Videogaming: Beginners Guide to Watchdogs: Legion
I’ve slept on the Watchdogs franchise until now, but I picked up the latest one in the Ubisoft 35th anniversary sale and it’s kind of a masterpiece. A flawed masterpiece that still needs some fixing, but nevertheless unique and very special. If you don’t know what the Watchdogs franchise is about, it basically puts you in the shoes of a revolutionary hacker (or several) fighting against the rising tide of modern fascism. And that’s a theme I can really get behind. This video will give you a flavour of it, and if this doesn’t grab you, you are in the wrong place.
This is a very graphically intense game, so you really do need a decent rig to get the most out of it. It runs great with my nVidia 2060 card, but a 1060 will struggle unless the game is set on Low quality graphics. So that should give you some idea of what you are dealing with. If you are lucky enough to have a fast system, this game looks amazing.
If you don’t have a good gaming computer but do have a good Internet connection, a great alternative is to stream the game via nVidia GeForce Now. It runs flawlessy with excellent graphics quality even if you are running it on a potato computer. Just download the GeForce Now app, link it to your Ubi Connect account, and the game is ready to go. You don’t even have to pay for the service — there’s a free version that runs great (but limited to a one hour session at a time). You can even use it to run the game on a Mac or Android machine at the same high quality. Highly recommended solution.
The map is Central London — like, the whole of Central London, which is remarkable. It’s so true to life that if you need to find someplace you don’t know, you can literally use Google Maps to figure out how to find it.
Fast travelling is also easy: like the real London if you want to get somewhere fast you use the London Underground. Click on any Underground station to instantly go there.
The map also makes very good use of vertical space. If you can’t figure out how to get in to someplace, try looking around for a Cargo Drone to hijack, or an orange ladder or pipe that you can climb, and go in from above.
What makes this game really special is that you can recruit a team of Operatives from any NPC in the game. Yep, every single NPC is potentially a playable character. And there are thousands of NPCs, each with their own character, voice acting, and special Traits.
You can only have a limited amount of people on your team at any one time, so which are the best to have?
- Doctor / Paramedic: you will find these near hospitals. Look for one that has the ability to reduce Team Injury Time (Priority Care) or Triage. Getting other team members back in action quickly makes a huge difference, especially in the early game when you don’t have many Operatives available to you. Go to Lambeth Underground station and head West to find St. Thomas’ Hospital, which is usually a good place to recruit medical personnel. If you can find one with an LTL Dart Gun as well, even better.
- Lawyer / Police Officer: found near law courts. They have the ability to reduce arrest times and get arrested team members back in action much faster. A Police Officer will usually have some other useful combat perks as well, so worth looking out for one of those. Go to Embankment station and head North to New Scotland Yard — there will usually be a Police Officer on the front desk of the lobby that you can recruit. Alternately, sneak into Buckingham Palace gardens where you can often find officers on patrol.
- Construction Worker: found near building sites. Has a (silent) nail gun for shooting, a heavy wrench for hitting people with, and a personal cargo drone for mobility and access. An excellent all-round mission runner. If you are playing the solo story, one of your first missions will be to recruit one of these. If you are playing Online, it’s well worth heading to a building site and finding one asap — try the building site about 4 blocks South of the Safe House.
- Drone Expert: found in public parks. If you prefer to engage enemies remotely, this is your person. Great addition to a team in Online mode.
- First Responder: a heavy melee weapon and a personal defence shield makes this one pretty tanky, and some of them even have the Priority Care perk too, meaning you no longer need a Doctor — so that’s definitely a good one to go for if you are limited on team slots. You can often find one of these drinking in the back of The Earl’s Fortune pub. If you like to get out in front during a fight, this is great choice. Their shield also comes in very handy if you need to revive a downed teammate while under fire in Online mode.
- Getaway Driver: can be a lifesaver in some missions. Look for someone who has the Clear the Way and/or the Evasive Driving perk. A Smuggler can also make a good driver character — you can often find them near Clan Kelly areas.
- Protest Leader: you’ll see these characters standing in front of protests holding a megaphone. Has the ability to rally up to 4 other NPCs to fight for you, is immune to tear gas, and has tear gas grenades of their own. A cheap and fun character to play.
- Spy: it’s basically James Bond. And that’s someone very handy to have. Not cheap to recruit in Online mode, but worth every penny of the 30+ Influence they cost. Look around the MI-6 building along the riverbank near Vauxhall Bridge.
- SIRS Officer: a cheaper version of the spy, but very useful. Has Uniformed Access to Albion guarded areas, which is worth its weight in gold. If you can find one with a silenced P9 pistol, even better. You can usually find several SIRS Officers in the lobby of the MI-6 building.
- Albion employee: there are multiple different types of Albion employee, each with the incredibly useful Uniformed Access perk. Look around for one that also has other decent perks — I recommend trying to recruit one of the Albion Overwatch guards who carry the M249 LMG, that will give you some serious firepower into the bargain. Just be aware that in Online multiplayer your own team will sometimes open fire on you thinking you are the enemy :-)
- Professional Assassin: is John Wick. You know you want this.
- Stage Magician: capable of hypnotising enemies to get them on your side. Can be great fun if you enjoy this style of play. Can often be found performing in Camden and other street markets in the evening.
- DJ: not very useful if you play solo, but is a tremendous party support Operative for a team in Online mode. Can double the rest of the team’s damage output, while simultaneously halving cooldown times on their skills.
If you are new to the game and are low on combat-oriented Operatives, look for an NPC that comes with a personal fireamr like an Assault Rifle or LMG, or is Physically Fit so takes less damage. That will help until you get something better.
These are better-than-average Operatives that can be unlocked with real money in the Store. If you are the kind of person who has more money than time to play, buying Prestige Operatives can be a decent short-cut to building out a team (but you can still build a great team without them if you prefer to save your money). Prestige Operatives also come with their own additional team slot so you don’t have to get rid of another Operative to add them.
There are also a couple of Prestige Operatives that you can get for free:
To recruit Helen, go to the Map / Team screen (TAB key) and then to Store. You will see a list of paid Operatives. Scroll down a bit and you’ll see Helen listed for the price of FREE. Buy her and she’ll immediately be on your team. She’s not the best Operative by a long way, but she does have decent Hacking skill and you need every team member you can get in the early game.
El Rubius OMG
OMG is a hip young streamer who comes with a Paintball Gun, which is great for stealth missions because it’s silent, and it blinds enemies on a headshot; a Studded Truncheon light melee weapon; and a Camera Drone, which is great for recon — so he’s a useful all-round addition to a team. To unlock him, go to https://redeem.ubisoft.com/watchdogslegion/en-GB and redeem the code WDSL-ELRU-BIUS-9999. The next time you log in to the game he will be in your roster.
The Watchdogs: Legion Season Pass also comes with 4 very good Prestige Operatives — including a fun Assassins Creed crossover Operative; so if you can get a good deal on that you might find it’s worth picking up.
Tech plays an important part in this game, and each Operative can carry at least one Gadget on them at all times — some can even carry multiple Gadgets you can switch between. Gadgets can also be upgraded using Tech points (in Campaign mode) or Influence (in Online mode). Here’s a selection of some of the most useful Tech to get when starting out:
- Infiltrator Spiderbot: if you prefer hacking remotely instead of getting your hands dirty, this little beast will become your best friend. The first time you do a takedown with one of these you will fall in love with it. The most useful gadget for anyone starting out in the game, especially in Online mode.
- Electro-shock Trap: simple but effective placeable trap that does decent damage. Upgrade it and it will also be useful against drones and jam enemy weapons. A good basic AoE for characters that might not be fully combat-capable.
- AR Cloak: if you like stealth and being able to take down enemies instantly with melee attacks, this thing is great fun. Fire it up to get a few seconds of invisibility.
- Skin Mesh: upgrades all of your Operatives so they take less damage. Probably one of the first tech upgrades you should buy, especially for Online mode, where one Operative dying can completely fail a team mission.
- Combat Spiderbot: a spiderbot that transforms into a turret and shoots enemies — what’s not to like? Equipping this little friend can significantly increase your firepower if you know you are going to go into a fight. Tip: stick it on top of your car during a chase and it will shoot anything following you.
There are quite a few different weapons in the game, each with their own uses. The most important thing to remember is that using a non-silenced weapon will usually attract a lot of attention from enemy forces and immediately turn every mission into a firefight — a firefight that you will probably lose if you aren’t prepared for it. So if you are trying to be stealthy, don’t shoot stuff with a loud weapon unless you really have no choice in the matter.
Less Than Lethal weapons that can be used by all characters, and can be upgraded using Tech Points / Influence.
- LTL 68P Pistol: slow rate of fire and short range means that this not a great weapon to start with, but if you upgrade it to have a suppressor it becomes useful for stealth infiltratons. Without the suppressor, don’t even bother equipping this.
- LTL MP9 SMG: basic noisy shooty gun. For most common Operatives this will be your main weapon. Upgrade it asap.
- LTL SG Shotgun: decent damage at close range, so makes a good backup weapon to the SMG.
- DedSec Grenade Launcher: does what it says on the tin. Good AoE damage but needs reloading after every shot, which can be a problem if you are being rushed by a bunch of Albion goons. Good damage against vehicles and drones (if you can hit them).
These are only available to characters who have the associated perk, so it’s definitely worth recruiting a character that owns one or more of these.
- LTL Dart Gun: some medical characters will carry one of these, and since it’s silent and does high damage, makes a great choice for stealth infiltrations. Well worth recruiting a doctor with one.
- LTL Goblin: a burst-fire Less Than Lethal assault rifle. Probably the best of the LTL weapons, quite decent at medium range.
- Nail Gun: carried by Construction Workers as standard, so not too difficult to get hold of. Does very good damage at medium range and is completely silent, so a great early game choice.
- P9 pistol: good damage for a pistol, decent rate of fire, very accurate, and great for headshots. If you can find a character with a silenced P9, get them immediately, that’s an excellent stealth weapon.
- MP5 SMG: good all-round weapon. If you find a character who has a silenced one, grab them immediately.
- P308 / AK-47 / G36 Assault Rifle: all of these do very good damage with a good rate of fire and are worth having. The AK-47 appears to do the most raw damage, but the G36 is more accurate and reloads faster.
- M249 / NEGEV Light Machine Gun: great damage at range, but slow to reload. Having said that, probably the best weapon you’ll find for a firefight, you can chew through Albion goons and drones with one of these. The NEGEV appears to be slightly better than the M249, but there’s not a lot in it.
- APGL / GL-06 Grenade Launcher: makes a very big bang. Great if you can find a character who has one. The GL-06 has longer range, so go for that if you have the choice.
Cosmetics & Clothing
If you are the kind of person who loves cosmetics, you’ll have a blast in this game. You can change your characters’ looks at any time using the Vending Machine in your Safe House.
You can also unlock an enormous selection of clothes by visiting various clothing stores around London. Take a visit to Piccadilly Circus or Camden and you will see small T-shirt icons on the map denoting where the clothes shops are. Click on the posters in the windows of each of the clothing stores to unlock their inventory. Once you have visited a store, their clothing line will be available to you every time you return to your Safe House.
For more details there’s a full run-down of all of the clothing stores at Windows Central.
There are three game modes:
- Legion of the Dead
Campaign is the single-player story mode. If you like playing solo, start here. The campaign is nicely paced and does a great job of walking you through getting up and running, and recruiting your first operatives, so just jump in and get going.
Legion of the Dead
This is basically a cyberpunk version of classic zombie survival games like Left4Dead, and that’s no bad thing. London gets taken over by zombies and your team of up to 4 Operatives must collect 8 supply drops and get to an extraction point in 25 minutes. Each Operative starts with a random Gadget and Perk, and limited ammunition, so you’ll need to be clever and stealthy as well as shooty in order to survive. Tons of fun with a good team.
The main multiplayer mode, up to 4 people in a session at any one time. This is honestly what I bought the game for, and although it still needs a bit of work to live up to its potential, it’s a ton of fun if you like playing in teams.
Sessions can be either Public, with random matchmaking, or Friends, which can only be joined by people on your Ubi Connect Friends list. There are no actual “teams” as such, you are automatically teamed up with anyone in your session.
I think Ubisoft missed a trick here by not allowing more people in a session at one time. For example, a game like GTA allows 30 per session, and Fallout 76 allows 24, so you have a lot more social possibilities. But 4 is what we get in this game. Sigh.
Getting into Online Mode
When you first jump into Online mode you will start in a Public Session and be given a random Operative with no perks other than a light melee weapon, which means that they aren’t really much good. So if you haven’t already unlocked the two free Prestige Operatives listed above, do that right away to get you started.
First mission: New Resistance
Your first mission is to recruit an Operative. Note that you have to complete this mission before you can join your friends in a Friends-only Session, so it’s important to do it right away if you want to play with friends. You have 8 Influence to spend on recruiting, so take your time and find an NPC that you really like the look of, and that costs the full 8 Influence if possible, because you will be playing that Operative a lot in the early game.
Lots of these on the map, and good for levelling up your Rank when there’s no-one else around to play with. They are really fun too.
Hotspot is a small glowing green chip that gives random Influence or XP rewards when you pick it up. There is a selection of them on the map that change every week, so they should be high on your priority list to grab. Note that some of these are very well hidden and might require half an hour of exploring with a drone and/or spiderbot to find. Best done with a friend, that can reduce the time required considerably.
This event is basically “destroy a drone swarm while they try to destroy you back”, and it appears at random times in a couple of different places in the South East of the map. Usually requires a minimum of 3 people, though 2 can handle it if both are heavily combat-oriented and know what they are doing. Bring lots of guns. A Drone Expert might be handy too if your team has one.
Co-op Missions & Tactical Ops
This is the bread & butter of any Online mode, but they are currently not implemented well in this game. The Co-op missions themselves are great, but you can only access most of them via a fixed Playlist that resets your progress through it every time you log off, which is completely stupid.
Also if one member of your team dies, the entire team fail the mission instantly and everyone has to go all the way back to the start, which is pretty punishing. So don’t go in all guns blazing, you will die and earn the undying enmity of the rest of the party.
Having said all that, these missions are fantastic and well worth playing. Get yourself on to a team and have a blast.
Various PvP Modes
I don’t really like small-scale PvP much, so I tend to avoid these. But the Extraction mode is pretty interesting if you like objective-based PvP rather than just straight-out shooting each other. The Spiderbot Arena is interesting too, because spiderbots are very cool :-)
I’m only just scratching the surface of this game so far, but I do love it. Online mode is potentially one of the best multiplayer tactical games going, but it does need a lot of work. Let’s hope it gets it…