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Rating 4

Hogwarts Legacy - Review

I solemnly swear I am up to no good.
Score: 4/5
Reviewed by Joe Wilcock on PC - March 27, 2023   

If you're a fan of the Wizarding World and enjoy all things Harry Potter this is simply a must-play. Hogwarts' legacy is not without its flaws but what it does offer is the most authentic and cohesive Harry Potter experience to date. The locations are breathtaking and painstakingly recreated, the combat is deep and well-animated, the side quests and relationships that you make along the way are genuinely interesting and the overall story does enough to keep the player engaged and add extra context to the iconic fable. Unfortunately, there are fundamental technical mistakes that bog down the enjoyment and immersion which seemingly could have easily been avoided, but even they aren't enough to condemn the game. 

Help Will Always Be Given At Hogwarts

There's no better place to start than the centrepiece of the whole experience, the reason many fans bought Legacy and have enjoyed it so much since Hogwarts itself. It's difficult to articulate exactly how dense and detailed the castle is. I've played a lot of video games in my days from epic science fiction operas and medieval fantasies to the post-apocalypse and underwater metropolises but Hogwarts is the most comprehensive, complex and detailed virtual space I've ever visited, made all the more impressive for fans of the source material. Hogwarts is a labyrinth full of authentic classrooms, offices, dormitories and common areas, all threaded together with hidden passageways, bridges and winding stairways. One of the most iconic locations in the film has been fully realised here with no expenses spared and it's a sight to behold, as a matter of fact, it's perfect. If Hogwarts Legacy was purely a walking simulator it would still be better than most games on the market. 

Needless to say Hogwarts Legacy is also chock-full of easter eggs and moments from the Harry Potter films for eagle-eyed fans to spot as well as adding some extra context to key locations. The grand hall for example has a very interesting piece of lore added to its architecture if you can find out how to access the floor directly below it. It's fascinating to see the geometry of the separate locations and get a scope of how far the classrooms, courtyards and the Quidditch pitch are in relation to one another. This not only makes Hogwarts Legacy a perfect sandbox for Harry Potter fans but it enhances the films in return. 

Hogwarts Legacy also allows players to explore the surrounding areas including Hogsmeade, which is much appreciated and goes a long way in making the world feel large and epic. Zipping from Hogsmede back to Hogwarts on your broomstick never got old and again, helped stitch the world together in ways fans have never seen before. 

It's scary to imagine the potential of the franchise going forward if I'm already satisfied at just Hogwarts and Hogmede. They still have a full Gringotts, Diagon Ally, The Ministry of Magic and several muggle locations that they could introduce to expand the already massive map. Who knows, after two or three games at Hogwarts they might set their sights on another wizarding school, something fans have never seen before. 

Our Hogwarts Is In Danger From External, Deadly Foes

Having a beautiful backdrop to a game is all well and good but the burning question for fans is how good the game itself is, in particular the wand play and combat. Well, I'm happy to report that the battles in the game are very well done, up to a certain point. There are plenty of spells to learn, from destructive damage spells to crowd control manipulation and of course the three unforgivable curses. Enemies will force you into using specific types of magic as well in order to break down their Pretego charm, or their defensive shield for all you muggles. Potions and aggressive plants also make up part of your arsenal in addition to a rare and ancient magic only you have the power to possess. When all these systems work in tandem with one another the combat feels deep and complex. Unfortunately, the game offers little challenge on the normal difficulty, often leading you to neglect half of your tools. Once you start to upgrade your character's skills you can quickly blow through any enemy's shields by using ancient magic or an unforgivable curse which mitigates all of the strategies included in breaking specific defensive techniques. There are some moments where the difficulty ramps up and you're forced to use all your arsenal, but these encounters are few and far between and lessened if you're prepared with a maxed-out gear set. Aside from that though the animations are slick and satisfying and the magic you wield is thrilling to use against enemies. I would be remised if I didn't give a shoutout for bringing back Flipendo from the PlayStation 1 Harry Potter released way back in 2001, a great little touch. 

I Would Never Dream Of Assuming I Know All Hogwarts' Secrets

On top of the combat, several other intriguing facets make up the game. The content on the show here is plentiful and varied but there is a slight overabundance of it. Challenges and trials litter the land but there are too many of them, they become tiresome after a while despite their quality. The Merlin Trials were fun for the first 30 challenges but soon became a chore. You will loathe the erection of Merlin's gazebos after a while especially considering you can't skip the cut scenes! The trials themselves are decent and make good use of the magic for some light puzzle solving but they do become tedious. The puzzles exemplified in the Merlin Trials represent the types of puzzles featured throughout the game, be it in the narrative or to find secrets. They could have leaned into the puzzling element a little more to really make the most out of the mechanics but I still appreciated the effort.

Exploration completes the main tenets of Hogwarts Legacy, and it's one of my favourite parts of the game thanks to the excellent traversal. Walking around Hogwarts was always going to be a thrill but it's elevated by some surprisingly good broom traversal. It's one of those game mechanics that you want in every game going forward. It's ridiculously efficient and handy, you have it on your person at all times so whenever you need it you can instantly mount it and whip to where you need to go. It does offer mounts to get around on too, which I won't spoil, and as cool as they are, they pale in comparison to the broom flight. 


It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities

Moving on to some of the nitty-gritty of the progression, it's important to note Legacy's attempt to incorporate RPG elements into the experience. Starting with the loot seen in the game, there is a huge amount of cosmetic items to acquire throughout your adventure, overwhelmingly so at times. The gear awarded to you for looting chests and completing challenges is simply awesome, I loved all the different gowns, school outfits, sorcerer's hats and glasses you can equip and then upgrade later in the room of requirement. 

The variety of gear on show here is the best I've seen in a game for quite some time. The ability to change the skin of each gear item to anything you want is liberating, your character will always look exactly how you want him. I rocked the Quidditch kit for the majority of my playthrough, captain's helmet and all. In the latter phases of the game, though you will be over-cumbered with loot that will be significantly worse than what you have equipped, it doesn't render them meaningless as you can always use the skin that it unlocks on other gear. I would have liked some runes or upgrades for your wand just to add another option for loot as you pretty much know what you're getting when opening a chest but that takes nothing away from the plethora of loot it offers. 

The progression itself though, through levelling up and advancing the skill tree feels like a mandatory requirement rather than anything innovative. You don't increase proficiency through the use of spells, like Skyrim or Final Fantasy 2, you just learn it and master it through the skill tree. It's not necessarily bad when compared to its 2023 peers, but it does feel shallow considering the context of learning and improving skills within a school.

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Hogwarts Legacy was the quality of the story, in particular the side quests and relationship quests. There are a few tricks they missed out on in regard to the narrative but what's here is great and what's missing can always be incorporated in future sequels. I would have preferred the story to take place in and around Hogwarts more frequently and involve the staff more in main missions. Don't get me wrong, you still carry out missions in Hogwarts but they don't utilise the character of the castle as much as expected. Thankfully, the side quests make much better use of the iconic school.

Furthermore, changing the time period was a genius move. It goes a long way to differentiate the game from the Harry Potter movies whilst still offering all the locations we know and love. Having done this, they now have the opportunity to pick and chose what time period they elect to depict in sequels which expands the possibilities of the franchise. Hogwarts and the wizarding world have always been a land out of time but having it set centuries in the past only adds to the mystery of the world. 


Honestly, if you were any slower, you’d be going backwards

Now that I've waxed lyrical about the game, it's time to address my biggest problem with Hogwarts Legacy. Before I do I would like the reiterate that the assets and detail seen in the game are simply some of the best I've ever seen. The painstaking effort on display is nothing short of mind-blowing. With that said Legacy really struggles to load in the world, especially if you're travelling at any decent speed. Upon entering a room you will be shrouded in a fog/mist effect which slowly dissipates after a few seconds. It may not sound that annoying, but it completely killed all the immersion and served as a constant reminder that I'm in fact playing a video game and not existing in this world. What is the point in having a beautiful recreation of Olivander's if it takes 2-3 seconds to load when entering it and remember that Olivander's is a tiny, cramp shop? It was something that I struggled to get over and it would frustrate me every time I saw it, which was often. 

All in all, Hogwarts Legacy is an absolutely awesome experience. There are several components that I've purposefully omitted lest I spoil some wonderful moments so I'll leave it at this. If you're a Harry Potter fan, this is a MUST-play. If you're not, I would highly recommend giving this a chance just for the amazing world that Port Key Games have so faithfully recreated.

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