When the original Watch Dogs came out in 2014, I had a feeling a new franchise that I would love was born. I loved Watch Dogs and played it to completion but quickly fell off of 2016's Watch Dogs 2. Will Watch Dogs: Legions' promise of being able to be anyone spark my love for the franchise all over again?
Reviewed on Google Stadia and Amazon Luna.
The first thing I want to discuss is how I played the game. I started the game on Amazon Luna when the Ubisoft+ channel was released. The game takes a few minutes to boot up on Luna, but then I had virtually no issues. Ubisoft+ then released for Google Stadia. Due to Ubisoft Connect, the transition was seamless, and I was able to access my save and carry over my progress. The Stadia version boots up quicker than the Luna version, but besides that, they seem to be very similar from a performance standpoint.
The story of Watch Dogs: Legion is predictable and not all that interesting. It's nothing that has not been told before. It opens up and you are playing as a character trying to stop a bomb from going off in London; the bomb goes off and that character is killed. DedSec is framed for the explosion. You then need to start a team of DedSec agents to figure out what happened and stop further attacks on London.
The first character you select is from a finite amount put in front of you. Each one has something unique: it shouldn't matter who you choose, since the hook of the game is you can recruit and play as anyone.
Once the game opens up, and you start doing missions, something stuck out to me that was actually very refreshing. Each character I play as does not have an experience bar or a way for them and only them to get stronger; there are no rewards for completing tasks with certain operatives. You can upgrade your team, but it's blanketed around the whole team. This is done by hunting down tech points in the open world and filling out your tech tree.
WD:L is a game you can truly play any way you want. You can play it as a shooter, a stealth game, or even a brawler. It's nice to not have to worry about being cheated for playing the way you want to play.
So many games that give you choice have drawbacks.
For example, killing enemies in most games would award experience points to level up. Since that is not a factor here, you can sneak past an entire group of enemies, and feel like you didn't miss anything.
My favorite way to play the game was like a brawler. The enemies have guns, and so do you, but if you don't draw your weapon and choose to fight, that's what they will do too. Most missions were played this way for me, and if it ever got a little stale, I would just switch up my tactics and the game would feel fresh again.
I said you have a gun, which is true, but different operatives have different guns, and there is not much that can be changed. Some of your operatives will be much better equipped for gunfights than others, which at times left me feeling a little hamstrung, when things would hit the fan.
On our podcast, Game Bites, I said some of the storytelling felt out of touch. There is one specific mission where you need to flirt with a woman and get information from her. I showed up to this mission as the same character I was in my last mission. This character happened to be a female. When I approached the target, she just got mad and yelled at me. The game then prompted me to switch to a male operative. We can do better than this. There are many ways to tackle this and that is just unexpectable by today's standards.
Another mechanic that felt like it was missing was the ability to pick up the enemy's weapons. You have a gun assigned to each character, and when things get crazy, you could run out of ammo or maybe the gun they have is just not ideal for the situation. You can not change or take the enemy's weapons. This was an odd decision, which I can only assume is to keep you recruiting more operatives, to get people with a different arsenal.
I'm going to say it again: the story is bad.
The idea of playing as anyone is great as a concept, but in execution, it destroys the narrative. The game is not hard, but I did fail a few story missions. When this happens, you pick up right where you left off, with a new character. Sometimes these missions were very story heavy with cut scenes, and since I had to switch characters, this very heavy story moment is now with a character I rarely use. It made it look like that operative was the main character of the game and less like a team of characters. I do not know how to make that feel better, but there are plenty of people at Ubisoft who are way smarter than I am, that could have figured it out.
Even with the story being bad, I still could not stop playing. I am actually still playing it even after rolling credits on it. The gameplay is just so much fun. I love brawlers and I love shooters, so my playstyle mixed up the two of those, and when they gel together it was pure gameplay gold.
Getting in a fistfight with someone, and then grabbling with another person and executing them John Wick style, was something I tried to do every chance I got. It was a blast and really never got old.
The driving in the game felt pretty good, too, for what it is. A lot of open world games have sub-par or even just passable driving mechanics. I would say the driving in this game was slightly above average, which is a pleasant surprise, in a game like this.
The hacking, however, is something that didn't keep my attention except for a few clever puzzles. Controlling your drone, or bouncing from camera to camera, is something we have done over and over and was not very interesting this time around. There were, however, some hacking puzzles that required you to trace the source, and change directions, that reminded me of an old pipes puzzle game. There were almost too many of these, where it got a little redundant, but these were fun to do, especially if you were under fire while trying to figure it out.
Watch Dogs: Legion does a lot of things wrong, but what it does do right is its gameplay. A predictable story, that struggles due to not having a true main character, is easily overshadowed by the fun moment-to-moment action. I do recommend playing this, but I recommend going about it in a different way. Give a service like Stadia or Luna a shot, and subscribe to Ubisoft+, when you have a lot of free time. That way you can play this and any other Ubisoft game you want for a low price.
Final Score: 7/10
For more reviews, be sure to check out my thoughts on Cyberpunk 2077, Hitman World of Assassination, and Halo: Combat Evolved and my new podcast: Game Bites, the latest entry in The Spinchoon Podcast Network (check out Flix & a Six). We also started a new review series on The Spinchoon: Game Club. Check out our first entry on Sleeping Dogs here As always, check us out on Twitter @TheSpinchoon and I’m @Big_Broons