If I’m being perfectly honest, a lot of the missions in Watch Dogs: Legion kind of blend together for me. There are dozens that follow the very similar flow of going to a place, hacking some stuff, and then escaping said place. And while the gameplay is certainly a lot of fun and the “play as anyone” mechanic has the potential to be truly revolutionary, the scenarios themselves left me a bit wanting. That is — except for one mission. It’s called “Coming Home,” and it left me stunned at how expertly it broke away from the mold and delivered one of my most memorable gaming experiences of 2020.
“Coming Home” arrives near the end of the 404 Family Business chapter. You’re tasked with breaking into the fancy home of an evil artificial intelligence savant named Skye Larsen. This entails a pretty cool hacking puzzle that has you surveying the entire outside of her home to complete a complex circuit grid under a strict time limit. While Watch Dogs: Legion’s gameplay freedom allows you to tackle this in a variety of ways, here’s a pro tip — calling in a cargo drone makes everything in this game much, much easier.
Once inside, you’ll find a state-of-the-art, if not cold and antiseptic, home. Think Apple Store meets Patrick Bateman’s Manhattan apartment. A Siri-like artificial intelligence greets you in a soothing female voice, seemingly unaware that you’re not actually Skye Larsen. After a bit of sleuthing around the house, you figure out how to unlock the main elevator and make your way to the laboratory below, which is where the true magic of this mission begins.
If the upstairs of the house was a bit stuffy, the basement is anything but. What you step out into is a recreation of Skye’s childhood home that seems to defy all rules of logic, space, and time. It’s a beautiful and lived-in cottage that exists in a perpetual bubblegum-twilight autumn. A small bridge yawns over a creek, butterflies mill about, and you can almost smell the wildflowers that stretch across this solitary acre. Its aesthetic reminded me of the Hunter’s Dream from Bloodborne, and it’s every bit as ominous. Plus, being deep underground, you’re cut off from communication with your entire team, meaning that it’s just you and these memories.
You come across a gravestone marked “In Loving Memory of Ada,” a remembrance of Skye’s childhood dog. A gazebo hides a hospital bracelet belonging to one Sinead Larsen, which you piece together to be Skye’s mother. The entire place gives off the aura of a pivotal moment frozen in time. Once you step inside the cottage, you’re greeted to a ghost of a house, filled with hologram-recreated vignettes of the powerful memories that still haunt it. Skye’s mother scolds her daughter, foreshadowing something terrible she did to her pup Ada in her garage workshop.
Sure enough, you discover that Skye took Ada’s consciousness and placed it in the body of a mechanical Spiderbot, much like the disposable ones we’ve been using in pretty much every mission up until now. It claws at the walls of its tiny glass coffin, alone save for Ada’s old bowl, pillow, and soccer ball. It’s a harrowing sight — while playing God, Skye created a prison for her beloved dog, and with an ejection of its memory card, you can put it out of its strange misery.
As you venture further into the home, the voice of your A.I. tour guide begins to skip, glitch, and repeat. Something’s not right, but we can’t quite fill out Watch Dogs: Legion’s complete puzzle yet. Poking around each room and discovering personal tidbits brought to mind shades of the domestic archaeology of Gone Home and What Remains of Edith Finch. Further recreated memories show that Sinead’s health was rapidly deteriorating, all the while Skye took point on her caretaking. There’s nothing particularly scary in the house or in these events, but that didn’t really matter. I was terrified all the same.
The A.I.’s growingly distorted voice beckons you to the basement, where the true horrors of Skye’s actions start to become clear. You find a row of giant test tubes containing bodies that were some of her failed experiments. To her, each life taken was just another broken egg on the road to her perfect, city-wide omelette.
In the penultimate room, you learn just how far Skye was willing to go. It’s revealed that your A.I. guide throughout the house is the consciousness of Skye’s mother Sinead, transformed against her will into an unfathomable digital immortal. What may have started as Skye trying to cheat death and save a person she loved eventually morphed into her damning them to an eternal subservient prison. The video recording ends with Skye commanding her A.I. mother to play some music as she sits back in her chair and admires their new arrangement.
The final room of the house has you face to face with Sinead’s mainframe. She knew you weren’t Skye the whole time and brought you down here in hopes that you’d piece together the entire tragic parable and find it in your heart to end her suffering. It’s a devastating monologue and the single most emotional moment I had in the entire game.
And with that, you fulfill Sinead’s final wish and make your way back into the urban sprawl of Watch Dogs: Legion’s near-future London. While a lot of the game’s tech-centric messages can be kind of basic and superficial, this one really hit me hard. Skye’s sins transcended the unimaginable act of matricide, becoming something else entirely. Her story feels wholly unique in the larger scale of Ubisoft’s London, and its grounded and complicated horror has lingered with me ever since.