Watch Dogs Legion proved a magnificent opening to what ended up a fairly humdrum Ubisoft E3 conference. Set in near-future London, Watch Dogs Legion depicts a post-Brexit society in which Scotland has splintered off and gained independence. Authoritarian rule reigns supreme, surveillance cameras watch the citizen’s every move, and the lines between technical advances and high-tech menace grow ever blurrier. It is, to put it lightly, a deeply political game, and one which flies in the face of Ubisoft’s claims it’s “not trying to make political statements [in its] games.”
“Ubisoft as a company has its position,” Watch Dogs Legion creative director Clint Hocking said to PCGN. “But every project has its own operational reality and its own stuff and Ubisoft’s position has a guideline for all of us to follow and our game definitely has something to say and we’re happy to say it.”
Hooray, it’s thankfully not the entirety of Ubisoft that treats its audience like it hasn’t got a pair of brain cells to rub together! If a game has politics, it’s making a political statement, whether intentional or otherwise. To say otherwise is to treat its audience like fools, believing they can hoodwink folks into taking them at their word and ridding themselves of the ‘bad business’ of politics. Yves Guillemot is outright fibbing about the apolitical nature of Ubisoft's games in order to placate a section of its audience and keep sales high, and a lot of folks appear happy to lap it up uncritically. Fair play though as it's clearly a tactic that's been working.
But a game such as Watch Dogs Legion without politics is nonsensical. It’s the fabric of the game, it’s the core of the narrative and it feeds into the gameplay. Hate the government snooping on you? That’s political. Do you believe we need to rein in in control of the tech giants? That’s political. Is implanting an ID chip into every citizen a bad idea? That’s political. At least Hocking has come out and owned it, which gives us some assurances that Watch Dogs Legion could paint a fascinating picture of dystopian Britain.
“Brexit is part of our backstory in our world fiction, but the game is really about much broader themes than that,” Hocking went on to say to IGN. “We say that Brexit isn't the cause of the problems in our world, but that the causes of Brexit are the causes of the problems in our world.”
They’re candid words from Hocking and a direct contrast to the messages that Ubisoft executives such as VP Tommy Francois and CEO Yves Guillemot are trying to get across. The money men are prioritising the bland and the inoffensive, the AAA way, while the creative director is at least keen to push ideas and concepts in interesting ways. The end result is Watch Dogs Legion, a game which certainly impressed during its E3 showing.
Watch Dogs Legion is coming to PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on March 6th, 2020.