Pick a Ubisoft game, any one you’ve played in the last couple years should do (preferably one you liked), and now name one of the characters in it? You can’t right? When my mate first asked me that question we had literally just finished playing a session of The Division 2 and even then we couldn’t even name any of the main characters or the current antagonist at the time. This is the core problem with basically any of Ubisoft’s open worlds: they’re large, well detailed, ultimately entirely forgettable universes that are, for some, a great place to lose countless hours whilst for others they’re simply a world overflowing with unnecessary additions that dilutes any sense of import. Watch Dogs: Legion unfortunately continues this tradition, making every character in it even less noteworthy by simply doing away with a single protagonist completely with the entire city of London instead taking up the mantel. For a series that I’ve generally looked on quite favourably I found myself really struggling with this one as it just felt like another generic, bland world filled with time wasting bits and pieces that I had little interest in pursuing.
The London branch of DeadSec have uncovered a plot to bomb the parliament building in London. DedSec send in one of their operatives to defuse the bombs and discover that the intruders are members of a rogue hacker group called “Zero Day”. While they manage to prevent Parliment’s destruction, their operative is swiftly gunned down by drones commanded by Zero Day’s leader. They then detonate several additional explosives around London and order an attack on DedSec’s hideout, forcing Sabine (the leader of this branch) to shut down Bagley and go into hiding. In the wake of the bombings, the British government contract Albion with restoring order to London and hunting down DedSec, who are held responsible for the chaos, effectively causing social and political unrest amongst the city’s inhabitants. It’s up to you then DeadSec to free the city of London from itself.
Like all open world games Legion’s graphics are a half step behind the current expected norms for a AAA title although honestly, with this also being released on next gen platforms, it’s starting to look more and more likely that my aging PC rig is likely to blame for the lack of graphical fidelity. To be fair though it’s one of the better looking open world games I’ve played in recent memory, especially with the amount of detail and abundance of NPCs around the place. I did have some notable performance issues in a couple places, namely near the under construction bridges and some other areas which obviously had a lot more detail packed into them for whatever reason. Given it was in the same areas I feel there’s probably some optimisation to be done there but again, with an almost 6 year old PC here, I’m willing to wear the lion’s share of the blame.
If you’ve played one Ubisoft open world game then you’re likely quite familiar with the setup of Legion as well. From my vague memories of what Watch_Dogs 2 was like everything seems roughly the same although a lot of the powers that you originally had to unlock are now built in for every character. The game’s claim to fame is that you can play as literally anyone you can see which, to a point, is true although it’s quitely likely that you won’t end up doing that for reasons I’ll get into later. There’s the usual affair of the main campaign, numerous different mini-games, side quests and collectibles although noticeably absent is any form of multiplayer that the first 2 games had (this is coming in a future patch though). Really there’s not a lot to say here as it’s really just yet another generic sandbox, except this time you can choose who the main character is (yay, I guess?).
Combat is fine, taking the form of your usual infinite regenerating health third person shooter. Some of the people you can recruit have special weapons and abilities which can make things a little more interesting although in the end they are, for the most part, just reskinned versions of things that you already have. I will have to admit that using one of the brawler agents was probably the most fun way to do things as, for the most part, NPCs are forced to also melee until you pull a gun on them. So having a character that’s just hands down better than them at it does make for some rather fun engagements. What’s less clear to me (and I still haven’t got a clear answer on this) is the difference between lethal and non-lethal weapons. Typically the difference is that there’s a penalty for going lethal (or a bonus for using non-lethal) but that’s absolutely not the case and they both appear to be as about as effective as each other as well. The stealth takedowns, which are shown to be non-lethal, for some reason count as stealth kills for the stats tracker in Uplay (or is that Ubisoft Connect now?). Not that I was expecting COD level slick gunplay out of Legion but I was still somewhat let down by just how bland the combat was.
Legion’s claim to fame around being able to recruit anyone is pretty much true, with a few caveats. You can really piss some people off by doing things like, oh you know running over their friends in your car because that was the most direct route or something equally as terrible. This will then make them unrecruitable to you unless you find some way to get around that (which to be honest I never did). Also the vast majority of the NPCs in the game aren’t worth bothering with as they either have some kind of disadvantage or simply don’t have any kind of in built skill that’s worth having on the team. This is especially true with the skilled operatives you get from turning a borough “defiant” which are simply hands down better than anything else you can find on the street. This means that if you’re looking to craft a really strong team then playing as anyone isn’t particularly appealing, especially when recruiting them means doing a 15+ minute mission to get them on board.
The worst part though is that having differently skilled operatives simply does not matter at all for any part of the game (and when it does the game gets you to recruit someone anyway). All of the puzzles are solvable by someone without any particular talent and most aren’t built in such a way as to have multiple completion options should you have a skill that’d solve another kind of problem. To be sure there are some missions that are made easier by certain skills (like summoning the cargo drone) but even for those you’re usually not far away from getting that particular something with you current operative to get you that advantage anyway. Probably the funniest example of this was when one of my mates, when told he needed to seduce someone, went on a quest to find a highly attractive supermodel NPC. However that particular mission will reject the first operative you send regardless of who they are and they’re also not picky about who you send in afterwards. If the game had actually forced me to, you know, profile them, find out their interests and then recruit someone to seduce them then yeah, that’d be a good use of their key mechanic. But the fact that it simply does not matter who you send first or second is pretty much the best example of how the game’s most innovative mechanic is simply not used to any effect.
Like any large open world game Legion has its fair share of weird bugs, glitches and unfortunately random crashes that’ll make your experience either hilarious or frustrating. My first crash (it was actually a hard lock, something I haven’t seen in years!) was when I was bullying a NPC around for a few minutes, trying to push them into a corner for reasons I can’t really remember now. It seemed at one point it started to try and figure out how to path out of the situation and that send the game engine quite spare and locked it up completely. The random crashes after then were thankfully infrequent, I think due to a patch that came through to address exactly that. It’s likely to get better as time goes on with the one exception of when the multiplayer patch comes out. It’ll probably be hilariously bad for a week or two before the worst things get patched out so unless you’re really keen to play this multiplayer for whatever reason consider yourself warned.
Now the story is probably the one to suffer the most from Ubisoft’s desire to make every NPC playable as that means quite a lot of the story is very generic. Your character’s name is never mentioned (for obvious reasons), a lot of dialogue from your operatives is quite repetitive since it’s obviously choosing from a bunch of pre-selected lines and, probably worst of all, the voice actor’s personality follows them. Whilst this works for say, the type of characters you expect to be chavs or something it’s pretty weird to have a construction worker have the same personality as your super spy agent. This means there’s absolutely no chance of you getting immersed in the story as everything is just too generic or too out of kilter for it to be remotely believable. It also doesn’t help that the story itself is pretty mediocre and predictable but given the last few titles’ attempts I really shouldn’t be surprised.
If you’re the kind of person that likes to spend countless hours just tooling around in an open world though much of this isn’t going to matter to you. There’s a reason that Ubisoft continues to make generic, open world sandboxes for people to play in: they enjoy them. Whilst this particular one may be the most generic of the lot thanks to the ambition of making every NPC playable that may just mean it appeals to a much wider audience than any of the others did before it. Heck even I, someone who wasn’t really finding much to enjoy with it, managed to stick it out for a good 15 hours before I decided to call it quits. I don’t see myself ever going back of course but I can’t say that I didn’t get my money’s worth out of it. I can’t really see myself recommending it wholeheartedly though, unless you’re the kind of person that really, really enjoys the kind of gameplay that these titles provide.
Watch Dogs Legion is available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series One X right now for $89.95. Total play time was 15 hours with 24% of the challenges completed.