Squading Up In Watch Dogs: Legion Online
Watch Dogs: Legion may have launched last October, but the fight to liberate London rages on in its upcoming online mode. Ubisoft plans to launch Watch Dogs: Legion Online on March 9 and expands the game’s sandbox to allow players to work together to hack machines, fight Albion soldiers, or just goof around and cause wanton chaos. I spent a few hours roaming the mean streets of London with a squad to see what the mode has to offer.
London Free Roam
After completing the on-boarding mission “New Resistance” that sets the table for Online, London Free Roam opens up. The mode drops players into an instance of the city occupied by either random players or just your friends, depending on the social filter you set. You can still build an army of NPC allies, and you’ll want a deep roster of them to tackle the online activities. Completing missions increases your rank, and the higher your rank, the more influence points (the currency used to recruit allies and unlock equipment) and exclusive cosmetics you earn.
Like many online modes, Watch Dogs: Legion’s features seasonal progression. Each season has a new cosmetic reward, and players retain the items earned and XP gained at the end of a season to roll into the next one. Completing daily and weekly challenges, like defeating x-number enemies or using a hijacked drone x-many times, also contributes to progression. You can also pick up Hotspots, weekly scattered collectibles containing XP and influence. In between the bigger missions, players can partake in World Activities, the blanket term for all the random interactions you can have with friends. Take selfies, compete in games of kick-up, play darts, and get into other social hijinks with your crew before diving into more serious business.
These solo missions are short, 5-8 minute tasks such as rescuing a hostage, sabotaging software, destroying propaganda. Assignments are replayable. There will be nine different Assignments at launch. I didn’t get to play these missions but they’re similar in scope to the recruitment missions in the main campaign.
These limited-time challenges occur dynamically in the game. Think of the live events in the Destiny games and you’ll have a great idea of what City Events entail. The demo featured the Albion Swarm Drone event, which tasks players with battling a drone guarded by Albion forces.
Watch Dogs: Legion Online will have five types of co-op missions at launch: Reversion, Vigilante, Dangerous Driving, Spare Parts, and The Red Blade. These missions require at least 2-4 players and offer team-focused twists on the standard mission design. For one mission, my squad and I needed to infiltrate a construction site to free a captive hostage. Doing so involved breaking in, locating the hostage in question, and deactivating a mechanism that in turn shut off the hostages cuffs. At the same time, the area is crawling with enemies. Deciding to sneak in or go loud is up to your or your buddies, and having extra head chip in creative or flat-out dumb ideas using Legion’s already entertaining sandbox can lead to funny instances of trial and error. Standard co-op missions offer a great way for you and your crew to find your rhythm as a unit, and while they aren’t drastically different from what the campaign offers, it lends itself well to the added player count.
For a real challenge of your teamwork, Tactical Ops brings it in spades. These multi-tiered missions consist of five parts culminating in a large-scale boss encounter. The one we played is called Leader of the Pack, and centers on stopping Albion from creating deadly new breeds of drones.
Tactical Ops can be brutal, mainly because failure means restarting the entire thing from the beginning. But I loved how it promotes constant communication and teamwork. The first mission tasked us with visiting separate areas to activate a panel simultaneously. Splitting into two pairs, we arrived at our post but realized that activating a panel before the other team triggered waves of enemies for both sides. Thus, the goal was to try and communicate when both sides were ready to go so that we could face enemies prepared and not accidentally surprise the other crew before they’re ready.
Another tier was something strange and different. After a series a drone bombings, London’s streets were empty and fog-filled; it felt like something out of a horror game. All that remained were Albion’s new breed of near-invincible drones patrolling the street, and our task was to gather intel on them by scanning the drones themselves, then later dropping their defenses to destroy them. Since these powerful drones can tear players apart in seconds, this became a tense yet hilarious game of hide-and-seek as our team devised haphazard strategies for scanning them without getting spotted.
We eventually decided to huddle atop a cargo drone and scan them from a safe distance above. As we kept watch and relayed when to raise and lower our platform, things went sideways when I slipped off like a dope and alerted two super drones. Panicked, we fled inside of a nearby bar. Though we were safe, the two drones smartly hovered in front of the entrances. Trapped, we realized we could scan from inside and peeked out the door to take potshots when their shields dropped. Scrambling in and out of our safe zone while giggling like kids playing hide-and-seek was a blast, andeEmergent stories like this are where Watch Dogs: Legion’s online really shines.
The final task was a bit less exciting since it’s a remixed version of the campaign’s final boss fight. Like the campaign, defeating the boss involves dropping its defenses before dealing damage to exposed parts. In a cool twist, one player must concentrate on using four terminals to guide a tiny drone through a series of tunnels to destroy vulnerabilities that drop the bosses shields. Meanwhile, the remaining three players have to fend off waves of foes to protect the player jacked in the computer. It’s incredibly difficult, especially since you only get four attempts. If you can’t finish the boss after completing each terminal, you lose automatically. It’s a harsh fight that depends on players having a strong loadout going in, but I enjoyed the teamwork aspect of it. Tactical Ops were my favorite aspect of Watch Dogs: Legion Online, and I look forward to seeing more of them in the future.
The spiderbot gets another spotlight on it in this dedicated PvP mode. Spiderbot Arena is basically a deathmatch with up to four players controlling Dedsec’s mechanical arachnids and battling it out. Players can collect health pickups and use power-ups such as rockets, a shotgun blast, pulse lasers, and more. There are two maps, Museum and Factory, and outside of battle players can customize their bots with eight cosmetic skins, with more coming in the future. The chaotic mode feels like a cross between Battlebots and Twisted Metal, and while it can create some laughs, it didn’t feel like anything more than a novel distraction and grows stale after a few rounds.
So far, Watch Dogs: Legion Online looks to be solid fun, especially if you’re digging the main game and want to experience more of that with a few buddies. Some of the smaller missions are pretty straightforward, but the more complex missions, like Tactical Ops, showcase the teamwork and creative aspect. While I’d be surprised if it reaches the same heights as GTA V Online, it should offer a totally respectable playground for goofing around.