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Watch Dogs: Legion Review – Undercooked Ambition

watch dogs: legion
PC

Watch Dogs: Legion Review – Undercooked Ambition

Watch Dogs: Legion on PC

Watch Dogs: Legion is one of the most interesting games I’ve played this year. Its foundation is built upon a fascinating gameplay mechanic: the ability to recruit virtually any NPC you encounter in the game, and play as them for the entirety of the story. It’s one of the most ambitious moves we’ve seen from Ubisoft, but does it work? Only sometimes.

The story is set in Ubisoft’s version of near-future London. Things begin when a series of bombings occur in the city, and that act of terrorism is pinned on DedSec, the hacking organization that we’ve come to know over the course of the past two games. In actuality, though, the bombings were organized by another mysterious group only known as Zero Day.

With DedSec now in shambles, you play as one of its random recruits as you try to bring more people to your cause, rebuild the organization, and find out exactly what Zero Day wants.

Right from the start, the game wastes no time in introducing the recruitment mechanics to you. With a few tutorial missions, you’ll have recruited a poet and a construction worker, with the latter giving you the ability to summon a large cargo drone from anywhere in the open-world. This is by far the best addition to the series –it’s slower than a car, but you can hop on it, and pilot it to fly across the entire city. It’s incredible.

By accumulating Tech Points, you can also invest in an upgrade called the Deep Profiler, which allows you to scan NPCs for more details about their lives, the kinds of abilities they can bring to the table, and what it’ll take to recruit them. And yes, even NPCs who actively dislike and denounce DedSec can be recruited; it’ll just take a little bit more work.

The ambition of Watch Dogs: Legion is impressive; some NPCs can’t sneak around or crouch, but they can get through most areas undetected, some are skilled at hand-to-hand combat, others are accomplished hackers. Every NPC is named, they have their own story, they almost feel distinct from one another, but in the grand scheme of things, none of them feel like they really matter.

The biggest problem with Watch Dogs: Legion is that without a single core protagonist to follow, it’s hard to become truly invested in the story. I’d touched briefly on this earlier in the week, and even after clearing the campaign and ruminating on it for a bit, I found myself missing the bespoke, tailor-made stories Ubisoft had crafted for its protagonists in the first two games.

With Legion, every character has a slightly different quip or response to story cutscenes, but you never really care much about what they have to say. It’s a shame as well because the story does have some genuinely fascinating moments.

Over the course of the campaign, I’ve taken down a ring of human traffickers and ventured into the basement of a deranged tech industry icon who figured out how to trap human consciousness into robotic bodies, turning them into AI.

The game is full of compelling moments and characters like these, and I can’t help but wonder if I would’ve been more invested in the story if I’d been experiencing it from the perspective of a protagonist with a fleshed-out personality with their own unique take on what was going on, rather than just the occasional generic quip or outburst as a reaction to story progression.

That said, props must be given to Ubisoft for designing all of its story missions such that they can be cleared by pretty much any character you have on your roster. Whether it’s the skilled hitman you got for liberating a borough in London, or even the very first operative you choose at the start of the game with only one perk, you can clear the game with any of them once you’ve unlocked enough gadgets and upgrades in the tech tree.

The moment-to-moment gameplay in Legion is consistently fun, making you feel like a badass hacker spy sneaking around restricted areas and stealing valuable data. You can deploy spider bots to crawl into vents and find an alternative way of unlocking a door, or you could use the AR cloak to turn invisible and have an easier time taking down enemies. If all else fails, you can even go in guns blazing, and just shoot down every enemy you see.

Missions get progressively tougher later on as you’ll start encountering more drones that are much harder to take out, but the game does a good job of slowly doling out abilities that allow you to hack or disable them for a short period of time. There’s no one way to approach most of these missions, and that allows the game to feel consistently fresh.

However, the game isn’t without its flaws. The melee combat feels clunky, as they usually do in most third-person Ubisoft open-world games. Striking an enemy enough times will cause them to fall to the ground, and you can hit the melee button again to perform a finisher. But if they happen to be on a higher plane than you, like on some stairs, for instance, performing the finisher becomes impossible. It’s the little things like these that make the game feel unpolished.

Playing on PC, Watch Dogs: Legion also suffers from a few performance issues. It’s worth noting that at the time of writing, Ubisoft has pushed out a patch for both PC and consoles to address these performance hiccups. Pre-patch, the game would crash somewhat frequently, maybe once or twice per play session. There were also frame rate hitches and slowdowns that made for an unpleasant gameplay experience, even with a build that sufficiently met all of the recommended requirements and specs.

With the patch, performance does seem to be slightly improved. At the time of writing, I haven’t experienced any crashes since updating the game, though the slowdown issues are certainly still present. Certainly not game-breaking or unplayable by any means, but if you’re planning on picking up the PC version, these are just a few things to be aware of.

Ultimately, Watch Dogs: Legion’s main mechanic feels like an incredibly ambitious move that almost pays off for Ubisoft, but not quite. In favor of cramming as many playable NPCs into the game as possible, Legion ends up sacrificing story and character investment. Ubisoft’s vision of near-future London is a beautifully realized sandbox world that I loved spending time in, but it’s also forgettable and not one that I see myself returning to anytime soon.

Review Block

Watch Dogs: Legion

3.5
/ 5

Fair

Watch Dogs: Legion Critic Review
Reviewer: Zhiqing Wan | Copy provided by Publisher.

Pros

  • – The gadgets help to keep missions feeling fresh and innovative.
  • – Missions are well-balanced so that you can clear the game with any character.
  • – The story features some genuinely memorable and fascinating plot lines.

Cons

  • – The lack of a central protagonist prevents players from having any sort of real investment in the story.
  • – Performance issues with the PC build are still kinda annoying.
Release Date
Oct. 29, 2020
Developer
Ubisoft
Publisher
Ubisoft
Consoles
PS4, Xbox One, PC

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