I am beyond excited about Legion. Having played the series since the start, having replayed it, and watched it being played by various people before and since,
it’s safe to say I’ve watched about every minute of gameplay and trailer footage Ubisoft has put on my screen. The original Watch Dogs set the foundation; a brilliant concept, not quite realised. Watch Dogs 2? A vibrant game, overhauling the wrongs of the original, for an all-round great game.
And then there’s the new kid on the block. Underground, I should say, because the setting has crossed the pond, and we do things differently here.
The Proof is in the Yorkshire Pudding
I love the concept of “play as anyone,” and I think it will add a supporting cast that have very niche areas of expertise, and combining that cast together will make for a very intriguing game. However, I am a player who, like many others, takes full advantage of the “hacktivist,” trickster side of the game, which was done full justice in Watch Dogs 2, and I am eager to see how this will translate into the new game.
I played Watch Dogs 2 inside out, and what I loved about the San Francisco sandbox was the freedom of free mode hacking given to the player. Whether it was hacking gas pipes to block lines of sight, or blow up traffic, raise traffic blocks to dismiss oncoming pursuers, or use your Quadcopter or RC Buggy to hack into an enemy building, I felt immensely powerful.
Where the Magic Happens
However, it was the combination of these hacks that made the player enter new levels; flying your Buggy on your Quadcopter to use it on buildings you weren’t meant to reach, in order to complete an objective without setting foot in the place, is the stuff your favourite game clips are made off.
Quite simply, the player became as creative as you could imagine player-controlled Marcus Holloway to be.
Where the Line is Drawn
I’ve watched as much early gameplay for Legion as humanely possible, and, to tell you the truth, I’m worried. Worried that the game is putting too much emphasis on this new system. Worried that it will forget the freedom that made San Francisco so accessible. And, most importantly, worried that Watch Dogs, like so many other Ubisoft series, will move away from where it began, and will fall into the pile of “what could have been,” if it had just built on it’s solid foundation, as opposed to trying to build a new one altogether.
What worries me about this game is what I can only describe as the Meta, (the Most Effective Tactics Available) which, in English, means the highest reward actions performed at the lowest possible risk to succeed. Yes, I know, we all like to pretend there’s no such thing as a Meta in these kind of games; it’s not made by EA for a start. However, it doesn’t have to ruin a game in such a manner as it ruins, say, FIFA.
Watch Dogs 2 had a Meta; use your Quadcopter to hack remotely, plant several explosive devices next to armoured or otherwise guards, slip around groups of enemies amongst the chaos, and complete the mission within 5 minutes without your existence being noted. Simple? Yes. Boring? Yes. HOWEVER, the game gave you all the tools you needed to decide how you completed the mission.
You want the Meta approach? Go for it. Progress stealthily? Guns blazing? It’s all there. Or don’t have a plan; just improvise and have fun. This made the game fresh, accessible, and so much fun.
What Does This Mean for the Game
Here’s where the problem lays. Ubisoft has taken away various free mode hacks, and have largely kept hacks to a minimum, making them mission based, and mission optimised. In theory, this doesn’t sound like too big of a deal. And yet it doesn’t sit well with me. I can’t shake the feeling that, by limiting free mode hacks, they have limited the possible avenues you can take to complete a mission, to the point where the Meta approach is the only responsible way of approaching a task. And how much creativity, and, more importantly, fun, does that take away with it?
Before you start, yes, I know you can “play as anyone,” and I can’t deny that playing as a street artist will feel different to playing as a granny.
But, if you are doing the same things, the same sequences, and exploiting exactly the same game mechanics to succeed, that won’t feel fresh. That, to my mind, will simply feel like a novel DLC skin pack. And, unlike the powers of creativity that draws me back to Watch Dogs: Legion’s predecessor, novelty wears off after a while. It’s just a case of when, and not if.
A final thought, for now? I’ll offer you this; put your hand in your pocket, because you’ll need your wallet. This game is definitely worth the chance, it has the potential to be great, if the game ships with the hacking freedom of Watch Dogs 2, and the innovative new “play as anyone” system.
But, also, put your other hand in your opposite pocket, and find your passport, and your Visa back to the USA. London may well be calling, but, come release day, the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge may just be too much to eclipse.