You can mess around with friends in Watch Dogs: Legion's open world, but to take on its tougher content, you're going to need serious hacker support.
Ded_Sec is about to get a little bit bigger when Watch Dogs: Legion finally adds in online multiplayer on March 9. And while it's fun to just get into trouble with your friends in the game's giant open-world rendition of London, hacking everything and creating havoc, the really interesting stuff in the multiplayer mode is going to require you and your teammates to get serious about your revolution against Albion and big tech.
We recently got a chance to spend a few hours trying Watch Dogs: Legion Online, doing everything from dancing on top of cars to taking on high-level endgame content. And Legion runs the gamut, borrowing ideas from similar live games like Destiny 2 or The Division 2 to provide players with a bunch of options for how they want to spend their time. Watch Dogs: Legion's most interesting idea--recruiting any character you come across in the world and using them as a member of your revolutionary hacker group--carries forward in the online mode, and it's even cooler when you can work together with teammates to put together the perfect hacker squad for a mission.
The experience is at once very similar to Watch Dogs: Legion's single-player mode, and very different. The online side of the game offers a lot of variety in stuff you can do, ranging from solo missions and low-key public events to very involved, multi-stage cooperative operations. The best part is the opportunity to combine all the tools you get in Legion, like hacking surveillance cameras to recon an area and calling giant drones that let you ride high above roaming security, with the teamwork you get from other human players. But that combination can also make Legion Online very tough, with the game expecting you to work together in combat and to solve problems. This is likely not an online game you want to take on with random players on your squad.
Like the single-player version, Legion Online runs on recruiting different characters to your Ded_Sec team. Every character has different possible perks, drawbacks, and special skills, so having a variety of different people on-hand allows you to handle any situation that might arise. During the preview, our team went out of its way to recruit soldiers from Albion, the private military corporation dominating London, for the added capability of blending in while infiltrating restricted areas. Having characters like doctors, police officers, and construction workers on the team helps out a lot too.
Rather than convincing the residents of London to join Ded_Sec by completing missions for them as in the single-player game, adding character in Legion Online requires spending Influence points on them. Those points come from advancing up the online progression system. You earn ranks on the pass by completing missions and earning experience points, so everything you do and accomplish while playing in the online mode contributes to your progress. Influence also doubles as your currency for unlocking different technical skills for your characters as well, like hacking certain kinds of drones or packing a spider-bot that can slip through ventilation ducts.
Like other live games, Legion Online also features daily and weekly challenges of all sorts that award extra progress and Influence, as well. Some ask you to do certain things in combat, like take down enemies with headshots, while others are of the goofier open-world variety, like the one we completed that had us depositing several double-decker buses into the Thames.
Hacking The Planet
Once you've got a few characters on your team, you can start taking on Legion Online's various missions. We played through a few, ranging from simple solo jobs like you might see in the single-player campaign, to more complex four-player offerings. Cooperative missions often require some fairly close teamwork, and in our experience, Legion Online is not the kind of game you want to dig deep into without the benefit of a microphone for communication.
In one mission, our team was sent to free a vigilante who was being interrogated by Albion troops in a construction site. Our goal was to infiltrate the site, find the vigilante, and get him out, and like in the single-player game, the options for doing that were pretty broad. We could hack surveillance cameras to identify the site's defenses, send in spider bots to hack doors and disconnect security systems, and overload fuse boxes and steam pipes to set traps for patrolling goons. While stealth was always an option, our team could never quite get it together, and the mission turned into a massive shootout against Albion troops and drones about halfway through.
The upshot of having a team full of other players is that you also have a bunch of guns on your side when things go south. Legion Online is a solid third-person shooter, and four-player combat makes for some intense situations. Coordinating with teammates to bring a diverse set of weapons and skills means you can have one teammate specialize in hacking drones and turning them friendly while another disables enemies' guns or sneaks up on them. The opportunities for working together, bringing in specialized characters, and fulfilling specific roles in your squad brings an element of creativity to Watch Dogs: Legion Online that adds a lot of fun to the idea of teaming up with friends. Missions are pretty open-ended, so working together to figure out how best to approach them is always a part of the experience.
We eventually fought our way to the vigilante and freed him, which required one player to release his handcuffs while another hacked a computer to disable a bomb that would blow him up if he tried to escape. It wasn't especially difficult, but missions include cooperative elements like that one that mean you do have to work together and communicate if you want to succeed. The same is true of combat; if a player takes too much damage, they're knocked down and start to bleed out, requiring another player to revive them. Bleed for too long and your character will die, taking you out of the action for a short while. Luckily, there's no permadeath mode in Legion Online, but losing a teammate can make a mission much tougher--and higher-tier content will fail everyone if one squaddie goes down for good.
Our preview also included Legion Online's endgame content, known as a Tactical Ops mission. While the vigilante cooperative mission included a couple of different steps, where we had to infiltrate a second location using information we gleaned from our rescue, it wasn't nearly as involved as the Tac-Ops mission we attempted. This is content where planning, quick thinking, and teamwork are essential.
Our mission involved several military drones that had gone haywire, attacking anyone alive in a certain stretch of London. The trouble was, the drones were invulnerable to attack. In order to find a way to take them down, we had to sneak through the streets, avoiding the patrolling drones, in order to hack certain bits of machinery to try to gain some intelligence about how we might eventually deal with the killing machines.
So the first part of the mission involved stealth, something at which our team failed miserably. We eventually got around the tough sneaking portion by piling aboard a construction drone and flying above the patrollers, dropping down to download the info from our objective before flying away. But that only got us halfway to our goal; the next step required getting close to the drones and hacking them in order to render them vulnerable. In order to do it, we had to be on the ground--a fact we only discovered after a lot of trial and error.
Our team never got much farther than that; we failed again and again as the killer drones descended on us. Tac-Ops in Watch Dogs: Legion Online is reminiscent of high-level live game content like Destiny 2's raids or The Division's Dark Zones, where your whole squad has to be on their toes. Missions are lengthy, tough, and seemingly full of specialized objectives and mechanics. Most of all, though, you'll need to be communicative and cooperative, and you're going to want to bring your A-game and your best hacker pals to Legion Online's toughest content.
Watch Dogs: Legion Online isn't all tough cooperative missions, though. As mentioned, the open world offers the opportunity for more casual messing about, with challenges and solo missions existing to give you something to do if you're not able to raise your squad of elite hactivists.
There are also occasional public events to take on for extra experience points. We played one called a Drone Storm, in which a bunch of small drones (and one big one) attacked a London park. The situation basically amounted to a lengthy boss fight that anyone could jump into, and required a great deal of running for cover and blasting away at robots before we finally took down the big drone leading the pack.
There's also a competitive spider bot arena mode, in which players face off against one another while piloting weapon-wielding robotic spiders. You can take on up to three other players in the mode, in which you run your spider around various arenas, picking up weapons and trying to turn everyone else into scrap. Racking up kills puts you on a kill streak that gives your spider temporary benefits, like higher damage resistance, so it pays to move fast and try to take down everyone you can, as quickly as you can. But the mode itself is pretty low-impact; it's a frantic and fun version of deathmatch that's easy to pick up and understand.
The spider bot mode, like the solo missions and elements like collectibles hidden throughout London, mostly feel like they exist to keep you busy in between the more involved cooperative missions. Those are the places where Legion Online really shines--the game already offers a lot of fun ideas with its various hacking and technological tools, and the opportunity for fun and creative solutions to problems only rises when you've got a few more people on your team.
But it feels like, while Watch Dogs: Legion Online does have some fun opportunities to mess around in its open world, that it'll require you to get serious if you want to get the most out of it. Cooperative missions can be tough, especially if your crew doesn't work together well. In Tac-Ops, cooperation is essential, because losing progress thanks to a teammate's deaths can be pretty punishing. To get the most out of Watch Dogs: Legion's multiplayer mode, you're going to want to team up with hackers you can trust--and make sure you've got a mic at the ready.