Whether one grew up on the fantastical and magical novels, or through the magic of cinema; the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a franchise of legacy and memory. Silver screen and books aside, there are a select few who, almost exclusively, learned all about the franchise via the rather iconic PlayStation 1-era video game tie-ins! Truth be told, however, Harry Potter is quite a marque of Young Adult storytelling, and clearly a licence transcending all kinds of mediums. While the Wizarding World has attempted to extend beyond the novels, there are many ideas and plot points left wanting. Enter Hogwarts Legacy, a game that, rather poignantly, is both far removed from the “present day” Harry Potter franchise whilst being closely intertwined in its design.
To cut to the chase: Hogwarts Legacy is phenomenal. The game easily shatters every expectation. It masterfully placates the wants and needs of video gamers who have been clawing at any opportunity to get their hands on a true and faithful video game adaptation. It is a role-playing game to some degree, but it is, for all intents and purposes, a Harry Potter and Wizarding World simulator of great renown.
Hogwarts Legacy is set in the 1800s, a good hundred years or so before The Boy Who Lived graced the award-winning British halls of Hogwarts: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The player takes on the role of a particularly gifted student, who has only just started their magical journey in the fifth school year. Exactly who this student may be, is up to the purview of players. Whether their avatar boasts gleaming red hair and a sour frown, or the darkest of olive skin-tones and green braids; Hogwarts Legacy allows players to live out their wildest magical fantasies.
In terms of the story, it should be prefaced how there are wholly predictable tropes strewn throughout the entire 60-hour experience. Similarly, players who know a thing or two about the Wizarding World will easily deduce the direction the story will go at any given moment. With that said, however, calling the narrative of Hogwarts Legacy predictable is somewhat of a misnomer, considering the sheer amount of content players are encouraged to experience.
The player character is, essentially, a “chosen one” who can sense, interact and manipulate a long-forgotten and powerful “Ancient Magic”.. Better still, the character may join any Hogwarts House (although there is a sequence where the game will attempt to sort players accordingly), and subsequently attempt to save the Wizarding World from a devious Goblin named Ranrok. While that is not the only plotline the [admittedly] long and winding narrative of Hogwarts Legacy follows, saying any more will do more harm than good for players who still want to experience the story for themselves.
Beyond the main plot and important story beats lies an incredulous amount of side content to discover. From bonding with various class mates, through to figuring out the secrets of the castle itself, Hogwarts Legacy truly makes one feel like they are in over their heads – as it rightfully ought to. Mysterious ruins hold cosmetic secrets and bits of world building, while goblin encampments enforce the in-game present day climate of rebellions and chaos. Various villages with variable knowledge of magic and wizardry dot the massive landscape players can explore. Furthermore, animals, resources, and thousands of variations of cosmetics all lay ready to be found by wandering and/or curious souls.
Apart from the massive-feeling explorable world, Hogwarts Legacy presents players with the option to fill out their very own Room of Requirement (complete with customisable crafting benches, cosmetics, and resource nodes), and a huge Vivarium to fill up with any number of the 13 tameable, breedable, and farmable animals roaming the highlands. A massive chunk of what players will be doing in the game, however, comes down to the age-old video gaming constant: combat; and it is a doozy.
To some, combat in Hogwarts Legacy will feel a little odd and out of place. This is in large part due to the extravagant nature of all of the magical abilities characters use, and the way they are governed by their animations (a huge point of contest in the source material is how certain spells require very specific movements — movements mimicked in the game). To any fan, this will feel amazing, and to any video game veteran, it will come off as basic third-person combat. Newbies may find it odd to start. With this in mind, Hogwarts Legacy combat feels truly fantastic once players get the hang of the quick slot system and mastering those dodge and parry mechanics. A top pro tip: go into the game settings and turn on off-screen targeting. Thank me later.
The amount of spells players will ultimately learn may not feel like many, but the combat system’s utilisation of a quickslot mechanic (on both PC, and console), keeps things fresh and enticing all the way through. The game encourages the creation of what are, essentially, loadouts, for their spells. In this way, players will never feel like certain spells are used more than others since there are spells best suited to combat, and others best suited to exploration and puzzle solving. Learning spells is also as easy as can be, with most of them taught to players throughout the first act of the game, and the rest learned via extracurricular activities. These are a few other “select” spells strewn throughout, however these generally do not add much to the overall gameplay (spoiler alert: they are the unforgivable curses).
Alas, while the game encourages absolutely any and all kinds of play, the game lacks a proper morality system. Players may absolutely choose to be either as benevolent as Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, or as villainous as Tom Marvolo Riddle; but the general outcome of the main story will always be the same: the Wizarding World is saved and everyone is happy (okay, perhaps not everyone). The game may not feature a morality system like any Bioware game worth its salt, but it must be said how some choices players are presented with throughout their experience will, absolutely, have no correct answer, and might result in conflicted feelings. Calling the basic premise of Hogwarts Legacy’s gameplay design ‘Witcher-like‘ would likely be the most astute comparison.
Another outstanding achievement for the title is how Avalanche Software managed to make the world feel consistently alive, whilst being absolutely humongous. From North Ford Bog, through to Hogsmeade and even Clagmar Coast, players will feel like they have travelled for days-on-end before eventually completing the needed tasks. This is thanks in large part to the sheer amount of aforementioned content; and it is absolutely brilliant. Traversing the map with all of the content and locations has also been made easy. The game will reward players with a broomstick early on in the game, with the coveted Hippogriff becoming available quite a bit later on. While some limitations in exploration exist (you cannot dive underwater unless it is to pick up certain key items), these are hardly felt as the game encourages players to explore every nook and cranny of the game world. In this sense, exploration is a key tenet of the title, and is oh-so-worth it; ranging from puzzle rooms and ruins dotting the landscape, through to surprise side quests and companion quests in remote locations. Players can even traverse the Quidditch field, but not to play the fabled sport – sadly.
Of course, a game of the scale and breadth of Hogwarts Legacy does not come without its faults. There are noticeable framerate dips at many intervals throughout the title, especially on the ‘fidelity with Ray Tracing’ mode on Xbox Series X. Thankfully, these are fairly minor with the ‘Performance’ mode mitigating most of the issues.
Hogwarts Legacy is phenomenal in its execution, design, and experience. Combat can be challenging and exciting, while exploration shines the spotlight on some of the most breathtakingly beautiful vistas and locations in a game released thus far in 2023. The title does not come without its faults, but what game truly does? Hogwarts Legacy has earned Avalanche Software some of the highest praise gamers can possibly give thanks to the overwhelmingly satisfying and exceptional experience on offer. Also, being a wizard is dope, so there is that.
|Wizarding World Simulator!
|Combat takes some getting used to
|Perfectly faithful to the source material
|Seemingly infinite hours of content
Title reviewed on Xbox Series X with code supplied by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Junior Editor at Vamers. From Superman to Ironman; Bill Rizer to Sam Fisher and everything in-between, Edward loves it all. He is a Bachelor of Arts student and English Major specialising in Language and Literature. He is an avid writer and casual social networker with a flare for all things tech related.