Hogwarts Legacy has been a long time coming and has been posited as the RPG that Harry Potter fans have asked for decades. The game is an incredible offering for fans, letting them breathe in the experience of being a new student at Hogwarts and exploring the lands beyond it. The game is an incredibly engaging and fun experience that ticks a lot of boxes for long-time Harry Potter fans and probably newcomers alike.
The game is at its best when it lets you off the leash and opens up the world to let the player go about exploring it at its own pace. The combat is surprisingly good and caught me off-guard with just how deeply satisfying it was to chain together charms and spells to execute long combos on enemies. What bogs the game down is the disappointment that misses pretty much every emotional high point it strived to hit.
Despite its rather uninspired story, Hogwarts Legacy manages to be a thoroughly enjoyable time because of the Harry Potter IP and the incredibly rich world it has to boot. While I am not confident that I would have enjoyed it nearly as much if it weren’t set in the Harry Potter/Wizarding World, Hogwarts Legacy is a pretty fun time all things considered, and will likely evolve into a mega-successful gaming franchise for WB Games moving forward.
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Hogwarts Legacy: A Swiss-Cheese of a Plot with Good Intentions
Hogwarts Legacy didn’t exactly have the tallest of orders with which it could be measured up in terms of past great releases. EA’s offerings when it comes to the Harry Potter games had been as hit-and-miss as James Harden’s run in the Brooklyn Nets. That even though fans have, over the years, come to know and love these games despite the majority of them not really being especially good games.
The studio, Avalanche, has consistently worked on massive IPs for WB Games, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to suggest that this is the studio’s biggest undertaking to date and easily their most ambitious game. This is reflected in the game’s overall design and scope as it feels like the studio did not want to leave anything off the table. The game is reaching for the stands, and for the most part, it hits the ball pretty well when it comes to the gameplay department.
Hogwarts Legacy kicks off with you, as the player character, on your way to Hogwarts as its newest student. The kicker is, you will be joining as a fifth-year (more about this later), and are expected to catch up with your classmates in the time you have. The game wastes little time making a bold opening statement as your journey is interrupted by a rather terrifying flying beast. The game doesn’t wait too long to let you cast your first few spells with your wand, and I have to say, each spell cast from the wand feels incredibly satisfying and the PS5’s Dualsense haptics have been utilized to absolute perfection.
The core of the game’s combat loop relies upon the use of the Basic Spell Cast and then combining it with the game’s 34 spells to create interesting combos. Think of the Basic Spell Cast as a Light Attack and your spells (like Expelliarmus and Levioso) as Heavy Attacks that have a cooldown. The combat feels incredibly tight and is probably the biggest reason that I stuck around and will likely come back to Hogwarts Legacy after I’ve put down the controller. While I still point to combat as the game’s strongest element, it is not without its issues.
The combat, while fun, does begin to get repetitive after a while as the game severely lacks enemy variety. The game lets you go up against all manner of creatures, Dark Wizards, Goblins, and other fantastical conjurations. The entire time, the game relies heavily on its core combat loop to get the job done but very rarely was I ever impressed by an enemy’s design or moveset. On the Normal difficulty, the game is challenging only if you are under-levelled. As a rule, to keep things interesting, I would often wear lower-stat gear to keep the fights engaging and as challenging as possible.
Speaking of gear, Hogwarts Legacy lets you do something that no previous Harry Potter game has ever let players do – customization. The game is an RPG through and through, and to that end, prepare to loot as many chests and drawers as you can, as you may never know, there might be a level 16 scarf that buffs your Offence stat lying around somewhere. While the customization and the gear system are pretty fun, just know that there is no room to create custom builds. This means that everyone’s Hogwarts Legacy character is pretty much going to be homogeneous and play exactly the same. The game has the appearance of a larger RPG clockwork at play, but there is very little here that lets you personalize your character’s skillsets.
Perhaps as a way to keep things more accessible to younger audiences, the game’s RPG mechanics and choice-based outcomes are kept to a minimum. This means that even though the game throws several important decisions towards the player, they rarely ever result in anything more drastic than a slightly different cutscene. Expect no Mass Effect and you shall be rewarded with a decently fun RPG experience.
But perhaps the answer to what makes Hogwarts Legacy not just another RPG lies in its namesake, Hogwarts, and the Wizarding World IP at large. The sheer excitement of mounting your broom and taking flight past the castle and into the wilderness is a feeling I couldn’t get enough of. Being able to visit familiar locations from the books and movies felt like returning to the home that you lived in as a kid. The sheer scale of the nostalgia and charm, while not unexpected, still swept me off my feet and turned me into a believer in the game. While I still have my reservations regarding its horribly formulaic quest structure and uninteresting side quests, it is not enough to dismiss the incredible level of care and commitment the studio has put into creating the world of Hogwarts Legacy.
Story: Hogwarts and The Formulaic Adventures of The Inconsequential Fifth-Year
Going into Hogwarts Legacy, my expectations from the story weren’t too high, to begin with, but it still surprised me just how drab and formulaic it was. The story has you, as Hogwarts’ newest student, starting off as a fifth year, for reasons that weren’t ever explained. You learn that you possess a connection with Ancient Magic, which puts you squarely in the sights of an evil Goblin who wants a certain McGuffin. While there was plenty of potential for the story to go in a thousand different interesting directions, it chooses to pick the path of least resistance and never throws a curveball in the player’s direction.
From the moment you start off on your adventure with Professor Fig, you know exactly how all of this is going to play out. To the game’s credit, it does try and explore certain ideas about human emotion and pain, it is just a shame that it falls painfully flat and never really makes an attempt to make the player really invest in these characters. The player character itself is devoid of any real personality, despite the dialogue choices and decisions it lets you make.
For the most part, your options are to either be a manipulative psychopath with no moral boundaries or a goody-too-shoes with little to no discernable personality. Speaking of choices, they don’t matter much. I chose to play the game as an insufferable little brat with ambitions to become a truly demonic Dark Wizard. I was rewarded for my efforts in villainy with just a slightly different cutscene in the end that bears no consequence on the story for the most part. This was a major let-down as the promotional material had me believe that I could truly forge my own path and make my character a truly vicious idiot.
The game isn’t devoid of any interesting storytelling, however. As I found myself thoroughly engaged in a side quest storyline that involved Sebastian Sallow and Ominis Gaunt, two characters from Slytherin. Save for that one storyline, everything else seems to follow the same cookie-cutter RPG shlock that players have come to really be tired of.
Hogwarts Legacy: Sound Design, Graphics, and Haptics
Hogwarts Legacy is a decent-looking game. In that, it doesn’t really wow you with incredible fidelity or a distinct art style but it still looks pretty good for the most part. The game suffers from a few performance issues where the frame rate would drop considerably when the screen gets busy with all sorts of enemies and projectiles. In my time with the game, I encountered little to no bugs, which is a real credit to the polish of the game. The studio and the publisher deserve equal praise for the choice to delay the game to make sure it isn’t rough around the edges.
What really sent me over the edge gushing about certain sections in Hogwarts Legacy was the incredibly punchy and tight sound design and the integration of haptics for the Dualsense. Each spell cast feels distinct in the way the haptics react and slamming an enemy to the ground with Descendo never gets tiring. Each spell cast sounds incredibly crisp and just the way you want it to. Combat sections were helped incredibly due to the sound design as spells whizzed past you as you chucked a giant red barrel at the troll’s head. The game truly comes alive on a home theatre or headphones setup and the sound design is easily one of the game’s strongest points.
While the game doesn’t look outright plain or bad, it does suffer from inspiration in certain sections. While Hogwarts itself is incredibly rich and beautiful, the surrounding lands are incredibly barren and don’t have much to look at. The vistas are pretty to look at from a distance, but upon closer inspection, you will find there is not much except for the odd troll and dugbog.
Final Word: Hogwarts Legacy
Hogwarts Legacy is a great outing for Avalanche and provides a solid base for the studio to build a massive franchise on. If this was the first taste of many to come, I should say that it’s pretty impressive. While the game lacks severely when it comes to being a rich RPG, it is still a massively fun time because of its combat and the incredible richness of the world.
While the game doesn’t live and die by its IP, the Wizarding World IP does play a gargantuan role in putting the game over several other RPGs in the same vein. Hogwarts Legacy is a pretty good package for fans of Harry Potter and will likely provide hours upon hours of fun and the occasional chuckle (the dialogue is incredibly shlocky and robotic).
If you can look past the painfully boring story and the truly hilarious way characters speak to each other, you will find roughly 25 hours of good, Harry Potter fun in Hogwarts Legacy.