There are some things in life that I truly absolutely, insurmountably hate; school being one of them. Nevertheless, over the past few days I’ve immersed myself in classes, conversations with classmates and hours walking around the hallways of the school and it’s been so wonderful that I can’t wait to go back again. Of course, this is not about an ordinary, horrible high school, but about the magical world of Hogwarts and the adventures I have had in the Harry Potter world of Hogwarts Legacy.
This is a spoiler-free review of Hogwarts Legacy
Officially, we should talk about the magical “Wizarding World,” because Hogwarts Legacy has nothing at all to do with Harry, Ron or Hermione. In this adventure, you play a Witch or Wizard that you design all by yourself and with whom you live your own adventure that could be straight out of the books – or later movies. Not only will you visit Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, but you will descend to various dungeons, the Forbidden Forest and actually almost all the magical locations of the famed world that you have wanted to visit before.
Playing with expectation
During this adventure you come into contact with all sorts of special characters. I myself got to spend my time as a Slytherin, which immediately made me bond with fellow Slytherin Sebastian. With that said, I do have to say that I don’t think there is a direct influence on the game and the house you belong to, so the choice of the “faction” you want to belong to seems to be mainly an aesthetic one. By the way, not only will you have the opportunity to spend time with year-mates from Slytherin, each house has NPCs that you will interact with while playing. What is remarkable about this is that the game’s creators, Avalanche Software, have abandoned stereotypes. The Slytherins are not all bullies and some Gryffindor are just that.
It’s clear anyway that Avalanche Software wants to make Hogwarts Legacy for everyone. The character creator lets you choose how you want to be addressed, there are students of all cultures at Hogwarts, and the barmaid at the Three Broomsticks is transgender, for example. The game manages to do this in a subtle way that doesn’t highlight it prominently, but still manages to make a clear statement against J.K. Rowling’s statements, and as far as I’m concerned, it does so in a very strong way.
Puzzles, loot and investigations
So over the past few days, I have spent an awful lot of time in the magical world of Hogwarts Legacy. In fact, it got so bad that I had trouble putting the game down, something I almost never experience that bad. This was not only because of the aforementioned huge adventure of the main quest, but mainly because of everything you can discover besides the main story. After all, Hogwarts is full of secrets, little puzzles, side quests, objects to collect, secret rooms to find and so on. Everything is cleverly introduced in the process. A mirror you have to put a magic moth in? Try using Lumos, because that moth naturally follows light. A box with an eye that won’t open for you? Try the Disillusionment Charm to get closer so the eye can’t see you. The game gives you just enough grips to explore everything without pre-chewing anything, and that feels very nice.
In doing so, Avalanche Software took a very close look at some other great games of late and basically just stole a few things. After all, Revelio is just a scan like you know from Horizon Forbidden West. Puzzles in large Dungeons are clearly inspired by God of War and Breath of the Wild, but thankfully have a unique twist that is only possible in the magical world of Harry Potter. The phrase “better good copy, than bad thinking” certainly applies to Hogwarts Legacy.
I was hugely skeptical of this game beforehand, but playing it almost all dispelled that.
I’ve now reached the end of the main story, but that doesn’t mean I’m already done with the adventures in Hogwarts Legacy. For example, my handy, magic guide says I’ve only found 23% of all the challenges, I still need to get to level 34 to see the “real” end of the game, and I still have an awful lot to add in my Room of Requirement. I will be the first to be hugely skeptical of this game beforehand, but playing it has all but dispelled that. Aside from a few rough edges toward the end of the game, I did not experience any technical glitches or bugs.
If you are about the same age as me, around 30, then you undoubtedly caught the unprecedented hype of Harry Potter. I myself watched one movie marathon after another and read the latest book on release day to find out how the magical adventure ended. Avalanche Software made Hogwarts Legacy for people like me. We all played the PS1 game and the way you learn a new Spell in Hogwarts Legacy is an evolution of that system.
Yes, now I’m finally really on Hogwarts
There are other moments like that when you think “yes, now I’m finally really at Hogwarts.” Visiting the various classes, for example. The first time you enter the famous Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, you will recognize some of the objects. The same goes for Herbology classes, where you literally have to repot a Mandrake. The creators clearly had a list of “nostalgic experiences that should return to the game.” I don’t want to spoil anything, but basically everything on the list you’ve now made in your head gets checked off.
That’s why I do have to give a little warning. If you love Harry Potter and the world that comes with it, then you’re going to love Hogwarts Legacy too. Then plan the next few weeks off to really explore everything and play at your leisure. Wander around Hogwarts for hours, check out Hogsmeade in every season, take a walk into the Great Hall to see what ceiling is there this time or grab a broomstick and fly through the world in search of a new Fantastic Beast, Merlin’s Trial or a stargazer. You can literally do it all in the game. Take your time to quietly experience the world is the biggest tip I can give.
The magic glue
Everything I mentioned above is already fantastic to do, and on top of that comes the combat. It serves as a kind of magical glue that ties everything about Hogwarts Legacy together. The classes you take often result in a new Spell, and in a dungeon you will more than once come face to face with giant spiders or evil wizards. That’s why it’s extra nice to find that the combat with the Spells works so incredibly well. It takes some time to learn everything, but once you get the hang of it, juggle enemies in the air until their HP bar is gone. A combination of Accio, Bombarda, Arresto Momentum and basic attacks feel really wonderful to perform. When you also make the attacks stronger via the Talents at your disposal, you really feel like you are one of the strongest Wizards or Witches in the world.
To help you during battles and other moments, there is the music. I have to give the sound design of this game an honorable mention. We probably all know the iconic music from the movies and this is implemented in Hogwarts Legacy in a fantastic way. Passing quests produces a sound that seems to come straight out of the movies, attacks from enemies can be heard coming even before you see them, and especially in the “exciting” quests, the music really adds to the experience.
Not quite open-world
I should add that “open-world” is not quite right from the start. In theory you can walk everywhere, but that becomes much easier when you can get on a broom and actually fly everywhere. Even then, there are still locations you can’t quite reach and you have to continue playing the story to get there without too much hassle. At first I thought that was a shame, but in the end it’s better for the game. After all, why would I want to walk ten kilometers to a place on the map when I haven’t even discovered everything in Hogwarts itself yet?
As I played more, I understood better and better the decision to initially release the game only on current-gen consoles and PC. The game runs like clockwork, but animations during conversations are actually completely lacking and the voices of the NPCs are so soullessly voiced that it is sometimes difficult to keep your attention. I am therefore really holding my breath for the last-gen and even Nintendo Switch versions coming out later this year. I can’t imagine this game will play as smoothly there either.
Before starting Hogwarts Legacy, I had huge doubts. Could a game live up to my expectations of an open-world RPG set in the magical Wizarding World. After dozens of hours of play, I can confidently say that it certainly does. The exploration of Hogwarts, the world around it, the music, the story and the interaction with all the NPCs is truly fantastic. Even after finishing the game, I can’t wait to return to Hogwarts Legacy to do another side quest or take care of my magical animals.