Surfing through the piles of word documents littered across my hard drive, I was reviewing the impressive collection of unfinished article ideas and terribly written reviews. I then came across a brief little article I had written for fun last year with the announcement of Watch_Dogs Legion. So rather than leaving it to gather some digital dust, I decided to give it a brief polish and leave it here for all you lovely people; just in case you’re upset by the third entries’ delay and you want to really know what we are all missing out on. Enjoy!
It’s late, and the streets of London are bustling. You stroll down Piccadilly Circus. Union Jack flags wave gently above, traffic moves along, people fill the streets, and the famous screen curves round the building in the background. Yet it isn’t the only thing in the background. Your surroundings are specked with illuminated screens and surfaces, drones circulate the air above, a military presence harasses passers-by, and a warning of heightened security bellows out from a nearby speaker. This isn’t the London you know. This is the London of Watchdogs Legion.
You are Ian Robshaw, a bare-knuckle boxer, with his profile showing a 30% plus melee damage, and an admirable “will never surrender” quality. You are a part of the resistance, Dedsec, fighting against the totalitarianism forced upon Britain, and more specifically London, in this near-future post-Brexit surveillance state; and you are recruiting.
You walk through the streets scanning individuals, looking for someone well-versed in the hacking of drones. NPCs pop up individual stats, such as an amateur MMA fighter with a 200% melee damage bonus – quite the improvement over Ian. The easily-accessed stats provide a deeper iteration of the light story strands used in the previous two entries of the series.
You have a hit. Jimmy Shaw. A 22-year-old labelled as an ex-Clan Kelley Member, with a 40% increased drone damage stat. Jimmy, however, after being harassed by a militant figure, has started a fight. A fight he is ultimately going to lose. Quickly pulling over a balaclava and a crowned skull mask, Ian kicks into action, pulling the soldier off Jimmy and knocking him out. Another approaches, flicking out his baton, but Ian remember, is a bareknuckle boxer, and knocks the soldier flat on his back. Jimmy has seemingly made his escape, as a “riot drone” approaches – an ominous beast heaving through the air – with loaded cannons pointed straight towards you. An advisor through your earpiece, warns not to escalate things, but before he can finish, Ian is blasting electric rounds at the drone from his yellow sub-machine gun. Yet the drone seems unphased and deals a deadly blow, knocking Ian down. A decision pops up on screen, surrender or resist. But this is Ian Robshaw; and he will never surrender. You get up, activating some form of invisibility, and stooped low Ian heads for an empty autonomous taxi. You take control and speed off, with the authorities hot on your tail.
You speed through the streets where neon strips and holograms on the side of buildings are commonplace, as are military checkpoints. You squeeze through one, as stationed machine guns fire, breaking the screen playing a coffee ad on the back of your cab. With a large vehicle accelerating towards you and blocking your path, you swerve right, only to crash into a barricaded and graffitied Trafalgar Square. With bullets flying, Ian runs from the vehicles, seconds before it explodes. He scurries over the barricades, with his health low, taking cover, and readying himself for a fight against soldiers and drones. The latter approaches, and Ian aims his weapon, but a fatal blow knocks him to the ground, and this time he doesn’t have the choice to get up.
Rather than a retry, or load checkpoint option, we are shown a profile of Ian, with “Killed in Action” stated beneath, before another title covers this: Permadeath. Ian, the bare-knuckled boxer that would never surrender is gone from the game and is no longer your protagonist. Instead, we are shown to a roster of characters to choose from, with the dearly departed Ian, dulled out in red. In this demo, the elderly Helen Dashwood, a retired Police Engineer, with a 35% bonus Hack Cooldown Speed, yet limited mobility is chosen.
This is in part, where Legion differs from the first two games. There is no character on the box protagonist, like Aiden Pearce or Marcus Holloway from the previous two instalments. You will not play as a single character, but many in your expanding resistance.
The demo speeds through a mission of old Helen infiltrating Scotland Yard with an electrifying spider-bot and taking the bus home before landing on the third playable character, trained assassin Naomi Brooke, with her own set of attributes. She is continuing the job of the fallen Ian, trying to save drone hacker Jimmy, who managed to get caught after the Piccadilly Circus incident. This level shows the signature Ubisoft, approach-how-you-want style of gameplay, as Naomi sneaks, hacks and shoots her way to Jimmy’s aid.
The mission is a success, and Naomi tries to convince Jimmy to join Dedsec as they sit in a pub, offering him a small earpiece. Learning that the man that tried to help him has been lost, Jimmy reluctantly places his earpiece in, now a member of Dedsec..Leaving the pub, Jimmy is now a fully playable character, and this was his introductory mission.
This is the ambitious system advertised at this years’ E3 and is the crux of Watchdogs Legion. Every person that passes you in the street has a backstory, attributes, personality, and is fully mo-capped and voice recorded. You can recruit up to twenty individuals in your version of Dedsec, shaping the group you want to have. You can have a group of assassins and police officers, or hackers and MMA fighters. This system means that no two people should play through the game with the same roster of characters. This hopefully should lead to some intense missions and potentially heart-breaking moments as characters you have become attached to and hand-picked are lost forever. It is an incredibly exciting gameplay mechanic, unlike any seen prior, and will likely leave many sceptics pondering on its actual achievability. Regardless, this iterative franchise was a show highlight at this year’s E3, and should be one to watch out for, when it finally releases in March next year.