Watch Dogs Legion boasts a rather interesting pitch for its approach to playable characters. In a post-Brexit London that has led to real-world political debates on the BBC, players won’t take on the role of a specific hacker as in previous games. Instead, they’ll be able to recruit and play as anyone among the many NPCs populating the map, each one affecting how the game will play and how the narrative will unfold in their own unique way.
But here’s the catch: when an NPC dies under a player’s watch, they’ll be dead for good. Permadeath is going to be in Watch Dogs Legion, and Josh Cook, the game’s Art Director, recently went into more specifics about why. Admitting that putting permadeath in is “a bit of a controversial inclusion,” Cook told fans at a recent community event that he personally loves how it raises the stakes and thinks plenty of people agree with him there.
The idea is for players to be tactical about how they approach combat situations, and this also applies to when their character goes down. In that moment, players will have the option to surrender, which will put their characters in a cooldown period where they’ll be sent to a hospital, prison, or somewhere else depending on how exactly they’re brought down. Choose not to, however, and the character will be at risk of being killed off and gone forever.
“It’s a risk/reward situation – losing them for a brief time, or continuing on and finishing up that last bit of progress – that makes for some really exciting moments in the game and I’m glad we have it.”
It’s also possible that, aside from a desire for tactical action, Ubisoft is putting permadeath in Watch Dogs Legion so players will be more inclined to move on to new characters when the old ones are disabled or killed. Cook suggested as much by talking about how hard the developer is working on making the game replayable in ways unique to its “play as anyone” feature.
In order for it to really work, Ubisoft wants to make it so players will have opportunities to do different things in different places depending on who they’re playing as. Using as an example the infiltration mission shown in Watch Dogs Legion’s E3 gameplay demo, Cook explained that mission could send players to different locations if they take it on as someone else. In this way, he believes that players will be well rewarded for exploring the game’s “diverse and recastable” version of London from as many different perspectives as possible.
Watch Dogs Legion will be released on March 6, 2020, for PC, PS4, Stadia, and Xbox One.