|Warner Bros. Games
Xbox Series X/S
|February 10, 2023
Readers everywhere were first transported to the world of Hogwarts back in 1997, and ever since then Hogwarts has come alive in many different mediums, from films, to stage performances, and even video games. Video games are a tangible way for people to get to experience a new world, and so many people were excited to see the Wizarding World come to life right home in their living rooms. While these past games have been successful, and some have even enjoyed their staying power, we can admit that the technological limitations at the time were exactly those – limitations. If fans of Harry Potter wanted a genuine taste of the Wizarding World come to life, they would be limited to the options of re-reading the books, watching the films again, or visiting the theme parks to feel like they actually were at Hogwarts. That is, until the release of this year’s Hogwarts Legacy by Avalanche Software.
Following an original story and setting in the late 1800s, players can create their own character who will attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, be assigned to one of the four Houses, and complete side quests as they uncover the unique mysteries that the story creators have devised for them in this game. With all of that said, is this modern take on the world of Harry Potter the best game for the franchise yet, or is there still a lot of work to be done to create a polished Harry Potter game?
Once the player’s character is created and named, they are given a short tutorial to introduce them to the mechanics of the game. This includes basic spellcasting, running, jumping, as well as tools of exploration that they will be encouraged to pursue once the world of Hogwarts opens up to them. The game itself looks beautiful from the get-go, with landscapes transitioning naturally as you move throughout the map. Landmarks will often appear in your view, which will attract many players to visit them to see what mysteries or side quests they may encounter.
What excited me more than anything, however, was the chance to finally explore Hogwarts properly. The entire castle is open to exploration, albeit some avenues may not be accessible at first until certain criteria have been taken or spells have been mastered. This includes the respective Common Rooms of the Houses that your character was sorted into. As a general rule, you can’t explore the other Common Rooms, so you may be tempted to try different save files to see the full aesthetics that Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Southern have to offer. For myself, I was sorted as a Ravenclaw and greatly appreciated the elements that fit the individual traits of that house, such as a sense of airiness and wonder, telescopes and books lying everywhere, and a sense of elegance that pervaded throughout the Ravenclaw Common Room.
I soon noticed that aside from looking quite pretty to walk around in and admire, there wasn’t a whole lot to do in the Common Room. It seems minimal, but I was sad that my player character couldn’t sit down and eat along with my classmates, or open up side conversations with them instead of just eavesdropping. Even when there was a lot to do in the castle, there weren’t as many side quests as I thought there would be, or building relationships with both professors and students. That’s not to say that the characters you encountered weren’t interesting. I really enjoyed the professors in this game, their unique personalities that weren’t influenced by previous Harry Potter media but were their own unique characters with their own histories. The same goes for your classmates in the game too; what little interaction I got to have with them, I enjoyed learning more about why they needed me to help them, their passions and interests, and what they hoped to gain by me helping them. I just think I wanted more of all of this, and it would have been to the game’s benefit.
This extends to the outside world as well and the various places and landmarks you get to visit, as previously mentioned. Take the village of Hogsmeade, for instance, which you are encouraged to visit often to update your supplies. It’s a large, wonderful place to explore and see all the landmarks seen in the books and films for yourself, but aside from the shops, there really isn’t a lot to do there. Sure, there is a side quest here and there, every now and then, but they’re really so few and far between that they sometimes don’t feel like warranting much attention, unless it’s relevant for the overall plot.
Speaking of the plot…it’s fine. It’s completely serviceable, but nothing groundbreaking in itself. Attending Hogwarts for the first time as a Fifth-Year student, your character and mentor, Professor Fig, are on your way to the Sorting Ceremony when you are ambushed by a rogue dragon. As you regroup and find a different way to Hogwarts, you learn that you can detect and harness Ancient Magic in different locations, and that this magic is being sought by hostile goblins, led by one named Ranrok. Not knowing what they’re after, and knowing it can only mean harm towards wizardkind and their allies, it’s up to you and Professor Fig to unlock the secret of Ancient Magic before they do. You’ll also uncover other secrets with the help of your classmates you meet and befriend along the way, and learn new spells to arm and defend yourself with from your professors and classes. The battle system, much like the plot, is just serviceable; it’s mostly just quick-time events and button mashing, nothing innovative aside from getting to try some fun spell combinations to battle or problem-solve.
While the graphics are very nice and vivid, it does come with some limitations. There are some technical glitches that became obvious in certain updates that were ongoing. There may be gameplay bugs that players come across, but I haven’t come across too many of those myself. I would have also enjoyed selling more items I collected instead of just clothing; I think it would have encouraged me and possibly other players to make more money, and then spend more for higher equipment or more powerful ingredients for potions.
The hubs in the game as mentioned before, such as the House Common Room or later the Room of Requirement when it’s unlocked for you, is rife with potential that unfortunately remains untapped. There’s not a whole lot you can do in these hubs besides admiring your surroundings and a few tasks here and there. I would have appreciated more to do to really feel your character was living in these areas as a student.
Overall, my final thoughts of Hogwarts Legacy are mixed, though with many positive elements that will have many players enjoy playing for many hours. There’s a lot to see and enjoy as you play throughout the game, but Hogwarts Legacy ultimately left me wanting much more than what I thought I was getting. It is a game with a lot of glamor and glimmer without very much substance. Is it the best Harry Potter game by far? I personally think so. There is still so very much that can be done to help bring the magic of Hogwarts come to life.
The Bottom Line
Hogwarts Legacy is probably the best Harry Potter game released; it is high on glamor but low on substance that may keep players from investing for long hours.