It is not often that creators get to play in another person’s sandbox, and get total control over what they can do there, especially if it’s something magical, beloved and iconic. There is always the fear of disappointing an existing fanbase while ensuring that the experience is welcoming to newcomers, resulting in a delicate balancing act that is challenging to tackle. Thankfully, for Warner Bros. Games and Avalanche Software’s Hogwarts Legacy, the development team has crafted a simply magical open-world roleplaying adventure that blends the familiar world from the Harry Potter books to those of the beloved movies and makes us all wish to be wizards and witches wielding the mystical arts.
Setting the stage quite briskly with the attack of rogue dragons and goblins led by the villain Ranrok, the first few hours of Hogwarts Legacy flow by quickly, allowing players to enter Hogwarts itself and be a part of the mystical and occult mysteries that lie within its walls. The premise is attractive on its own, promising a journey full of discoveries and secrets, but for fans of the Harry Potter series, that pure joy of being able to immerse oneself in this world is an opportunity not to be missed.
From getting placed by the Sorting Hat in the houses of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin to exploring the school and its grounds, players can simply wander about and enjoy the sights for hours on end, seeing the ancient castle in a different light thanks to the game’s focus on the 1800s instead of the 1990s that fans of the books and movies are more familiar with.
It is this sense of wonder and of the unknown that serves both as an incentive for the fandom to look into every nook and cranny, and also as a way of easing a new audience into what is a comprehensive universe full of history and lore. Even if there are recognisable names and faces, Hogwarts Legacy is, at its core, its own tale that has the player right at the heart of things.
Stepping into the buckles of a fifth-year student at Hogwarts, it is your strange connection to ancient magic and its source that drives the happenings of Hogwarts Legacy’s story. Without delving into spoilers, expect many surprises on this path and much conflict to be had. There is very little doubt that this is your story, be it how your character looks and dresses, or the way quests play out based on the decision you’ll make along the way.
The robust array of options in Hogwarts Legacy is certainly one of the better systems out there in recent memory, allowing players to live out their fantasy as an eager youngling out to impact the world, a grizzled dark magic user, or everything in between. The clothing customisation options are also impressive, growing the collection with each new item you collect, and the same goes for your mounts, wands, and brooms.
That said, looking good is just a small part of Hogwarts Legacy, as without the accompanying magical splendour of its world and the spells you’ll cast, things would just not be exciting. Just like a real student at the school, picking up new spells and the proper ways to use them is probably the most excited any of us would be about attending class.
As players progress throughout the plot, more spells will become available, with some attainable via assignments from the various professors at the school. And it almost always pays off to learn these spells as soon as possible, as they can be useful in a variety of ways that help to expand the scope of Hogwarts Legacy.
One of those key areas is that of combat, which is a pleasantly challenging and exciting time. While the Unforgivable Curses like Crucio and Avada Kedavra are undoubtedly the star attractions of the game’s spell system, it is going to take students a while before such access is given. In the meantime, the growing list of spells available will be more than sufficient in providing fun ways to mess with your opponents.
Aside from a basic magical blast, aspiring wizards and witches can combine and unleash all sorts of other-worldly mischief. A good combo could start with Leviosa to lift suspecting enemies up, blast them a couple of times, drag them in near with Accio, and finish off with an explosive Confringo. And as you pick up more spells, the possibilities become even more comprehensive and fun.
Not to say the many creatures or villains in Hogwarts Legacy are going to just take it all. Enemies come in all shapes and sizes, with those wielding magical abilities usually the more difficult ones. They often use shields similar to the players’ Protego defensive spell, which can only be broken using spells of the same colour, which helps to categorise everything in your arsenal.
With multiple enemies requiring attention and seeking to end you, it is always an exhilarating time when the wands are brought out. While wielding powerful magic could have made things a tad too easy, Hogwarts Legacy manages to work the mechanic into its combat while still deftly requiring smart strategic thinking in order for full mastery.
And if things really get too out of hand, the players’ ability to utilise ancient magic comes in handy with powerful and flashy finishers, and can turn the tide in your favour quickly. Just be sure to watch the cooldowns of your different spells as the explosive chess match continues.
Outside of combat, Hogwarts Legacy is a world full of ways to use your spells to get things done. The Revelio spell is going to be a constant companion, helping to unearth noteworthy items in the environment to check out, including hidden pages for the ever-useful field guide. Environmental puzzles will come into play at some point, oftentimes requiring the use of varying spells to find the solution, and of course, flying using a trusty broom. Considering the huge play area found in the game that includes the school, Hogsmeade, and the surrounding areas, there is simply much to do for everyone.
Every little thing players will get up to in Hogwarts Legacy always leads to some sort of reward, whether it be new gear for upping your offensive and defensive stats, new looks to think about, or precious items that can come in handy in conflict. Valuable XP is also earned from completing various quests, allowing players to level up for increased health, and, more importantly, talent points that can augment various aspects of combat, stealth, and exploration.
The whole game can be overwhelming, and if you are looking for a place to rest and regroup, the Room of Requirement is definitely not too shabby a place. Serving as a home base of sorts, this is where players can use their imagination to good use, transfiguring useful objects into existence like pots for growing plants or potion-making stations, or just creating a hideaway with your own unique flair. Useful upgrades can be crafted here, while unidentified loot can be given a run-over to ensure that you will always have the most powerful of gear to count on.
The Room of Requirement will grow as you do, and seeing that it is the only gateway to your Vivarium, a secret sanctuary of beasts and creatures that players can care for, it more than does its job of being a home away from home.
Another area that Hogwarts Legacy nails quite impressively is in its cast of characters. There are going to be names and characters that ring a bell for fans, but even on their own, the voice-acting and animation work is top-notch in bringing the colourful cast to life, no matter how big or small their role may end up being.
Whether it is Deputy Headmistress Professor Matilda Weasley (Lesley Nicol), Nearly Headless Nick (Jason Anthony), Professor Onai (Kandance Caine), or the ever-surly Headmaster Phineas Nigellus Black (Simon Pegg). the performances help to create a living, breathing world where magic is as believable as the dastardly motivations of our main antagonists.
Although Hogwarts Legacy promises to be a splendid time, especially for fans of the series, there are certain areas that could be found wanting the longer you exist in this world. Quests, for one, can be a tad simplistic, with most ending with battles while some require the fetching of items from one place to another. There are only a couple of more involved side quests that require more use of the noggin, and it can contrast quite sharply with the quality of the main fare.
The sheer amount of things to do in the game is also something that is not going to be for everyone save the completionists. Merlin Trials are fun puzzles to overcome with the added benefit of increasing your inventory space, but popping balloons while flying on a broomstick just isn’t on the same level. This game is a proper timesink, and while it is not a dealbreaker, it may not necessarily always be using players’ time most efficiently.
As for the decision-making that allows players to be truly who they want to be, it can be quite arbitrary and too superficial at times. Key characters will often have more to say and more to do based on your actions, but there are also countless others whose interactions are more throwaway than memorable. Being mean to a side character that we will never see again just doesn’t have the same impact as potentially sabotaging an otherwise pleasant and useful friendship.
All in all, the issues with Hogwarts Legacy are ultimately minor compared to its merits, and needless to say, this is the first AAA blockbuster coming out in 2023 that should have players standing up and noticing.
Even if you are a relative stranger to its source material, the way Hogwarts Legacy introduces magic and all of its astonishing quirks, helped by a cast whose performances are always worth a watch, and bookended by a satisfying combat and exploration loop, this is an unforgettable experience from start to finish. By melding the allure of the Harry Potter franchise with an interconnected gameplay system that is always pushing players forward to the next entertaining activity, the game is more than able to keep you under its spell for a long, long time.
Hogwarts Legacy launches on 10 February and is available on the PSN Store for $100.43.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The ultimate dream come alive for fans of the Harry Potter series, Hogwarts Legacy promises a magical adventure that delivers in all areas that matter.
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 9/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 9/10