A third Watch Dogs game is something that has been in a rumour mill for a while, and as is often the case with Ubisoft titles, merely days before it was to be formally unveiled, it got leaked. Leaked or no, at their E3 2019 press event, Ubisoft did, of course, announce Watch Dogs Legion, showing us all what it’s all about- and it’s a doozy. A lengthy gameplay demonstration, a unique sense of style, and an ambitious and exciting central hook are enough to make it one of the most impressive showings of E3, and we’re quite excited to get our hands on the final product. In this feature, we’ll be taking a look at twelve new things we’ve learned about the title following its impressive reveal- let’s jump right in.
After the dreary rendition of Watch Dog’s Chicago and the much more colourful and livelier San Francisco of Watch Dogs 2, with Legion, Ubisoft are now taking the series across the pond, all the way over to the United Kingdom- more specifically, to London. True to the series’ aesthetic, it’s not an exact 1:1 replica of the city, and instead based off of it, and realized in a way so as to suit the series’ near-future and cyberpunk-lite narrative backdrop.
Watch Dogs Legion seems to have a very interesting narrative setup going for it based on everything we’ve seen so far. Set in the near-future, as we discussed, London has become an Orwellian dystopia. It’s a surveillance state, with a city filled with cameras and skies filled with drones, and the Big Brother always keeping a thousand eyes on all citizens at all times. The hacker organization DedSec is, as always, the one to stand against this authoritarian regime, and is building up a resistance to fight back. Though it’s a scarily realistic and engrossing setup, Watch Dogs Legion doesn’t look like it’ll be making the mistake of the first game by taking itself too seriously, and there’s plenty of the personality and humour in there that made the second game so good.
NON-NON PLAYABLE CHARACTERS
The term “NPCs” has lost all meaning to Ubisoft with Watch Dogs Legion– because the game is dropping the “N” in “NPC” entirely. True to the rumours, players can recruit every single NPC in the game to DedSec’s cause as you gather and build up a resistance to fight back against London’s authoritarian regimes. Every NPC you recruit, you can also play as. In fact, that’s who you’ll be playing as the entire time- there is no one single protagonist in Watch Dogs Legion. Every single character in London is the protagonist, and you decide who gets to be a part of the story.
VOICED AND ANIMATED
Of course, with a concept and idea as ambitious as this, some questions and doubts will obviously arise- to save themselves a bucketload of work, does that mean Ubisoft will end up cutting corners of things such as voiced lines, and have canned, janky animations for all the characters? Is that the price the game is paying in letting you play as any NPC? Well, no. Ubisoft has confirmed that each NPC in Watch Dogs Legion will be fully voiced and animated. For instance, that old lady Helen who stole the show in the gameplay showing? She moves and speaks like a proper old lady, as she should. We can expect every NPC in the game to receive a similar treatment- or so we hope, at least.
NPCs HAVE THEIR OWN LIVES
The concept of being able to play as any character you see in all of London is exciting on paper- but what if that ends up making very little difference? What if they’re different looking people on a surface level, but when you actually get down to playing them and getting to know them, they’re all the same person? Ubisoft are assuring fans that that’s not going to be the case either. Every character in the game has their own personality and backstory, and strengths and weaknesses. Some might be good at operating drones, others might be imposing brawlers with melee specializations, while others still could be pro hackers, and so on. It remains to be seen how varied and in-depth this ends up being in the game, but based on what we’ve been told and what we’ve seen so far, Legion is definitely headed in the right direction.
THE CUTSCENES CHANGE
Of course, being able to play as whichever character you want out of a pool of thousands must present some complications, right? How does that effect the story? Does the narrative take a complete backseat in service to this mechanic? Well, it seems Legion is looking to weave it into how it presents its story as well. The cutscenes that are shown will change every time for every player. Based on what character you’re playing as, what their personality is, what they sound like, and what they move like, the cutscenes will change. Again, we don’t yet know just how in-depth this is going to be and how much the cutscenes will change- only that they will change. But if Ubisoft take this all the way and go all-in on it, it could be a massive and commendable undertaking.
So how does one go about the process of recruiting any NPC they want? Well, you can’t very well just look at someone, press a button, and posses their bodies like you’re Mario throwing Cappy onto a T-rex. No, Watch Dogs Legion is contextualizing that in the form of recruitment missions. You need to recruit the NPCs first before you play as them, and to do that, you need to- well, you need to recruit them into DedSec. You do that by solving any problems they might be having and convincing them to join your cause. Someone being bothered by a loan shark? Or being harassed by an overly forceful police force? Help them out, get them out of their pickle, and they’ll join your cause, allowing you to switch to them and play as them whenever you want.
Here’s one of the most interesting aspects that has the potential to take the whole “play as anyone” schtick even further- every character you play as in Legion can die permanently. As showcased in the gameplay demonstration at E3, you might be in the middle of a mission, and if the character you’re playing as dies, that’s it- they’re dead. You either play as one of the other characters you’ve recruited, or you find someone else in London with the required skillset.
GETTING CAPTURED OR ARRESTED
But of course, death isn’t the only obstacle open world games in the vein of Watch Dogs throw at you. While you’re wreaking havoc in London during the course of your sandbox gameplay, you can also get captured or arrested. So how does Legion handle that? Do you just lose a chunk of money and get right back into the action? No- you take control of any other of your recruits, and if you want the character you lost back, you rescue them yourself.
COMBAT AND STEALTH
Now we get down to the basics- how does Watch Dogs Legion handle combat? There’s stealth and melee combat and gunplay, of course, but how does the game balance all those? As per Ubisoft, there’s a strong emphasis on stealth, which is usually the best way forward in situations. If you don’t want to go the stealthy route, the game is still focused on non-lethal combat, with half the weapons in the game being non-lethal, as per Ubisoft.
Gadgets are a pretty big part of any Watch Dogs game, and that doesn’t change with Legion. Hacking will, of course, be an integral part of the game, as you’d expect from the series. In fact, it falls into one of three overarching “classes” – so to speak – that all NPCs fall under (with the other two being combat and stealth). There’s also going to be plenty of new gadgets, like spider bots and cloaking devices to make you temporarily invisible, to make use of.
So when exactly does Watch Dogs Legion release? Ubisoft announced the game’s launch date as well, as you may have expected. Watch Dogs Legion is out on March 6, 2020. It’ll be launching on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and – true to the way Ubisoft have been supporting Google’s new cloud streaming service – also on Stadia.