Long-time Harry Potter fans who grew up with The Trio from the pages of the books and the million-dollar blockbuster movies love any story set in the magical world. Critics and players are captivated by the newest addition to the Harry Potter universe: Hogwarts Legacy. Many have been waiting years for Avalanche Software to release this installment of an open-world RPG set in the 1800’s to the backdrop of Scotland’s highlands.
In just two weeks, 12 million copies were sold. Monetarily, sales translate to over $850 million in revenue, beating the launch sales of the previous record holder, Elden Ring. Bear in mind that these numbers will climb even higher once the game is released for all consoles. Potterheads with last-generation consoles will have to wait until at least May 5th to explore Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and the Forbidden Forest (July 25th for the Switch).
Hogwarts Legacy is currently available on the Xbox X, PS5, and Steam for $69.99 (Digital Deluxe Edition).
Story: Lackluster At Best
There are many places where Hogwarts Legacy falls short of perfection. These issues mainly stem from the lackluster storyline. After character creation, you learn that Hogwarts has accepted you as a fifth-year, which is certainly unusual. The game begins dramatically enough with a dragon attack on a carriage transporting you to Gringott’s Wizarding Bank. Professor Eleazar Fig, your traveling companion and primary guide, uses a Portkey to save the day, and both parties are transported to Gringott’s to begin the main campaign.
After the all-important Sorting Ceremony at Hogwart’s, the begging of the game is very story-driven. In classic RPG-style, many quests are either level or story locked. The game encourages you to follow the main quest lines, along the way introducing you to side characters that will fill your quest log. Once enough quests are completed, the open-world nature of the game truly begins. Professor Fig introduces the background of the story which has to do with the relationship between goblins and wizards.
Goblins vs. Wizards (Again)
A goblin named Ranrok is in league with dark wizards to change the face of the wizarding world. The framework of goblins and wizards as enemies has been around since J.K. released The Philosopher’s Stone in 1997. Your job is to use a new type of ancient magic invented just for Hogwarts Legacy to combat Ranrock and his followers.
The introduction of foes unfamiliar to fans is let down by the diversity of enemies. Wizards, spiders, and goblins make up the foundation of nearly every encounter. At no point do you feel compelled to continue discovering the background of the goblin rebellion. More often than not, the only reason to pursue the main quest line is to discover and advance new spells.
Gameplay: The Magic of Exploration
In Hogwarts Legacy you are given the privilege to tour the castle and the surrounding hamlets. You also have the ability to take classes with eclectic new professors, brew potions, grow plants, train fantastic beasts, and discover the world from behind the handle of your broom.
The open-world nature encourages many mages among us to spend days of gameplay exploring as your custom witch or wizard. When visiting other parts of the well-known Harry Potter universe, players will encounter many foes, some which will be familiar to fans, and some are new to the game.
Once at Hogwarts, you have the option to link your Wizarding World/ Pottermore account directly to your persona. This connection provides more immersion into the story. You will be automatically sorted into the correct House and given the proper wand when visiting Ollivanders in Hogsmeade.
It is important to note that any decisions made by the game can be overridden by the player, allowing freedom of customization.
Missing Out On Morality Influence
A massive oversight with Hogwarts Legacy is that there is no moral meter or reputation for any action taken. It takes quite a long time going through the main storyline before any Unforgivable Curses are learned. When the Dark Arts are learned, using them has no effect on the gameplay, or even relationships with NPCs. It makes no difference to the outcome of the story if you were to use the torture curse regularly, or if simply disarming your enemies was your style. Avalanche really missed out by not adding a simple sliding morality meter, such as that in Red Dead Redemption, which was released nearly 12 years ago.
Spell Casting: Fluid But Limited
During encounters, spell casting is relatively fluid with many combinations that enhance and differ the gameplay from battle to battle. The game will encourage the use of certain spells, but the ultimate decision on how to approach each skirmish falls to the protagonist. Spell advancement is based purely on things that have nothing to do with the nature of the casting. Most spells taught in classrooms require completing mindless tasks which feel like unnecessary grinding.
When assigned to upgrade Alohomora, there is tedium that comes with locating Demiguise statues across the world to give to the caretaker, Gladwin Moon. Mr. Moon is aftraid of Demiguise, an all-around weak background for a quest. It is nonsensical that slowly finding collectibles at night to give to the caretaker somehow upgrades a spell to unlock doors. Check out this video by ConCon to find all the Demiguise statue locations, and save yourself a lot of headache.
Further, the quest related to learning the spell Expelliarmus requires the monotonous task of dodging attacks ten times and the use of Incendio five times. How this relates to disarming enemies is unknown. Surely, it could not have been difficult for quests to relate in some way to learning finer details of the spells’ nature and usage.
The Repetition of Solutions
There are plenty of challenges, games, puzzles, and dungeons throughout Hogwarts Legacy that will push those who like to 100% a game to continue to do battles and explore the the breadth of the world. Concerns once again arise, as many of the challenges and puzzles lack diversity and depth.
There are dozens of places that have “Merlin Trials”, which seem intriguing (at first). The map is heavily populated with these trials, but once the few strategies behind them are discovered, it is very easy to run through all of them in no time at all. Scattered about the map are many dungeons, which are even easier to decipher than the Merlin Trials. Disappointingly, when the trials are completed and all dungeons are explored, the rewards are mostly cosmetic.
The prizes for completing tasks have nearly no influence over play style or combat effectiveness. Earning new wand handles and unique attire seems exciting. The fact remains that the rewards are unnecessary and generally pointless. Moreover, the sheer magnitude of collectibles means that players will spend a disproportionately large percentage of gameplay chasing rather useless bounties instead of advancing the storyline.
Issues Requiring A Patch
Avalance Studios recently released a patch on March 8th that is supposed to address some of the glitches occurring in all modes. Unfortunately, after playing after the update was released, I found myself walking through rocks and casting curses at enemies that didn’t exist. There is an auto-save feature, but I recommend manually saving frequently. Hogwarts Legacy can fail to save manually from time to time, losing hours of gameplay, which is extremely annoying. Sacrificing valuable game time due to a save failure makes it difficult to back through the game, which is already a slow and tedious process. When side-quests and collectibles are as disappointing as they are, having to repeat the process makes picking up the controller seem like an arduous task.
The Pre-Order Was Not Worth The Expense
Everyone who bought the Deluxe Edition of Hogwarts Legacy, received the Dark Arts Pack which came with some gear, an exclusive mount, a Dark Arts Battle Arena, and 72 hour early access. Being able to play the game three days early was a treat for die-hard Potterheads, but the sheer number of cosmetic collectibles pilfered as the game progresses negates the unique nature of the gear given. Working through the campaign grants you a hippogriff mount and access to other battle arenas, which are just as exciting as those included in the Deluxe Edition. Spending an extra $10 to play the game 3 days sooner may be worth it to some, but the rest of the contents of this package should have been included in the standard Hogwarts Legacy version for all to use.
Audio: Truly A Masterpiece
Chuck E. Myers as the lead composer working with Dr. Alexander Horowitz as the audio director composed the astounding symphony for Hogwarts Legacy. The partnership between these two is where much of the magic happens. Even though I outlined many issues with the game and storyline, I do have to say there is an element of magic to the soundtrack.
Exploring the castle is accompanied by a perfectly soothing background, which feels comforting and homely. Once you get outside of the castle, there is a fantastic sense of drama to accompany battles. The sounds of Hogwarts Legacy are never abrasive or dull. At no point did I feel like I needed to adjust any audio settings.
Drama and excitement blend perfectly to pull you deeper into the world when the gameplay fails to do so. Simply, when it comes to the sounds of the game, I have no complaints. This soundtrack is one that could be listened to on repeat in nearly any setting in the Muggle world. The soundtrack fits beautifully into the Harry Potter fandom and easily earns a 10/10.
Graphics: The Sights of Hogwarts
During the initial setup phase of Hogwarts Legacy, you choose whether you would like to balance your game toward graphics or performance. There are four options, “Fidelity”, “Performance”, “Balanced”, and “HFR Performance”. The difference here comes down to visual quality versus a faster frame rate. Whichever you decide to go with, the visual quality is good, but not great. If you have 4K capability and like a game that looks better overall, selecting “Fidelity” will improve the visual display noticeably. Many RPG veterans like a game to look better, but the drop in frame rate when you lean into the graphics can cause many issues with game performance.
I found that using better graphics modes increase load times and cause the game to run less smoothly overall. However, when using the “Performance” setting, the game definitely looks less shiny and well-defined as it runs in 1080p. In “Performance” mode, I also found that there are many times that the graphics look so poor that issues start occurring frequently, especially during cut-scenes. To name a few, professors’ hair would depart from their heads, enemies would appear to be fighting you from inside solid structures, and the visuals accompanied with combat seemed off-center somehow. Ultimately, the choice is up to you based upon your play style, but know that there are bugs and compromises that you will have to make with any selection.
Hogwarts: Legacy was reviewed on Xbox Series X