The City of London
Watchdogs Legion’s is set in a “not too distant future” London. The city is awash with technology, autonomous cars drive themselves around, drones litter the sky and social media infiltrates every aspect of people lives.
As you would expect from a Ubisoft game the city is spectacular looking. You can drive around all the narrow streets and take in the sights and sounds the city has to offer. Despite the autonomous cars, drones and all the simulated people living here, it does feel a bit empty.
The playable area of the city is split into seven key boroughs from Camden to Westminister. And despite each borough has its own distinct feel the same issue persists throughout.
Shops, offices, and apartment blocks are, for the most part, just blank buildings facades. This takes away from the idea of a living city with people popping in and out of shops, pubs and offices.
You are part of Dedsec, a secretive underground “honest” hacker group that has always been focused on holding those in power to account. In the opening sequence, you stumble upon a plot to blow up London. Despite your best efforts you fail to stop the bombs and end up taking the blame.
While the city is reeling from the attack. The opportunists make their move. A Private military police force moves in to restore order. A ruthless criminal family moves quickly to eliminate the competition and consolidate power, and a host of other characters make their own moves, for various motives, which are best left to discover within the game.
Play as anyone, connect with no one?
Legion’s main selling point is the “Play as Anyone” mechanic where you can literally pick any of the random characters in the city. And provided that you can convince them to join your hacker group, they will become a fully playable character for you to control.
Recruiting is pretty simple, a little too simple at times if I’m honest. Your group “Dedsec” have been blamed for bombing London and have been categorized as a terrorist organization. The city is filled with a heavily militarized police presence, and Dedsec has been hunted into oblivion. I would think that convincing someone to give up their current life in exchange for a life on the run, would take just a bit more work. In some cases, you walk up to a perfect stranger and less than 3 minutes and a deleted email later they are willing to jump ship and join the resistance.
It isn’t always this easy, some characters with a less favourable opinion of Dedsec can take more work. If you hurt, or wrong, someone they can end up becoming enemies of Dedsec, or at least unwilling to join for the rest of the game.
Each person in the city is fully simulated. They have names, backstories, jobs, places to go and people to see. They have opinions and memories. It is an incredible mechanic, one that if you really give yourself over to it you can find a game with depth and meaning. However, this depth is very easily missed as it isn’t immediately presented to you. You really have to go looking for it and do the extra leg work to get to know your crew.
There are other aspects to consider. Many of the locations around the city are what they call “uniformed”. Essentially you will have an easier time if you “look the part”. A builder, for example, won’t cause as much suspicion walking around a building site as someone in a three-piece suit. But it goes beyond that, adding a paramedic, for example, can help get your injured members out of the hospital faster. A lawyer will reduce jail time.
Generally, due to the ease of getting someone new, I found it hard to build any connection with my crew in the early hours of the game. They were all so disposable, I would have liked it if the opening few hours were more focused. That missions were closer together and you spent an hour with each new character getting to know them, caring about them and had a tight group before expanding.
You can choose to do missions in any way you want. But the “ideal way” is to approach a mission and to scout it out. Use your tech to steal key cards, open doors, hack cameras to understand what is inside and how to get it with the least amount of violence. After unlocking some additional tech you can even start to sneak in with drones or spider bots so you don’t even have to enter the building.
But in the vast majority of missions, I would get spotted and end up killing everyone and just walking in. It became easier to just bring a big gun until I had unlocked enough skills and gotten to grips with the tech that I could be smarter (but I still packed a gun).
The Load Times
The biggest issue with Legion is the load times. Driving around a rain-soaked city full of traffic is not hugely entertaining. So to get around you fast travel more and more. At times I’ve had loading screens last for 70-80 seconds only to load me into a room that required another loading screen to leave it 10 seconds later.
I will admit for the first 5-6 hours I was not enjoying the game (I ended up liking it). The open-world missions are far too spread out and the game bounced me from one side of London to the next. The long load times and long travel times took me out of the experience. I found it hard to care for any of my crew (some I hated).
The story did start to work its magic around the 7-8 hour mark. It hits on some pretty brutal topics and doesn’t shy away from them. The more I played the more I learnt about the tech, the skills, the characters, the more I enjoyed it and cared about my crew.
If you can invest the time there is a good game here with an amazing mechanic worth exploring. Because it offers so much choice your playthrough might be very different from mine. I would say that it took too long to get into its grove, many players will have bailed after the first few hours.
Note: Ubisoft did provide us with a Review code so we could play the game early. It was played on a PS4 Pro.
Watchdogs will launch on Next Gen with a free upgrade if you own a PS4 or Xbox One version. I’ve not had a chance to see it on either next-gen console yet, but I can only assume the load times will be drastically improved.
Online is due around December the 3rd. this was not part of this review.Please Join us on your Social Platform of choice