Watch Dogs: Legion

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Watch Dogs: Legion
Watch Dogs Legion cover art.webp
Developer(s)Ubisoft Toronto[a]
Publisher(s)Ubisoft
Director(s)
Producer(s)Sean Crooks
Designer(s)
  • Wesley Pincombe
  • Liz England
Programmer(s)
  • Gavin Whitlock
  • Matt Delbosc
  • Guillaume Plourde
Artist(s)
  • Joshua Cook
  • Patrick Ingoldsby
  • Po Yuen Kenny Lam
Writer(s)
  • Nitai Bessette
  • Cameron Labine
Composer(s)Stephen Barton
SeriesWatch Dogs
Platform(s)
Release
  • Windows, PlayStation 4, Stadia, Xbox One
  • 29 October 2020
  • Luna, Xbox Series X/S
  • 10 November 2020
  • PlayStation 5
  • 12 November 2020[b]
Genre(s)Action-adventure
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Watch Dogs: Legion (stylised as WATCH DOGS LΞGION) is a 2020 action-adventure game developed by Ubisoft Toronto and published by Ubisoft. It is the third instalment in the Watch Dogs series, and the sequel to 2016's Watch Dogs 2. Set within a fictionalised representation of a futuristic, dystopian London, the game's story follows the hacker syndicate DedSec as they seek to clear their names after being framed for a series of terrorist bombings. DedSec also attempt to liberate London's citizens from the control of Albion, an oppressive private military company which turned the city into a surveillance state following the bombings.

While the core gameplay is similar to its predecessors, consisting of a combination of shooting, driving, stealth, and hacking puzzles, Legion introduces a multiple playable characters system, allowing players to recruit virtually any NPC found in the game's open world. Each playable character has their own unique skills and backgrounds, and can be lost permanently if players enable the option of permadeath before starting a new game. There are multiple ways to complete missions depending on which playable character is selected. In March 2021, a cooperative multiplayer mode was added to the game, allowing up to four players to complete missions or explore London together. New content is being added regularly to both the single-player and multiplayer modes, with Season Pass owners gaining access to exclusive missions and characters.

Legion was released on 29 October 2020 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Stadia, and as a launch title in November for the Xbox Series X/S, the PlayStation 5, and Amazon Luna. Upon release, the game received mixed reviews. Critics were polarized over the multiple playable character aspect, with some appreciating its complexity and the inclusion of permadeath for allowing emotional attachment from players, while others criticized the playable characters' lack of personality and the imbalance between different characters' abilities. Criticism was also aimed at the game's world, driving mechanics, inconsistent difficulty, and repetitive missions.

Gameplay[edit]

In Legion, players can recruit non-playable characters to join the hacker group DedSec. Following the completion of their recruitment missions, players would be able to control them directly.

Watch Dogs: Legion is an action-adventure game played from a third-person perspective, and taking place within an open world setting based upon London, which can be explored either on foot ─ utilizing parkour moves ─ vehicles, or fast-travelling via the city's Underground stations. Eight of London's Boroughs are represented in game: Westminster, Wandsworth, Lambeth, Southwark, Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets, in addition to the City of London.[3] The game is composed of several missions, including those that progress the main story, liberation missions aimed at freeing the city's boroughs featured in the setting, recruitment missions for new playable characters, and various side-activities, with players able to freely pursue a mission or activity, or explore the city for secrets and collectibles. Each mission's objectives can be handled via one or several different approaches: an open-combat approach utilizing a variety of weapons; a stealth approach utilizing the environment to avoid detection and monitoring enemy patterns; or a hacking approach using any hackable object to subdue enemies with traps or distractions, while seeking out objectives via cameras and remotely accessing them. Combat includes a mixture of gun fights ─ involving lethal and non-lethal fire-arms ─ and hand-to-hand combat moves, with enemies making use of different methods depending on how the player acts against them in combat (i.e. a guard hit with a punch will use melee attacks). Players can be pursued by enemies when escaping, including hostile drones, but can lose them by utilizing hack-able environmental objects (i.e. vents) and avoiding line of sight with pursuers.

Unlike previous games in the series, Legion features the ability to use multiple characters during a playthrough, each of whom can be recruited from around the game's setting.[4][5] While the player must choose a character to begin with after the story's prologue chapter, others may be recruited upon completing the initial story missions of the game from anywhere around the game's setting, which can also include those working for hostile factions. Those recruited become operatives that the player can freely switch to at any time, as well as customize with different clothing options,[6] with each recruit-able character maintaining their own lifestyle and occupation when not active (i.e. spending time drinking at a pub). Each character that can be recruited has different traits and skills, based upon their background ─ a spy operative has access to a silenced pistol and can summon a special spy vehicle to travel around with, armed with rockets; a hooligan operative can summon friends to help in a fist-fight; a builder operative can make use of large drones for heavy-lifting and a nail-gun for combat; while an "adrenaline junkie" operative can deal more damage, but risk the possibility of being knocked out/dying at random moments.[6] Operatives can gain experience when used by the player, which allows them to gain additional skills and abilities to improve them, with the player able to provide additional upgrades for all characters by spending "tech points" ─ a collectible scattered around the city, which can be spent on weapon and gadget upgrades. In addition to standard recruitable NPCs, the player can also acquire special NPCs to their roster, known as "Prestige Operatives" ─ these unique characters possess exceptional weapons and gain access to stronger perks as they improve in level than standard operatives.

All potential recruits have an additional statistic, which details whether they can be recruited when approached ─ their thoughts on DedSec. Some recruits may not join if either they favour those that oppose them (such as a hostile faction), if the player has a character in their roster whom they hate or if DedSec did something to harm another NPC they have good relations with.[6] If a recruit can be brought in, players will be required to complete a mission from them related to a problem they need resolving.[6][7] An example of such a mission would be helping someone determine why they are being constantly spied on more frequently of late. Any character that can be recruited can be killed during a playthrough whether in combat, accidental death or explosion, or from their own traits, and thus be permanently removed from the player's roster of playable characters, provided the player has the permadeath option enabled; if not, the character is merely unavailable and there is a delay before they can be used again. If in permadeath mode the player loses all their characters from death or arrest, the game ends.

Multiplayer[edit]

The online component of the game, introduced in March 2021, allows for four-player cooperative gameplay, with players able to share progression between the single-player and multiplayer modes.[1] The multiplayer experience offers several different activities for players to engage in, including city events, co-operative missions (including the more complex "Tactical Ops"), and the "Spiderbot Arena" competitive mode, where players controlling miniature spiderbot gagets fight in free for all matches. The asymmetrical multiplayer mode "Invasion" from the previous two Watch Dogs games also makes a return, with several changes.[8]

Like the single-player mode, players can freely explore London and recruit new operatives to their team; however, rather than completing short missions for each character, this is done by spending "Influence" (an in-game form of currency). Influence is also used to unlock gadgets and character upgrades, and can be earned from completing missions and daily/weekly objectives, bought with real-life money from the in-game store, or found across the map, along with masks and experience points (the locations of collectibles change weekly).

Watch Dogs: Legion Online uses a seasonal approach to introduce new content to the game. During each season, a different roadmap with various rewards (Influence, weapon skins, character clothing etc.) is featured. As players complete missions and other activities, they gain experience points and rank up, unlocking the next reward in the roadmap. When a season ends, the next one automatically starts and the player's rank is reset to 0.

Synopsis[edit]

Setting[edit]

Watch Dogs: Legion takes place within a fictionalised representation of London in the "near future" (circa 2030).[9] The setting encompasses notable landmarks, boroughs, and cultural styles of the city, such as the political borough of Westminster. Since the events of Watch Dogs 2, technology has vastly changed as a result of an acceleration of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), which has effectively improved Britain's economy at the cost of many blue and white collar jobs, with the Pound sterling having been overtaken and undermined by cryptocurrencies. AR and VR systems are commonplace across the city, with an increase in drones and electric cars, 6G mobile networks, and the introduction of driverless cars, much of which is enhanced through the use of ctOS (central Operating System) ─ the centralized computer network developed by technology company Blume, featured in both Watch Dogs and Watch Dogs 2.

The game focuses on DedSec, a hacker group consisting of various branches across the world, who fight against authority regimes and groups that utilise ctOS for their own selfish goals at the expense of ordinary citizens. Their main enemies include Zero Day, a rogue hacker group that frames DedSec for a series of terrorist bombings; Albion, a private military company that takes over as law enforcement across London and supersedes the British government's control over the city; Clan Kelley, a criminal syndicate that has monopolised the use of the dark web, conducting human trafficking and abductions; Broca Tech, a corrupt technology corporation; and Signals Intelligence Response (SIRS), an intelligence agency consolidating all of Britain's intelligence network.

Plot[edit]

The London branch of DedSec, led by Sabine Brandt and her newly crafted AI, Bagley, detect armed intruders planting explosives in the Houses of Parliament. DedSec operative Dalton Wolfe goes to defuse the bombs and discovers the intruders are members of a rogue hacker group called "Zero Day". Although Dalton manages to prevent Parliament's destruction, he is swiftly gunned down by drones commanded by Zero Day's leader, who detonates additional explosives around London and orders an attack on DedSec's hideout, forcing Sabine 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.

Months later, Albion enforces the law without political oversight, transforming London into a surveillance state with the aid of its ctOS network and SIRS ─ a collation of Britain's intelligence agencies. As a result, citizens have their personal liberties severely restricted and their lives constantly monitored,[6] while those who question Albion's methods are either convicted or deported to Europe. In addition, organised crime is on the rise, despite Albion's presence. Although most DedSec members have been arrested or killed by Albion, Sabine resurfaces when she finds a new recruit through ctOS, who is sent to reactivate the group's safehouse and Bagley. DedSec slowly rebuild their strength as they find more recruits who, under Sabine's co-ordination and with Bagley's help, liberate various boroughs by encouraging citizens to rise up in defiance of their oppressors.

After rebuilding their forces, DedSec investigate the bombings and discover that both Albion's CEO Nigel Cass and Clan Kelley were involved, and are taking advantage of London's current situation for their own ends; Clan Kelley is using people from Albion's deportation centers for their human and organ trafficking operations, while Cass plans to enforce peace across London with an automated drone army that can identify and neutralize threats before they occur. During this time, DedSec also investigate Broca Tech's CEO Skye Larsen and discover that her advanced AI projects, including Bagley, are the result of neural-mapping, which traps humans in cyberspace with no memories of their past life. DedSec eventually deal with Larsen and shut down her experiments. At the same time, a SIRS whistleblower named Richard Mallick enlists DedSec's help in proving SIRS leader Emily Child was behind the Zero Day bombings, only to turn on them once it is revealed he was trying to infiltrate the group to supply their identites to Albion. Malick frames DedSec for another bombing that kills Child and allows him to take over SIRS, but they capture him and prove their innocence.

Eventually, DedSec infiltrate a slave auction hosted by Clan Kelley's leader, Mary Kelley, and discover she helped Zero Day smuggle their explosives into the country. After gathering enough evidence to get Kelley convicted, DedSec attempt to capture her, but ultimately leave her to be killed by her former slaves. Meanwhile, after DedSec sabotage his drone project and expose his crimes to the public, Cass barricades himself in Albion's main base at the Tower of London. Fearing Cass will attempt to retaliate against his enemies, DedSec infiltrate the base and kill him.

As DedSec celebrate their actions, Zero Day suddenly hacks the group, stealing the tech they had acquired. Tracing the hack, they quickly discover that Sabine was behind the bombings and Zero Day, and that Cass helped her until double-crossing her for control of data gathering technology. In response, Sabine restarted DedSec simply to get revenge on Cass, recover what he had stolen, and seek out other components she needed. As the group evade Sabine's efforts to stop them, they discover she intends to use the stolen technology to create a patch for Bagley that will be used to take control of the Britain's ctOS infrastructure, plunging the country into chaos in hopes it will force society to forgo technology and restart. To prevent this, Bagley willingly agrees to be shut down. Avoiding the rampant chaos caused by Sabine across London, DedSec confront and kill her, while successfully shutting down Bagley and preventing the patch being sent across the country.

While the British government reviews its contract with Albion and local law enforcement begins work to resume operations, DedSec finally clear their names and are praised for exposing considerable crimes and corruption across the city. In an epilogue scene, they manage to restore Bagley to his original state, and continue to rely on him to help them finish off loose ends around London.

Bloodline[edit]

Some time after the Zero Day bombing, but prior to DedSec's resurgence in London, former vigilante Aiden Pearce accepts a contract from his fixer partner, Jordi Chin, in London, believing it will allow him to reunite with his estranged nephew Jackson, who is attending college there. Aiden's assignment is to infiltrate Broca Tech's Deep Labs and acquire photographic evidence of a new robot design project headed by Thomas Rempart, as well as retrieve a device called the "BrocaBridge". However, his attempt is foiled by Reginald "Wrench" Blechman, a former member of DedSec San Francisco, who also wants the BrocaBridge for his own ends. A struggle ensues between the two, which results in Wrench escaping with the BrocaBridge and Aiden being captured by Rempart's men. Aiden later escapes with Wrench's help and makes contact with Jackson. Despite not wanting to get involved, Jackson guides Aiden toward a DedSec contact, Connie Robinson, who helps him get set up in exchange for helping out with several tasks. Rempart also contacts Aiden, demanding him to retrieve the BrocaBridge while threatening to harm Jackson.

With Jackson's help, Aiden tracks down Wrench at his hideout and confronts him. Wrench reveals that he was hired by Rempart to design the robots for his project, but was ultimately betrayed, so he took revenge by stealing the BrocaBridge, which Rempart needs for the next phase of his project. Meanwhile, Rempart finds and captures Jackson to ransom him for the BrocaBridge. After obtaining the device from Wrench, Aiden delivers it to Rempart, unware that it is an explosive fake created by Wrench. The explosion disfigures Rempart's face and allows Aiden and Jackson to escape, though Aiden is shot in the process and falls into a coma. Wrench allows Aiden and Jackson to stay at his hideout and obtains medical supplies to help Aiden recover. During this time, he also becomes acquainted with Jordi and agrees to carry out several fixer contracts for him in Aiden's place.

Later, Wrench is contacted by Skye Larsen, who offers to help with Aiden's recovery in exchange for retaking control of her facilities from Rempart. Upon doing so, Larsen proposes an experimental trial on Jackson using the BrocaBridge to link his mind with Aiden's, which he agrees to do in spite of Wrench's protest. Jackson enters Aiden's mind with the BrocaBridge and, after revisiting several memories from his past, helps him overcome his guilt for his role in the death of Jackson's sister Lena seventeen years ago. Deciding to leave his vigilante persona behind, Aiden awakens from the coma and makes amends with Jackson. With Aiden saved, Wrench works with him and Jackson to defeat Rempart, who is attempting to escape London on his personal barge. Wrench boards the barge and destroys Rempart's robot army before handing him over to Albion authorities to be arrested.

Development[edit]

Clint Hocking is the creative director for Legion.

Watch Dogs: Legion was developed by Ubisoft Toronto,[1] with additional work provided by sister studios Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Bucharest, Ubisoft Kyiv and Ubisoft Reflections.[1] The development team was headed by creative director Clint Hocking,[10] who was recruited to assist on the game's creation due to Ubisoft moving development from their studio in Montreal to Toronto, and recruiting developers who had previously worked with him on Far Cry and Far Cry 2.[11]

Upon its reveal at E3 2019, many outlets described the futuristic London setting as post-Brexit, what could potentially happen following the expected departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union. This choice of setting became a point of debate in the media, as there are several political questions related to post-Brexit. Hocking stated that they had come onto the idea of this setting around a year and a half before the actual Brexit vote in 2016, and that while the game does involve Brexit, the intent was not to try to debate the nature of Brexit, but to show and debate elements already existing in the world today that lead to events such as Brexit.[12] On 25 January 2020, Hocking pointed out that, as a "creator of culture",[13] the aim of including real-world elements such as Brexit is to provide a means of engagement for players about the world around them, though with the development team taking considerable thought on how to implement these and other events occurring in the real-world within Legion's setting.[13]

Ubisoft partnered with British rapper Stormzy for a special in-game mission named "Fall on My Enemies" that would be available at the game's launch. Stormzy also recorded a music video for "Rainfall", his latest song, using motion capture for the game.[14]

The game supports Deep learning super sampling DLSS (Nvidia GPU) and ray tracing technology.[15]

Source leak[edit]

In 2020, Legion's 560 GB[16] source was reportedly leaked by hackers on the Dark Web.[17][18]

Release[edit]

Watch Dogs: Legion was teased by Ubisoft via Twitter on 5 June 2019, before its announcement at E3 2019.[19] The game was initially scheduled for release on 6 March 2020,[4] with the PC versions of the game being exclusive titles for the Epic Games Store over a year-long period,[20] but Ubisoft delayed the launch in October 2019.[21][22][23] By July 2020, they announced during their "Ubisoft Forward" event, that the game would be released on 29 October 2020, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Stadia.[24][1] Release dates for versions of the game for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, unveiled during this same announcement,[25] were made over the course of September and October: the Series X/S version was announced as a launch title for the platform after Microsoft confirmed the console's launch date for 10 November 2020;[26] while the PlayStation 5 version was confirmed to release as a digital launch title on 12 November, with a physical copy on 24 November.[2] A version for Amazon Luna was officially announced on 29 October, and released on 10 November.[27]

In January 2020, BBC reporter Marc Cieslak conducted an interview with Hocking about the game for Click, which, in a world's first, involved using the studio's motion capture software to allow it to take place within the virtual setting of the game.[13][28]

Post-launch content[edit]

The game's multiplayer component was initially scheduled for a 3 December release, but was pushed back to early 2021 due to numerous game-breaking glitches and bugs that needed to be fixed. The multiplayer mode was added on 9 March 2021 for most platforms,[29] and 18 March for Microsoft Windows.[30] However, the Tactical Ops missions weren't added until 23 March due to technical issues.[29]

On 4 May, the first major content update for the game was released, adding two new types of playable characters (DJs & First Responders), five special abilities, two gadgets, character customization options, and missions for the multiplayer mode. Season Pass exclusive content included a new mission for the single-player mode, "Swipe Right", and a new playable character, Mina Sidhu, who has mind control powers.[31] On 1 June, a new series of Tactical Ops and a free character were released. Additionally, a zombie survival horror game mode titled Legion of the Dead was made availalble in alpha on the PC version of the game.[32]

A story expansion titled Bloodline was released on 6 July 2021, both individually and as part of the Season Pass. It is a prequel to Legion, set several months before the events of the main game, and features the return of Aiden Pearce, the protagonist of the first Watch Dogs, and Wrench, a main character from Watch Dogs 2, who also become playable in the normal campaign and the online mode.[33] The expansion adds ten story missions, and side content in the form of "Resistance Missions" for Aiden and "Fixer Contracts" for Wrench.

Reception[edit]

Watch Dogs: Legion received "mixed or average" reviews on all platforms except on Xbox One which received "generally favorable" reviews, according to review aggregator Metacritic.[50]

Electronic Gaming Monthly's Michael Goroff, who gave one of these reviews, remarked that the game "offers a novel way to experience an open world, with its interconnected NPCs and the introduction of permadeath to the genre", noting that in this aspect the game provided a real relationship between players and the characters they recruited, particularly in ensuring their survival during a playthrough. However, Goroff noted that this aspect had a flaw, pointing out that other NPCs already recruited wouldn't react like allies when the current operative runs into them while dealing with hostiles, and that there were limitations in that players would need to search amongst considerable numbers of NPCs to find those with skills they wanted.[39]

VG247's Lauren Aitken was critical of the background of the game's story and the repetitive nature of missions, noting how their structure remains the same even when the "difficulty suddenly ramps up after the 404 and Skye Larsen storylines", while pointing out that each mission strand's storyline was relatively "short". The lack of uniqueness in the NPCs' accents was also criticized, with Aitken adding that players would mostly find it useful to go primarily for those with hacking skills, due to how much of the game requires these. Overall, they found that the game would be of interest mostly to "Watch Dogs fans and more die-hard anarchists".[48]

On the other hand, IGN's Dan Stapleton praised the diversity of NPCs in the game, remarking that which NPCs the player decides to recruit can have a significant effect on the overall gameplay, and that this diversity enables numerous possibilities and encourages the player to use their creativity. Nevertheless, Stapleton argued that more could have been made of this diversity, and that the game didn't do enough to encourage the player to recruit weaker characters.[51] Similarly, Keza MacDonald of The Guardian declared that the game includes "the most diverse cast in gaming history" and praised the ability to recruit any non-player character but criticized that the characters do not meaningfully interact with one another. Furthermore, she noted that the game's willingness to be political was "refreshing" and commended the "impressively well-written speeches about the forces of populism and the sinister influence of the world's data giants" but noted the disparity between the writing "pantomime evil" of the game's villains, noting that the storyline "doesn't gel with the script or voice acting, which are wacky, stuffed with puns and British slang and of wildly variable quality". She concluded that "unlike the glossy, beautiful, but samey open-worlds that have dominated the genre in the past few years, [Legion] is ambitious, imperfect and unashamedly weird" and gave it 4/5 stars.[52]

Another point of criticism was the game's driving mechanics, which VideoGamer's Josh Wise called "chunky".[49]

Awards[edit]

It was nominated for Innovation in Accessibility at The Game Awards 2020.[53]

Sales[edit]

During its first week on sale, Watch Dogs: Legion was the best-selling game in the UK when counting physical and digital sales,[54] the second best-selling retail game in Switzerland at the all-format charts,[55] and the fourth best-selling retail game in Japan at the individual-format charts. 40,962 physical copies of the PlayStation 4 version were sold that week in Japan.[56]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Additional work by Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Bucharest, Ubisoft Kyiv, Ubisoft Reflections, Ubisoft Leamington and Ubisoft Mumbai.[1]
  2. ^ The digital version was released on 12 November, while the physical version was released on 24 November.[2]

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