Watch Dogs Legion’s central premise was that revolution was people – that no single person could ever be held responsible for leading a resistance. It was a point of difference that separated Legion from the rest – both intriguing and concerning to not have a singular main character. When I got to play Legion last year, it was unsurprisingly my biggest issue with the game. With no character to focus on, the story didn’t feel as personal as it could have been. With that context considered, Bloodline looks to be a course correction for Watch Dogs, even if it ironically throws out the unique thing about Legion in the process.
Bloodline takes place between the prologue and the main game of Legion. You play as Aiden Pearce, who was the protagonist of the first game and made a brief cameo in the second. He’s drawn to London by Jordi Chin to assist his nephew on a supposedly routine fixer job. But everything goes south as soon as Aiden arrives. Not only is he embroiled in a crossfire between two major players in the London tech landscape, but Wrench from Watch Dogs 2 is in London too on his own mission working against Aiden.
I enjoyed Legion, but a major disappointment was that its choice not to follow any specific characters led to it feeling impersonal. Bloodline does wonders at creating the opposite effect. I forgot just how much I liked Wrench when I played Watch Dogs 2, and even though it was released only five years ago, it felt oddly nostalgic. Aiden Pearce returning is bound to be divisive – he is a broody edge lord after all – but I found him much more likeable here. His motivation to not repeat the errors of his past plays well here and his now-older nephew chastising him for everything we as players did when the first game released felt surprisingly self-aware.
Focusing on these two characters makes Bloodline feel something like a Watch Dogs 2.5 or 1.5 if you will. An expansion that throws familiar characters into a brand-new story set in Legion’s ever-so-engaging recreation of London. DedSec doesn’t exist yet, so there’s no more recruiting to be done and no more characters to switch between. Instead, Bloodline follows Aiden and Wrench on their journey through London, and I’m pleased with the result. It is perhaps a little superficial or even premature to make this claim, but it feels like a genuine throwback to the first two games.
The structure is essentially the same as the other games. Outside of the main quest, you’ll be able to tackle optional missions as both characters. Each mission has a task to carry out, and completing each unlocks a new skill on the skill tree. It’s more simplified than Legion’s already simplified skill tree, but more surprisingly, they’re rather compelling stories too. Granted that they’re pretty typical given the setting, but they’re still nice little diversions that don’t feel like cheap padding.
While you’re playing as both Aiden and Wrench at different points of Bloodline, they both have unique skills and abilities that set them apart from one another. They also have their unique side content to tackle separately too.
Aiden has an active reload mechanic, like Gears of War or Returnal, that improves his damage output if successfully activated. He also is privy to a total ctOS blackout ability, which hacks everything close to him to create a hectic and chaotic situation. Guns jam, electronics explode, cars move in different directions. It’s a chaotic ability and a carryover from the original game that I didn’t realise I missed so much until I used it more and more in Bloodline.
Wrench, on the other hand, has a little bit more fun with things. As established in previous games, he’s an avid inventor, so many of his weapons and abilities are a bit wilder. Each of his weapons has effects that “transmit” a hack to objects near his targets. Shooting someone and subsequently hacking the drone or person next to them is fun but almost sure-fire way to create chaos quickly. Where Aiden and his combat style represents the more subdued and gritty original game, Wrench is more colourful and fun like the second. His weapons are customised with flashy LED lights, his gadgets named playfully, and his abilities centered around messing with people.
While I love the angles that Aiden and Wrench bring to the proceedings, the flow of Bloodline does feel a little bit off. So early into the game, I was locked out of side content until I’d finished the rest of the main story. I understand there are story reasons for doing so, and the game did warn me of this, but it seemed a bit jarring not to pop in and out of whatever mission types I wanted to, given how much it happens in other games of this ilk.
I can only assume this is probably because it would be too resource-intensive to produce dialogue for Aiden and Wrench to take on the same missions twice. Still, it did feel like it perhaps happened a little bit too early in the course of the main story. Thankfully, the main storyline is pretty compelling. While a brand-new villain is introduced for Bloodline, Skye Larsen also has a role in the plot, which I appreciate as she was the most interesting villain in the base game.
Beyond that, not a whole lot else is new for this expansion. Most of the objectives remain the same as the ones encountered in the base game. The gadgets are similarly not too remarkable, though the addition of a device that can switch between a spider bot or a flying drone with the press of a button is more than welcome. The major new enemy type, robots that must overheat before being destroyed, are a neat idea but feel a little bit too whacky for this setting.
Similarly, not a whole lot has been changed upon a presentation level here either. This is the same map as Legion, with little to differentiate it from the base game if anything. From a visual standpoint, not a lot is done that’s too visually interesting or different from what we already saw in Legion. Legion’s London is fantastic, so it’s hard to fault them for wanting to tell more stories in it, but given the period this takes in, it would’ve been nice to see a bit more changed up.
The original scored music for Bloodline is fantastic, however. There was nary a time where I didn’t notice the thumping electro-infused beats completely elevated both cutscenes and critical combat moments. The voice work is a noticeable improvement from Legion, given that everyone is voicing a character with a script now, though Aiden’s gruff and moody voice does get a bit grating after a while.
As I think about all of this, I can’t help but feel how much better Legion could’ve been if it did what Bloodline set out to do. Throwing characters into a new dystopic setting to mess shit up for the big guy sounds quintessential to what Watch Dogs is all about. Bloodline bringing together two fan favourite characters from the series history is equal parts genius and nostalgic, with their polar opposite personalities playing well off each other.
While Legion was an interesting experiment, playing Bloodline makes me remember what I missed so much from the former. Given that I’d never thought I’d be nostalgic for Watch Dogs, that feels like a huge compliment.
THE PC VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED ON A LENOVO LEGION 7i FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
While Bloodline doesn’t reinvent the wheel or take any substantive risks, it does a great job at bringing together the new world of Legion with old world of Watch Dogs and Watch Dogs 2 to offer a short but focused Watch Dogs experience.