Ubisoft just unveiled Watch Dogs Legion at their E3 conference 2019, which was incontrovertibly the highlight of their entire conference. A lengthy ten-and-a-half minute presentation with generous amounts of Alpha game footage combined with an array of montage trailers meant it was perhaps the most complete videogame unveil at the E3 2019.
It’s safe to say the demonstration left many astonished, impressed, and peeping into their wallets to see if they have enough greens for a pre order. Indeed, Watch Dogs 3 (Legion) looked like what the first game and Watch Dogs 2 always envisioned to be. Impressive visuals combined with a layered and deep game play and (hopefully) compelling story – it ticked all the boxes.
Yet what Ubisoft failed to do was suspend the disbelief that everything they’d shown would come to fruition, and whether the final game would be anywhere near as appealing as they promised.
The black mark is ever present with the publisher, despite how well they’ve recovered from the heavy backlash they received from the time of the first Watch Dog’s release till Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. After all, skepticism when it comes to AAA Ubisoft titles has precedence, and for good reason.
Gameplay and Features
At surface value, Watch Dogs Legion looks like it will be a certain success. The detailed layout of a dystopian yet relatable London inhabited by a cornucopia of complex characters under the intense oppressive force of a surveilling extremist group called the Albion is both immersive and fascinating.
The distinct narrow streets of London’s most iconic locations paired with the believable advanced tech of the Albion troops and drones make for an ideal setting for a Watch Dogs game.
Avaricious gangs and power hungry leaders are the ventriloquists controlling every nook and cranny of the densely populated metropolis. As with any depiction of such a totalitarian and tainted society, the pandemonium has given rise to a resistance whose sole purpose is to grow for a united, overpowering pushback.
You are part of the resistance it seems, but as events unfold and the untimely death of Ian Robshaw– an archetypal thick-accented British fellow – it becomes clear that Watch Dogs Legion is aiming for something far grander than the tale of a single rallying bald bloke.
Viewers were shocked to see the enfeebling words “PermaDeath” appear on screen once our seeming protagonist falls prey to lethally equipped drones and armored Albion enforcers following a relentless pursuit. Not even a retro styled English taxi scurrying through the claustrophobic streets is enough to save our protagonist.
The untimely demise appears to be in vain after our crude yet likeable player character’s unsuccessful attempts to save a potential recruit for the resistance – a hacker who seems to enjoy active confrontation against the governing forces of London.
Just as he falls, the screen shows an option to select another character. Ian Robshaw’s picture is in a red hue, and the demo opts to choose Helen Dashwood, a seemingly innocuous and old British grandma – the kind you’d spot in any London public park feeding pigeons on a bright sunny day.
It’s here when Watch Dogs Legion makes its intent clear: you are not a single part of the DedSec resistance (London chapter), you are the resistance.
According to the developers, you can recruit any individual with even the slightest Marxist though process into the resistance, making it grow to a scale sizeable enough to make an impact on society. The hacker Ian Robshaw wanted to recruit was just one of many such candidates who can aid in the prospective uprising, and you can use multiple resistance members – each with their own unique traits and foibles – to recruit him.
The interconnectivity and complexity of this intricate yet expansive setup is what makes Watch Dogs Legion truly astonishing. It eschews from telling the tale from a single person’s perspective for a grander experience that tells the tale of different people working for a common cause.
Developers have made it clear that any individual inhabiting this dystopian London can be recruited and used as a playable character. All of them are uniquely modeled, individually animated, and come with special skillsets that make them useful for very specific tasks.
Yes, we’re talking about young teenagers, hipsters, geeks, grannies, professional assassins, former spies, teachers, students, professional bareknuckle fighters, and every kind of person in between. This vast array of would-be protagonists forms a systemic and open gameplay offering that no one has ever seen before in videogames.
Watch Dogs Legion – Wild and Ambitious
And that’s exactly why we’re worried. These bold claims are enticing and could very well spawn the greatest open world videogame we’ve ever seen, or it could lead to Watch Dogs Legion falling flat on its face through extensive use of clever gimmicks that have been adorned beyond reason specifically for the Ubisoft E3 2019 conference.
This wouldn’t be the first time Ubisoft mesmerized the audience only to leave them wanting, by the way. The original Watch Dogs itself was the kind of game many hailed as an open world magnum opus, yet subsequent gameplay demonstrations and the ultimate retail product seemed half baked and confused.
Ubisoft is notorious for inundating its game with vapid content to artificially bloat their value and make them appear deeper than what they truly are. Could Watch Dogs Legion be using the same formula?
It’s hard to imagine just how much work would go into animating every character, writing a complex and believable background story for each one, and scattering all of them across London for players to discover and recruit into the DedSec resistance.
Moreover, the potential impact each perma-death and each action could have on the story arc and progression would mean an absolutely ridiculous and near-impossible number of branching pathways.
This is the kind of ambitious offering that often gets cut down to barebones in the final product, and we’ve seen it happen all too many times with Ubisoft games. Titles like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey that promised exploration and content deliver it in a way that isn’t amicable with the common gamer, filled with repetitive and shallow content, and we fear Watch Dog Legion might fall prey to the same scheme.
If Ubisoft can deliver as promised, they’ll have their names written in history for making the most expansive and dynamic open world action game ever (until Cyberpunk 2077 comes out). However, given the publisher’s past history and how the Watch Dogs series itself has struggled to live up to the hype it built, we have reasons to remain skeptic.
Watch Dogs Legions will release on March 6, 2020 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. We hope the upcoming months address our concerns in the best possible way and prove us wrong.