Watch Dogs Legion’s Fascinating, Ambitious A.I System Actually Works

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Watch Dogs Legion

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you’ve probably heard about Watch Dogs Legion, the third entry in an ambitious series about societal control and hacking.

The latest game headed up by legendary game designer Clint Hocking already caused quite a stir when leaks claimed that the game lets you play as any NPC (at which point are they still an NPC?).

Truly a bold claim for the ages – but bare with us, it actually checks out. Earlier today I got hands-on with Watch Dogs Legion, preceded by a presentation from Hocking himself.

A team member at the booth helped me with the setup before letting me run wild for 45 minutes in this post-Brexit dystopian London, where there are now way more guns than they have any right to be.

The way it works is that you can scan any living NPC and save their profile – this shows you their day to day schedule. Within those schedules are yellow blips – flashpoint missions that could help raise their DedSec affinity meter. Basically, some people are pro or anti-DedSec and recruiting them is different depending on their given rating. 

In my case, I recruited an old woman called Maisie Hurst who could punch really hard – her one-line description was that she kicked someone in the balls at an Albion demonstration (Albion is the authoritarian regime creating a police state in Legion.)

Her nephew was being blackmailed by someone, so I followed her nephew’s cycle, took the tube to Charing Cross and saw him and his blackmailer talking. Let’s say I dispatched of the blackmailer with an unfortunate lethal discharge – this made Maisie my friend and I could recruit her to DedSec.
The unintentional murder I was later told would be reflected in the game. The woman I took out had a boyfriend, and if I followed her schedule I could see her boyfriend coping with the loss, which is fascinating.

Regardless, now I’d won over Maisie, so after a quick chat she joins DedSec and I swap over to her using the Team menu – then I could assign a style to her out of three choices, which mainly differ by ability, from an AR shroud to a spiderbot or assault device. 

She controlled much differently to my current player character and had her own bonuses, voice acting, and dialogue, which is perhaps the most mind-boggling thing to glean out of all this. After playing around for a while, it started to sink in that anyone in the world is playable. I could have in theory recruited the blackmailer and left Maisie hanging. You are simply an omniscient protagonist preparing to curate a crack team of agents. My concern, therefore, is a lack of care for who you’re playing is eventually, but truth be told there was something I quite loved about a hard-punching granny who can turn invisible.

I’m sure we’ll find out more about the game as a whole and its ambitious systems in the run-up to its release. Watch Dogs Legion will be available on PS4, Xbox One and PC on March 6, 2020.