It is fascinating how video video games take a phrase like ‘non-player character’ with no consideration. This unwieldy phrase has change into a ubiquitous time period of artwork that highlights simply how restricted we’re in most video games by taking the viewpoint of a single protagonist (or a possibly a small crew).
Then alongside comes a sport like Watch Canine: Legion, which goals to explode that dichotomy with a easy query: what if virtually each non-player character might change into a protagonist?
The outcomes of Ubisoft’s formidable try are a bit sloppy at factors, and it would not repair the open-world style’s issues with repetitive quests. Nonetheless, Watch Canine: Legion earns factors for weaving collectively a coherent open world sport the place nobody is the protagonist and everyone seems to be the protagonist on the identical time.
Everybody’s a hacker
Legion takes gamers to a model of London that has been totally remodeled within the well-established techno-dystopian near-future of the Watch Canine universe. Issues begin off with a literal bang when a terrorist hacker collective often known as Zero Day units off a sequence of large explosions across the metropolis. Dedsec, the “good man” hackers from earlier Watch Canine titles, get framed for the assaults, main the town to grant sweeping police state powers to mercenary mega-firm Albion within the title of “safety.”
Dedsec’s membership is shortly decimated by deportations and killings beneath this new regime. As one of many final remaining members, it is as much as the participant to recruit new members to Dedsec and battle again in opposition to Zero Day, Albion, and different tangential prison and authorities teams of their orbit.
That recruitment course of, as offered in Legion, requires the participant to droop greater than a bit little bit of disbelief. You’ll be able to go as much as actually any random individual within the sport, push a button, and begin a utterly unprompted dialog about probably violent overthrow of the system.
Nearly with out fail, that individual might be immediately on board with becoming a member of Dedsec’s shadowy, distributed hacker collective. Solely, might assist them out with a fast drawback (learn: sidequest) first? Overlook concerning the laborious promote, within the London of Watch Canine: Legion, everybody appears simply inches away from becoming a member of the resistance in alternate for a easy favor.
You even have to just accept that the random assemblage of common residents you recruit are prepared to right away change into the grasp spies, hackers, and counter-mercenaries wanted to take down this entrenched fascist system. Positive, there are some potential recruits whose backstories present them entry to particular abilities or high-octane firepower—uniformed officers, as an example, can stroll round delicate areas with out being immediately seen as out-of-place.
However even essentially the most out-of-shape, underskilled schmoe on the road nonetheless has to have the fundamental means to carry out the stealthy infiltrations and complicated hacks that type the premise of the sport. As soon as once more, you simply need to droop your disbelief greater than a bit bit to purchase into the sport’s core idea.
The hacker melting pot
As soon as you may settle for that premise, although, this conceit creates a veritable explosion within the variety of character selections within the sport. My Dedsec cell seems to be like a real melting pot of London society, by way of race, gender and even class. Forming a crew the place a school professor and chess champion can battle for a similar targets as a cockney-speaking building employee (who takes out enemies with an enormous lug wrench) feels refreshingly cosmopolitan, particularly as one character will get instantly referred to as in to assist when the opposite fails.
These characters aren’t simply interchangeable ciphers, both. Each has their very own character that comes by way of within the totally voiced strains they ship in the course of the sport’s many cut-scenes and mid-mission conversations. Whereas the general story performs out the identical regardless of who you are controlling, particular person conversations can play out very in another way relying on what character occurs to be the present protagonist.
Sadly, the seams for this method do present by way of in lots of locations. In conversational lower scenes, your character’s mannequin typically falls into an uncanny valley of standing awkwardly and making semi-random facial expressions in response to their companion (oddly timed adjustments in digicam angle do not assist in these conditions).
The intonations behind your character’s strains typically really feel only a bit off, too, like they had been lower and pasted from a set of generic responses slightly than from an actor responding to a particular story beat. That is a disgrace, as a result of the few named characters that cannot be managed by the participant typically give fairly good and nuanced performances—the foul-mouthed, joke-cracking AI assistant Bagley is a specific standout.
Nonetheless, it is a marvel that this method of interchangeable participant characters works in any respect. Regardless of the warts, constructing your personal ragtag group of resistance fighters from throughout society makes a powerful assertion concerning the energy of collective motion that will be laborious to get throughout in one other medium.