Hogwarts Legacy is called the best game in the Harry Potter universe, and this is true at least because it has to be compared with the game adaptations of the PlayStation 1-3 movies, the Lego series, and several mobile projects. The competition is frankly so-so, besides, in most of the previous games we had to experience well-known events. Let’s see now, is there life in the magical world beyond the story of the boy who survived?
|Platforms||PlayStation 4/5, Windows, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch|
|Publisher||Warner Bros. Games|
It is the 1890s, and a new academic year begins at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which in principle is not much different from what we will later see in the time of Harry Potter, except that the blue Ford Anglia 105E does not fly in the sky because the model will be released in almost seventy years. Otherwise, everything is as usual: the red Hogwarts Express carries a loud company of children dressed in robes to Hogsmeade station, while the tables are laid in the great hall and the Sorting Hat is prepared, which will sort the newbies to their houses. Although there is one nuance that makes this academic year unique – this time a fifth-grader will go through the sorting process, who will be transferred to the school with the help of a local professor. The event is extraordinary, but so is the new student. He or she can see traces of ancient magic, the existence of which is known to a very limited circle of chosen and mostly already dead wizards, and a new one accidentally crossed the path of the goblin Ranrok, who is not satisfied with the monopoly on magic established in the wizarding world, because of which he plans to start another rebellion and hunts for mysteriously lost artifacts.
After being assigned to the house (here you can either choose yourself or take a test on the website beforehand), the new student is torn between studying, helping new friends, researching their extraordinary talents, and opening another dark page in the history of Hogwarts. The decision to make the protagonist a senior student was the right one: yes, we skip the first years of study, which may upset some players, but we can immediately move on to more dramatic events in the spirit of the last books. The only obvious minus of this approach is that we don’t have time to build relationships and make real close friends like an inseparable trio. From the total mass of students, the game selects a few whose stories will somehow be connected with the main character. In the life of each of them, there is a personal and often not at all children’s drama, but you really don’t have time to get attached to them. There is a lack of personal activities, some kind of routine that you would perform together. They could have integrated it into the preparation for classes in some way or add the opportunity to spend time in the general hub or just provide communication outside the boundaries of quests, but there is no such possibility. However, this becomes obvious not immediately, because the player is stunned by the magic of Hogwarts, which was recreated in the smallest details and with unprecedented love: the castle seems alive, and sometimes it is, thanks to moving portraits, ghosts, “living” armor, magical sculptures and tapestries – the smallest details that once appeared on the pages of books or on the big screen will somehow be reflected in the game, you just have to be observant. The local Hogwarts is undoubtedly not only the best representation of the original source at the moment, but also, in principle, one of the best locations in the history of computer games.
Thanks to the unprecedented attention to detail, during the first hours Hogwarts Legacy does not feel like a game at all, walking through Hogwarts and the surrounding area to the magical soundtrack, which is not inferior to the works of John Williams and Alexandre Desplat, is more like a visit to a fairy-tale interactive theme park, which is filled with attractions, secrets and notable locations from the beloved universe of millions. I can’t call myself a die-hard Potter lover, but I still immersed myself in the exploration of the magical world for a good ten hours and was completely delighted by it, before finally exhaling and starting to look at the game with a more clear view.
And it turned out that Hogwarts Legacy has something to be criticized for, although for some reason you don’t really want to do it. So, the main storyline here is a bit transparent, but, let the fans forgive me, the original source also cannot boast of consistency or depth. In the case of Legacy, the problem is that this whole story with ancient magic seems a bit too far-fetched, regularly falling into repetition and trivially distracting from the exploration of places familiar from books and films, without offering an equivalent alternative.
Here is the same sink with a snake that should lead to the Chamber of Secrets, in the corridor near the stairs a Howler is scolding a student for something, and if you go up these stairs, in the trophy room you can find a casket with the Goblet of Fire. In the toilet cubicle someone, like Hermione, is brewing a Polyjuice Potion, in the forbidden section of the library lies the book that Voldemort used to learn how to create Horcruxes, from the parapet you can see the outline of Hagrid’s Hut, and in Hogsmeade two suspiciously familiar red-haired figures look in the windows of Zonko’s Joke Shop. And so, instead of looking for these and many other curiosities and generally living the best life of a Hogwarts student, the player has to solve the problems of another goblin rebellion (which, to be honest, is also fair: wizards really treat goblins as inferior creatures and forbid they have wands simply because they want to keep magic to themselves) and also to delve into the secrets of ancient magic that no one but the chosen ones seem to have heard of either before or after the events of Hogwarts Legacy. If we avoid spoilers, then the old wise wizards screwed up again, the Aurors and the Ministry as always ignore the problems that are happening in their plain sight, and Hogwarts itself is once again a school that no responsible parent should send their child to – dark wizards, goblins who want to destroy wizards, various trolls and other deadly monsters are walking around in droves, and no one does anything about it.
What? Who is this thief who attacked a teenager with his gang? Ah, yes, he is a local scoundrel, he does all the dark things in Hogsmeade and its surroundings and seems to be in cahoots with Ranrok. Yes, with the very goblin who starts the rebellion. Yes, it’s his thugs who have set up camps all over the area and are attacking wizard settlements, why you ask? Um… are you following the order exactly, officer? You’ve got a magical mafia kidnapping people, poachers, illegal dragon fights, half the region overrun by armed goblins, all within five kilometers of a school, HELLO, is anyone here even sane? It is not surprising that half of the map is littered with the ruins of castles and cottages, it is not clear how the English wizards have not completely died out, they are weak. However, it is worth simply accepting that the main task of the plot in Legacy is to add a new marker to the map and push the player to go beyond the castle and visit an as yet unexplored region, where even more thematic Harry Potter fanservice awaits them, which, as we have already said, is at the highest level.
Structurally, Hogwarts Legacy is built in the usual way for open-world games: at the beginning, it is full of story tasks and cutscenes, but it somewhat limits free movement. This is logical – the player should learn the necessary minimum of spells and get a little familiar with the local combat system before going to meet the danger. On the other hand, in the first hours, you often have to come across a countdown timer and a warning that you are leaving the task area, and this frankly destroys the fairy-tale atmosphere. After passing the introduction, the situation evens out, and the number of story and side quests is in balance for a while, but the closer to the finale, the shakier this balance becomes. The game tries to compensate for the small number of interesting quests with packs of “bring-give” tasks and dozens of similar activities, which are not only tiring but also do not bring any tangible reward. Spend thirty minutes cleaning up the next ruins to get “blue” glasses and a couple of hundred galleons as a result. Thank you very much. If you play dosed, then there should be no problems, but after several intensive game sessions, you will try to stay away from the fake camps of goblins and poachers, spider tunnels, abandoned ruins, sources of ancient magic and monotonous Merlin Trials for a while. And if you can actually forget about most of the markers on the map, you should still not miss the goblin camps and ruins: in the first there are charms to improve equipment, in the latter, you come across interesting puzzles and additional information about the magical world.
Even at the beginning of the game, most of the side quests seem frankly boring, but my advice to you is to be patient. First, most of them will reveal some pretty interesting stories in the future, some of which I liked more than the main plot. Secondly, as a reward for their performance, you will receive money, which is important in the early stages, good equipment or just a variety of cosmetics, which will allow you to arrange the Room of Requirement and numerous vivariums to your taste. The latter will become available a little later, as well as the ability to populate them with fantastic beasts.
By the way, the possibilities for personal space customization in Hogwarts Legacy are really impressive, literally, everything from the ceiling to the floor can be changed in the Room of Requirement: you can choose styles that correspond to each house, the ability to repaint or change the size of decor elements, including various sets furniture, workplaces, machines and in general everything necessary for a decent student, as well as many paintings, fountains, statues, whole buildings, and castle sections, but this is for installation in vivariums. There is room for imagination, and this is despite the fact that you will spend relatively little time in the Room of Requirement – plant plants, harvest crops, take a ready-made potion and brew a new one, identify loot or improve the items you are currently using, comb and feed animals and collect wool, feathers, horns and other ingredients from them, which are just what you need to improve items, as well as offspring, which can be sold to the pet shop in Hogsmeade (for pennies, by the way). It seems like a lot of work, but in reality, it all takes a few minutes.
But we still haven’t talked about the most important thing – the combat system. In the trailers, it looked ambiguous and almost step-by-step, but in reality, it turned out to be interesting and surprisingly dynamic. There are more than three dozen spells in the game, two dozen of which are combat spells, and they are divided into power, fire, control, ancient magic, and normal attacking spells according to their type, and they can and even should be combined into spectacular and very effective combos, especially on later in the game when you’ve already allocated talent points and beefed up the base versions of spells a bit. My favorite combo to start a fight is to suspend a group of enemies in the air with Levioso, pull them towards me with Accio, set them all on fire with Incendio, and then knock them away with Depulso or Bombarda. This is, of course, for those cases when I do not go through the location in stealth mode. There, the improved Petrificus Totalus works great, which neutralizes several nearby enemies, and if something goes wrong, you can always transform the enemy that noticed you into a barrel, freeze or slow down a couple more and calmly switch to the standard combination. Switch in the literal sense of the word at times, since you only have 16 spell slots, and obviously some of them can be occupied by non-combat magic at some point in time.
Alohomora, summon or destroy items in the Room of Requirement, animal care spells, Lumos – these are all situational charms that regularly have to be tied to slots and untied from them depending on the situation, it’s good that you can do it at least in the middle of the battle, but still a bit annoying. In addition, you have to switch between spells due to cooldowns, and pauses must be filled with a series of normal magical attacks, which allows you to accumulate the energy of ancient magic (local ult), and also because enemies regularly impose multi-colored shields on themselves, which can only be penetrated by a spell of the appropriate category or by the same ancient magic. As another option, you can throw the nearest stone or an anvil at an enemy with a shield, it also works well. However, the enemies are not going to stand still and catch fireballs with their faces, they actively attack, forcing you to cover yourself with Protego, a magical shield that, with the right timings, allows you to counterattack with a Stunning Spell, or jump to the side – the corresponding attacks are highlighted by indicators of yellow and red colors.
In addition to magic, the battle will also require the knowledge gained in the lessons of potions and herbology – various tinctures can make you invisible, electrify or speed up, and mad chomping cabbage and other cute plants will happily eat or poison your enemies. In general, the impressions of the combat system are positive, which cannot be said about the variety of enemies – wolves, spiders, goblins, dark wizards, zombies, trolls, overgrown frogs, and enchanted armor – this is an almost exclusive list of what you will have to face in Hogwarts Legacy. For a game that takes anywhere from 30 to 100 hours to complete, that’s a bit short.
From the technical side, everything is not bad with the game, but it could be better. There are formally 5 graphics modes available on Series X, but realistically there are three because High Frame Rate Performance (available on TVs with 120 Hz support) and simply Performance game looks downright terrible and no frame rate can justify such a picture. So, you have to choose between balanced with 1800p and 40 FPS and high-quality modes, again at 1800p, and high quality with ray tracing at 1440p resolution. Personally, I settled on the latter, getting slightly reduced quality of textures and drawing range, but better shadows, three-dimensional lighting, and reflections. Regardless of the selected mode, in Hogwarts itself, you will experience a drop in FPS and loading when moving between sections of the castle and in some of its locations, which are promised to be fixed in the next patches. Everything is more or less stable outside the castle.
Frankly speaking, Hogwarts Legacy is most likely not the kind of game where you need to complete all the side quests and visit every marker on the map, because in this case, it risks getting boring before you even get to the end credits. The fact that this is the first major project for Avalanche Software can be seen with the naked eye and, apparently, adding a full-fledged open world here was not a very well-considered decision. On the other hand, this is a really good action/RPG with a simply fantastically realized School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that can impress even those players who do not belong to the army of Harry Potter fans. I have to admit, I had much more fun finding secrets and references within the castle itself and Hogsmeade than outside of it. It would be ideal to remove the minigame with unlocking locks and the need to cast Revelio at every step. Not sure if Hogwarts Legacy can claim the title of game of the year, but if you love this universe, or have kids, then the game is a must-buy.