We’re about six months away from Watch Dogs: Legion, Ubisoft’s 3rd open world hack-a-thon. I loved Watch Dogs and didn’t love Watch Dogs 2, which I think puts me in my usual lunatic fringe position. Given that, none of my hopes for Watch Dogs: Legion will probably come true but I wanted to throw them out into the void just in case.
Most of the Watch Dogs (the original) hate seemed to be about the main character, who many gamers saw as boring or too wooden. I saw him as an excellent anti-hero character. He was motivated by revenge after his enemies caused the death of his niece. He’s like the hacker version of The Punisher. You don’t see Frank Castle cracking jokes and wearing funny hats, and neither does the protagonist of Watch Dogs. He’s not a good guy; he’s a driven guy. Great character, IMO.
But many found him boring, so for Watch Dogs 2 they introduced Marcus, a young hacker who runs around with a crew of colorful characters. When they’re not on missions they’re shopping for clothes and stuff. Their lair is beneath a game store. The world they have to play in is more GTA than in the first game.
That’s all fine to an extent, but thematically things fall apart early on (it might get better later in the game; I’ve never made it too far). The goal of this gang is to get followers (which substitute for experience points) and to do that they need to pull off missions that feel more like hi-jinx than anything too serious. Examples (and to be fair I’m writing all this from memory so I may get some details wrong) are stealing the script from an upcoming movie so they can release it on the web, and stealing a reputed “smart car” being used in that movie so they can drive it around the city while sporting their crew’s logo.
Still all well and good, until the missions begin when the violence turns out to be way out of proportion to the activity. As Marcus sneaks into an office building to get the script, any of the many heavily armed guards who spot him will immediately open fire, shooting to kill. Likewise, Marcus is armed with plenty of hardware to lethally respond to any and all threats.
It just felt wrong for people to be killing each other over a movie script. Also wrong for Marcus to go back to his crew, cracking jokes, after finishing the mission. Show some remorse Marcus; those guards had families!
Now to be fair you CAN try to play non-lethally but IMO that ramps up the difficulty quite a bit. Marcus carries a melee weapon that is a billiard ball in a lanyard; he’ll either swing this and clock someone in the head, or use the lanyard to choke a person until he passes out. I believe there is also a tranq gun or you can use the environment to electrocute guards. Technically non-lethal but still pretty violent.
In the best cases you can hack your way through a mission and remain undetected. That feels thematically most appropriate but, for me at least, these puzzle solutions were pretty tough and I’d often grow impatient, go in guns blazing, then feel remorse for having done so.
So bottom line, some of this is on me for not being more clever and patient, but I’m putting some of it on the devs as well.
Anyway, I hope Watch Dogs: Legion has missions where the objectives and the level of violence sync up better. Make the bad guys feel like they deserve what they get. Don’t ask me to kill a security guard who is guarding a movie script or a record album.
My second issue with Watch Dogs 2 is a much more practical one. The missions tend to have a lot of steps and if you fail one, you have to start the whole mission over (at least, in many cases). Nothing makes me lose interest in a game faster than making me play part of a mission over and over in order to get back to the part that is proving to be a challenge for me. So please, Ubisoft, more check points in missions. If that makes the game too easy, put in a ‘hardcore’ mode that disables the checkpoints or something.