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Hogwarts Legacy Review – You’re Not The Only Wizard Harry

True fans of Harry Potter are no strangers to waiting. Back in the day, when every book required some years apart, we waited patiently for the next story. We also waited patiently for every movie that dominated the box offices worldwide, and we waited in those long lines around the corners for a chance back at that beloved school of witchcraft and wizardry. After the last Harry Potter film we waited for something new, longing to get some insight into that wonderful world that drove a lot of our fondest memories.

We, the fans, were given The Fantastic Beasts films and a wonderful play with The Cursed Child but there was still a void. That void was Hogwarts. We all deep down wanted to attend that school, to become that witch or wizard and explore. We wanted to brew potions, fly, and cast spells. We’ll always have a love for Harry’s adventure, but we wanted our own. So we waited and waited, and just when we were thinking it might never be, the game of our dreams was created for and by the fans. If you ever dreamed of living in the magical world of Harry Potter, now you can, thanks to Hogwarts Legacy.

Devolved by Avalanche Studios and published by Warner Bros. Games, Hogwarts Legacy is the ultimate Harry Potter experience. Originally announced to the public in 2020, the game went under extensive development and delays and was officially announced to be released on February 10th, 2023. We knew the game to be a massive step for Potter fans and despite the delays, we were hopeful that the time taken would provide us with a better game. Although the game is not exactly perfect, it exceeded my expectations by far.

Hogwarts Legacy takes place in the Wizarding World during the 1800s. Your character comes to Hogwarts as a 5th-year student with a special ability to see and control ancient magic. A growing goblin rebellion, poachers, magical creatures, and more are out to stop your character from ever reaching his/her true potential. Your character must attend classes, master spells, learn to brew potions, and so much more.  The decisions you make will determine your path and your legacy at Hogwarts.

The game starts with an extensive character creator that allows you to customize your character in numerous ways. Complexion, face shape, eye color, voice, hair color/styles, and more can be chosen in the creator section. You can even put in your own name or whatever name you chose for your character. The detail for the customization options are insane. The options for hair styles that represent all races was something that I found to be incredibly rare. I found my own hairstyle in the game and I was shocked and very happy that they took this kind of thing into consideration. After you finish creating your witch or wizard you are then thrown into the story, which is full of action and shows you the gameplay ropes.

After an introduction to the game that I’ll leave spoiler free, you are brought into Hogwarts to be sorted into your house. If you have an account on the Wizarding World site you can have your house and wand transferred over if you link your account. The hat also gives you the option to change your mind which is perfect for replayability. After you are sorted, you are then brought to your common room for the night. The next morning your character will wake up in your dorm and enter the common room for the first time. Seeing the common room come to life along with the music was everything I had been waiting for. The attention to detail everywhere from the NPCs talking to the photos moving felt exactly how Hogwarts should feel.

Since you are new to Hogwarts as a 5th year, you have a lot of catching up to do. You are given a book called the Hogwarts Field Guide. The guide is basically your hub menu and with it you can change your character’s clothes, wand handle, and mounts. You can access your inventory to see the items you have to grow plants and brew potions. The guide also has a map of Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and the World Map to access areas you’ve been to via fast travel or “Flu Network.” As you explore there are marble plaques with the witch Ignatia Wildsmith on them (she is the inventor of the flu travel) and as you pass them they will become accessible to travel to on your map. Your best option is to explore and not entirely depend on fast travel alone if you don’t want to miss more travel spots and sites. The guide will also store quests which you can track, and your owl post where you can read letters that have been sent. Make sure to pay attention to talents which will be important to upgrading all your abilities. Your manual save options and accessibility options are also in the settings of the guide. 

The castle of Hogwarts is alive with activity and endless rooms to explore. NPCs, ghosts, and paintings are always interacting and doing things. For example, I wandered down a hall and found a group of paintings playing a jig. I even saw two knight statues get into a fight which was extremely amusing. The game emphasizes travel and exploration, and it is essential to discovering and upgrading your abilities. The classes you take will follow along with the main quest and is mostly the only way to learn new spells and advance the story. Classes will consist of a cutscene followed by a QTE in which you have to follow the path of a spell symbol and press the buttons before the red part of the spell hits your cursor.

Once you complete this process a new spell will be added to your list. All spells can be accessed on the bottom right corner, which will also show your health, ancient magic power (used for takedowns), and access to your entire spell list. If you press the right trigger your character will hold out their wand and if you keep the trigger held you can press any of the buttons that correspond with the spell you want. You can also change or take away spells from your button list at any time. If you quickly press the right trigger you will do a basic red attacking spell. Use this spell in combos and combine them with the stronger spells that will need cooldown times.

Combat is more fun than I thought it would be. With an array of spells you can basically master the element of wizard combat. Accessing spells such as incendio to shoot fire, or levioso to levitate your enemies is extremely entertaining. It may take some time to get used to at first but blocking/ dodging spells and rebounding them back feels rewarding. Certain enemies will have defensive bubbles with different colors and the only way to break their defense is to hit them with a spell of the same color.

Using this method in combat calls for it to be strategic, especially since spells have cooldown times. Your character will get something similar to a spider sense when an enemy is about to attack, you can either block and parry or you can dodge. Red flash attacks are unblockable so make sure you time your dodges accordingly. The more you upgrade your talents the more your defensive abilities and options will increase.

Your character is free to roam the world and interact with main quests and side missions. Very much like most RPG games, you will have some minor tasks such as collecting items, looking for things, and battling enemies but all of them will be rewarding in the end and boost your character level. Interactions will consist of dialogue prompts in which you can find more information, reject a mission, or even show some attitude. If you chose to play this game as a dark wizard you can chose to be mean to everyone you meet which is really funny sometimes. Some dialogue prompts will lead to the same conclusion and some are important to who your character becomes in the end.

In traveling the world you can visit familiar sites such as Hogsmeade and nearby wizarding hamlets. You can play mini-games such as broom races, dueling clubs, and a fun game in the courtyard which requires you to use accio to move a ball to different positions for points. There are plenty of vendors and places to purchase and sell items, and none are better than Hogsmeade. There you can access Olivander’s wand shop, potions store, herbology shop, broom shop, and much more. The amount of customizable options in this game is wild and there will always be constant surprises.

The Room of Requirement is one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced in a game. The room is your space to make your own. You can add paintings, tables, lights, and statues amongst other things. You can change the architecture and make the room feel like your own personal getaway within Hogwarts. As you progress in the game you will also be able to house magical creatures in a vivarium which is also very much customizable.  Inspired by the Fantastic Beasts franchise, you can save certain species and tend to them in your vivarium, along with entertaining them with toys and food. You can also brew potions and grow plants in the room which will require real time to grow. Some items will take longer than others but it allows you to explore and spend more time in the game.

Hogwarts Legacy is an architects fever dream. The amount of detail and effort that went into the design of the locations and rooms in this game is astonishing. You can tell that the developers deep dived into both the books and the movies. In a beautiful combination of the two, everything you are looking for in this game is available, and if it’s not, they will give an explanation as to why. For example there is no Quidditch which is a bummer, but the broom flying and hippogriff/thestral mounts make up for the element of flying around and enjoying the magic in the skies. The game has so much to see and take in, you may find yourself just enjoying the sites and relaxing around all the beauty the game has to offer. For me, I grew up with Harry Potter, and there is a nostalgic comfortability just walking or flying around Hogwarts. There are so many collectibles, puzzles, and hidden rooms to keep you entertained for hours.

The music of the game is something I can’t skip over. As a music teacher myself, I found myself enjoying the familiar tunes of classical music but also hearing the familiar motifs from the Harry Potter films done in a way that was slightly different. They did an incredible job at following along with the compositional style of John Williams but also making it their own and fresh. Certain music will play at certain places and situations. Each common room has their own theme and so does broom flying and walking around Hogsmeade. There are some rooms that have instruments playing or portraits playing songs, there’s always something to hear. Even the silence in the dead of night is eerie but adds to the ambiance that most of the school is asleep.

The game does have some downsides but not many. I’ve noticed quite a few glitches but this was to be expected and I’m sure patches will mend a lot of these issues. When I first started the game I felt a sense of emptiness, where the NPCs don’t really react to anything you do and you are just a walking observer in the Wizarding World. Of course as the game progressed there was a lot more and I started to feel more involved and alive. For me, the game changed completely after I got my broom and discovered the Room of Requirement. I know a lot of people were trying to say this was going to be like a Harry Potter GTA where Dementors come after you if you act up but that’s not the case.

The game requires patience and time to enjoy this beautiful world and all the action in it. The use of unforgivable curses is an aspect of the game I would never think I’d get to experience in a Potter game. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was the first game I ever played on my old desktop and to see how far it’s come with this game is incredible. This is the game Harry Potter fans have always wanted. You also don’t have to be a fan of Harry Potter to play this, it’s an entirely original story that honors its source material in a true and engaging way.

Many fans will have to wait for the old gen console versions and I could understand their pain. I’m sure seeing other people play this game might rub them the wrong way but if there’s any consolation I’m sure their version will be updated to the best of their ability by then. I was fortunate enough to play this on both the PS5 and Xbox Series X, both of which run very well on the consoles. The PS5 has the advantage of haptic feedback, remote sounds for spells and music, and an added mission in Hogsmeade. PC players have been keen to complaints with download time and crashing frame rates but all of this was to be expected upon initial release. I’m sure Avalanche will work hard to consistently update patches and mend their wonderfully designed game.

Overall I believe Hogwarts Legacy will be a strong contender for game of the year, and I hope it stands as a sign to Warner Brothers that despite the controversy, the Harry Potter community is very much alive and yearning for more content. I’m hoping this game is the bridge to an untapped frontier like Star-Wars was for Disney, just hopefully better.  Despite all the delays I’m happy to say this game has exceeded my expectations and although the main quest could use a little polishing, the overall game is a masterpiece and a great start to a growing Wizarding World.  Hogwarts Legacy is available now on PC, PS5, Xbox X/S. The game will come out on Xbox One and PS4 April 4th, and on the Nintendo Switch July 25th. Mischief Managed

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This review was written based on a digital review copy of Hogwarts Legacy provided by Avalanche Software and Warner Bros. Games.

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