Now don’t get me wrong, I know the first Watch Dogs wasn’t exactly well-received. The second game was a big step up and a radical change in tone from the first, and with Watch Dogs Legion, it seemed like Ubisoft was pushing the series in a direction that seemed promising. But it comes with a big twist: there’s no longer a single set protagonist to follow through the story. The sad part is, that change doesn’t really work out very well here.
Watch Dogs Legion sells you the idea that DedSec is an organization that could be made up of literally anybody. And with that in mind, you can now recruit almost any NPC you encounter in the open world. Every NPC comes with their own unique talents and you can swap between them at any time.
The only consistent NPCs that stick with you through the story are DedSec leader Sabine, and your snarky AI Bagley. Story cutscenes are rough, as your selected character at the time never seems to have anything meaningful to contribute to a conversation, and instead only chirp up with generic responses and questions to move the conversation forward.
Without a central protagonist, Watch Dogs Legion feels like a loosely told story about a hacking organization trying to rise up in London, and you’re just along for the ride with no real investment in it. The first game centered around Aidan Pearce who, while arguably dull, at least had a clear motivation of taking down ctOS to find out the truth behind his daughter’s death. We knew who he was, got to know each of his allies and villains, and the story wrapped up neatly with peaks and valleys that felt engaging.
Watch Dogs 2 changed the tone of the series by being focused on a group of youngsters banding together to try to take down the government. Once again, we got to know each member of the crew intimately, we understood their motivations, and it was easy to buy into their story.
With Watch Dogs Legion, recruiting NPCs is as simple as walking up to them and saying, “You look like you’re tired of what’s been going on in London. Wanna do something about it?” And the NPC would respond with an enthusiastic, “Wait, are you from DedSec?” Then you do a quest for them, and they’re recruited.
It feels jarring, especially in the context of the story where DedSec is all but defunct in the public eye. And since being associated with DedSec can be incredibly dangerous, it makes even less sense that all this recruiting happens in broad daylight out on the streets, where there are scanners and cops everywhere.
Whereas the first two games felt like they had a solid direction and core to work with, Watch Dogs Legion feels a little lost in comparison.
In the gameplay department, it’s everything you’d expect from your typical Ubisoft open world game. There are side quests to tackle, districts to free, and items to collect. The hacking continues to feel fresh and freeing; within the first couple hours of the game, you’re given the ability to summon a huge cargo drone to your position and you can basically hop on, hijack it, and fly it across the city.
London is beautifully realized in Watch Dogs Legion and much of my enjoyment of the game has come from simply cruising around the city, revisiting popular tourist locations like Piccadilly Circus, Camden, and Buckingham Palace itself. Exploring the city is immersive when everything falls into place, and you begin to notice the little details that bring the locales to life.
At the time of writing, I’ve sunk 20 hours into the PC build of the game and have cleared the campaign. It’s worth noting, however, that the PC version does come with its fair share of bugs and flaws. In my last week of playtime, the game has crashed at least once per play session, the frame rate hasn’t exactly been the most stable, despite me having capped it at 60 on a pretty powerful PC rig.
Ubisoft is aiming to push out a patch to resolve some of the game’s more pressing issues, including an Xbox One bug that causes the game to crash during a specific mission. I’ll have more to say about Watch Dogs Legion in our official review of the game in the coming days.