Ahhhh London. A jolly old town, a hub of history, culture, and a privatised army ready to kick your teeth in if you disagree with them in any way shape or form. London of the near future is no longer the shining symbol of Britishness it once was. After a huge terrorist attack flattens half the city, a privatised military named Albion is hired to bring order to the streets once more, and they promptly place their boots firmly upon the neck of freedom and democracy, turning London into a city of violence and oppression.
And that’s where YOU come in! As one of the last surviving members of the London charter of hacktivist group DedSec, it’s up to you to recruit an army of your own and take back London the DedSec way. I never played the first Watch Dogs, but the second game is one of my all-time favourites, so I was eager to get my hands on the third entry to the series.
This is a glimpse of the recruitment procedure, it starts with investigating the personality and pros/cons with a quick scan of the ol’ Digital footprint.
You liberate the first Borough of London, Camden, in the early hours of the story, as a part of the mandatory ‘gaining a foothold of resistance’ moment in any Watch Dogs story. But from there, you can liberate any district you like, disclaimer, liberating doesn’t mean the bad guys are gone, but it does mean that most civilians are now open to join up with DedSec. This is a part of the ‘recruit anyone’ feature that is Watch Dog Legions main selling point, but it doesn’t really open up to its full potential until you’ve played for about an hour and a half and gotten a particular upgrade to your “tech” arsenal.
In order to liberate a borough, you must complete a set of missions, missions that will have you photographing evidence, taking out VIPs, hijacking Propaganda or anything else that will spur on the cause of the resistance. One of my missions to liberate the borough of Whitehall was to rescue some comrades from Scotland Yard (the main police station), a task that is harder than most, but made much easier if I were to have a ‘Uniformed Access’ Operator. These are operators that can give you eas-IER access to certain restricted areas (I say easier, not easy because enemies can still detect you from close range), these operators include Construction and Medical personnel, or members of Albion, Clan Kelley, or the London Metropolitan Police.
Cargo Drones provide a slow, but functional way to take the scenic aerial routes around London. Simply recruit a construction worker, they can summon them at will.
I was in the market for an Albion member, but first, you must win their trust. My first candidate I had ‘Saved to Recruits’ quickly changed her tune after I performed a takedown on her, which I think is totally fair, so I was more careful the second time around. After investigating my second candidate and his online habits and seeing he had a lot of money on a boxing match, he happily enlisted after I joined the match and swung it in his favour. Once I had recruited him, sneaking into the police station was a piece of cake. Once you complete the missions, you will access a final mission that will end in the liberation of the district and the recruitment of a ‘Skilled Operative’.
One such skilled operative is the Drone Expert, who can summon an offensive shock drone to use in combat situations. You can one premade by liberating a particular district or by finding one on the street.
Beyond the expansive list of potential recruits and a wide list of gameplay potential they bring, I felt that Watch Dogs Legion fell somewhat short of its predecessor. Watch Dogs 2 had a bright feeling, an impactful story, immersive world and vibrant cast of characters, a strong departure from the gritty streets of Chicago and London. The world of Watch Dogs Legion is depressing, a police state ruled by a private army armed to the teeth with technology that seems at home in 2020. The characters (beyond my operative squad, I love my operatives <3 ) are bland and largely forgettable, almost overusing the traits of hackers or bad guys respectively. Scratch for the sarcastic AI companion Bagley, who is consistently snarky and hilarious.
Ahh the street artist, deploying paintball guns and spraypaint against Londons Legions of goons, all while providing sassy commentary.
This doesn’t mean Watch Dogs Legion isn’t fun, I don’t want to make its representation of a near-future police state London sound bland or repetitive. The gameplay capabilities introduced through the ‘Recruit anyone’ feature of the game opens up a world of possibilities. Need to scale a building fast? Use a construction worker to summon a cargo drone. Need to infiltrate a hospital? Call on a doctor or a paramedic to get you uniformed access. Each operator has their own personality and will weigh in on mission dialogue randomly, I love hearing my young Street Artist Leroy chime in to call someone a wanker during a tense investigation of corrupt officials. But fans of Watch Dogs 2 and the heart and colour of San Francisco may feel let down by the near-permanent rain and strict red-blue colour scheme adopted by most of Londons Boroughs. That said, it’s all down to playing the way you want to play, I just like a bit of colour in my social revolutions is all. Maybe that’s why I like Street Artists so much.