Watch Dogs Legion: Bloodline isn’t exactly a master class in post-launch content, but it puts the game on the right way forward by casting you as Aiden Pearce and Wrench, actual named protagonists with personalities officially recognized by the game’s NPCs. While the base campaign for Watch Dogs Legion was nowhere near disastrous as one open world cyber thriller set in the year 2077, its most interesting ideas were outweighed by its weaknesses.
Watch Dogs Legion’s big gimmick is that players in charge of the hacktivist group DedSec can recruit any NPC to the cause of taking down Clan Kelly, Albion and Zero Day. But that design choice, no matter how compelling, effectively took the wind out of its storytelling sails. While it’s interesting in the sense that it acknowledges that movements and not individuals are needed to stage a cyber-uprising, it also lead to some soulless interactions where characters talk at, not to, each other.
The result was a narrative that felt vague and formless, where NPCs couldn’t really refer to player characters with any specificity since the script could never count on what kind of agent they would be speaking to and what kind of history they have. Bloodline addresses this by, well by giving us fixed protagonists again. Yes, it remedies the weaknesses of the base game by going back to what normal video games do.
While Aiden maintains the gruffness that made him so intolerable in 2014’s Watch Dogs, he’s older, more worn out. Bloodline’s writers gamely recognize that for his story to be worth experiencing, he has to own up to the self-serving crusade he embarked on.
Bloodline takes place shortly before the Zero Day bombings that kick off the events of Watch Dogs Legion. You even get the same London map and all, sans the overwhelming presence of Albion, the private military contractor (PMC) that took over law enforcement. Pearce is in town to take another hack and smash heist job and while he maintains the gruffness that made him so intolerable in 2014’s Watch Dogs, he’s older, more worn out.
The writers at Ubisoft Toronto gamely recognize that for Aiden Pearce’s story to be worth experiencing, he has to at least own up to the self-serving crusade he embarked on following the death of his niece Lena. To do that they have him reconnect with his nephew Jackson, now a 26-year old PhD candidate in engineering who happens to have friends in DedSec spaces. Jackson serves as a foil to Aiden’s conscience, dismantling the excuses he’s built to protect himself from his own guilt.
The second half of the game lets you play as Wrench, the cyber-masked comic relief from Watch Dogs 2. Wrench doesn’t receive nearly as much character development as Aiden but it’s nice to catch up to where he’s been since his adventures in San Francisco. Like Aiden, he’s aged considerably. He’s in his forties now, though that hasn’t seem ton have mellowed him out much. He supplies some of the more madcap energy to Bloodline’s story though he also gets his fair share of drama.
Effectively, Bloodline serves as a sort of mini-sequel for previous games with wildly differing tones. Other than that, gameplay doesn’t really change all that muchin Bloodlines. You still engage in the same loops of hacking, sneaking and shooting, but because Aiden and Wrench are sort of ‘legendary’-tier agents with more potent abilities than your average DedSec agent. Understandably, there’s far less gear gear and talent progression in Bloodline.
If you already liked Watch Dogs Legion the way it was — a goofy sandbox with a Swiss Army knife of Londoners at your disposal — then you won’t like Bloodline. But If you’re a fan of previous installments, you’ll be delighted by the follow up on Aiden and Wrench.
It’s fine because Aiden and Wrench don’t need much more than the stuff they come with. Aiden’s signature Profiler hack has received some upgrades while Wrench’s toolkit is aggressive, packed with flashbangs, hack grenades and a sledgehammer named Lady Smash. And while the DLC will remind you to do side missions in between particular story beats the upgrades you’d get aren’t essential and don’t even open much in the way of customization.
Bloodline is effectively a story-focused DLC not unlike say, Lair of the Shadow Broker in 2010’s Mass Effect 2 or 2020’s Hivebusters DLC for Gears 5. It’s a breezy affair with tight pacing that focuses on some fun narrative beats, and isn’t burdened by an abundance of needless grind. You can finish it in seven to ten hours as the events are largely contained to one corner of London and the quests are more svelte in design.
Your enjoyment of Bloodline will depend on what exactly it is you want out of a Watch Dogs game. If you already liked Watch Dogs Legion the way it was — a goofy sandbox with a Swiss Army knife of Londoners at your disposal — then you won’t like Bloodline. It straightjackets you into fixed protagonists and has a much smaller scope.
But If you’re a fan of previous installments, you’ll be delighted by the follow up on Aiden and Wrench and an improved narrative experience. It’s definitely got me curious about what a fourth Watch Dogs could look like that builds on the technical innovations on display here while drawing from the hacktivist vs the infotech continuity they’ve established.
Watch Dogs Legion: Bloodline
ABOUT THE SCORE
A good game is a game worth playing. While technical weaknesses or lack of originality might mar the experience, we enjoyed our time.
Better dialogue with actual protagonists to root for
Mission design is leaner and well considered
Aiden Pearce is still a very serious 2014 gruff bro in 2021