The Watch Dogs series has always been a favorite of mine. It takes the concept of an open world game and infuses it with elements of espionage, hacking, and action. The previous installment in the series particularly stood out to me for its commentary on the harmful practices and lack of ethics in the tech industry, with pointed references to companies such as Google and Facebook. However, as I play Legion, I get the impression that the series may be struggling to maintain a clear identity.
The Moral Dilemma
Watch Dogs: Legion presents a unique take on the open-world genre by emphasizing morality and offering mostly non-lethal weapons. Or at least, it tries to. This approach sets it apart from other games in the genre, such as GTA and Saints Row, which often reward players for engaging in reckless and violent behavior. While the emphasis on morality is admirable, it also comes across as incredibly pretentious, that even some villains accuse the protagonist group Deadsec of being a “terrorist group” because of their destructive behaviors.
Additionally, the lack of character development due to the ability to recruit and play as any NPC makes it difficult for players to become invested in the game’s story. Even with the permadeath mode enabled, I really didn’t care too much if I lost one of my teammates unless they had a unique ability I relied on.
The Bloodlines DLC attempts to address these issues by providing more character development for the game’s protagonist, Aiden Pierce, and addressing complaints about the violence in the first game. However, it is unclear if this DLC is successful in achieving these goals. Despite these shortcomings, Watch Dogs: Legion still offers a unique and interesting experience with its focus on hacking and complex systems that players can interact with and manipulate. While the game may not be perfect, it offers something that is distinct from other open-world games.
It also did something the base game wasn’t able to do. It made me care about the character I was playing. I actually became invested on Aiden’s story and redemption, to the point I would argue it was probably better than the whole base game itself.
And then there was the introduction of Darcy.
Hacking Legion To Make it the game I wanted
The best part of the season pass wasn’t even the Bloodlines DLC, but the introduction of the downloadable character, Darcy Clarkson, a modern-day assassin and tie-in to the Assassin’s Creed series. While her DLC mission highlights just how terrible movement is in Watch Dogs compared to Assassins Creed is, it did add a number of new gadgets to the game that I didn’t know I wanted. Unlike other NPCs you can recruit, Darcy is uniquely equipped with hidden blades, dart guns, a stealth suit, and an “eagle drone”. She became my main character for the majority of my play through of Legion. Up until she was injured and out of commission.
Then something interesting happened. I found myself bored of the rest of my team, with their mundane skills. So, I did what any outstanding member of Dedsec would do. I hacked the game.
From a technological standpoint, Legion is an impressive feat (and an example of why you DONT need a blockchain in your game, but that's another story). Legion’s secret lies within an SQLite database, and how it stores the population of futuristic London. And because it’s a normal database, that data can be manipulated.
With one of the perks of most of the population being randomly generated, that means all of those stats can be handpicked as well. Using one of my favorite tools Cheat Engine, I got to work creating the characters I wanted; a legion of assassins.
I started by giving most of Dedsec hidden blades and upgraded stealth abilities. I then gave them personalities, jobs, and other traits that matched. In total, I spent around 70 hours in Legion, and 25 of those were building out my characters. It was almost as therapeutic and relaxing as creating D&D characters.
I was finally invested in the game, and a team I slowly cared about assembled- a spy assassin, Dave, who liked to write fanfiction in his free time, a hacker and former gang member Jess, and Carrie a sex worker that was out for revenge on the people who assaulted her, among other members.
Best of all, the Darcy DLC also introduced the Assassin garb clothing option, giving me not only the feel of playing a modern-day Assassins Creed, but looking the part as well. The only thing that could have made the game better was if the movement as I mentioned would have been as fluid as a typical Assassins Creed game, but I was quickly able to overlook it, as I became a master at stealth takedowns anywhere I went.
I went on to craft the story I wanted to play.