Ubisoft has provided us some of the best video game franchises till date. Over the course of the last two decades, we’ve seen video game franchises from the company such as Far Cry, Ghost Recon, Prince of Persia, Rainbow Six, Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, The Crew, etc. While most other franchises have been here for years, The Crew and Watch Dogs series are fairly new. Both of their first installments were released in 2014 and was met with overall positive feedback. While The Crew was more or less like any other racing game in the market, the concept introduced in Watch Dogs was something that we’ve never seen before. The game introduced plenty of new features and it’s sequel improvised even more. As for it’s third installment, the gameplay demo showcased at E3 looks very promising.
Let us talk about the evolution of Watch Dogs series; what we’ve seen, how it has improved, and what is yet to come.
The first game in the franchise, Watch_Dogs, was released in May 2014 for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and in November 2014 for Wii U. The game was announced in 2012 and was widely anticipated by fans all over the world.
Watch_Dogs is an open-world, action-adventure video game played from a third-person perspective. Yes, there’s a lot of those around, but Watch_Dogs is more than that. What made the game so unique is it’s introduction of an open-world where players can hack and manipulate almost any in-game electronic device. The game’s protagonist Aiden Pearce, a vigilante hacker, has a smartphone with which he can “use the city as his weapon”.
The game is set in a fictionalized Chicago which has turned into a surveillance state, spying on it’s citizens with the help of ctOS. Almost all of the game’s missions requires the player to hack into security systems in order to achieve their objectives. Even while not on a mission, the game allows the player to freely hack into almost anything. Players can hack into cameras, control trains, and use the Profiler system to access information about every NPC they see. They can also empty an NPC’s bank account and keep the money for themselves.
There’s a lot more to the game’s hacking features than just these. Hacking is crucial to Watch_Dogs’ gameplay and comes in handy during missions and other pursuits. For example, the player can hack and disrupt the enemies comms’ system temporarily to quickly attack them while they are incapacitated. Or they can text an enemy to distract him and sneak up behind him. Apart from that, the player can turn traffic lights to red and blow up steam pipes to halt or delay pursuers. Other devices such as forklifts and aerial work platforms can be hacked to reach otherwise unreachable surfaces.
Aiden Pearce has an extensible truncheon which can be used for melee combat. He also has access to weapons such as handguns, machine guns, sniper rifles, shotguns, grenade launchers, IEDs, etc to help him fight off enemies. Players can also complete most missions using stealth paired with hacking. The cover system of the game can be used to the player’s advantage during both combat and stealth.
The game has a reputation system for the player to maintain. Good reputation can be earned by stopping random crimes whereas committing them results in just the opposite. NPCs will call the police if they see the player openly carrying firearms or committing a crime. The Wanted system of the game works similar to GTA where committing more serious crimes will result in more brutal pursuits with increased vehicles and helicopters.
Watch_Dogs offers a skill tree which can be upgraded with skill points. Skill points can be earned by completing missions and other activities. The skill tree allows the player to gain new skills/improve existing skills related to hacking, combat, driving, and gadgets. As for driving, players can ride different vehicles such as sport cars, SUVs, motorcycles, speed boats, etc.
Watch_Dogs was a commercial success and was Ubisoft’s biggest first-day sale at the time. The game was first of it’s kind and attracted millions of players. The advanced hacking features introduced in the game was greatly praised by players. Even though the game was criticized for not providing the advertised graphics quality, it was an overall success due to it’s unique gameplay involving advanced yet convenient hacking.
Watch_Dogs 2 was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in November 2016. The developers studied player feedback from the first game and implemented several new features. This is one of the reasons why fans consider it as a significant improvement over Watch_Dogs.
We have already talked about all of the things that can be done in Watch_Dogs. Ofcourse Watch_Dogs 2 allows you to do those things, but with improved features. Here, we’re going to talk specifically about these new and improved features.
Hacking is a crucial part of the franchise and have been greatly overhauled in the sequel. Unlike the previous game, almost every hackable object allows the player to perform multiple forms of hacks on them. For example, the player can hack a circuit box and – make it instantly explode, set it as a proximity explosion device, or make it malfunction to attract enemies.
Apart from just gaining information about NPCs, players can now manipulate their data. This includes putting an APB out for them or make them a target for a gang. Unlike it’s prequel, Watch_Dogs 2 provides players with two brand new gadgets – Jumper and Quadcopter. The Jumper is a small remote controlled car which can be used for scouting. However, it’s biggest advantage is that it can physically hack objects, which would otherwise require the protagonist to do it himself. As for the Quadcopter, it is used for scouting and reconnaissance. Since most of the missions require you to hack objects and retrieve data, they can be done by just using the Jumper without requiring the protagonist to even set foot in the enemy controlled area.
Movement and parkour have been greatly improved. The protagonist, Marcus Holloway, can scale walls and jump between roofs using advanced acrobatic skills. As for the protagonist’s movement, he is a lot more flexible than the rigid Aiden Pearce. Instead of a truncheon like Aiden, Marcus has a billiard ball attached to a bungee cord which he uses for melee combat. In addition to various weapons similar to the game’s predecessor, the player has a taser gun which can be used for non-lethal ranged takedowns.
The game features multiple side missions known as “operations”. These missions have more or less direct connection to the game’s overarching plot. Completing missions, side missions, and other activities increase Dedsec’s (the hacker group Marcus works for) follower count. Reaching specific milestones in follower count rewards the player with skill points. Speaking of which, this game has lots of additional skills added to it’s skill tree since there’s more elements to it’s gameplay too.
Another new feature introduced to the franchise is the addition of emotes. Watch_Dogs 2 offers an emote wheel from which you can choose various emotes ranging from a simple “Hi” to direct insults. NPCs, including police and enemies, will react to these emotes. As for clothing and apparels, unlike the previous game where you have to change whole outfits, this game allows you to customize individual aspects of clothing. Various in-game clothing stores offer different types of clothing, similar to GTA V.
Watch_Dogs 2 was met with positive reception and as mentioned before, was widely praised for it’s improvement over Watch_Dogs. The game’s advanced hacking features, parkour abilities, open-world design was praised. However, technical issues during launch were criticized.
Watch Dogs: Legion
Watch Dogs: Legion is set to release on March, 2020, for Microsoft Windows, PlaySation 4, Xbox One, and Google Stadia. The game was announced at the Ubisoft Conference in E3 2019 and fans are currently waiting for it’s launch.
Rumors about the game was leaked ahead of E3 2019 through a listing in Amazon U.K’s website. The rumor included the game’s title, the location where it’s set, the game’s overall objective, and a new multiple protagonist system. As revealed at E3, all of the rumors came true. Watch Dogs: Legion is indeed set in a post-Brexit London where citizens are oppressed by an authoritative government. ctOS is used to spy on everyone, however, this time the story focuses on Albion, a private security company, rather than Blume from the first two games.
One of the most defining features promised by Watch Dogs: Legion is the ability to “play as any NPC”. Unlike the previous two games, the story isn’t focused around one central protagonist. Rather, you can take control of any NPC from the game’s world. Different NPCs have different agendas based on which the story will progress. Each of them can be recruited through special missions. How easy it is to recruit them depends on their backstory; they may be initially against Dedsec and refuse to join. Another new addition to the franchise is the introduction of permanent death. A character may get killed during a mission or while free-roaming in which case they will be permanently removed from the character roster. Alternatively, if they get captured, you can still rescue them by controlling another character.
Movement and parkour depends entirely on the protagonist you control. While some of them maybe as flexible as Marcus from the previous game, some are incredibly slow which might serve as a disadvantage during on-foot pursuits. Each recruited character can be assigned to one of the three classes – Combat, Stealth, and Hacker. Different classes offer different abilities and players should assign characters accordingly. Individual characters may have unique abilities too; some may be very good hackers while some can be experts at melee combat. Basically, your whole experience with the game will depend on the characters you choose to play as.
We have to wait 8 more months till we see the game. We hope that Ubisoft keeps up to their promises and Watch Dogs: Legion serves as a completely new experience for us.
As you probably have understood by now, the Watch Dogs series went through quite the evolution over these past few years. We saw significant improvement in the second game than the first, and are looking at spectacular changes in the third game. Each Watch Dogs game comes up with tons of new and unique gameplay elements. These few elements serve as the game’s defining points which eventually draws in players to try these games out. Maybe a few years down the lane, the Watch Dogs franchise too will be considered one of the world’s best video game series.
I've been in love with video games ever since I developed consciousness and that love is what drives me. I enjoy playing games that have good narrative and gameplay, and occasionally join in for co-op sessions with friends. My goal is to become a QA Tester for any AAA game development company and I hope to make it there someday.