Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: Portkey Games
Release Date: 02/07/2023
Also Available On
Harry Potter is one of the biggest media phenomena of the 21st century. When the novels came out they were all over the news and I read them right from the beginning. While the novels were big the movies were even bigger and I don’t think Harry Potter would be where it is today without the success of the movies. I remember my family going to see every movie up until the first part of the 7th movie on Thanksgiving every single year. By the time the 7th movies were out, I was an adult and saw those with my now wife. I did get burned out on the series though so thankfully it’s great to know Hogwarts Legacy is 100% original content with all new characters and story.
The only thing the game follows from the books or movies is the lore, aesthetics, and visual representation of various architecture, creatures, and overall visuals. You play as a nobody 5th-year student who gets caught up in a giant plot of goblins finding a way to wield dark wizard magic. You must fast-track your education at Hogwarts while also fighting off this powerful new foe. The story drags you along on a breadcrumb trail where you slowly unveil the plot, the intricacies of the characters, and the mysteries. Portkey Games did a phenomenal job of making the story feel like one of the books. The slow unfolding of the story gives a sense of mystery and constant guessing. It’s a pretty good story and one of the best so far this year.
There are of course side quests and larger side stories involving various students at Hogwarts. One involves a Slytherin student, Sabastian, and the Dark Arts. Another is a girl named Poppy who just wants to stop poachers and save creatures, and then there’s Noa who wants to avenge her father’s death. The entire game has a massive open world consisting of Hogwarts itself, Hogsmeade which is the only major town in the game, and then the rest of the world itself consisting of various regions, secrets, and activities. The game can seem overwhelming, but the entire game is strung out to you very slowly as you play. It allows you to get the ropes on all the various systems in the place game with one of the biggest being combat.
Combat is probably the weakest and coolest part of the game. It plays similarly to an MMO with shortcut keys and hot bars. Each hot bar has four slots and you can have up to four hot bars. You learn spells through the story as you attend various classes. These are all the spells you know from the book and movies. Wingardium Levioso, Avada Kadavra, Repulso, Accio, and many others. There is only magic combat in the game so don’t expect to find swords and shields. Defense is dependent on a halo around your head that flashes red or orange. Orange means you can deflect attacks while red means you must dodge.
You can whip out spells at a lightning pace, but of course, they have cooldown timers so this means you need a balanced loadout and need to switch between hot bars constantly. This is something I didn’t like in the game. I can understand with a controller you can only have four hotkeys, but do what Dragon Age did and give PC players the ability to use maybe eight hotkeys and combine hot bars. I found myself always fumbling with the controls trying to quickly dodge, deflect, keep an eye on my timers, swap between hot bars, and keep an eye on the enemies, and then my health and magic meter. It’s too cumbersome and needs some balancing in the next game. The combat looks cool with fast and smooth animation, great sound effects, and tons of on-screen info being blasted into your eyeholes. There are plenty of boss fights, mini-bosses, world bosses, and all sorts of enemy types to shake a wand at. Goblins, beasts, and humans alike.
The next part of the game is exploration. This game is very similar to Skyrim in that manner. You will always find something no matter where you go. Once you unlock the ability to fly on a broom you can use Revelio in the air and it will mark stuff on your map. There are a lot of activities to do from filing out your field guide by finding flying books, interesting spots, and objects, there are secrets inside Hogwarts itself like hidden chests under bridges that require puzzles, but you also need the spells to complete certain puzzles and get to certain areas. You can pick locks (which has an absolutely awful lockpicking mini-game that can’t be skipped), but one of the major problems with all of this exploration is the lame loot. If you get ahead of the story you will mostly end up finding armor that’s behind you in levels. Exploring dungeons is fruitless as you will solve a puzzle and get a lame piece of armor or just 50 coins. I wound up ignoring side paths in dungeons because it just wasn’t worth it. Finding the best armor in the game will come to you eventually.
The third biggest part of the game is the Room of Requirement. Here you can decorate, expand, and craft. You can add traits to clothing/armor, and breed beasts that you can capture in the wild for more unique traits that can be woven into clothes. You can also plant seeds for using the three combat plants or creating potions. While this all sounds neat and fits into the world of Harry Potter it’s very tedious. I wound up not bothering to add traits to clothing as the loot you find it pretty awful anyways and you end up selling 90% of what you find. I would add traits closer to the end game when you stop finding a lot of armor that is at a higher level. I also didn’t bother brewing potions much as you must wait in real time for plants to grow or potions to brew. It’s pretty dumb and tedious.
You can fast travel between dozens of Floo Flames as you discover them and this makes traveling quickly essential. The various activities you can do are Merlin Trials, a combat arena, various puzzles, and of course side quests for people around the world. It really is a well-created open-world game and feels different from the dredge of crap we’ve been getting the last ten years. I always had fun exploring the world, doing tasks and puzzles, and seeing what secrets the game had. It really is this generation’s Skyrim or will be as close as we get to it.
The visuals, voice acting, and overall atmosphere of the game captured what we loved in the movies perfectly. The visuals are gorgeous with great lighting and tons of love and detail in every part of the world. Sadly, it’s so poorly optimized. Ray tracing is unplayable, and there’s stuttering in Hogwarts no matter how powerful your system is. Some patches have ironed most of the problems out, but they will never be perfect. The game still looks fantastic and I loved flying over new areas for the first time or seeing the seasons change. Portkey Games did a stupendous job making this game feel like a living breathing world.
Overall, Hogwarts Legacy is a wonderful open-world RPG with some flaws. The combat can be unwieldy sometimes and cumbersome, crafting is a chore, and the game is horribly optimized, but the characters are wonderful, the graphics are fantastic, and it feels like a living and breathing world of Harry Potter that captures all of the magic and love that we grew up with. You will spend dozens of hours having fun exploring the nooks and crannies that the world has to offer, the powerful beasts you can fight, and the creatures to capture.