Hands-On: Watch Dogs: Legion Online offers co-op missions, Spiderbot PVP, and raid-like activities

When Watch Dogs: Legion launched last year, it did so without an online multiplayer component. In previous Watch Dogs games, it came with co-op missions that you could complete with a friend and a cool invasion feature that allows you to invade another player’s game and steal their data while they’re looking for you – it was like a high-tech game of hide-n-seek.

Ubisoft hadn’t given us details about their plans for the multiplayer modes in Watch Dogs Legion, except that the game will have multiplayer. Fortunately, we were able to get a taste of what’s come in the game’s “Online Mode” in a four-hour session that spanned three different activities – co-op missions, a spiderbot PVP mode called Spiderbot Arena, and Tactical Ops.

Playing co-op

Before joining the online open world, there’s a brief onboarding mission requiring you to begin building your own Dedsec cell. In online mode, you can recruit anyone you see on the street, similar to what you were able to do in the game’s campaign mode. However, recruiting costs you “Influence Points.” Each recruit has a different influence point cost based on their skills and the gear they bring with them. You earn influence points by doing the various activities and challenges scattered around online mode.

These activities also increase your rank which rewards you with cosmetics, currency, and influence points. They range from solo missions called Assignments that require to rescue a hostage or upload some malware somewhere to City Events, a timed activity that will pop-up somewhere in the city, requiring you and other players to complete a challenge, like taking down a prototype drone going wild. There are also daily and weekly challenges that you can accomplish to earn rank, points, and currency.

Like with most games nowadays, Watch Dogs Legion’s online mode will be season-based, and each season will have new goals and items to unlock.

Once I was done with the onboarding mission, which required me to download some data in a hostile location, I was dropped into London Free Roam. I could choose to do the activities spread out across the map or start recruiting with the amount of Influence Points Ubisoft gifted us for our session.

I was invited to join a co-op mission already in progress. I only had a handful of gadgets and abilities unlocked so I had to use influence points to unlock those too. Online Mode is separate from the campaign mode. You’ll have to start your team of recruits over again (you can’t bring over any you recruited in the campaign) and you have to unlock all of your gadgets and abilities again, even if you already unlocked them all in the campaign.

I was dropped in the middle of a gun battle. My teammates, three of them, were in the middle of a mission to rescue a hostage but we were surrounded. The only weapons I had on me were the non-lethal taser pistol, SMG, and shotgun. These were not powerful enough to take down these armored, elite soldiers we were battling in one gun magazine. I was woefully unprepared for this. I really should’ve recruited a guy with an assault rifle or pistol before joining this fracas.

Fortunately, my teammates were better equipped and we were able to free the hostage and escort him to safety. The next step was to regroup then go to a marked location where more baddies had rigged vehicles with a nerve agent and we needed to stop them and their nefarious plans. I unintentionally started the gun battle when we pulled up and we were immediately surrounded. We had to steal the cars and dump them in the Thames River, but there were a lot of goons in our way. I was able to make my way to one of the vehicles, but as I was driving out the gate closed, and I was stuck. I got out of the car and was struck down. Luckily one of my teammates revived me and I was able to take cover.

When the gate finally opened, a timer started, but none of us noticed at first. When a couple of teammates hopped in the cars and drove off, we finally noticed the timers but it was too late. We failed the mission. And when you fail the mission, it doesn’t start you from the encounter you failed from, you have to do the whole thing over again. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to do the whole thing over again (it had already been almost an hour for that one mission), so we had to move on to the next activity in our play session.

By the way, there will be five co-op missions at launch and they will require 2 to 4 players to complete.

Spiderbot Arena

The next activity was Spider-Bot Arena, the first PVP mode in the Watch Dogs franchise. The mode is free for all 2 to 4-player Deathmatch consisting of six-minute rounds where you control a Spiderbot equipped with a default machine gun. We played on two different maps, and each map has a variety of power-up pickups laying around. Some of them are targeting missiles, a powerful shotgun-like weapon, heavy machine gun, health regeneration pickups, and more.

Before the match, there isn’t any type of loadout or anything, however, you do get to choose a skin to decorate your Spiderbot. There was only a handful available in our session, but players will be able to earn more.

The spiderbots are super easy to control, it’s like the campaign mode with movement and double jumps, and the right trigger fires your weapon. When the match began, everyone was trying to catch their bearings and I just went on a mini-kill streak (killing two opponents) and earned a temporary ability where I could see where other opponents are in the arena.

After a few moments of feeling myself, everyone else figures out their strategies, and I’m consistently getting destroyed. Historically, I’m not very good at any type of PVP, and Spiderbot Arena is no different. My reflexes just aren’t quick enough. It’s still a fun experience though.

Tactical Ops

The final activity we played was Tactical Ops. It’s an intense and challenging 4-player activity like Raids in Destiny 2 or World of Warcraft. The Tactical Ops activity we did was called Leader of the Pack and consisted of five missions - and it wasn’t easy.

Before we started, a Ubisoft developer advised that we recruit more people, especially those carrying powerful weapons, because we’re going to need them. Luckily, I was able to recruit a guy with an AK-47, and then a couple of other guys who were toting pistols.

The first mission within Leader of the Pack was called Trouble @ Tidis. The first task was to download some credentials at two different locations at the same time. Meaning, we had to split our team in two, and send two players to each location. Once inside the location, we have to coordinate over chat on when to download the information.

Keep in mind, both locations are heavily guarded with soldiers, drones, and turrets. Plus there are keys that need to be acquired, doors that need to be unlocked, and systems that need to be hacked before we can get to the point where we’re able to download the information. And the reinforcements do not stop. Disable, hijacking, and betray hacking abilities are absolutely necessary when taking on this task. It took us several tries and a switch of locations before we were able to get the first task, of that very first mission done, which was almost an hour.

Once we were able to download the information we needed, the four of us needed to escape our locations while drones were chasing us, travel to another location to regroup together, connect to another terminal, upload the information that we acquired while holding off waves of enemies, then destroy two research stations in the building – and do it in 10 minutes.

We were successful!

HOWEVER, when it was time to escape that building, one of our teammates went down and was swarmed with soldiers. We tried to take out as many as we could so we could revive our teammate, but his time ran out and he was killed – and we had to start the whole thing over again from the very beginning. Now, these were just the first two tasks, of the very first mission, which took us almost two hours.

As frustrating as it may have been, we were able to figure out a formula to do it more quickly if we were to start again, and we were ready to. Unfortunately, our time with Watch Dogs Legion Online was done and we had to logout.

Watch Dogs Legion Online, in the few hours I played was fun, challenging, had an encouraging progression system, and looks to be something I will be coaxing my friends to play with me. Now, if the Ubisoft team and keep hitting us with new content and co-op missions on a regular basis, this could be a live service game that everyone will want to sink a bunch of hours into.

Watch Dogs Legion Online will launch on March 9, 2021, on available platforms for anyone who owns Watch Dogs Legion.