Watch Dogs Legion Review: Don't Fear the Permadeath

Watch Dogs
Watch Dogs Legion is a great new direction for the series. (Image Credit: Ubisoft)

Watch Dogs Legion! London! Hackers! Permadeath! Yes, yes, yes! Are we too hyped? Is this giving the verdict of the review away? Doesn’t matter. We had a blast and want to share our review with you. Let’s do this.

Third time’s a charm, right? Well, not that Watch Dogs 1 and 2 were any bad, but Watch Dogs ‘3’ takes the series in a whole different direction. Almost like a new start of sorts – arguably the reason why the game comes with ‘Legion’ attached, rather than a ‘3’. Ubisoft’s newest entry in its open world series really sets itself apart from GTA – the comparison that will forever follow Watch Dogs. How does the latest hacker sandbox game achieve that? Well… let’s dig in:

Permadeath is oh so glorious

Watch Dogs Legion comes without a traditional main character that you take from mission to mission. Rather, you control the hacker group DedSec. Now this is where it gets interesting: You can recruit anyone in the game into your hacker group. Any one. Every NPC you see is up for grabs. You just talk to them, do some task for them (beat up gangsters, hack some debts away) and they’re yours to control. This is super, super cool, since it keeps the gameplay fresh and varied. It also gives it that little ‘gotta catch ‘em all’ flair: NPCs - or rather: possible playable characters - fall into several categories of what they bring to the gameplay-table: They have different weapons and abilities, which leads to different play styles. You can recruit the policeman to infiltrate the police station, go in guns blazing with the military dude or hack your way through a mission without being physically present by choosing the recruited drone operator. This is completely new and is obviously where the tag ‘Legion’ comes from. It clearly separates this Watch Dogs from its prequels. This time around, there is also no city-wide hacking – the emphasis is on the multiple characters you get to control and the varied gameplay options that come with them.

Yup, you can even play as a hacker grandma. (Image Credit: Ubisoft)

What really drives this gameplay mechanic home is the permadeath option. Since you are not tied to one character this time and always have many playable characters available, permadeath lends itself well to the game: The story is tied to the hacker group DedSec, not the individual you control. Think of it as if your Pokémon were to permanently be gone, once defeated in battle. Now make it an endless amount of Pokémon you can catch and you get the idea.

Permadeath is not enabled by default, but we urge you to play the game that way. Permadeath is the best way to experience Watch Dogs Legion. The game is not particularly difficult with it enabled, but the intensity of possibly permanently losing a character you like, really sets the experience apart from most sandbox & open world games. It also gives every action and the story more emotional weight and meaning.

London, hackers and the evil government!

Watch Dogs Legion is set in London and beautifully so: Landmarks are recognizable, accents drive the authenticity home and black cabs and a lot of rain complete the picture. London is also the perfect city for the setting of technology-fascism vs freedom – the story that Watch Dogs Legion follows. You’ve all seen this story in one shape or another: Technology and the government threaten our free way of living, our privacy, etc. Thus, the cool, rebel hacker group decides to do something about ityou do something about it. Aside from the fact that you can drive over and kill every NPC that you see and the fact that, throughout the game, you murder hundreds of people, you play the good guys (it’s funny, because those are the same NPCs you can recruit and give meaning to). The main hacker co-protagonists around you - the ones that are not recruited NPCs - fall into the typical hacker group stereotypes and are fairly bland. Still, they get the job done and it’s a story you want to finish and see through to the end. Make no mistake though, story-wise this is not Red Dead Redemption or The Last of Us. The fun in Watch Dogs Legion comes from the beautifully realized London sandbox that you get to explore through an unlimited amount of eyes.

Watch Dogs Legion Review: Verdict

With Watch Dogs Legion, the Watch Dogs series finally blazes its own trail. Yes, the hacker theme always set it apart, but the fact that they’ve now included an unlimited pool of playable characters is something that makes perfect sense for the series and its themes. This is a direction we want to see the series head towards with more urgency. As of now, the playability of so many characters survives on its novelty. Make no mistake though, that novelty does not get old over the 40 hours of playtime. Combined with a very serviceable story, gameplay that feels good and a beautifully realized London, this is a game that you want to see through to the end. However, there is potential here for more. As it stands, Watch Dogs Legion is a good game and the best in the series. If they fully realize the gameplay elements that are introduced here though, then we could be talking about a generational game with the next Watch Dogs. Good job Ubisoft. More, please.

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