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Here comes a deep cut straight from the writer’s table; I am somewhat of a connoisseur of Harry Potter games. Although I have watched all the movies, and read all the books, I won’t claim to be a Potter mega-fan. However, one thing I know better than most is the licensed movie tie-ins that were bestowed on us gamers over the years. While many merely adopted the PS1 Hagrid meme, I was born in it, molded by it. I was there when the polygons were very few, yet I remember these games fondly as incredible opportunities to explore a place I could only dream of inhabiting, Hogwarts. The early licensed games bucked the trend of shameless movie-tie-in money grabs and offered an experience that did the source material justice, provided incredible gameplay for the era, and leaned into free-form exploration.
These highs sadly gave way to perilous lows. When the movie/book content became less whimsical, and more dark and sinister, post Goblet of Fire, the games did the same, and transitioned to a more action-heavy format. The games from then on played around with things like motion controls, and the LEGO/Traveller’s tales game format. However, the games would never capture that lightning in a bottle again. Well, that is until now. With the release of Hogwarts Legacy, a game that frees itself from the constraints of serving as a movie-tie-in, and tells a unique story based on the magical wizarding world that we know and love.
Now, you may be thinking, with an IP like this, it would be very easy to fail. One misstep on lore, or one plothole and the Potterheads will be on you like flies on excrement. Well, that’s very true, and this is why Hogwarts Legacy deserves a lot of credit. This game is a truly incredible piece of work that nails almost everything that it tries to do, evokes all those feelings that the games of old did, and allows you to carve out your own story, the one we all dreamed of with our noses buried in books decades ago. Want to know why I think this is a triumph? Well, stick around. This is RPG Informer’s Hogwarts Legacy Review, conducted on PS5.
Okay, so before we jump in, I feel it’s only right to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Yes, we are aware of the controversy surrounding J.K. Rowling, the Trans and LGBTQIA+ community, and by extension, Hogwarts Legacy. So here is where we stand on it. We absolutely don’t agree with the views of J.K. Rowling, nor do we feel particularly comfortable lining her pocket with royalty checks.
However, who we do support, are the folks over at Portkey Games, who have worked their asses off to make this a wonderful experience, and we won’t have J.K. pull anyone else down with her. Plus, cards on the table; we are a business and a video game website, so it would be naive of us to pretend that this monumental release simply didn’t exist.
So we will be leaving politics at the door here, and the discussion surrounding this game will not be a factor in any fiber of this review. Okay, let’s crack on, shall we?
Merlin’s Beard, It’s Beautiful
So I referred to the spiky polygons and the incredibly unnerving PS1 Harry Potter models of old. Well, as someone that saw that firsthand as a child and thought, ‘graphics have peaked; it couldn’t look more real,’ imagine how bewildering and enchanting a PS5-powered rendering of Hogwarts and beyond must have been. From the moment I booted up this title, I could immediately see why the game was delayed time and time again. The attention to detail is nothing short of staggering. It feels like every beam of light, every reflection, every hallway, and staircase, has been handcrafted and refined to offer that quintessential Harry Potter feel. I felt my internal Remembrall fog up red, because I forgot just how captivating this world could be.
As you would imagine, Hogwarts is meticulously recreated to depict every landmark from the movies and books, from the Great Hall to each house’s respective common rooms. Everything looks and feels exactly as it should. However, I have to commend Portkey Games, not only for this, but also for creating a seamless and cohesive open world beyond the Hogwarts Grounds. Through the introduction of Hogsmeade, and the expansive countryside, players get a chance to explore further than they ever have before.
Now, we have seen games that look great in promotional screenshots, but ultimately flatter to deceive, as the world doesn’t hit the mark when things are in motion. Hogwarts Legacy doesn’t fall into that trap, because even with the vastness of the open world, every fiber of it feels alive and dynamic. Hogwarts is bustling with students with enchanted books following behind them, Hogsmeade is lively with patrons sampling Butterbeer and grabbing supplies, and even on the outskirts of Hogshead, the little villages feel quaint and lived-in.
Letting you behind the curtain, I found this game very hard to review, not because I couldn’t form my opinion, or because the game was particularly perplexing. It was simply because every turn of a corner was a new discovery, every point of interest demanded a closer look, and I just couldn’t help but stop and smell the roses. I must have drunk some Amortentia, because I’m in love with the visuals of this game.
What I will say, though, is that it does have some minor technical issues. None that spoil the fun or mar the experience, but some that way take you briefly out of the action. You’ll find that NPCs clip through walls or disappear on occasion, and enchanted objects seem to have been cursed instead. However, overall, this game is a visual marvel.
John Williams, Is That You?
Just to be clear, John Williams wasn’t involved in the Hogwarts Legacy soundtrack, but the fact that I need to clarify that is a huge credit to J Scott Rakozy, Peter Murray, and Chuck. E. Myers. These composers really take what Williams produced for the first three films, and tweak it to sound fresh, vibrant, and unique. There are lots of tracks that have the same notes, melodies, and composition as the tracks we know and love from the HP series. However, much like this game as a whole, it’s clear that the composers were not comfortable relying on past success, and in turn, created some truly unique and enthralling tracks.
Whether it’s the jaunty optimism of the track that plays while shopping in Hogsmeade, the soft piano and windchimes as you visit Ollivanders to claim your own wand, or the ominous ethereal sounds that swell and fade as you skulk around in the Forbidden Forest. Everything feels fitting, depending on what you are doing, and conveys the emotion that you should be feeling at that moment.
Williams was always a master of this; his Leaving Hogwarts theme was always a personal favorite for its ability to convey Happiness, sadness, hope, togetherness, and whimsy all in one short piece. Well, Rokozy and the crew do this time and time again in this game, and much like Jeremy Soule did many moons ago in the PS1/2 HP outings, they’ve put their own spin on Harry Potter’s instantly recognizable sound to great effect
A Mystical Means to an End
We now move on to the story, which had the unenviable task of creating a fitting and cohesive tale within the Harry Potter universe. This would be the first time that a unique story has been created without the support of existing books or media. Now, I can’t say for sure, because I wasn’t there in the writer’s room, but I feel like the pressure to create this main narrative may have gotten to them. You see, the main questline feels a little safe, a little undercooked, and a little lifeless at times. I want to make it clear that it isn’t bad by any means, but it often feels like a first draft or a placeholder that should then have been refined or replaced ahead of release.
You see, the whole main quest feels like a means to an end, and what I mean by that is, the main quest really only exists to teach you things that will give you the tools needed to explore Hogwarts and beyond without restraint. The main story grants you new spells, shows you important mechanics like the Room of Requirement, or introduces you to important collectibles like the Demiguise Statues. Which, while handled reasonably well, feels a lot like needless handholding at times. You can make the argument that this is fan service and, therefore, what Potter fans all want. Yet, I still feel that, at times, the player feels like they are on-rails. Especially if they want to power through the main story.
So what about the side content, then? Does it offer a better experience? Well, yes and no. You see, when you are out and about exploring the world and uncovering new things to see and do, that’s when the game is at its best. When you are a mile above the ground, soaring through the air on your broom with the castle before you, the possibilities seem endless. So it was a little disappointing at times to see that the writing for side quests was even more phoned in than the main quest. I often found that the activities, like Crossed Wands, Summoner’s Court, and scavenger hunts for items, were fun enough. However, the motivation for doing so, and the writing within each quest was dull and stilted.
This is most prevalent in fetch quests with unimportant NPCs. It feels like filler content, and in a world where every aspect of the day-to-day is supposed to be magical, this felt a little pedestrian. Real Muggle writing, if you ask me.
So I said that the game is best when you are left to your own devices to do whatever you like, and I wholeheartedly stand by that. The game spends its entire run teaching you how to be an independent Hogwarts student, and when you wrap up the relatively short main questline, truthfully, that’s where the fun begins. This is when you get to go out into the world, explore without restriction, find the best gear, master spell combos, and embrace the emergent side of Hogwarts Leagcy’s gameplay fully. With access to multiple mounts, all the spells the game has to teach you, and enough gear to take on just about any enemy the game throws at you, the world really opens up, and you get to see Hogwarts in all its glory.
This is where you get to find all the hidden Field Guides that help you understand how each landmark fits into the lore of this series; this is where you get to master your flying skills. It’s a time when you get to turn your Room of Requirement into your own personal sanctuary, and a time when you get to simply explore areas within the franchise that you have always wanted to inhabit. A chance to indulge your inner child. It really flips the open-world script on its head. Usually, when the main questline wraps up, many check out due to the fatigue that comes with exploring and clearing every marker on the map, but here, you feel privileged for the opportunity.
Now, I’m not naive, this is because of the strength of the IP they have been blessed to work with, and any new open-world IP would need to work a lot harder to create an open world that’s fun to simply exist and do busywork in. Take a look at my Forspoken review if you don’t believe me. However, to that, I say, the developers clearly knew what their strongest attributes were, and it was a smart move on their part.
The Illusion of Choice
Illusions, deceptions, and bewitching are pretty commonplace within the wizarding world, and it seems that it has permeated through to the world of gaming. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t quite decide if this was clever game design, or the developer taking shameless shortcuts, so I’ll let you guys make your own mind up, but the bottom line is, Hogwarts Legacy allows you to make a lot of choices that ultimately don’t matter. My argument in favor of this, is that it allows for a lot of fan service and standout moments without putting too much strain on the player with added mechanics. So things like getting sorted into your house, getting your first wand, selecting a Broom, and all other marquee moments in the Hogwarts experience feel personal and unique.
However, my problem with this is, the game pretends that this is not the case. The game pretends that these are all important decisions that will affect your overall experience deeply. Yet, if you are sorted into a different house, you speak to some new people, and you have a unique common room, and that’s it. Then as for selecting a wand, you get to play around with cosmetic features, and choose a core that seems to be eluding to a Damage, DPS, or hybrid build. However, when all is said and done, none of the cores actually alter combat at all.
The worst example of this is probably the way that players unlock spells. It’s a little Rune Factory-esque mini-game that has you complete a glorified QuickTime event to unlock the spell. I get that pageantry is important, but this just felt pointless and annoying.
It’s a little like heading over to Harry Potter world and getting a wand, getting sorted into a house, having a Butterbeer, and jumping on the Hogwarts Express. It looks and feels amazing, but it’s all just for show. In the real world, that’s forgivable because magic (as far as I know) isn’t real. But in a gaming format, we could have had choices that had consequences, and while I understand that if these moments didn’t happen, it would be an even more incomplete experience, I guess I just expected more, is all.
Bewitching, Brutal Combat
I’ll be the first to admit that I thought that Hogwarts Legacy would share a lot of the same criticism as Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix, a game from the PS3 era. I assumed it would be a game that would offer incredible visuals, a tonne of opportunity for free-form exploration, and then fall short when it came to the action. Well, I hold my hands up; I was wrong. Hogwarts Legacy’s combat starts off a little slow, simply because you don’t have enough spells for the system to show off its depth and diversity. However, as you push through the main plot and gather up an arsenal of incantations, the combat system shows its value.
You’ll be able to chain utility spells like Accio and Leviso with damaging attacks like Experiarmus, Incendio, Flipendo, and the like for devastating combos. Then as you choose your role in the world, you may end up like me and really get lost in the Dark Arts. I whipped my Dark Mark out and went to town with the Avada Kerdeva curse, and you know what? I’m not sorry. Plus, the game also includes the ability to use plants and potions to aid you in battle, and ancient magic to hurl projectiles at enemies. There is something very satisfying about disarming an enemy with Experiarmus and then launching their own weapon at their face.
Then you have the Talent system that opens up at level five and allows you to map out what kind of wizard you want to be. You can buff your Dark Arts skills, and become super-overpowered with the use of stealth mechanics and buffs, or you can lean into potions and Herbology to let your concoctions and critters do the hard work for you.
My only criticism with the combat is, once you have a handle on it, the game never really goes out of its way to challenge you. From very early on, you feel massively overpowered, and with each new spell, piece of fancy gear, or acquired talent, this only increases the divide. The plus side of this is that the combat feels fun, fluid and accessible, encouraging players to mix things up and try lots of new combos. However, unless you hike the difficulty up to max, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever need to chug a Wigginweld potion.
My Pet Peeves
No, I don’t mean the obnoxious specter that pops up around the castle causing mischief, but it was nice to see him featured so prominently. I’ll never forgive the movies for leaving him out. What I’m getting at here are the small gripes that I will now proceed to rant about.
Firstly, the game’s UI has quite a lot of flaws. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a pretty neat and easily navigated interface, but there are a lot of strange and frustrating design choices and omissions. Take the player’s gear slots, for example. Why would the game decide to only offer the player twenty slots when a core aspect of the player’s motivation to explore is to uncover chests and loot? Yes, you can complete Merlin’s challenges, but by the time the game introduced these tasks, I was already making frustratingly regular trips to Hogsmeade to unload all my subpar apparel.
Then on the subject of making needless trips to acquire resources. Why does the game insist that the player goes to a physical Potion Station or Herbology Table to create resources? Why not just have a built-in crafting function in-menu so you can create these on the fly? This also goes for uncovering unidentified loot. Oh, and what’s the deal with the timers on the resources you create? I thought I was playing a standalone RPG, not bloody Farmville.
The UI equally suffers through its commissions, too, as there are many moments where you feel there has to be a function for what you need, and there inexplicably isn’t one. The prime example of this is that you can’t restart challenges. So if you start a flying challenge, and miss a few rings because let’s face it, the flying is a little wonky. Then you have to complete the whole course to try it again. Then even when there is a useful function, the developer doesn’t do a great job of highlighting it. I got ten hours into this title before I was made aware there was a mechanic to switch from day to night and vice versa.
If you have seen all there is to see within Hogwarts Legacy, and you can’t master that blasted Obliviate spell to help you forget, allowing you to play all over again. Then fear not, because we have a few cool RPG alternatives that you should check out:
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (PS2)
- Potion Permit
- LEGO Harry Potter
- Little Witch in the Woods
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
A Lasting Legacy
Overall, Hogwarts Legacy is, to be a little self-indulgent, everything I wanted it to be and more. It leans heavily into player exploration, and offers fun and varied tasks which are drip-fed to the player, so you don’t get overwhelmed with all your fifth-year obligations. The game looks about as good as any game I have seen on the PS5, making the most of the Hardware’s capabilities. The score is John Williams-esque, the story, while not a barn-burner, is short and sweet, and the combat (the one thing I thought would pull the game down) is actually really engaging and fun, while not being overly complicated unless you opt for higher difficulties.
The game succeeds in almost every way, the operative word being almost. I do have my hangups with the game’s hodgepodge of activities, and the way the story only really serves as a vehicle to teach you these skills before letting you loose to explore Hogwarts at your leisure. This handholding means that the best moments only happen when you are tens of hours deep into the action. Plus, the game does have some technical issues, the kind that is part and parcel with huge open worlds.
I also wasn’t crazy about the protagonist’s stilted voice acting, or the quite strict limits on player gear. However, these are small gripes about what is a truly magnificent title. It’s a title that makes you stop and smell the roses, a game that urges you to get lost in the finer details, and above all, it’s a game that captures the magic of the series most of us grew up with. As always, thanks for reading RPG Informer!
- An incredibly vast and detailed open world, lovingly created with the source material in mind
- The game is visually jaw-dropping
- Dynamic, accessible, and fun combat
- Simply exploring and existing within this world feels magnificent
- Most vocal performances and the game’s musical score are phenomenal
- A wide variety of things to do and discover
- The story is short, only moderately interesting, and only really serves as a way for the game to teach you spells and mechanics
- The protagonist’s vocal performance is stilted. It’s quite hard to connect to your character
- Some technical issues, like assets clipping through structures, or going missing
- The game drip-feeds content slowly, and tends to hold players’ hands a little too much
With plenty of time spent staring at landmarks and aimlessly strolling through the castle. Callum wrapped up the main story in about eighteen hours. However, his time at Hogwarts is far from over, and even though the Dead Space remake is still sitting on his desk in cellophane, he will likely be exploring this world for weeks to come.
Question: Does Hogwarts Legacy Have Quidditch?
Answer: No, it does not, and that, to me, is pretty disappointing. Quidditch is a staple of the series, but the game quickly addresses its absence in the first hour of the game, with the Headmaster stating that he has banned Quidditch to prevent any further serious injuries and ensure academic excellence when it’s time to sit O.W.L.S. It feels like a cop-out from the developers, but chances are that this will be a DLC addition.
Question: Can You Learn Avada Kerdava?
Answer: Yes, you can cast the unforgivable curse to your heart’s content. Without offering any spoilers, you get access to a unique quest line through Sebastian Sallow, and this allows you to learn the killing curse. Whether you opt to use it, is purely down to how you want to roleplay in the wizarding world. Don’t be a goodie two shoes, that’s all I have to say.
Question: Is Harry Potter In Hogwarts Legacy?
Answer: No, he doesn’t, because the game is set in the 1890’s and Harry was born in 1980. So we are about a century off the arrival of the boy who lived when playing Hogwarts Legacy. There are some nods to existing characters, like the ancestors of the Weasleys and the Black family. However, by design, this game tries to forge its own path with new characters.
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