Since its release in 2014, the Watch Dogs brand has always stood out for its technological soul: if in fact the world of open-world sandboxes tend to have the same underlying mechanics, the real difference is the particularity, that plus that allows you to have fun even when the missions start to seem too similar to each other. The story of Aiden Pearce's revenge, after losing his niece Lena to his criminal work, is a far cry from the more light-hearted storyline of Marcus Holloway, who carries on a much more idealistic struggle than that of the first protagonist. Perhaps due to an unclear characterization, or perhaps just for the historical moment, these two characters were not so loved by the public. The possibility that the concept was wrong, however, represents a very valid third option; for this, Watch Dogs: Legion offers something different.
Abandoning the idea of presenting any predefined character, in this new chapter of the series (which loses the numbering as has already happened to the Assassin's Creed franchise) the player will be able to control any citizen of London, complete with character skills, movement styles, combat and even different dialogues. The plot also takes on a slightly different connotation, structuring itself under multiple aspects, as if to leave the player free to action.
Once upon a time in London
The story, in truth, will start with a predefined character, a spy that we will check for the first phase of the game (and with whom we will learn the commands of the title again) and who will allow us to understand what is happening in London. In fact, the title suggests a city almost completely controlled by Albion where citizens, frightened by Dedsec (accused of terrorism), prefer to shut themselves up in the ctOS, the famous system we already know and which takes away any possible freedom of privacy. In reality, things are very different from what they seem: London is not the classic city where a simple bad guy tries to set his plans up. On the contrary, it is full of problems that Dedsec will have to try to remedy, and to do so it will need every possible help. For this reason, once you have obtained the first recruitable character, in the course of the game we will be able to enlist practically anyone around the city. The group of hacker activists, therefore, will not only have to clash with Zero-Day, the real bombers behind the bombs that exploded in London, but will also have to contend with the Mafia of Clan Kelley, with the Albion guards and the sick plans of Nigel Cass, but above all with all those twisted-minded people who have found paradise in London for their evil plans.
Speaking of the city, the details entered are fantastic: every street, alley or bridge is reproduced as only Ubisoft can do, with spectacular attention to detail. The general glance left us ecstatic to say the least and there are many details that can surprise, such as the work placed on the neon lights or, again, on the puddles, where realistic reflections help to offer a sense of credibility. even more marked. Obviously, being set in 2026, many things look different than they are now: technology is much more widespread, electric vehicles are present in abundance and artificial lights color the whole city almost to create a veil of magic. This futuristic but not too futuristic setting has allowed the creative department of Ubisoft Toronto to insert many small but interesting details within the playful world. We move from autonomous driving of vehicles to real technological systems that perhaps in the first two Watch Dogs would have seemed too futuristic, but which now instead make complete sense.
We said that the protagonist leaves room in Watch Dogs: Legion for the possibility, by the player, to choose which character to enlist. In fact, during your game you can analyze any citizen, understand his abilities, and eventually try to bring him to your side. In doing so you will unlock a mission, finish it and the character will join the team; fail and you will lose it forever. The game, however, does not stop there since some characters, in fact, either for their own ideology or for actions you have performed (such as hurting them or damaging their friends and relatives) could be doubtful of Dedsec or even hate it. In the first case you can use the analysis of the character's schedule to help them indirectly and in this way show him which side to take, while in the second case you will not be able to do anything about it.
The interesting thing is in the consequences of the choices you make: it is in fact possible that a character who hates Dedsec kidnaps a member of your team, or that perhaps by injuring the cousin of a character you have targeted, this will turn against you. The choices create dynamism, and this is reflected in a continuous turnover of which characters to have in the team, especially as the game progresses. Finally, for true hardcore gamers, it will be possible to activate permadeath, which will completely erase any dead activist and which, once the team is emptied, will bring you to the end of the game.
Although the characters you unlock will already be characterized from the point of view of their life (with past, profession and so on), you can still modify their clothing, skills and equipped weapons, with a certain margin of customization. Unfortunately, however, not all that glitters is gold: the management system of the various members is something amazing, but in the long run it shows the side of a rather evident repetition of missions, dialogues and patterns. The positive thing instead comes out when, every now and then, you have to save some activist or, again, when the system will show you a character with some particular talent. The development of the game related to the life or death of your activists is also interesting: in fact, if during a task that requires an escape you will find yourself killing your character, the game will make that loss an integral part of the mission, proposing another of your activists and a continuity of narration. This feature does not always work and in some cases it simply happens that you have to start the mission all over again, but when it does it manages to create a truly unique dynamism.
Are we Legion?
The title places the gamer in front of more than one enemy, and this makes the various missions always different, even if the experience is sinful as regards the process that you will have to follow, often stuck in the hacking-assault-hacking loop. To raise a potentially dramatic situation, however, we think about the freedom of action: in fact, whether you want to enter an Albion headquarters with a spiderbot, take the data and escape, or attack them with heavy weapons, everything will be left in your hands. What is positively striking is summarized in the spectrum of choices proposed; you can in fact use an assault spiderbot and give life to a carnage as well as you can use a character dependent on the Albion or with stealth skills to sneak in and avoid unnecessary bloodshed. Unfortunately, in some cases these dynamics have backfired, perhaps pushing us to follow a certain process or, worse, causing us some inconvenient bugs to complete the mission.
Going back to talking about customization, Watch Dogs: Legion features a system of technologies that can be unlocked with an in-game currency which will allow you, as you progress through the game, to add skills to any character. Obviously some dedicated skills (such as the clock deactivates the Spy weapons) you will not be able to add them to whoever you want, but otherwise you will have to unlock them in the course of history in order to facilitate the approach to the missions. Some of these, moreover, can only be purchased after liberating the London neighborhoods; to do this, you will have to complete objectives (such as destroying weapons, taking photos of tests or the like), ending each area with a mega-objective that often offers interesting platforming levels.
Speaking of this, we said that Watch Dogs: Legion, as for previous chapters, offers technology as its strength. Perhaps more aware of the brand than they were before, now the platforming and puzzle phases of the title seem more focused. We found the challenges with the spiderbot very amusing, among other things, which propose level design ideas that would be too strange for the open world of the series, but which in those phases instead work wonders.
Technically speaking, Watch Dogs: Legion shows its teeth on Xbox One X. The graphics are of a high standard, with very fast loading and well-finished details. On One S, unfortunately, we have to deal with some compromises, but nothing sensational. On the other hand, the faces of the characters left us a little dumbfounded, having to present as much variety as possible, they make a must on a procedural system that will occasionally create real monsters. We will definitely come back to talk about the production as soon as we try it on Next-Gen, but for now the game is fully enjoyable, except for some bugs to be fixed that will surely go away with the Day-One patch. The sound sector, on the other hand, is particularly interesting: the dialogues in English are very focused on the speech of the accent, proposing a language far removed from the American seen in the first two chapters, but in case this dynamic does not interest you, at Day-One the game will allow you to download a free DLC for the Spanish language. The music, on the other hand, offers an interesting mix of old glories and new pieces, giving space to various genres (and even podcasts) and fantastic pieces like Bliss by Muse or Go by The Chemical Brothers. The online mode remains obscure, which unfortunately is not yet available yet, but which we will certainly try as it allows, despite access to play together (up to a total of 4 players), to continue the missions.