Even though a retailer leak forced Ubisoft to acknowledge the game’s existence early, the publisher officially pulled back the curtain on Watch Dogs Legion during its E3 2019 press conference. The game is set for release on March 6, 2020 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
As the leak suggested, Watch Dogs Legion is set in London in a post-Brexit version of the near future. There are multiple player characters, each with their own distinct skill sets and perks to unlock. The gameplay demo shown during Ubisoft’s E3 press conference starts with a guy called Ian. After using some kind of stealth technology to flee from a drone, he hops in a black cab and is later shot and killed after tangling with the authorities–an oppressive forced called Albion. Permadeath is confirmed, and upon Ian’s death the player is taken to a team menu where they switch to another character, an older lady called Helen, who has access to a spider drone that she uses to help infiltrate and take out a New Scotland Yard police station near the London Eye.
After rescuing Jimmy and showing a cutscene in a pub (naturally), the demo concludes by unlocking a new playable operative: Jimmy Shaw, himself. You have to recruit people to play as them, and a montage shows there is a veritable boatload of potential playable characters, with every NPC in London a possible recruit.
Clint Hocking, creative director at Ubisoft Toronto, expanded on how recruiting other characters works and feeds into Legion’s narrative. “Your mission is building a resistance to fight back against the ‘authoritarian regime'” he starts out saying. “You can recruit and play as anyone. Every Londoner is fully simulated”, they have their own lives, different backstories, and you can play their origin mission to win them over to your cause. Each one is fully voiced and animated, and every cinematic will change depending on who you’re playing as. Hocking wraps up by saying it’s a game about “the heroes that live in each of us.”
This seems particularly relevant considering the post-Brexit setting. This near-future version of London is immediately familiar, yet subtly altered by the presence of drones, a heavily armoured police force, and a sudden splash of yellow on the Union Jack. “Today, with Brexit, London’s at a turning point. It’s hard to predict what the future holds for London, the UK, or for the world” Hocking explains. “The UK has become a surveillance state and freedom has been replaced with fear. Granddad is using crypto to buy a new kidney on the black market.” It’s certainly bleak, but beyond this, Legion is also aggressively British in the kind of way London is often viewed by the rest of the world. There are cockney accents galore, red double-decker buses passing by at nearly all times, and telephone boxes repurposed as free Wi-fi spots. Each character is also linked together by an AI companion called Bagley that’s sort of like Destiny’s Ghost if it had an English accent.
Ubisoft has a habit of denying its games are making political statements, despite obvious content and themes saying otherwise. It will be interesting to see if it maintains that same stance with Watch Dogs Legion considering the creative director for the game just mentioned Brexit during an E3 press conference. It would seem unavoidable given the deliberate setting, but we’ll see.
Watch Dogs Legion is set for release on March 6, 2020 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
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