DON’T SLEEP ON WATCH DOGS: LEGION
Grandma’s got a taser.      




COMMENTARY

By JAY TEE
09/10/20

Cor blimey guv’nor!

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The stereotypical end of year release pandemonium is as predictably stacked as ever, and with two fresh helpings of console hardware ready to raid our money stashes, critical purchasing decisions will need to be made. One things for certain: there is a deluge of intriguing titles dropping within weeks of each other, and one such title is Watch Dogs: Legion.

When looking for innovation in the open world space, I tend to gravitate more toward experiences that double down on systemic randomness over back of the box bullet points or graphical leaps and bounds. The Middle Earth: Shadow of “Something” titles, and their mathematically perplexing Nemesis system, is one such example, where I truly felt as though I was crafting my own rivalries and anecdotal experiences. It felt like wizardry at work.

Much of the pre release marketing for Legion has honed in on its patented “play as anyone” mechanic. What might seem like superfluous marketing guff is instead the logical progression from Orc’s that hunt you down and remember you beheaded them. It’s a feat of engineering that looks set to encapsulate everything this particular series has stood for; subverting expectation while having a good time doing it.

It’s rife with possibility. Characters with certain career backgrounds will have access to specific attributes and equipment that will help shape your approach to different scenarios. This manifests itself in a variety of ways, and I believe it’s in that melting pot of ideas that the magic of this concept will shine through. I can’t wait to experiment with different squad combinations, and perhaps even recruit an entire crew of OAP’s.

So much of open world game design tends to adhere to strict signposting; sure, there’s big cities and places to explore, but your motivations are determined by the narrative direction of a small group of characters. Here, you get to decide who’s in the spotlight, and the option of permadeath lends real stakes to every decision, without forcing the difficulty settings to be ramped to the max.

I love the idea that I don’t have to make every enemy as skilled as John Wick with clairvoyant stealth detection in order to up the ante. It’s these kinds of genuine consequences that pique my interest; I’m the guy who refused to look up a guide to Mass Effect 2’s “Suicide Mission”, in order to make sure my decisions were organic and I faced the repercussions of any mistakes.

There’s still valid questions over whether constantly shifting protagonists will create a sort of narrative disconnect, or if the inevitable limitations of this system will break immersion. But from everything shown, Watch Dogs: Legion is shaping up to be a memorable experiment, and we can’t wait to see if it ultimately comes together.


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