A bit more on Watch Dogs

Well the holidays are just about over, and before I throw myself into my least favorite time of the year (I detest the Jan-May part of the year with no breaks from work to look forward to) I figured I’d sneak in a final blog post.

Since Watch Dogs has its hooks in me and it is the only thing I’ve been playing, I’ll talk more about it. In my last post I mentioned some of the reasons gamers were down on Watch Dogs when it first came out. Now that I have a lot more hours into the game I wanted to revisit them.

First, the driving model. I thought complaints about that were fairly valid but I’m not so sure any more. Yes it took some time to adjust to driving in Watch Dogs but you could say the same for any arcade racer. I’m pretty comfortable driving now and have pulled off some truly hair-raising sequences where my car is on the ragged edge of control but I actually pull it together and make it out intact. In a game like Watch Dogs that’s really the kind of model you want. You want a certain amount of chaos in there since chaos breeds interesting and unexpected conditions.

Second, the boring side missions. I think part of this complaint is really due to difficulty. Since this is an open world where you can take on the side missions in pretty much any order, the difficulty of the side missions doesn’t ramp up smoothly (if at all). Worse, they tend to be harder earlier in the game. As you progress you level up and get skill points that you spend on tools that can make many of the side missions easier. For me the side missions have gone from pretty difficult to ‘just right’ and now they’ve gotten easy enough that I tend not to use finesse; I just go in with guns blazing, either literally or figuratively depending on the mission.

Early in the game I was primarily playing side missions; now I’m focusing on the main story and just do the side missions to break things up. If I was a person who tried to get all the Achievements/Trophies then I’d have a lot more side missions to do and I guess I might feel like they grew boring over time.

Third is the online stuff. I’m really torn on this. Sometimes when I’m hacked I have a great time trying to track down the other player. Other times I’m just about to start an activity and I get invaded, and that, I have to admit, can be annoying. You travel across the map, get to the “Start Mission” marker, click on it and get “Mission Unavailable” and suddenly you’re being invaded. This has happened to me 4 or 5 times. If I run off to fight the hacker then I need to once again travel back to the mission start. Or I can just walk away from the game and wait for the other person to win the invasion and then go back to what I was doing. Suggestion for Watch Dogs 2: Just let us Forfeit an invasion and have it end quickly.

As for other complaints (graphics and story), I just don’t agree. The story is pretty convoluted… the main driving force is that you need to rescue someone from the hands of another hacker. But to save the person you have to do the hacker’s bidding, which is kind of a plot within the plot. But overall I’m fine with the story so far. It provides motivation for the protagonist and exposes him to some very evil people that you don’t mind having to take out.

And I think the graphics are quite good. The weather system in particular deserves mention. When it rains, it doesn’t just start raining. You can actually see the clouds start to gather and blow in. And sometimes it rains a little, other times it rains a lot with thunder and lightning and all that.

Explosions and clouds of smoke look great too. I have to admit there are times when I’ll go to a busy intersection and flip the traffic light to Green in all directions and just watch the mayhem that ensues. Cars charge through the light in all directions, resulting in a huge accident, and one or more will catch fire and eventually explode, creating even more chaos.

I’d also like to give a shout out to the ambiance of the city. Now that I’m a notorious vigilante people recognize me and I hear whispers as I move around. If your ‘street cred’ is good they’ll be less likely to report you and I’ve had people whisper to me “I know who you are but don’t worry, I won’t tell the cops!” But I’ve also had the opposite happen. When a brawl with a gang spilled out onto the streets and caused mayhem and civilians to be hurt or killed I’ve had an NPC shout “You aren’t a hero! You’re a sociopath! Look at what you have done!”

It’s enough to make this version of Chicago feel real enough that I find myself not car-jacking to get a ride (though parked cars are fair game, I admit) and stopping to prevent crimes or chase down a criminal just because if ‘feels right.’ When I hear a conversation where a man and a woman are fighting and the man is getting threatening, I’ll put myself in the middle of it to break it up, even though it’s not a “gamified” occurrence, just kind of an ambient conversation.

So yeah, I’m still really enjoying Watch Dogs. I’m in Act III now which has gotten a bit more difficult and I hope it doesn’t get too much harder. Last night I did a mission and it took me 5 or 6 attempts to beat and probably an hour or more of real time. I was starting to get a little frustrated. I’ve unlocked pretty much all the skills so my character won’t get much stronger than he is now. If the difficulty goes up much more it’ll be on me as a player to hone my own skills, and at my age I struggle enough with not letting my skills atrophy! 🙂 I guess as a worst case I could turn the difficulty down. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

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