My journey with Harry Potter began as a child with the release of the first book in 1991. Although I was too young to fully grasp the magical world, my fascination with it persisted. Over the years, I immersed myself in both the books and movies, creating a profound connection with the franchise. As a result, approaching the review of “Hogwarts Legacy” was laced with the excitement of revisiting a beloved universe. Despite the presence of other Harry Potter games, the prospect of an open-world experience with Hogwarts Legacy, crafted by Avalanche, was particularly intriguing.
Avalanche’s decision to set Hogwarts Legacy centuries before Harry Potter’s time proved to be a wise choice. This temporal distance allowed for the creation of a unique narrative while sprinkling nods and references to the familiar lore. The game’s landscape is dotted with Weasley family members and subtle connections to the well-established Harry Potter universe, ensuring an engaging experience for both newcomers and devoted fans.
Embarking on the Adventure:
Players assume the role of a mysterious witch or wizard, customizable through an impressive character creation suite. Skipping the first four years, your character enters Hogwarts as a 5th-year student, possessing a special talent for an ancient form of magic. The storyline unfolds as you and your mentor, Professor Fig, become entangled in the unfolding storm surrounding Ranrok, a Goblin harboring a deep-seated hatred for Wizardkind. The narrative promises involvement from previous Hogwarts professors in a quest to thwart Ranrok and unravel the mysteries.
While Hogwarts Legacy touches on themes hinted at in the original books, such as tensions between Wizardkind and magical creatures, it falls short of delving deeper into these issues. The game introduces Ranrok’s motivation, rooted in his disdain for humanity, yet misses an opportunity to explore the broader racial schism within the magical world. The narrative also leaves the ancient magic you pursue largely unexplored, failing to provide insights into its origin, significance, or differentiation from conventional magic.
The Harry Potter books thrived on well-defined characters with distinct personalities and relatable flaws. In contrast, Hogwarts Legacy falters in delivering a compelling narrative and characters. The storyline, while not terrible, feels forgettable, populated by one-dimensional characters that lack the depth and charm of the original series. The exception lies in Sebastian Sallow’s storyline, a Slytherin character embroiled in dark magic to save his cursed sister, which stands out as the most engaging narrative thread.
Architectural Marvel of Hogwarts:
Hogwarts school emerges as an extraordinary piece of design in the game, a sprawling castle filled with meticulously crafted details. While drawing inspiration from the movies, Avalanche infuses its own unique touch into the school’s design. The level of detail, from moving portraits to the diverse artifacts adorning walls, makes exploring the castle a gratifying experience. However, occasional loading delays when passing through certain doors disrupt the seamless exploration.
Hogwarts Legacy exudes a warm and inviting atmosphere, enhanced by characters who predominantly speak in a stereotypically British manner. Even seemingly rude characters maintain a passive-aggressive tone. Professors are portrayed as invested and caring, and students contribute to the lively ambiance. The game successfully captures the essence of Hogwarts as a pleasant place to explore, fostering a desire to linger in its corridors.
Handling Dark Magic:
Surprisingly, the game politely ignores the potential consequences of your character’s use of Dark Magic. Dialogue choices allow for extreme politeness or normal politeness, with characters overlooking actions like trespassing into houses and casting Unforgivable Curses. This leniency, while contributing to a comfortable gameplay experience, raises questions about the alignment of the game’s moral compass.
The combat system introduces a combination of basic and named spells, offering depth beyond simple button-mashing. The ability to juggle enemies in the air adds a strategic element, with enemy shields requiring the correct spell color for breaking. The combat proves satisfying, although the spell-switching mechanism, involving sets of four spells, can be cumbersome both in and out of combat.
Gear System and Collectibles:
The inclusion of a gear system, a common trend in contemporary games, provides various robes, hats, and accessories with stat boosts. The gear can be upgraded using a magical loom and materials gathered from magical creatures. While the transmog system offers customization options, the gear system’s emphasis on stats often renders the extensive wardrobe selection redundant. Additional layers of collectibles, puzzles, and side quests contribute to padding the game, offering varied content beyond the main storyline.
Performance and Visuals:
The PS5 version of the game exhibits solid performance, with different visual modes offering flexibility between frame rate and fidelity. The visuals, coupled with well-implemented performance modes, contribute to a stable and enjoyable gaming experience.
Conclusion and Recommendations:
For avid Harry Potter fans, Hogwarts Legacy offers a magical experience, allowing players to stroll through the iconic halls of Hogwarts and immerse themselves in the enchanting details crafted by Avalanche. The engaging open-world design and enjoyable combat mechanics add to the overall appeal. However, the game falls short of delivering a captivating narrative, particularly for those unfamiliar with the intricacies of the Harry Potter universe.
For non-fans, navigating the magical world without prior knowledge poses challenges, potentially hindering the depth of the gaming experience. Despite its flaws, Hogwarts Legacy manages to create a magical atmosphere, providing a glimpse into the enchanting world of wizardry. As the credits roll, players might find themselves tempted to explore the pages and movies of the Boy Who Lived, extending the magic beyond the digital realm.
In essence, Hogwarts Legacy becomes a magical sojourn where players briefly inhabit the world, casting spells, exploring the castle, and, with a touch of humor, hoping that skipping classes won’t cost Gryffindor the coveted House Cup.