Community Review: Watch Dogs Legion

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Community Review: Watch Dogs Legion
Image: Watch Dogs Legion / Ubisoft

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a game with such a divisive reaction as Watch Dogs: Legion.

There’s been two main takes that have filled up my social feeds over the last week. As fans hack their way through modern, greater London, the takes I’ve come across could largely be categorised in a couple of ways.

One is the more dismissive, the reaction that says games are poorer for not having main characters. The appeal of incorporating anybody — or just about anybody — into your makeshift hacker squad means each character has less character, less personality, less of an arc you can engage with.

The other thrives in that exact environment. It’s a take that says emergent gameplay is the true joy. The story lives through the short-term lives of each of your characters, dragged into rebellion at the player’s whim.

Image: Kotaku

The reality is probably in the middle. Stephen has been absolutely fascinated by the game. Not necessarily because it’s the best game of 2020, but more because of how its ambition, scope, and approach to London’s politics clash with Legion‘s own creation, and how only really Ubisoft makes games like these.

On a technical front, the game’s implementation of raytracing has been received very, very well. The game could use a bit more optimisation on the PC front, and like all Ubisoft games it’s especially CPU bound. Digital Foundry below found an RTX 3090 at 4K using DLSS performance mode barely hovered about 60fps on the highest settings. DirectX 11 also looks like the way to go here, unless you’re specifically running the game with raytracing, in which case you’ll have to use DirectX 12. The performance gap is really stark at lower resolutions, and it’s not immediately clear why the DX12 implementation is so hobbled.

It’ll be interesting to see how raytracing pans out on the next-gen consoles — and the game’s performance when disabled. On the current-gen front, the base Xbox and PS4 consoles can really struggle — which I’m sure is a precursor of what we can expect over the next 12 months. That said, games have come a long way with their temporal reconstruction techniques — that’s the term for upscaling images to a higher resolution by looking back at previous frames to make calculated guesses about how future frames should look.

Still, seeing the Xbox One X dropping — and tearing — below 30fps is a bit of a pain. The PS4 Pro appears to have fewer issues, but post-launch patches should be able to fix things on the Xbox front. Legion‘s got a massive slate of post-launch content, as every Ubi open-world game does, so I’d be confident that there’ll be some extra performance optimisations included.

So for everyone who’s jumped on Watch Dogs: Legion — how have you found the game, and what platform are you playing it on? And for those who are getting the next-gen consoles, will you be picking up Legion?

Comments

  • I’m really enjoying it. It’s a brave move to get rid of a protagonist and whilst it feels different, I appreciate the change and it works well with the environment.
    The freedom to approach the world (and missions there in) in anyway you see fit is great fun and leads to some interesting approaches.
    Whilst the characters available is a limited set of infinite combinations, they all do have a bit of personality and some have quite useless abilities (one of my characters specials was she farted randomly).
    Overall, It’s ambitious and interesting.

    • I’ll agree to all this.

      Add to that, I’m really attached to my ‘main’. I’ve restarted recently with permadeath on, and I’m quite fond of a character I’ve dubbed my ‘leader’ of the group, he’s the ‘construction worker’ I got at the start, but I use him a hell of a lot. I’ve used him so much, the voice is familiar, the mannerisms, even have a semi ‘backstory’ built up in my head for him. I’m finding it VERY immersive, the lack of detail in some cases is actually quite fulfilling oddly?

      • With permadeath, what happens if all your characters die? When you’re on the last one, does it not have permadeath?

        Also. Does permadeath make it more fun?
        On one hand it would make it more interesting, forcing you to try new people and have actual consequences for death.
        But on the other – losing a character you really like would suck.

  • I’d go with “It’s alright.” I’m enjoying it, but man am I glad Uplay+ is a thing.

    I think the worst part of the entire game is that I feel like too much of the voice acting is absolutely horrendous… Whether it’s on the actual delivery or the direction voice actors were given for lines, it’s just bad.

    I get the nemesis-style system they have in place would make it hard, but fuck some of the voice acting is so bad it’s basically unforgivable for a supposedly AAA title.

    • I think it’s very validating that all the other commenters so far are repeating my minor gripes. I’m also glad that I didn’t drop box-price monies on this and can cancel my Uplay+ before the month is out.

    • The use a voice modulation technique so that they can have infinite voices.

      They had a ton of voice actors records lines, but they put the voice modlation in to make the infinite variations. Would be nice if you could turn it off – but I doubt it’ll happen

  • Its a good game of the Ubisoft formula, nothing ground breaking, pleasing to play and nothing feels game breaking. Enjoying it.

    Despite the freedom of the recruit anyone, I felt Marcus in Watch Dogs 2 had more freedom of choice and could adapt… more meaningful world puzzles, side jobs (the parcel fox isn’t fun.), and actual races/time trails (drone,car, bikes)… and the terrain of San Francisco changed, London is the same everywhere you go being such an old an built up city.

    When you have a toolbox of hereos you either bring the wrong one (I stealth hacked a base only to find its a 3 minute tactical holdout as touching the server sets if the alarm and your dont have the fire power), or lock yourself into the one playtime (spider bot facehugger), my Hacker+ has been my 90% hero.

    The recruit missions despite randomly generated do get predictable and repetitive after a while. Since you can recruit over 40 operatives, it felt like there were only a dozen missions.

    Despite recruiting everyone, there are formulaic with “job classes” having the same 2-4 abilities and maybe rare extra ability. The 4 ability job classes are all the same (construction worker, elites, captains, drivers) and have no variety which is dull.

    The roster could use a few more options to grow attachment, giving people code names, ranks, and favourites. (I started to sort my roster with silly hats).

    No car , drone or motorbike racing 🙁 despite having a single non-repeatable missions that having you race through the city. Hopefully they add something.

  • It’s fine. Just fine.

    I’m really appreciating the freedom of how to approach activities within the open world and don’t miss the scripted missions that much. Yet. If these missions keep repeating, though, I’m aware I’m quickly going to get over it.

    I’m developing an attachment to my new most-used character (an over-exaggerated toffee-nosed black woman with an extreme case of vitiligo and a combination of awesome hacking traits), but the character system is just so frustrating. My fancy top-tier mission reward Spy character turned out to bethe spitting image of Borat, including voice. Fucking unusable. Not that it’s a huge loss as it seems spies are too combat-focused, which is a major weakness of the game when hacking is so powerful and combat is a failure.

    Despite my growing attachment, if I can get a better trait combo I’m going to dump this lady without much regret. Also, having experimented with a number of recruitments, those missions are definitely starting to get a little samey and drawn out to want to engage with that lottery too often.

    Also had to pump the difficulty up a bit, because some strategies are so overpowered that the game becomes no challenge whatsoever. (Stealing a cargo drone to fly into a safe place in the skies over a restricted area then letting infinite spiderbots and infinite captured/summoned stun drones do all the work for you is outright broken.)

    Every good part comes with a downside, which is annoying. I’m loving the podcasts (there was even an article about that), but the only way you can listen to them is by stopping what you’re doing. They can’t play in the background while you’re waiting for guards to move through their patrol routes, or while you’re scouting an area for tagging and vulnerabilities. The variety of abilities and equipment is great, but the loadout per agent is terrible. The upgrades are interesting, but too easy to blitz out early, leaving no other form of progression. The random element of all characters being generated is interesting to start with, but the fact that everything always ever is random means no-one is special and they all blur together into insignificance. (“When everyone is unique, no-one is unique.”) Especially when trait combinations repeat based on demographics. (All Albion employees are pretty much the same. All homeless are pretty much the same.) It’s great that there are UK accents everywhere, including some non-UK European accents, but the trade-off to finding diverse voice-actors seems to be that diversity has come at the cost of not being very good. The music selection when you’re in/on a vehicle is great, and it’s cool that the music actually persists in playing from the vehicle when you hop out and you are standing nearby, still able to hear it… but inexplicably, the second you get back in, it restarts, clipping how much of that audio you’re actually going to experience. Especially when vehicles are less useful in this game than most others of the type.

    Legion is a fun diversion, and what I would’ve considered more of an expansion pack to Watch Dogs 2. It feels almost like Legion is to Watch Dogs franchise what First Light is to Infamous, or Liberation/Freedom Cry is to Assassin’s Creed.

    I only started playing a couple days ago and reckon I’ll be done with it before Valhalla and the next-gen consoles come out, which would be my shortest time with Ubisoft SandboxGame(tm) ever.

    • I’ve actually got a brawler that is basically Youtuber Jacksepticeye, accent included… So I just imagine him screaming, “Top of the mornin’ to you laddies!” as he runs around decking people.

      I’ve found that my recruits with shitty voice acting tend to have ‘accidents’ and die in spectacular ways. Weird how that keeps happening.

      And the ‘premium’ characters you get with Uplay+ or the ultimate edition, whatever, are just like someone was sitting about going “Let’s throw a bunch of cliches together and make them look edgy as fuck. That’s cool right?”

      I think the only character I got really attached to so far was my construction worker chick I got early on that would basically run around bludgeoning people with a wrench, or going all Sam Fisher with her nail gun.

      Playing on hardest difficulty (as you point out the game really isn’t difficult at all), permadeath, all that jazz… I was however incredibly disappointed to discover that when your characters get killed, the moment they die the game basically forgets them.

      Even potential recruits you might kill will stay on the list showing as dead, but my actual most used recruit was basically erased from the roster like she never existed to begin with. It really kills a lot of the immersion for them to go like “Next!” as if there’s a ticket line to be lead character, and when you get called up they act as if you’ve been there the whole time and nobody came before them.

      So unless I missed something and they get memorialised somewhere I am yet to see, then yeah that was a bit of a ‘well, fuck you I guess’ moment.

      • Memorials for dead, maybe hospital and arrest records too ,combat stats, a list of retired operatives, didnt think of that… no character stats outside of the big either only listing recent actions. Was a bit underwhelming.

        Ranking and code names would be cool too.

        I watched an ex-deadsec officer fail a checkpoint and get killed. If I didn’t turn to see the gunshot, I would of missed it, but to the game it was a non-event.

      • I dont know why the “Premium” characters only have 3 perks, when the cap is 4.

        My hacker+ felt better than them, and he’s your second recruit.

        Is it weird to think the main playable character in this game is the Spider-bot, with his side kick the Construction Drone.

        I can’t wait to see the Bloodline 4, may actually bring some personality to the game… then demotes them to Non Character after their missions.

  • I am really enjoying it. You do lose something when taking out the protagonist though (motives, ideals, fears etc), but i think they have done a good job of counteracting that lack of direction you lose. I do feel some of the pacing is off though (just how quickly you can take out one of the leaders).
    I wish the pedestrians were smarter though. I have lost count of the number of times I have hit them when they jump onto the road to avoid my horrible driving.

  • When it works it is ok, i am playing on the Xbox One S and the game crashes left and right, i have never had a game perform this badly. I like the central concept of recruiting anyone but it does impact the ability to tell a gripping story, i like my black punk grandma hacker but i don’t feel anything for her as a character, i think this could have been resolved by playing as someone hiding out running DedSec from the hideout because they are wanted criminal number one or something and having a few must have operatives to build the story around.

  • The whole thing feels like the first game in a series, not the third…it all feels a little under-cooked. It needs more variety in the recruiting missions, and the enemies need more ways to counter some of the more OP tactics as mentioned above.

    And the voice acting is REALLY bad – not just because of the quality, but because of how it rarely matches the character it’s attached to.

    Permadeath is great though.

  • I quite love the way you can build your team with randos because you can construct your own team with fun personality traits which you’d not otherwise have available to you.

    For example, my team comprises so far of a 52 year old beautitian who posts in hentai forums, an opera singer who played bass for a ska band who is the subject of internet memes, a musician who frequently purchases “bees” online, and a paintball-playing body piercer who lost one of her toes to frostbite.

    These sorts of random quirky personality effects make the things i get them to do to be that bit more fun when putting together a ragtag bunch of activists rather than just grouping a bunch of edgelord hackers

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