In brief: Ubisoft held its Summer Games Fest event on Sunday, called Ubisoft Forward. The publisher showcased several titles, including Watch Dogs: Legion with a short film, news, gameplay, and confirmed release date.
To start the Ubisoft Forward Watch Dogs showcase, the company presented a short film by Spanish director Alberto Mielgo. The sequence shows a DedSec agent running from authorities. Eventually, a London cab driver rescues her and drives her to a DedSec hideout. On entering, the cabbie’s face is plastered all over the news. He is tossed a mask with the remark, “Welcome to the Resistance.”
It was an entertaining cyberpunkish video that also served as a setup to highlight Watch Dogs’ new game mechanic, NPC recruitment. More accurately, the conversion of NPCs to playable characters. Ubisoft first revealed the dynamic at E3 2019.
In previous iterations of the game, players could scan pedestrians to get a glimpse of their identities and personalities, and maybe even listen to a phone call or two. While it was mainly a source of money via NPC bank accounts, the profiles and conversations added a nice touch.
Now scanning has the added option of being able to recruit NPCs into DedSec, making them playable in the process. According to Legion Creative Director Clint Hocking, every NPC in the game can be recruited.
“You can literally recruit and play anyone who you see in the open world,” Hocking revealed. “You profile people that are interesting to you. You help with their problem. You play their origin mission.”
Once you complete their initial “favor,” they become DedSec members. Interestingly, each unique character is inserted into the story, complete with cut scenes that feature the former NPC.
“[The NPCs] become the heroes of the game,” said Hocking. “They are the stars of your story.”
So there isn’t really a single main character in Watch Dogs: Legion—there are several you can choose from out of a cast ranging from “thousands to millions” with no limit on how many you can play.
“There isn’t a limit. It can be anywhere between thousands to millions,” Associate Producer Shelley Johnson told GameCrate. “One of the numbers that was floating around at one point was 9 million.”
Each procedurally-generated character has a different set of abilities. Obviously, with so many playable NPCs, there is bound to be some cookie-cutter overlap in their profiles. Being selective to build a team with a wider variety of skills will probably be pretty important. Or perhaps one could go the route of just grabbing right off the street whomever best suits the next mission. After all, there are no limits to how many NPCs you can recruit.
It will be interesting to see how critics and fans react to this new style of play when the game launches. Hockiong confirmed the game would be released on October 29, 2020, contrary to previous reports that it would be delayed until next-gen consoles arrived.
Another big deal during Ubisoft Forward was a giveaway of Watch Dogs 2 to anyone watching the event. Unfortunately, the whole thing was a fiasco because the company’s Uplay servers got crushed by the demand. Many viewers were denied claiming a copy of the previous game in the series.
Fortunately, Ubisoft wanted to make good on its word, and now anybody can claim a copy of Watch Dogs 2 even if they didn’t watch the show. Just go to the Uplay Forward Rewards website and sign in. The PC version of Watch Dogs 2 will be added to your Uplay library as well as several other perks, for games you might already own.
You can watch the full presentation above, or if you are interested in just the trailers, check out our earlier coverage of the event.