One thing does “Watch Dogs: Legion” noticeably different. Normally, story-based computer games clearly define who plays a major role and which characters ultimately only serve as decoration, so that the virtual world does not appear so empty. The player either controls a ready-made hero (for example Marcus Holloway in the previous game “Watch Dogs 2”) or he makes a hero, as in games of the role-playing genre. Usually there are still a handful of companions and adversaries, but the majority of the characters have no influence on the outcome of the story. In the new Watch Dogs, on the other hand, every figure can become a hero, regardless of whether it is a software engineer, construction worker or homeless.
The starting point, however, is less original and follows a well-known scheme. The world is threatened with extinction, the player must save it. More precisely: It’s about London in the not too distant future, after a series of terrorist attacks the private military company Albion has taken power. Albion is monitoring and harassing the citizens. The hacker group Dedsec wants to free London from the oppressors. As in the previous games, the player is helped by hacking skills, with which he can manipulate cars, door locks and people with a few clicks on the smartphone.
At the beginning of the story, the player and Dedsec stand in front of a pile of broken glass. Most of the hacking group was killed in the attacks, the others went into hiding because the British government blamed Dedsec for the terrorist attacks. The player must first choose his hero from a randomly generated row of rebellious Londoners.
Do you prefer the cryptographer or the babysitter with a submachine gun?
The developer Ubisoft has obviously put work into details. Each candidate has their own biography and brings individual skills. The player has the choice: Would you prefer the bank clerk Richard with connections to high-ranking police officers, the babysitter Rose and her fully automatic submachine gun, or the playwright Meryl, who as a former cryptographer knows her way around encrypted data? If you want, you can even find out details that are irrelevant to the course of the game, such as the hero’s annual salary or his fetish preferences.
But it does not stop with one hero or one heroine. The player can basically recruit any passerby in the game for his or her hacking team – as long as he or she has a positive attitude towards Dedsec. He can choose at any time which of the recruited characters he wants to control and switch between them. The effort to make all of London playable must have been enormous. This can only be seen in the dialogues, especially in the English voice output. If the player slips into the role of the author Meryl from Northern Ireland, she speaks in the interludes with an authentic-sounding Irish dialect. The elderly Kathleen, on the other hand, expresses herself more selectively than the Queen. In a sample of around 20 recruits, no vote was duplicated.
However, aside from the original character system, Watch Dogs: Legion has a lot of problems that make it less fun to play. The story seems uninspired, the authors try in many places clichés that are known from every action film. For example, the player has to defuse a bomb in the prologue by cutting colored wires. If, on the other hand, the action leaves familiar patterns, it often becomes confused, sometimes even illogical. Why should a security company leave important servers almost unguarded on the roof of a house in the open? In a city that is not exactly known for its good weather? In sum, Legion lacks an arc of suspense, at least in the first few hours of the game, which could motivate the player to advance the main story.
Bad GTA copy in a hacker setting
Another drawback is the confusing level design. It is part of the game that the player first has to find the right way into and out of the building when breaking into the police headquarters, for example. But at the latest when he walks around the block for the fifth time without discovering an entrance or a shaft, this does not add to the difficulty level, but disrupts the flow of the game. The information on the map showing exactly where the destination is located is only partially helpful.
In contrast, encounters with enemy guards and soldiers in Watch Dogs: Legion aren’t much of a challenge – which is a shame. The player can sometimes even sneak through their field of vision without being detected immediately. Even if he is exposed, he can easily take on three or four opponents in a shootout. Many tasks in the missions are too easy and too one-dimensional. Too often the problem is: go to location X and download some data.
The player experiences strong moments when Legion does come up with original ideas. For example, when he steers a spider-shaped robot through a labyrinth of shafts in order to get him out of a room with no access. As in the previous games, the game too often reminds of a bad copy of “Grand Theft Auto” in a hacker setting. The fact that in contrast to GTA in Watch Dogs: Legion so many characters are playable doesn’t change anything.