I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Watch Dogs novel, Daybreak Legacy by Stewart Hotston, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.
So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.
I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.
What is Watch Dogs
Watch Dogs is an action-adventure game franchise, published by Ubisoft, and there have been three games published since 2014, the most recent being Watch Dogs Legion, published in late 2020.
Watch Dogs feature protagonists who are hackers working against criminal underworlds, corrupt companies and rival hackers.
Daybreak brings the story back to London and picks up in the aftermath of Watch Dogs Legion, and sees Olly and Ro from Day Zero doing work in London to protect people from the predations of criminal gangs, con men and the newly restored Metropolitan Police.
But their activities bring them to the attention of a new group, and they end up on the run after having their IDs changed, setting the authorities on to them and those they love.
Their friendly AI, Bagley, soon discovers that this new group may have an AI of their own, who is interfering in the business of the city. Changing hospital appointments, bumping people up the housing lists, little nudges that could have knock on effects for others who are in need.
Teaming up with Nowt and the hacktivist collective 404, Olly and Ro need to discover the aims of the new AI, and discover is Project Daybreak, truly is dead.
Ok, I am gonna start with the negatives, a couple of little things, that just bugged me, because its set in London, but these little inconsistencies, really spoiled the immersion.
When a characters weight is discussed, they give it only in lb, which isn’t something a British person would really do, they would give it in either kg or st, and it really was quite jarring.
And on a couple of occasions, the Tube is called the Metro, again, just not something that any Brit and especially a Londoner would do.
Sorry to start with the negatives, but they were only a couple of instances, but they really did, immediately stop my immersion in the story and I tried to figure out what the characters would refer to those in that way.
Anyway on to the good stuff, this isn’t a super high octane story filled with action, now you might think that’s not great for video game tie-in fiction, but actually, I think it worked rather well.
There is a fair bit of great action, but its in appropriate places, and works really well.
This book is a great examination of the moral and philosophical questions around the development of AI, and how they would impact on our society. Not AI as in machine learning and large language models such as ChatGPT we have today, but rather true AI that can think, imagine and make decisions all on its own.
The novel feels very appropriate as we moved into an era in which machine learning is accelerating and we will see it start to replace some roles in our society as we are forced once more to adapt to new technology.
The discussions had between the characters about the nature of life, and at what point can or should be accept the decisions of AI, and whether or not AI could become a master, if we give it too much power and control.
The conclusion felt more Star Trek than a video game, with the characters all seeking a peaceful outcome, rather than choosing violence.
The story is very interesting, very though provoking, very much so considering its source material, its deeper than it has any business being!
I have to award this book 4 out of 5 stars, and I very highly recommend it.
Daybreak Legacy is out now as a Paperback, eBook and Audiobook