Watch Dogs: Legion has its fair share of detractors, but while I do think that the game is not without its issues, I’m also one of the people who actually, genuinely enjoyed it. I thought its Play as Anyone mechanic was a great twist on the series’ formula, and opened up a level of freedom and player choice in all of its activities that lent it an almost immersive sim-style quality, to the extent that I could play it for dozens upon dozens of hours and still keep finding ways to keep myself occupied.
Even so, the idea of a new single player expansion that takes a different approach and offers a story-driven adventure of a more focused nature is still an exciting one, so I jumped into Bloodline with some optimism. Now that I’m done with it, I’m mostly satisfied with what it had on offer- though I also think that it feels a lot more pared down than the base game, and that a few other issues hold it back from true greatness. Fans of the series will certainly enjoy what Bloodline brings to the table, but it could have been so much more.
The elevator pitch for Bloodline is an inherently interesting one, at least for fans of the series- Aiden Pearce, protagonist of the first game, returns as the central character, and is paired up with on an on-and-off basis with Wrench, the goofy and loveable mask-wearing hacker from Watch Dogs 2. The two cross paths early on in Bloodline’s campaign, and their interests don’t necessarily align, but what starts out as a little bit of animosity eventually morphs into an uneasy partnership, as the two work together to take down bigger threats in London.
“Fans of the series will certainly enjoy what Bloodline brings to the table, but it could have been so much more.”
I’ve never really liked Aiden Pearce’s character, so I wasn’t ecstatic to see him come back in Bloodline. In Watch Dogs 1, he was all too dour and needlessly gruff, and had all the emotiveness of a sack full of doorknobs. Even so, Bloodline actually does a pretty good job of making you care at least a little bit about him, his personal demons, and his character arc. His arc isn’t a particularly complex one, and focuses mostly on him coming to terms with his past and seeking forgiveness from his nephew, Jackson- but it’s enough to keep you somewhat invested. On top of that, it’s always fun to see Aiden in the sort of over-the-top situations that Watch Dogs has come to be known for after it course-corrected following criticisms for the first game.
Of course, Aiden is only half of the story in Bloodline– the other, far more interesting half is Wrench, a fan-favourite character in Watch Dogs 2, who steals the show in his comeback. Wrench is interesting from top to bottom. On a superficial level, his loud and unique visual design immediately grasps attention, while his boisterous personality and his knack for always cracking jokes and dropping strange quips ensures that he livens up every scene he’s in. Great acting and solid writing make him easy to like – much more than Aiden by far. It’s also great to see the pair work together- given how diametrically different they are from one another, it’s always fun seeing them play off of one another.
Most of all, however, Aiden and Wrench bring the kind of focus and gravity that was lacking in Watch Dogs: Legion. Where the base game sort of gave you no reason whatsoever to care about its story, given its complete lack of a protagonist or any main character to latch on to, Bloodline is much more story-driven, and tells its tale in a much more focused manner. No, that story isn’t outstanding, and the villain in particular is hilariously cartoonish, but it’s enough to keep you going, and Wrench and Aiden in particular (especially the former) make for a great central duo.
“Aiden and Wrench bring the kind of focus and gravity that was lacking in Watch Dogs: Legion. Where the base game sort of gave you no reason whatsoever to care about its story, given its complete lack of a protagonist or any main character to latch on to, Bloodline is much more story-driven, and tells its tale in a much more focused manner.”
What about how it plays though? Well, that’s where Bloodline is a bit of a mixed bag. For starters, structurally and in terms of its content offerings, the expansion is far more pared back than the base game. It’s got several main missions and quite a few side quests, all of which can collectively take you 5-10 hours to finish, but outside of that, there’s not a whole lot else on offer. Open world offerings are sparse beyond the aforementioned stuff, which is a little disappointing- though thankfully, you can take Aiden and Wrench into the main game once you’re done with the DLC and mess around in London as them to your heart’s content.
Aiden is the primary playable protagonist here, and about 60-70% of Bloodline puts you in his shoes, if not more, though you do get to play as Wrench in the expansion’s second half as well. Of those two, the latter is definitely the more enjoyable to play as. Aiden’s rather vanilla as playable character goes, with some pretty basic hacking and stealth gameplay, and though upgrades (which are acquired by finishing side missions) do spice things up for him as you progress further, he still feels a bit too grounded and, in turn, somewhat plain. Wrench, on the other hand, can fly about on a modified cargo drone that shoots electrified grenades, can drop ninja balls to stun enemies and re-enter stealth, and has his trusty sledgehammer that he uses in melee combat- all of which is to say that he encourages a different kind of playstyle than “run up to enemies and shoot/stealth your way past them”.
What this also means is that in the early goings, Bloodline is a bit plain. When you start off, you play as Aiden, and in the beginning, Aiden doesn’t have much in his arsenal besides a drone and a couple of weapons and abilities. Missions in the opening couple of hours end up feeling to uninteresting and generic then, and though they do begin to open up as you progress further and unlock more abilities for Aiden – and even more so once you switch gears and begin playing as Wrench – Bloodline definitely takes a while to really get going. There’s also the fact that you only have two characters who can only be upgraded or customized in a very linear and defined fashion through side missions, which means that the freedom of choice that Legion constantly encouraged, allowing you to play however you saw fit, is almost entirely gone in Bloodline.
“There’s also the fact that you only have two characters who can only be upgraded or customized in a very linear and defined fashion through side missions, which means that the freedom of choice that Legion constantly encouraged, allowing you to play however you saw fit, is almost entirely gone in Bloodline.”
I’m also a little disappointed in all the technical issues I ran into while playing Bloodline. The frame rate wasn’t always the most consistent, quite a few times I died and the game refused to read my “hold A to retry” input and forced me to restart, there were a couple of hard crashed that made me boot up the game again, the audio glitched out on more than a few occasions, often to the point of the game going completely mute for a number of seconds, and characters often kept talking over each other during conversations. There were also plenty of animation glitches, a few of them even in cutscenes, which by themselves I would have been more than willing to overlook, but paired with all the other issues, are hard to forgive.
Watch Dogs: Legion – Bloodline is a solid and chunky piece of new content, one that series fans are sure to enjoy, and one that you will definitely like if you were disenchanted with the lack of storytelling focus in the main game. Seeing Wrench and Aiden coming back and working together is certainly a lot of fun, and playing as the former is consistently delightful. But from its open world activities to its limited progression and customization to its pared back open world, it also feels like a bit of a step back from what Legion accomplished. On the whole, Bloodline is worth playing for those who are, for one reason or another, already invested in Watch Dogs– just don’t expect anything spectacular.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X.