Hogwarts Legacy Review
Hogwarts Legacy, the much-anticipated open-world action RPG game from Avalanche Software and WB Games, is finally within reach. Despite the noise surrounding the title, fans of the franchise have been waiting with bated breath for the release of another game that’s set in the Wizarding World, popularized by the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series. With attempts throughout the years fading into obscurity, it seems that this is finally the one that will break the curse.
Fans would call me a muggle because I have pedestrian knowledge about the Wizarding World, but I am a fan of action RPGs and open-world games. Over the past years, these types of games have seemingly reached their ceiling in terms of what they can provide, and I did write about the many ways open-world games can improve, hoping that developers would be able to follow suit.
With the hopes and dreams of franchise fans seemingly resting on Hogwarts Legacy, does it set the bar or will it be another addition to the long list of failed licensed IP adaptations? Hop on that broom and put your wands at the ready as we take a on a magical journey to Hogwarts!
Class is in Session
In Hogwarts Legacy, players take on the role of an incoming fifth-year student at the famed academy. Little does everyone know that you are actually a very talented but fledgling magician unknowingly burdened with stopping a plot to seize a powerful magic repository, which puts the safety of Hogwarts and its students in jeopardy.
Hogwarts Legacy recreates the magic seen in the source material by providing a look at a day in the life of a student at Hogwarts. It’s not a school simulator, nor is it even a day-to-day affair a la Persona, but players can think of the game as an open campus university where you take your classes, go off into town, and indulge in extracurricular activities.
The game follows a traditional system wherein players will have to hit a certain level in order to proceed with certain story quests. While it may seem a little old-fashioned, Hogwarts Legacy puts its unique spin on the formula by adding spell prerequisites, which you learn by attending class. This tweak results in a satisfying loop because you don’t just simply progress to the next quest, it also requires engaging in the open world and Hogwarts Legacy‘s unique magic system.
What’s a Wizarding World experience without good use of magic? Fortunately, Hogwarts Legacy has nailed this aspect not just in scope but also in its utility. I usually harp on streamlining skills in similar titles, but Hogwarts Legacy has found a way to make almost every magic spell useful. They’re not just focused on combat; you have utility spells for exploration, action-specific spells that work with raising beasts, and conjuring for crafting purposes.
Spells don’t just serve a singular purpose but are multifaceted, just like they would be in the actual world of magic. Your Accio spell, which pulls enemies towards you, is also your main utility spell that switches levers and pulls blocks out of the way. Your fire spell, Incendio, can also light torches to open trick doors. Hell, even your Lumos spell has an element to it that solves some puzzles littered across the world.
There’s literally a spell for everything, and Hogwarts Legacy succeeds in putting its own unique spin on it to make players engage in the world with fresh eyes. The game doesn’t have a skill tree, but you’ll get to improve your arsenal of spells with talents, powering them up with additional effects that change the way players interact with battles.
Hogwarts Legacy also has a well-implemented day-and-night system, which allows players to progress through classes in the day while engaging in night-specific activities such as collecting demiguises, stargazing, and further exploration of previously inaccessible parts of the campus.
The attention to detail put into Hogwarts Legacy by the developers is astounding, breathing life into the academy and its massive walls. Moving paintings and suits of armor abound, and there are a ton of interactable items in the world that, while they do nothing useful, serve to really add that extra sense of wonder and amazement to your surroundings. This results in consistency all throughout the game, leaving players experiencing some form of magic almost everywhere they go.
Another aspect Hogwarts Legacy exceeds in is how it holds customization in high regard. Apart from its passable character creator, players will enjoy dressing up their would-be wizard or witch with the plethora of gear options available throughout the game.
Players will engage with a heavily streamlined gear system, which is basically a “higher number = better” chase that often leads to unsightly combinations. Equipment pieces can be upgraded, and even slotted pieces can be imbued, tailoring a set to suit your playstyle.
Thankfully, numerous transmog options are also available, allowing players to create their own unique look. Fear not! If you’ve been looking to customize other items like your wand, you’ll be glad to know that the option is also there, and it really completes the whole Hogwarts experience.
At some point in your playthrough, you will be introduced to the Room of Requirement, an HQ of sorts which you can build as your own one-stop shop for all your crafting needs. Apart from giving the option to create several crafting tables for different purposes, the appearance of the whole room can be customized, further leaning into the focus on customizability and personalization.
As you would expect, the academy is massive, and with its countless rooms and secrets, it could be confusing to walk through. Thankfully, there are a lot of readily available quality-of-life features, like fast travel, a spell to reveal chests and other relevant objects, and a very useful waypoint tracker to ease you into the world. The map UI could use a bit of work though, but its a minor complaint altogether.
Hogwarts Legacy certainly has fans in mind, but the developers have paid a lot of time and attention to newcomers as well, adding even some of the simplest details like immediately showing that the new piece of gear you picked up is inferior to the one you already have. Paired with an impressive slate of accessibility options, the game has an easy-to-pick-up quality to it that cannot be overlooked.
Extra Curricular Activities
Hogwarts Legacy shines even brighter as its world opens up to you. The world is divided into three interconnected parts: The Academy, Hogsmeade, and The Highlands. Hogsmeade is the town center where you can conduct all your transactions and meet up with the locals, while the bulk of the actual world map falls into the Highlands, which are vast and teeming with activity.
With this being the case, it is indeed quite impressive how loading times are almost nonexistent in the game. Apart from a few instances, such as entering dungeons and doors not opening immediately due to loading, the overall experience of jumping from area to area is quite seamless, and the loading times that are present are only about 5–10 seconds.
Launching first on current-gen consoles is certainly a great idea, and it really gives a feel of how much the improved hardware helps elevate the experience. Hogwarts Legacy runs at an almost rock-solid 60fps in performance mode with some negligible dips (as far as we can tell, without the use of any tools), and was our choice over resolution mode, which instantly knocks frames down to 30. We’re not sure how stable the game will run on the previous-gen consoles, so we’ll have to wait and see about that.
That said, the game looks absolutely stunning and is something that watered-down screenshots don’t do justice to. As you progress through the main story parts, seasons will even change, showing the world evolving and each looking distinctly different. Apart from occasional texture pop-ins, there’s very little to complain about.
Moving around the world will acquaint players with its flora and fauna, with bandit camps and goblin settlements as part of the open world standard. Players aren’t really treated to the potential of Hogwarts Legacy‘s combat system until a fair number of hours into the game, but you’ll be delighted to know that the experience is snappy, satisfying, and filled with strategy.
Wand combat, during the early stages, doesn’t do much to excite as you’ll find yourself simply spamming R2 with the occasional Levioso or Accio spell, but things get hectic when more opponents are on the field, prompting players to be ready with Protego at any time. Based on the movies alone, wand combat in Hogwarts Legacy is done faithfully enough that it doesn’t turn into an extreme fireworks show, but spell effects are certainly sparkly enough.
Spells in Hogwarts Legacy are categorized into colors, and each spell can work its magic (heh) against shields of the same property, allowing players to break enemy defenses easily as they unleash satisfying combos. You can bind up to 16 unique spells across the controller face buttons (we actually need more!), and when you’ve charged up enough, you can blast enemies with Ancient Magic for good measure.
As mentioned earlier, spells are not only used during battles but also during puzzles. Each spell has its own unique twist and specific use, but the puzzles are simple and don’t require the player to overthink, which makes them accessible and fun in their own right. For those that want to rack their brains, you can try out the Merlin Trials, which will put your puzzle-solving skills to the test.
Hogwarts Legacy boasts tons of side quests, all of which sadly include variations of fetch quests and other standard fare. Of these, I wish there were more relationship quests to explore the stories of the other relevant students besides the ones that were related to the story (Sebastian, Natty, and Poppy).
This leads us to what I believe is my biggest complaint in the entire game: the house you select during the Sorting Ceremony is reduced to a cosmetic. I was given Slytherin as my House, and with the exception of my house colors imprinted on my Gear and other small details, it doesn’t really add much to the overall gameplay experience.
I can say the same about the dialogue choices during conversations, as everything will play out as written in the script. Whether you are pure of heart or uncontrollably selfish, decisions don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. I hoped for more of a morality meter like other open-world games of its type, but just like the House you selected, your alignment is reduced to mere flavor.
The main story campaign of Hogwarts Legacy can be completed in roughly 20–25 hours, depending on how much time you spend on the side activities, which can easily run you upwards of 50 hours if you choose to engage in them. If you love exploration, the Highlands are vast, and there’s much to uncover. If you like crafting and taming beasts, there’s enough to keep you busy.
As a magnet for bugs, I’m surprised at how polished Hogwarts Legacy is, but mileage may vary. In this day and age of multiple post-launch patches, it was quite refreshing to play something stable and relatively bug-free prior to launch, so kudos to the development team as the previous delay really did well to push out a quality product that can be enjoyed by everyone.
What We Liked
- Fantastic open world that allows you to attend classes, visit towns, and explore the Highlands with a dynamic day and night system.
- Magic system is versatile, and with a few exceptions, every spell has a specific use.
- Combat is flawless and snappy
- Open-world activities are varied and diverse enough to allow for exploration, beast farming, collectible hunting, or just traversing on your broom.
- A stable day-one experience.
What We Didn’t Like
- Your selected house is relegated to being a mere cosmetic rather than providing a unique and tailored experience.
- Dialogue choices just add cosmetic flavor, but has no actual moral bearing.
- Gear management could’ve been better streamlined.
- Map UI could be improved.
- Texture pop-ins abound.
Verdict: Buy It!
Whether or not you’re a fan of the Harry Potter books or the Wizarding World in general, Hogwarts Legacy is a fantastic open-world adventure that certainly delivers. While it retreads familiar open-world ground, it does so with a polish and impressive attention to detail that’s rare in this day and age of bug-filled releases.
Avalanche Software has proved that, despite this being their first project of enormous scale, they’ve got what it takes to carry the hopes and dreams of the franchise fans and turn it into something quite magical. This is an enthralling world that gives players a way to battle fearsome goblins, traversing through the open world highlands with your broom, and raising fantastic beasts.
Hogwarts Legacy delivers a masterful experience not just for fans but also for newcomers to the Wizarding World. There’s something for everybody, and coming from a humble muggle, thank you for this magical ride.
*Hogwarts Legacy was reviewed on a PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.