I’m working on a series about the games that kept me busy this year. These are my favorites, not necessarily “the best.” Also, these posts will be in no particular order. We’ll do a podcast in the near future ranking our top games of 2020.
I’m not gonna lie of all the open worlds I’ve explored this year in video games, the dystopian London of Watchdogs Legion is maybe the most memorable to me. I definitely think I’m in the minority in saying that, but I’m a sucker for games that build an open world based on a real world location.
I’ve always wanted to go to London, but, considering the state of the real world, I’ll settle for a virtual tour for now. And sure, fair enough, I’ll grant you that this is supposed to be a dystopian version of London, and the game fails in that department just a bit because the year it released in made me go, “I could live here, it doesn’t seem so bad.” But I’m sure the developers couldn’t have foreseen that their game would come out during a year marred by a global pandemic (among other issues).
Nevertheless, I took my tour of London while flying on a hacked cargo drone, because this is Watchdogs and hacking is key to the DNA.
So much so that I eventually learned that I could complete most missions by flying a cargo drone over my destination, dropping a spider drone and controlling it through corridors, knocking out enemies and hacking consoles until the mission was done. Then I’d simply stop controlling the drone and retake control of the flying cargo drone I was sitting on, and simply fly away.
And you may think that that’d get old after a while, but somehow it didn’t. Properly navigating each area without being detected and successfully hacking the console and then flying away always made me feel unstoppable (unless the console required a physical body to be near it – the devs clearly figured me out halfway through the game).
Hacking is great and all, but the new Watchdogs franchise claim to fame is the new “play as anyone + permadeath enabled” features. And I’m calling it, these features must be in every new Watchdogs entry from here on out.
Some may not have liked that they went away from a central, written character and, to be fair, it is a bit strange having a different character off the street show up in these big meaningful cutscenes – especially as each scene attempts to building off the last the further you play into the story – but the “gotta catch-em all” mentality takes over and the mere fact that your recruits can be lost permanently absolutely changed the way I played the game.
When I found a spy that came with a silenced pistol, a watch that can hack people and a car that looks like 007’s classic Aston Martin, Watchdogs Legion just started feeling like a Bond game – a modern Bond game that utilizes drones and hacking in Bond’s gadget repertoire. As a Bond fan (especially of the old Bond games of the N64 and Gamecube era) I loved that. Until my spy died…
That’s when I realized that despite the game not having a central, written character, I was managing to form an attachment to characters anyway. After running a few missions with them I feared to lose them. It could be that I liked the voice actor and their personality. It could be that I liked their kit, especially if they came with some cool weapons. Either way, once I started losing characters due to permadeath, mission failure hit far harder than any death in a normal game.
So Watchdogs Legion may not have had a strong central protagonist that stacks up with other well known faces from 2020’s biggest games, but I remember my favorite characters, and I poured one out for all the ones I lost.
Having said all of this, it’s clear that Ubisoft has a lot of iterating and refining to do with the feature and how it plays into the story. It’s a good start, but at the end of the day I’m more excited about what the next Watchdogs game may bring than I am revisiting this game. And that’s significant, because Ubisoft plans on launching a multiplayer mode at some point in 2021.
The story is nothing to write home about and neither are the characters that are persistent throughout the story, but I will not soon forget the grand adventures I had running around London hacking everything and trying to convert every random citizen to my cause.
My other favorite games of 2020 (in no particular order):