Since that first fuzzy look at Hogwarts Legacy – courtesy of a 2018 leak – Harry Potter have waited patiently for the series’ first proper AAA video game since the last main film blew up the box office well over a decade ago. A lot has changed since then, and we’re not just talking about the ever-raising bar for prestige, open world games.
Over the past several years we’ve had a trilogy of lacklustre new movies and a fan base that’s been splintered by the harmful rhetoric of Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling. Despite efforts to distance themselves from this controversy, and to make Hogwarts Legacy the most inclusive entry in this billion dollar franchise, developer Avalanche Software is fighting an uphill battle in that regard. Even without this pressure, and the justifiable reasons to avoid Hogwarts Legacy, they’ve had to carry the weighty burden of fan expectations, with the hype train finally arriving at Hogsmeade Station all these years later.
The promise of a truly open world Harry Potter game makes Hogwarts Legacy an instant buy for some. Past movie adaptations have given us glimpses of what this might look like, though none allow you to roam the halls of Hogwarts Castle and beyond quite like this. You star as a wizard or witch of your own making, arriving at the world-famous school as a fifth year student. Not only are you playing catch up, you immediately find yourself embroiled in a mystery of murder, monsters, and ancient magic.
Being set in the 1890s means that Hogwarts Legacy predates the Harry Potter saga by roughly a century. It’s a double-edged sword, allowing Avalanche to tell their own story though one that isn’t able to lean on beloved characters or set piece moments from the books and films. That said, Hogwarts itself and many of the locales you visit will be instantly familiar, imitating how they appear in the movies, albeit augmented to suit the era.
The game’s biggest narrative strength is how it pulls from the wider Wizarding World lore. While much of this may have been a bit of an afterthought during the writing of the books, here it is put to great effect, helping to flesh out the universe and introduce a diverse cast of characters. A lot of passion has also gone into making your experience as a Hogwarts student feel authentic, being sorted into one of the four houses – though you can override this, if you prefer – each house coming with their own common room and living quarters. You’ll interact with fellow students, professors, and the myriad characters who populate the castle, Hogsmeade village, and other hamlets.
Hogwarts Legacy slots into the action RPG genre with its mix of spell-infused combat, open world adventuring, and character customisation. It’s not as deep as The Witcher III or Skyrim, though over time, you’ll unlock an increasing number of ways to spice up your playstyle, learning new spells, levelling up, and upgrading your gear.
Combat has you dousing opponents with basic bullet-like projectiles from your wand, combining these with a grimoire of charms, curses, and other incantations. Where some foes can be flung around like ragdolls, others will protect themselves with shields that can only be cut through by using spells of a corresponding colour. You have defensive manoeuvres of your own by dodge rolling and casting Protego which, when timed properly, will stun your target. It can be a little hard to grasp at first, especially if you insist on bumping up the difficulty; enemies will wander and attack you from off-screen, making it essential that you carefully read the indicators that appear above your character’s head. It can be clumsy, sure, though definitely trumps the dull, Gears-like cover shooting we saw in those later Harry Potter film adaptations. In a way, it can be likened to the Batman Arkham series, and the similarities don’t stop there.
Another thing Hogwarts Legacy has in common with Warner’s flagship games is how it populates its game world with riddle-like puzzles, collectibles, side quests, and other points of interest. Although entirely optional, these activities encourage players to explore their surroundings and stray from the critical path, inevitably multiplying your total play time in doing so.
Your day-to-day life in Hogwarts will be mostly spent jumping from classroom to classroom, picking up new spells and unlocking a wider web of game mechanics and systems, such as growing magical plants and brewing potions. Avalanche succeeds in giving students a taste of the various wizarding disciplines the school has to offer, though they can mesh together awkwardly at times. You’ll need to visit the greenhouse and dungeons regularly to collect reagents and potions, with players only able to slot four spells at any given time. This results in counterintuitive busy work as you dip into loadout and fast travel menus, even if the process becomes second nature after a while.
Disappointingly there couldn’t be a reasonable discussion of this game, review and the wider context. The comments section is now closed and all comments deleted.
We will address the query regarding spell management shortly.