Watch Dogs: Legion sets you loose in a near-future London, where you can build a resistance by playing as anyone. Any person you meet on the street is recruitable, and we had a chance to try that out for ourselves at E3 2019. Now that the world has gotten its first look at Watch Dogs: Legion, we wanted to take a moment and chat about our impressions of the E3 2019 demo, discuss our favorite moments and dig into how recruitment and the new character classes actually work. Our roundtable panelists are Zachary Ryan, Mikel Reparaz, and Youssef Maguid. Let’s kick off our discussion with our overall impressions.
Zach: Out of the gate, it should be said that this game looks absolutely gorgeous. Watch Dogs: Legion’s version of London is grimy and beautiful, and the futuristic aesthetic really helps set this game apart from previous entries in the series. I got to play as all three classes (more on that later) and found the mechanics to be familiar, but overall improved, especially the shooting. I played the 45-minute demo twice, and in that time I got to scope out a fairly significant portion of London, recruit a couple of people to my DedSec team, complete a story mission, and eventually go on a crazy, drone- filled rampage. It was a blast!
Mikel: I think one key thing to drive home is that, regardless of which class you’re playing as, the basic feel of Watch Dogs is still very much here. Everyone can still hack the world around them; when you’re sneaking around, for example, you can make phones buzz to distract enemies, or lock their guns from a distance to make sure they can’t start shooting if you get spotted. You can override vehicles to send them careening into traffic, or trigger environmental hazards during high-speed chases to discourage pursuers.
That said, playing as a Hacker grandmother at the start of the demo was certainly a new feeling. You can recruit absolutely anyone in the game, and that includes anyone who’s getting on in years. (At one point, I spotted an elderly man shuffling by and briefly considered building an all-senior hacking squad, but maybe I’ll save that for the full game.) She moved a little slowly, and had some trouble getting over barriers, but there was something intrinsically cool about using her – and her remote-control spiderbot – to slip into a heavily guarded outpost run by Albion, the private military that’s effectively taken over London. Once inside, I used the spiderbot to tase the guards into unconsciousness and wipe some compromising data, and then escaped by stealing one of their armored trucks, and somehow gave them the slip after careening through busy streets.
Instead, my first real recruit was Jessamyn Bakare, a Nigerian-born film critic I decided to recruit when she got upset with me for literally running into her in a crowded pub. It was on her behalf that I slipped into that outpost to destroy the blackmail material Albion had on her, after which she enthusiastically joined. After all that, however, I realized another operative was actually closer to the mission I was doing – all of your DedSec operatives exist and move around in the open world while you’re not controlling them – so I immediately switched over to him, -20% health debuff and all. Fast travel is often a choice between Tube stations and nearby operatives, and sometimes it’s more fun to roll the dice and see what you get.
Youssef: Play As Anyone feels like a near-endlessly exciting system that could have me profiling and recruiting characters into my DedSec squad dozens of hours into Watch Dogs: Legion. It’s one thing to hear that you can play as anyone, but it’s entirely different once you see how it works. You can’t just walk up to anyone and hold a button to recruit them; each character in Legion is entirely unique, with their own schedules, relationships, wants, and needs. If you want them to join your resistance, you’ll need to play into those wants and needs and make sure you’re not altering their relationships for the worse.
I highly recommend recruiting an operative with the “may die randomly” trait. Sure, it’s a big bummer if they happen to kick it at an inopportune moment, but their positive trait typically makes up for their short lifespan. Taking out an Albion base while being able to dish out 100% extra damage made me feel nearly invincible, but the thought that any moment could be my last added a metaphorical ticking clock to all my actions.
Everyone you recruit has their own backstory and motivations, and these background pieces inform their overall stat buffs and weaknesses. A character who boxes during their free time might get a melee buff, while someone who works as an IT consultant may hack faster than other characters. Each of these attributes also helps determine which class should be assigned to that character. In Watch Dogs: Legion, the skill trees of earlier games have been fleshed out into their own individual classes, with perks and stats of their own. Which of these classes did you spend the most time with or have the most fun with?
Zach: Growing up, I loved stealth games, so the Infiltrator class immediately caught my attention. I love this class’ ability to cloak themselves and essentially go invisible. Also, and I realize how nerdy this is, but I think it’s super cool that this ability has a narrative explanation within the world of Watch Dogs: Legion. If everyone has AR feeding directly into their eyes, why wouldn’t a DedSec operative be able to hack it and erase themselves from the world around them?
Using this cloaking ability to infiltrate enemy strongholds is extremely cool. It gives you a bit of a buffer if you get detected, but allows you to get up close and personal with enemies, and creates an easier opportunity to eliminate them nonlethally. It’s also incredibly handy to stealth-shroud enemies you’ve already taken out, making them invisible to enemy characters and allowing you to more easily avoid detection. A lot of stealth games ask you to hide the bodies of your foes or else risk detection, but this method makes quick work of enemies that are lying around.
Mikel: I played as all three classes at one point or another, but I think the Hacker is my favorite at this point. The Infiltrator is stealthy, sure, but what’s even stealthier is sending a hard-to-spot spiderbot into dangerous areas while you wait outside. It can take down guards with a taser (and scan their contact info for later recruiting – yes, you can play as anyone), creep through small spaces inaccessible to humans, and hack anything you can, including control panels that need physical interaction (which tend to be the trickiest part of hacking your way through a Watch Dogs missions). I also like that nothing is off-limits, hacking-wise, to the Hacker; if I want to turn heavy drones to my will and make them attack their handlers, I can.
The Hacker isn’t the most physically capable class, but that doesn’t matter if you never have to get close to your targets in the first place. If you like to sneak at a distance and manipulate the environment to your whims – or if you just really, really want to play as a squad of grandmas – the Hacker might end up being your favorite class, too.
Youssef: Sneaking is and hacking is all well and good, but sometimes you need to get your hands dirty. That’s where the Enforcer class comes in. Armed with a shock sticky mine, the Enforcer is a dedicated combat class that can wield heavy weapons. One nice thing about Watch Dogs: Legion is that you can decide what level of violence you want to cause. I broke into a Clan Kelley hideout determined not to kill anyone, and thanks to my shock assault rifle, I didn’t have to sacrifice my cover-shooting gameplay to maintain a non-lethal approach. Sure, the enemies were shooting real bullets at me, but Legion allowed me to ensure that they’d be able to get on with their lives after our encounter (and a brief stay at the local hospital).
The sticky mine can be used in many situations. At times, I tossed it at covered enemies like a conventional grenade; other times, I placed it in a narrow corridor and let its proximity trigger incapacitate an unsuspecting enemy. It’s a skill that offers variability, whether you’re going in guns blazing, or trying to maintain stealth.
MOMENT TO MOMENT
Watch Dogs: Legion allows for some impressive combinations of skills, locomotion, and combat, and these work in unison to create pretty wild moments. Car chases, massive explosions, and, of course, some skillful hacking work in unison to vary up how you navigate London and accomplish your goals. So, in between all the hacking, sprinting, and speed racing, what was your favorite crazy moment in the Watch Dogs: Legion E3 demo?
Zach: Hackers are certainly a rare breed, operating from the shadows and letting gadgets do their dirty work. However, perhaps their most underrated skill is their ability to hack larger drones. Every DedSec operator can hack the smaller drones that patrol most enemy strongholds, but only the hacker can take control of assault and freight drones. And yes, you can use those beefy drones to drop cargo on, or shoot holes into, enemies. But did you know that they’re also an excellent means of conveyance?
Heck yeah, I rode a drone all over London. Hacking into a drone, climbing on top of it, and taking to the skies is the only way to travel. Not only is it an absolutely ridiculous way to get across the London skyline, but it’s also an awesome way to scout for collectibles and gather intel. And let’s be honest, there’s nothing like showing up to an objective or storming into a hideout on a gigantic drone. Wonderful.
Mikel: Again, infiltrating a sort of Albion-owned police station was a lot of fun, but when I’m playing a demo of an open-world game, I can never resist the urge to be as big of a jerk as possible – so a lot of my favorite moments came from messing around with the world around me. When a self-driving car made a flawed moral decision and plowed into me as I was crossing the street, I got up, hopped in, and “self-drove” it through several rows of streetlights, marveling at the nasty scrapes it had collected when I got out for my next mission. When I spotted an armored Albion car sitting next to a construction site, I used my phone to launch it down the street to see how far it could go without being stopped by something (pretty far, it turned out). And when Albion goons were chasing me after I’d been framed for a bomb attack, I couldn’t resist making my getaway on a little motor scooter and zipping right through the bollards and barriers that were probably supposed to stop me, before crashing spectacularly into a parked car. Watch Dogs: Legion’s London is a highly reactive open world (even if you’re not deliberately trying to upset everyone in it), and being able to experience it as a variety of different characters just adds to the fun.
Youssef: At one point in my demo, I got into a massive firefight with some Albion guards. I did my best to take out as many as I could, but I started to run low on ammo and didn’t know how much longer I could last. Determined to come out on top, I fought back until they eventually downed me, and I was given a decision: surrender and go to jail, or resist and get back up and fight. This being a demo, I chose to get back up, knowing that if I was downed again, my operative would be permanently killed.
With my newfound lease on life, I decided to flee. Just when I thought I had lost my pursuers, I accidently drove through an Albion checkpoint and immediately had their drones and cars back on my tail. As I swerved and dodged through traffic while trying to hack my environment to shake Albion, I must’ve got distracted and ended up rear-ending a taxi, which launched my character through the windshield and on to the cold London pavement, where she died for good. I had only spent a few minutes with her and hadn’t even recruited her, but I felt genuinely bad and responsible for her death. She had a sister she had just gone shopping with that day, and now, thanks to me, that sister would have to mourn the death of her only sibling. It was an impressive reminder of how interconnected the world of Watch Dogs: Legion feels and how nearly every one of your actions reverberated across the city.
Watch Dogs: Legion is out March 6, 2020 for Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Stadia.