The streets of London are a great setting for Watch Dogs: Legion
Watch Dogs: Legion starts, like all good stories, with a conspiracy. And a catastrophe. In this world, London will never be the same again.
The third game in the franchise from Ubisoft, with development led by the studio in Toronto, is, like its predecessors, a game that centers concerns about the surveillance state.
The first game, set in Chicago, came out in 2014. The second game, 2016’s Watch Dogs 2, moved to San Francisco. Those games were set two years later than the release dates. That near-future context is true of Legion, too, even if the year isn’t specified.
There’s a straight line between Brexit and Black Lives Matter and the climate crisis and the London created for Legion. The city is victimized with a terrorist attack which leads to the militarization of law and order and creeping fascism.
Connected cameras and drones are persistent in this world. The private corporation of Albion has assumed control of it all.
A hacker-led resistance
Resisting are the people who come together in DedSec, the hacker group which has been part of the Watch Dog games since the beginning.
And it’s the people where Legion becomes an entirely different game than the previous Watch Dog titles and distinct among standard open-world role-playing games. Because any character that you see on the street can become a playable character in your game.
Much of the delight here is in finding new characters to recruit. Each person has skills that they bring to help the collective effort, and some of those unique characteristics could be essential to completing missions. There’s enough flexibility in this sandbox to use a variety of methods to accomplish the same task.
You won’t always be successful in recruiting people, and not everyone is open to recruitment. You’ll figure all that out as you go.
Along the way you’ll confront Albion, increasing in power, as well as other factions—the criminal underground, for example—that are trying to control what happens in the city.
Combat is passable. Mind you, Watch Dogs is less about beating someone down and more about sneaking around and using your tech tools to complete objectives. And as you build out your own DedSec, you’ll be able to combine your operatives and their skills in completely unique ways.
The London created for Legion is essential to the game. It’s a huge city, and each of the eight districts built out for the game has its own personality.
There are, as with all open world games these days, plenty of tasks to take on and items to collect. I didn’t get the same sense of boredom from this as I have from other open worlds that were overwhelming with the number of things to do and mind-numbingly the same.
In part that’s because this city is as maze-like as the real London, too, with everything somehow flowing with the Thames. It’s a treat to simply be in the world, with its bright neon tint and cacophony.
One mechanic I didn’t have a chance to explore is the permanent death option. That removes characters you’ve recruited from your roster if they are killed in the game. It’s the kind of creative fluidity that means that no two games are ever alike. I believe it would make me very cautious about how I play the game and the decisions I make about the characters I play.
Another way that Legion differs from the earlier two Watch Dogs games is in its tone of irreverence. While the game’s themes are serious, the game itself doesn’t take itself too seriously. This “taking the piss” attitude comes through in the dialogue, in the top-notch voice acting that is at times incomprehensible, and in the bizarre and hilarious masks that the characters wear when on missions to circumvent facial recognition. This is the country of Guy Fawkes, after all.
When the world we’re living in seems more like a video game each day, what else can we expect from the video games we play?
Watch Dogs: Legion is now available for PS4, Stadia, Windows, and Xbox One, on November 10 for Xbox Series S/X, and on November 12 for PS5. Rated mature.