Content of the article: "Thoughts on each Watch Dogs game as I play through each of them back to back Part 1"
I have this habit of re-playing a series every time a new game in one drops. When Watch Dogs Legion was announced I knew this would be my next re-play through. I timed it horribly though, I wrapped up Watch Dogs about three weeks ago, just finished Watch Dogs 2 tonight, and will be starting Watch Dogs Legion tomorrow. So I'm going to post a review for each one that will touch on the series evolution, a few core topics (core concept, atmosphere, characters, story, etc.), things I skipped that didn't provide interest, and some final general thoughts. I'm planning to compare and contrast each to the previous as well as I'm going. So with no further adieu here's my review of the original Watch Dogs game nearly 6 1/2 years after its initial release…
Core Concept (Hacking):
– Clearly the core concept in this game is hacking. If you took away the hacking a large part of this game would be almost a carbon copy of GTA. However, it makes a huge difference. It allows you so much flexibility within missions and outside of them in general game play. You can sneak your way through a mission and black out an entire area or simply hack some barriers for cover and shoot your way out. It also allows you to interact with your environment by raising bridges or hack a train just in time to hop on and make a clean escape. It opened up so many options that sometimes I'd replay a mission multiple times to try out different things. However, there were a decent amount of missions and things that you were limited to handling in one way. I still love how flexible it made an open world game but at times it still felt limited to just being a GTA carbon copy.
– The rendering of Chicago to me was spot on. I loved the contrast between the hustle and bustle of the Downtown area versus the serene fall feel of Pawnee. Things like the former Blume Island Bunker and Ray's hide out were very noteworthy and very well done. The other thing that always stood out to me was how well this games atmosphere could paint a perfect picture. During almost every mission the time is reset to a certain time of day and it always seemed to fit the situation well. The often rainy and grey skies also seemed to fit the somber mood of the story well. This might be my favorite thing about this game as I think its pretty important with a large open world game that certain spots still stick out in your mind.
– I have to say I wasn't thrilled with a story mostly motivated by revenge. It made it hard to empathize with because I had no emotional tie to the one you're supposed to avenge. However, I have to say that for a revenge story it hit perfectly. There was no length Aiden was unwilling to go to. The tension keep escalating perfectly from mission to mission, without over doing it. The whole thing was very dark but it fit in well with the atmosphere. Given that the game was broken down in to acts however I'm going to break this part down in to acts…
- The first act is mostly just to get you familiar with the games core concepts. Side missions are thrown in to help teach you other mechanics. It almost felt like a small lead in to set up motivations while acting as a working tutorial. Fun and interactive without being boring but largely forgettable.
- The second act sees the story really ramp up. Damien your old partner gets involved as a foil and you are introduced to Iraq as the main enemy of this act. In this part of the story you start to find a lot more clues an an actual path towards who wronged you and led to this entire debacle in the first place. It's probably the most fun part of the game for me though it mostly focuses on combat. You find out at the end that Iraq was the other hacker in the Merlaut where you got caught with Damien that led up to this entire debacle.
- The third act sees you going off to find Raymond Kenney and then clear his name from Blume's CTOS so that you can gain him as a powerful ally. This is all set in the backwoods of Pawnee which feels so isolated from everything else you've been doing. This part of the game is mostly focused on a cross between hacking and combat and ties together a lot of mechanics from the first and second act on a higher difficulty scale.
- The fourth act is mostly based around battling other hackers including Damien and his access to CTOS along with a hacker named Defalt who throws a "wrench" in to your entire operation (Couldn't resist that line because he reminds me of Wrench from Watch Dogs 2). This part of the game takes everything you've learned and acquired and uses them against you. Instead of you hacking your enemies and making life miserable for them, your enemies are the ones hacking you. It spikes the difficulty but it honestly might be my favorite act just because it basically points your own gun back at you.
- The fifth act is a final mission that ties everything together. You find out that Lucky Quinn was the one that caused everything that happened to you in the past and go to finish him off. Then Damien forces you to take him down. It wraps up the story well with out an loose ends. The credits roll and of course Blume puts out a great PR message about CTOS 2.0 that makes a sequel pretty obvious.
– Something I love about the story is Aiden's evolution from mindless revenge at any costs to questioning how far he should be willing to go and whether or not he became the same kind of monster he's been fighting. I loved the theme of the vigilante and how you being murderous or cautious helped feed your reputation which would feed consequences in the world. It added to the narrative of is mindless destruction and revenge worth it and gave you a constant reminder that maybe you shouldn't just go around killing everyone just to satisfy your own emotions. I know this was a mix of missions / story review but to me they're kind of wrapped up in to the same package in most games.
– I'm going to keep this limited to Aiden Pierce, the protagonist of the story, and a few side characters that stuck with me.
- Aiden Pierce: Starting with Aiden, I have to say I'm very torn on him. As a character he didn't seem super likable to me and was kind of dry. However, I did really enjoy his evolution. At the beginning of this game the story and his situations make it feel as though he has no issue with killing as many people as possible to get his revenge. The story didn't go far to make you empathize with him on this revenge at least in my opinion. As things progress and get worse though Aiden starts to struggle with the fact that he's killed so many, especially when he has to rescue his nephew at one point. You can tell that all this death and destruction starts to make Aiden question if what he's doing is right. At the end of the game at it's completion, you're given the option to shoot or leave Maurice, the man who shot out your tires at the beginning leading to his nieces death and this entire revenge story. After everything Aiden started to question during this playthrough it lead me to decide not to shoot Maurice. I was so impacted by that decision and evolution that I've changed how I decided to approach Watch Dogs 2 from a tactics stand point. No more killing for Aiden and no more killing for me unless it was nearly impossible to avoid. So while I'm not overall thrilled with Aiden he did really grow and impact me.
- Iraq: I absolutely loved this take on a gang leader. He even mentions what I love about him in one of his audio logs. People just think he's another gang banger, but he's so much more, he learned in the military and also became an awesome hacker. He's got a ruthless cocky attitude but it also seemed like he earned since he was skilled in so many things that made him such a powerful and worthy adversary. He stuck out to me such more than Lucky Quinn and Damien Brinks to me. He had multiple layers to him but also seemed like a very real person as opposed to just being a mob boss or a super hacker.
- Raymond Kenney: Multiple audio logs refer to how awesome of a coder and engineer this guy was early on. When Clara started talking about legendary hacker Raymond Kenney that just further added to the build up. I really wasn't sure what to expect, but anti government, southern accent, dirty hippie hacker living in bumblefuck was not what I saw coming… He's very eccentric and rightfully so. He added a great sense of fun and comic relief to the game but also left me in awe with all the amazing artistic death traps he left around his compound.
- Jordi Chen: Another great point of comic relief and also a bad ass. I loved that he was willing to betray you at the end of the game for a better contract because it was so on brand for him.
- Others: I wasn't a fan of Aiden's family, they were very dry. Damien Brinks and Lucky Quinn, the two major villains didn't stick out to me at all. Clara was meh. Considering I can't think of anyone else I'd have to say the rest of the cast was pretty forgettable.
- I loved the side missions. There was a ton of variety from positioning yourself to scan QR codes, to criminal convoys where you'd have to hunt down a convoy, to a swatch of fixer contracts, and many more. I also loved the narrative based side missions, for example the serial killer side missions where you had to find dead bodies plastered around the city was very memorable and creepy even if it didn't end that epically. Also the final battle to wrap up the weapons crates side missions was a lot of fun.
- I skipped mini games and online missions. I don't like playing games like this online so don't expect any reviews on that and the mini games I wasn't a fan of because I don't dig games within games. I did 100 percent the rest of the missions and collectibles however, including buying every car on demand for example. I really wanted to get as full of an experience as a could this time around though I had my limits.
- City Hotspots were a little over done. I liked that it gave you an incentive to explore the entire city, however, I like doing that on my own so making it task based became a pain. I ended up taking a dirt bike to each one every time I unlocked an area and it was so tedious.
- The mission flexibility was awesome. I could not stand GTA (I can't compare the other watch dogs games because they didn't come out yet) for the reason that every mission had to be followed to the T or it would result in a failure. I basically don't play those games anymore because of that so Watch Dogs making it more flexible was great. Get to the end point we don't care how its up to you is a great way to play.
– I've never reviewed a game before or done anything like this and my written skills are kind of trash (sorry), but I guess I'll try to sum this up the best I can. I think the story, characters, and atmosphere tied in to each other so well. The hacking did not tie in for me and add to the story or the characters but it did tie in to the atmosphere well. However, being as the hacking is the games core component I can forgive that because I loved it. I think this is honestly a very underrated video game especially when it comes to the open world concept. It felt very big, but not overwhelmingly big to the point where I just didn't want to play anymore. All in all I'd say this is one of my favorite games that I've ever played however, it does need some work flushing out the hacking concept. Still impressive for the first of its kind. The best part of this game to me is the storyline, followed by the atmosphere, and then the characters.
P.S. I'm not sure how many will read or even enjoy this but I'd love to hear your feedback or opinions on this game/review. I'll be posting the review of Watch Dogs 2 tomorrow afternoon while its fresh in my mind before I start Legion. Let me know if theres more categories or a better structure I should add in the future if you guys do like this because I personally really enjoyed doing this, thanks!
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