I was bored last month and wanted to see that feeling externalized, so I started up Watch Dogs. I gave it a whirl around its launch in 2014, but didn’t get very far. This time things would be different. I’ve been surprised to learn that it’s not only the most depressingly accurate cyberpunk game out there, but also a pretty solid one, provided you don’t play most of it. Not playing a game might sound like strange advice, but trust me when I tell you that the best way to enjoy Watch Dogs is to ignore absolutely everything but the main story.
Watch Dogs is emblematic of what would become a Ubisoft staple, games filled with endless hours of boring missions that you could tick off so you got a little boost of serotonin and kept playing the game long after you should have moved on to the next one. I’m halfway through act three, and every couple of story missions I’ll get a notification that a new set of side missions have opened up. I don’t care about QR codes or little dead drops, I’m trying to bring my niece’s killers to justice.
It’s these countless boring threads that end up entangling and choking the life out of an otherwise decent story. Aiden Pearce is a man driven by revenge. It’s a story as old as time, but it’s been given a modern lick of paint thanks to all the hacking. So far I don’t think the plot deserves any awards, but it’s perfectly serviceable and the missions have enough variety that I haven’t been bored as long as I’m focusing on the main campaign. I know this is the most milquetoast of compliments, but given everything I’ve heard since this game came out is how excruciatingly awful it is, that’s the best praise I can come up with.
In addition to all the side quests, which could be good (although I highly doubt it), there are countless brilliant quests that pop up. Go beat up this criminal, destroy that convoy, go eavesdrop here like you’re playing Assassin’s Creed again. It’s the most filling filler a game has ever been filled with. If I accepted every pointless vigilante job the game shoved in my face, I’d never get anywhere. I get that Aiden is a flawed man with his own sense of justice, but he’s finally uncovering the truth behind why someone wanted him dead because of a simple hack, so why would he waste his time on petty crime?
I find that many RPGs and open games lack a sense of urgency, which is why I can’t finish many of them. It’s hard to turn off the complementary part of my brain, but Watch Dogs made it easy. I refuse to do eight to ten missions in eight to ten different side missions just to unlock a special bonus mission and some gear. Shove the main story down my throat and let me chuck the game one last time, left to collect dust on my shelf. It’s the circle of life, not endless hours of bland gameplay that forces me to stay in the same game until I get tired of it.
Next: Moving into the Sims didn’t prepare me for moving IRL