Watch Dogs: Legion came through on its promise to deliver a new experience in its release earlier this month, but the game’s new systems create a variety of problems accompanied with serious glitches that hold it back from gold-star status.
The tone of this game fits in the middle ground between the first game’s dark revenge story, which is based in a near-future Chicago, and the second game’s cheery hipster take on San Francisco that saw a group of hackers looking to dismantle a major technology company abusing its power.
In Watch Dogs: Legion, players are let loose in a futuristic London shortly after a series of terrorist attacks destroy Parliament and the paramilitary company Albion moves in to establish order over the city.
The attacks are pinned on DedSec, the hacktivist group who players control, resulting in the arrest of nearly every member at the start of the game and a new mission to rebuild the team and figure out who really attacked the city.
One of the game’s key selling points is the players’ ability to play as absolutely anyone they met, and the developers delivered. Starting with one character at the beginning, anyone on the street can be added to players’ teams after a short randomly generated mission. This mission offers a variety of personalities where each player can pick and choose from dozens of different personalities and skills.
Players also have the chance to recruit several special characters, including spies, construction workers, specialist hackers and even have the opportunity to convince Albion contractors and Clan Kelley members to join with a little extra effort.
That system also introduces major gameplay changes. Rather than having a singular main character responsible for all skills, each character has specific skills and weaknesses, forcing players to either find a solution that fits their playing style or change characters.
The hand-to-hand combat system also received a complete reboot, requiring players to manage a series of different controls in a fight that makes for a much more engaging experience, compared to the yo-yo of death present in Watch Dogs 2.
However, the tradeoff of having no main character leads to some major drawbacks in the story. Despite the wide variety of characters in Watch Dogs: Legion, there are only a handful of voice actors who are generally hit or miss on their line delivery.
The individual character personalities also generally deliver the same lines in cutscenes without any writing changes between an Irish brawler and a Jamaican spy. The only voice actor who truly shines in the narrative is Bagley, a snarky artificial intelligence companion in the player’s ear throughout the entirety of the game.
And just because players can recruit anyone doesn’t necessarily mean they should. The game has an upper limit of how many operatives can be saved on players’ teams, and many of the potential characters on the street have more weaknesses than strengths.
The game's major villains also fail to convey the same type of terror and malice that the developer, Ubisoft, has been able to pull off in other games such as the Far Cry series, but weak villains have long been an unfortunate staple of the Watchdogs franchise.
The game had a variety of glitches that made regular appearances, with the occasional character walking through walls and multiple times where the game froze and needed a hard reset. There have also been reports that PC players have completely lost their save files through glitches, and the developer has said they are looking to patch the problem.
Once players overcome the various glitches, the actual difficulty curve of the game isn’t too hard to keep up with, unless players enable the permadeath option. In this mode, rather than having your characters sent to the hospital or arrested, they can permanently die when captured by the enemy, which locks the player out of their abilities, even for specialty characters.
While it initially seems impossible to track down more than one of the specialty characters, further exploration reveals there are a variety of backup characters stashed throughout the city. They may not look or sound the same as those lost, but their abilities are a carbon copy.
Taken as a whole, Watch Dogs: Legion is a fun, innovative game, but needs updates from the developer moving forward to complete the experience.