Release Date: October 29th, 2020 (Xbox Family [Series X], Amazon Luna, PC, Playstation 4/5, Stadia)
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Ubisoft Toronto
ESRB: Mature (Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol)
The Watch Dogs series has always been a peculiar one for me. The high tech, science fiction based plot is right in my wheelhouse of interests along with its Grand Theft Auto similarities. I have purchased the first two games, but have put in a total of one hour between the two. Other obligations and a large backlog just means there are other games that I usually pick before getting all the way to the end of the alphabetical list. Now here comes Watch Dogs Legion, a game that was marketed as more expansive with more player control. Ironically enough the first game I truly played of my favorite series was Assassin’s Creed III. Hopefully for Watch Dogs Legion, it is a more enjoyable game than the former game was.
The parallels continue as both of those games are based around a revolution. Legion suffers from this standpoint as it is a fictional story that, quite honestly, pales in comparison to games like Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Homefront: The Revolution with similarly fictional stories. What starts off as something that seems ripped from recent headlines quickly swerves to a plot of DedSec trying to clear their names after a set of terrorist bombings around London. A private military group enters the picture after this, and if that sounds familiar a similar plot was used in Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Regardless of the minor similarities, such as both private groups are the bad guys, Ubisoft Toronto has tried to keep the story fresh and not just a rehash of other games/stories. That being said, since this is an Ubisoft Open World Game the story does not matter as much. What matters the most is how fun the open world is, case in point Assassin’s Creed III’s story was good but the world was horrible for that type of parkor gameplay.
Let me tell you, a future dystopian London is fun to transverse around while also being grounded in a reality that is scarily a potential outcome. Walking up to and figuring out how to breach pass the high security of a local market is scary and yet brings a different experience to a Ubisoft game. Legion may be the best Ubisoft open world since Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, solely by coincidence I should add. That being said, Ubisoft has the worst driving mechanics and that hurts a game where you will be mostly driving around. Sadly, this is that game. The steering is slippery and loose, probably a byproduct of the cars feeling near weightless, so unless the player follows the laws of the road in a video game there will be wrecks galore. Ubisoft really needs to spend some time dedicated to fixing the driving in their games. Players are not looking for a close to life simulation like Forza, but they also do not want to feel like they are playing Mario Kart where a banana peel causes them to spin.
The biggest selling point for Legion was the fact players could recruit every possible person in the game, including members of the Royal Guard and contractors of the private military force. That said, over half of the potential recruits are worthless as they have no special traits or worthless/harmful traits like randomly buying clothes with DedSec’s money. Not only that, this recruitment system just seems like a way to cram as many side quests into a game as possible without clogging up the map. The recruitment system can also be rendered unneeded depending on settings and the version of the game bought. Reviewers were given the version of the game with three additional team members right from the beginning. That is four playable members before the story even gets off the ground, which is a huge benefit. Then there is the fact the permadeath setting can be turned off. If team members do not permanently die then there is no urgency or need to recruit. It is a nice thought as a mechanic, but the execution leaves much to be desired.
With the game being apart of the new generation transition with optimized versions for the new consoles, it is worth noting how the game plays on the new consoles. I spent most of my time with the game on the Xbox Series X and the game is sleek looking no doubt. The loading times are also extremely fast, but not too fast so you can still check your texts. There have been some bugs, the most notable being autosaving. I personally lost about an hour of recruitment missions because the game got stuck trying to save after I tried to quit to the main menu. Luckily this led to me being more selective with recruits, because one recruit had spent money, while also washing away a mistake where I got someone killed and the recruit did not want to join anymore. However, if I had lost main story progress I would have been livid and lost the desire to go back into the game, thankfully Ubisoft is aware of the issue and have issued a fix between that instance and the posting of this review. That said, Ubisoft continues its trend of new generation versions not being the best version. It could be worst though, the Xbox One version of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag still has a game breaking bug to this day where players can not proceed further as they get stuck in a loading screen at Nassau.
At the end of the day, Watch Dogs Legion is an enjoyable world to play in despite its flaws and early bugs. Would the game have been better with the recruitment feature more fleshed out and not feel like regular Ubisoft side quests? Sure, but at least it gives the player a chance to focus on what they want to focus on as opposed to the symbol loaded maps of past Ubisoft games. The story is also serviceable and keeps the player’s interest, even if the initial premise has recently been done in a much larger franchise. With few new generation optimized experiences out there right now, Watch Dogs Legion is a good selection for many gamers with its familiar gameplay. [Ryan Williford; Gaming Editor]
Review code provided by Ubisoft.