IP, as it truly has a ton of potential.