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Hogwarts Legacy game review: Harry Potter nostalgia to the rescue

Hogwarts Legacy takes the bare essentials of the Harry Potter series and lets you live all your wizarding fantasies in a sprawling open world game

If Avalanche’s plan was to tap the ‘now too old for Harry Potter’ fan base, it’s got the formula right.
If Avalanche’s plan was to tap the ‘now too old for Harry Potter’ fan base, it’s got the formula right. (In-game screenshot)

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Like many in my generation, author J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series made for a quintessential part of our fantasies while growing up. Rowling may not be everyone’s favourite person right now, and perhaps correctly so, but Avalanche Software’s Hogwarts Legacy thankfully takes the bare essentials of the successful series — the magic — and lets us millennials live all of those fantasies through a sprawling open world game.

There’s a lot wrong about this game to be sure. It has a shamefully weak storyline, one that depends on the fact that this is a ‘fantasy’ world a little too much, but pretty much everything else makes up for it. It starts off cute, letting you explore the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the world around it — Hogsmeade Village, Hogwarts Valley and more — on foot, on the back of magical animals or on a broom.

When I was 14, all I wanted to do while reading a Harry Potter book was to walk through the barrier on platform nine and three quarters, get sorted into Gryffindor or Slytherin, and start blasting spells at anything that moves. That’s exactly what Hogwarts Legacy lets me do. The 40-50 hours I’ve spent on this game have been driven by nostalgia, texting friends how I’ve learned all unforgivable spells, sharing Instagram reels about killing trolls using Avada Kedavra rather than Ron Weasley’s frankly stupid Wingardium Leviosa jing-bang.

Hogwarts Legacy takes what we didn’t have back in 1997 — open world games with ultra-realistic graphics — and gives us what we were missing. If Avalanche’s plan was to tap the ‘now too old for Harry Potter’ fan base, it’s got the formula right. Could the game do with a better storyline? Most definitely. Will I continue doing side quests now that the main storyline is through? At least for 5-10 hours more, for sure.

Why do I recommend this game?

For people like me, gaming provides relief from stress. I power up my Xbox Series S because it helps me relax after work, pass the time on a dull weekend, or just wait for sleep to arrive when I’ve had one too many cups of coffee. Hogwarts Legacy is the kind of game I’m looking for in such situations.

It starts off like the franchise’s first book, establishing you as a special child in an even more special world. It rushes to establish the fact that you’re on an epic journey, because the developers know that all we want is to run into Ollivander’s and get our first wand, jump onto a broom and fly around, and shoot spells like Sirius Black (yes, they really did emulate Sirius’ duelling style from the movies).

There are slight mishaps along the way. Collision detection with non-playable characters is sometimes wonky, and you can find yourself stuck behind an object unable to jump over it. But these are minor niggles which are seen in almost every open world game of this size. You tend to forget it as the world widens and you run into Hogsmeade, or small villages like Irondale, Feldcroft and more.

You attend classes the way Potter did in the movies, always aware that you’re just a little bit more special than the other kids. You’re starting school at fifth year after all, and you can somehow perform powerful magic in the midst of a duel, like turning a person into a chicken, or calling a thunderbolt down on a troll. 

If you play through relentlessly the way I did, you will soon learn Crucio, Imperio and Avada Kedavra too — though unforgivable spells in Rowling’s books, they won’t earn you a one-way ticket to Azkaban, the wizard prison, in Hogwarts Legacy. Instead, there are special battle arenas where you are encouraged to use these nasty spells.

Another in-game screenshot from 'Hogwarts Legacy'.
Another in-game screenshot from 'Hogwarts Legacy'.

You also build relationships with your classmates, learning the unforgivable spells from a Slytherin, learning about fantastic beasts and where to find them from a Hufflepuff, and having your own stash house in the Room of Requirement — all essential elements of the Harry Potter world.

The game’s storyline ignores the Harry Potter story, instead allowing the player to build their own character with an extensive set of customizations. No kidding here, my character runs around Hogwarts wearing a coat made of Dragonhide and aviator-like sunglasses. I even bred beasts in Vivariums (magical locations where you can keep pet beasts), and gathered unicorn hair and niffler fur to upgrade my gear.

All through, I kept texting fellow Harry Potter fans who grew up reading the books with me about how I tortured a spider the way Mad-Eye Moody did in the books, or killed a troll the way Ron Weasley would never imagine. I even got to wield the Deathly Hallows for a brief moment.

It’s not all good though

But even as I did all that, I couldn’t help but be let down by the game’s main and side-quests. The central plot starts off fine, introducing you to ‘ancient magic’ (that’s all it’s referred to) which makes you the boy who everyone’s been waiting for. It rushes to establish the fact that the wizarding world is at war with Goblins, and seems to hope that you forgive plot holes because you’re too engrossed to get to the next fantastic beast or learn a new spell.

The side quests are the same. There are too many lost opportunities when it comes to storytelling, and the game makes no real attempt to build the characters involved either.

Which is a big let down here because every character is new, and while we are attached to the world of Harry Potter, we know next to nothing about these new ones. At one point, I Googled to find out what my mentor — a Professor Fig — taught at Hogwarts.

There are a few other minor niggles too. For one, while you can hop onto a broom you can’t play Quidditch, the wizard’s version of football. It has some underwhelming time trials on the broom itself, and rather expensive “broom upgrades” that don’t really serve a purpose.

I also think Hogwarts feels a tad cramped at times, which is something you don’t expect from the sprawling castle depicted in the books and movies.

But still, buy this game

Yet, Hogwarts Legacy is certainly a game worth buying for the casual gamer and Harry Potter fans. I admit that the Harry Potter fan in me is forgiving a lot of things, but this game gets the essentials of a Potter game right. This is a game someone like me always wanted to play. Here’s hoping that Avalanche and Warner Brothers make expansion packs and more parts for this game, but with more thought into storytelling and characters.

Hogwarts Legacy is available on PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Also read: Celebrating 25 years of Harry Potter, the boy who lived

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