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Watch Dogs 2 successfully ditches Ubisoft's towers for a fresh, fun open world


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It’s no secret that Watch Dogs 2 is a departure from its predecessor. It’s been obvious for a while, just from glancing at trailers, that this sequel will be brighter and more playful than Ubisoft’s previous crack at a hackable open world. Now, after nearly four hours with the sequel, it’s clear there are big changes in how it feels, too.

Back at E3 in June I spoke with Watch Dogs creative director Jonathan Morin. He made a bold promise. “There are no towers,” I remember him stating. “You just explore.” I’ll be honest – hearing this about a Ubisoft-made open world didn’t really compute. Far Cry games, Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs 1 – they all follow the same map-clearing template of climbing/claiming/hacking/setting fire to a tower (or inhaling at a campfire if you’re Far Cry Primal) to reveal more of the map and uncover fresh quest icons to hoover up. Was Ubisoft really about to jettison all of that?

Watch Dogs 2 doesn’t do anything revolutionary with its progression systems – there’s an XP bar which tracks your deeds by awarding you Twitter-style Followers and a quest log reminiscent of a to-do list on your in-game mobile phone. They are systems cribbed from any RPG, but which feel right at home as you progress. Activities sprout up as you explore and poke at the world. Purchase a snazzy pair of trousers? You’ll get some Followers for that. Vandalise a big old billboard with a Donald Trump-alike’s face up on high? You’ll get some more. It’s this system which sends new boy Marcus Holloway on further adventures around the San Francisco bay, with fresh things to see and do popping up once you hit milestone levels of social media reach. There are no towers. To put it simply: you just explore.