As a multiplayer game, Watch Dogs: Legion is pretty lonely. Yes, you can roam freely on a vast open-world map alongside other players, but most of the points of interest are for single-player activities. The competitive arena, while appropriately frenetic, currently feels anemic. And the tentpole, raid-like mode isn’t even available yet. If you were hoping for a reason to return to last year’s hacking game, the game’s multiplayer expansion, at least in its current state, isn’t it.
Initially planned for a December 2020 release, Ubisoft indefinitely delayed the Watch Dogs: Legion multiplayer mode in November. Last month, Legion’s multiplayer popped up again when Ubisoft gave it a release date of March 9 for all platforms. Then, over this past weekend, another delay: Due to a game-crashing bug on PC, the multiplayer would only launch on PlayStation, Xbox, and Stadia. The “Tactical Op” — the questline that supposedly demands serious communication and cooperation — won’t come out until March 23.
Hey, at least it’s a free update.
Earlier today, my colleague Michael Pasquariello and I spent a few hours tag-teaming London — or, well, trying to tag-team London. See above for his video on the multiplayer modes, but the short version is that, despite our best efforts, we were unable to successfully party up, despite both playing on Xbox Series X.
Before you can access the full suite of multiplayer activities, Legion makes you suffer a brief tutorial. Plenty of single-player games with online modes require you to stomach a tutorial before jumping into the actual multiplayer. We figured to power through it and then try to meet up.
From the menu, we couldn’t get party invites to work. In-game, no dice. We tried swapping up the privacy mode from “public” to “friends only,” and even tried taking turns sending each other invites, and even waited an hour to try again, but, no matter the parameters, we couldn’t pair up. (Curiously, on both of our Xbox consoles, Legion’s in-game friends list showed “zero” friends online, despite the fact that both of us were very clearly online the whole time. To send these invites, we had to go through the Xbox’s internal guide. And yes, the system listed “playing Watch Dogs: Legion” as the status for both of our profiles.)
So, in the face of failure, we did what you’re supposed to do in any cooperative game: played alone.
The primary mode of Legion’s multiplayer is an open-world free roam, which drops you and up to three other players into London. Like the main game, you can recruit random NPCs off the street as part of that whole “play as anyone” deal. Unlike the main game, Legion’s multiplayer mode does away with the recruitment missions. Instead, you can spend an in-game currency called Influence to automatically recruit any potential operatives on the spot. Better yet, if you come across an NPC you want on your team but lack the Influence to recruit, you can save them for later. Once you have enough Influence, you can recruit them from a neat and tidy menu. (You can rock a dozen operatives at once, and keep up to 20 potential recruits on the back burner.) Compared to the main game — where recruitment missions started to feel stale after a bit — it’s a streamlined process by which you can recruit new operatives.
Bummer there’s not a whole lot to do with them.
As with any open world, Legion’s multiplayer map features nodes of interest, which indicate activities you can do. Many of those activities are solo: hack a computer, steal a vehicle, rescue a hostage, eliminate a target, blow up…stuff. None are remotely as dynamic as those you’d find in the main game, so why boot up a multiplayer mode just to play single-player missions?
More interesting are the playlist-style missions. You team up with three other people (both Michael and I were able to do this with random players) and tackle mission after mission, many of which require more steps than the one-off single-player tasks you’ll find around the map. Once you wrap one, the game automatically loads you into the next one — no need to trek from Piccadilly to Whitechapel just to get a mission started.
Still, even the playlist missions are plagued with problems. Both Michael and I found that players defaulted to shooting everything and everyone in sight. Watch Dogs: Legion is far superior as a stealth game than it is a shooter, so it was a letdown to see people fall back on Division-style gameplay in a game that doesn’t support it. Were Michael and I able to link up, we agreed, we’d have gone stealthy. Obviously.
The standout mode is Spiderbot Arena, a four-player, free-for-all deathmatch. Rather than operatives, you play as a spiderbot, one of those fast, jumpy gadgets from the main game. You can pick up weapons (a shotgun, say, or homing rockets) strewn around the map. Whoever scores the most kills wins.
It’s made more interesting by the fact that spiderbots can raise and lower platforms with the push of a button. Few things beat the joy of seeing an enemy lining up a shot on you and then raising a barricade in front of them, blocking said shot. But even that joy gets old quickly, much like the game mode itself. Matches are only a matter of minutes, and the spiderbots are exceptionally fragile, so both kills and deaths happen at a rapid-fire pace. And since there are only four players on the roster, it’s hard to tell when a win is legitimately earned or just a matter of luck. A larger roster — with, say, eight players, where there’s more daylight between the podium and the rest of the crowd — would be better for gauging personal skill. Absent that feeling of tangible progression, there’s not much pull (for me, at least) to keep queuing up new matches.
Any activity you complete — whether it’s a single-player task, a playlist mission, or a match of Spiderbot Arena — will earn you a smattering of experience points, which go toward levelling up your seasonal rank.
Like Fall Guys, Avengers, Destiny 2, or any live service game, you’ll earn a goodie with each new rank: things like weapon skins, outfits, masks, or some sort of in-game currency. Many rank-ups will simply grant you Influence, which, again, you can use to recruit more operatives. Less frequently, you’ll earn WD Credits, used to buy cosmetic and XP boosters in the in-game store. You can also spend IRL money on WD Credits. (C’mon, what’d you expect? This is a Ubisoft game, after all.)
There are 62 days remaining in the first season. You can hit a seasonal max level of 50. Daily and weekly challenges (“destroy five trucks!”) can help you speed through ranks at a faster pace. The whole time I spent poring over these various numbers and proper nouns, I couldn’t shake one persistent thought: “Really, another one of these?” Maybe it’ll be more fun when I can actually play with my friends