Watch Dogs: Legion Online is lost at sea

While fun, Watch Dogs Online leaves the series’ previous online modes in the past while chasing modern multiplayer tropes

I wanted to really sink my teeth into the online component of Watch Dogs: Legion, but the rehash of age-old multiplayer features and the lack of unique content had me looking for a way out.

That’s not to say that the gameplay experience was terrible, however. It’s basically the same as playing Watch Dog’s single-player missions, just with more challenge and extra cooperation.

While I’ve been a fan of the subtle Watch Dogs online hacker challenges in the past, this new shift towards a more standard multiplayer seems like an odd left turn for the company. I suspect that someone at Ubisoft wanted to expand the time players live in the Watch Dogs universe.

While enjoyment can still be eked out of the game, that depends on how much you enjoy Watch Dogs: Legion and if you can play with your friends. I have no doubt that a group of friends could sit down and enjoy the three online game modes over a few evenings, but after that, it’s likely to get old fast. You’ll be able to try out Watch Dogs: Legion Online on March 9th.

Four online gameplay choices

When it comes down to it, there are four things to do in Watch Dogs Online: you can free roam with friends, play a preset collection of missions designed for at least two people, access a harder raid style-mission called ‘Tactical Ops’ and take part in a fun little four-player ‘SpiderBot Arena.’

The multiplayer playlist throws you into a selection of missions that are updated as more seasons release. There are around seven missions in this playlist, but you always start at the beginning, so unless you play all seven in a row, you’ll never see the ending.

These missions aren’t quite connected narratively but are still fun to play. There is even a bit of replayability as you try the missions with different characters or by taking a stealth approach over force. For instance, the first mission takes place at a construction site. If you tackle the mission with construction workers, it plays out differently than with plainclothes characters.

These missions are pretty varied, paced well and often feature a few stages to keep the action feeling fresh as you and your team hack through London.

The Spec Ops missions are similar, but they’re all connected by a single narrative and a lot harder. The in-game menu recommends at least three players, and my team struggled to get through the first few phases with four.

This mode’s toughness should help keep players returning as the challenge of finally beating it is alluring.

Overall, it’s a fun challenge, but once players beat it — which may take a few hours of dedication — I don’t see them coming back that often.

The final mode is the super fun SpiderBot Arena. It’s a simple arcade shooter where all players control the SpiderBot gadget from the game in a deathmatch. You can skitter and jump around the map to pick up health packs and weapon upgrades, and the fun controls of the SpiderBot elevate this from a simple team deathmatch with actual Watch Dogs player characters.

I see this mode being fun for a few nights if you can get four friends into it, but since there are only two maps and no real progression specific to SpiderBot Arena, it’s once again something I’m worried people won’t spend that much time doing.

Online progression

There are a few different currencies when it comes to online progression: one to buy in-game items like clothing abs upgrades called ETO’ and another that can be used for recruiting new characters and upgrading them called ‘Tech Points.’

Players also level up with a form of experience points. What does this level do, you might ask? Well, it unlocks a few — and I mean a few — cosmetic items in the battle pass, but for the most part, it just pays out players the ‘Tech Points’ needed to upgrade and recruit their characters.

This begs the question of why the Battle Pass is even here in the first place since it seems a lot more straightforward to just give players unlock tokens as a reward for upgrading at a fair pace.

The Battle Pass and Seasons seem a little tacked on to me. I like the idea of an online story mode that you can play with your friends, but I’d rather not have to wait for each episode to drop season by season as the year goes by.

I’d rather watch dogs

I’m sure some people will get a lot of enjoyment out of this online mode. There’s a decent amount of things to do packed into this online slice of Watch Dogs: Legion.

However, the fact that this multiplayer seems derived from industry buzzwords instead of a unique creative idea confuses me. The open-ended nature of Watch Dogs: Legion’s gameplay seems like such a prime candidate for co-op play, or even the existing Watch Dogs formula of having rival hackers infiltrate your game world as you play.

In the end, Watch Dogs Online is a welcome free update that gives players a few more hours of content, but it seems like an odd addition to a series that traditionally offers more of a single-player experience.

For more on Watch Dogs Legion, check out our in-depth look at the game.