Harry Potter. Upon hearing that name or title, what do you think of? The books, the films, the plethora of licensed merchandise, the pop culture references that span more than two decades? There is so much that one could talk about on the topic. Personally, I love the films and can happily watch them over and over.
Short of visiting Universal Studios, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever get to experience what it would be like to enter the Wizarding World and attend Hogwarts. With the highly anticipated release of the new game, Hogwarts Legacy, my dreams can now become a reality.
Developed by Avalanche Software, Hogwarts Legacy was released last week on PC, Xbox Series X, and PlayStation 5. The game is set in the late 1800s, long before Harry Potter first attended Hogwarts. Your character is a new student that is starting at wizard school in the fifth year.
For the purposes of this review, I played on the PlayStation 5 and have reached level 29, with over 24 hours of game play. It is hard to tell how far I have gotten in the game, but with so much on offer in this game, it feels like I have only just gotten started.
Like most great action role-playing game, I was given the option to select and customise the appearance of my character. From male to female appearance, selections in skin colour, hair colour, hair style, eyes and many more, I was also given the choice of what my character would sound like. With voice acting by Sebastian Croft and Amelia Gething, you can choose the male or female sounding voice, and adjust the pitch to your liking. The customisation process is seemingly gender neutral and provides endless possibilities for the player.
After spending way too long setting up my wizard’s look, the game finally kicks off with an epic cinematic cut scene. If I could have filmed my reaction to this opening sequence, the beaming smile on my face would be the cover photo of this review. I was so extremely happy, and the game had not even started yet. With our trip to Hogwarts being so rudely interrupted, Professor Eleazar Fig and I transported to an old ruin. It is here I get my first chance to play with my character, move around and get a feel for the controls.
I even have a second-hand wand and get my first feel for the magic of the game. With the chance to learn my first spell, Revelio, and if you are a loot-goblin like me, this is arguably the most important spell of the entire game. It also doesn’t take long before I get my first taste of the battle mechanics and I am instantly impressed.
After battling my way through the first sequences, I finally make it to Hogwarts just in time for the sorting ceremony. Now, it is very important that you understand how this section of the game works and there are a few ways this can be done. You can link an existing Wizarding World account to your Avalanche account, and subsequent PC/Console account. Considering I already have a Wizarding World account, I linked everything up and was sorted into my house of Hufflepuff.
Alternatively, if you do not have a linked profile, you are given a couple of questions and are then sorted accordingly. But, if that does not put you into the house you want, you can always make the choice directly.
Once you make it into your own house common rooms, the first quests begin to appear. On the mini-map there is a point of interest with a dotted path to help you find your way. This map is an absolute godsend when navigating around the enormous Hogwarts castle. The main map itself does not offer much in the way of direction until you get to Hogsmeade and the wider world surrounding the castle.
As with most action role playing games, there is a main story and quest arc with an array of side quests that can help bolster your characters abilities and strengths. Some of these quests even provide new spells or improvements to your current ones. I love a good side quest, so I have been following my mantra of side quest everything until I need to progress the main story. This might be why I have spent so much time playing the game thus far.
Quests aside, there is much to explore and collect. Once you unlock the field guide, there is plenty to work on. Throughout your travels, there are hidden chests that offer up coins, gear to improve your loadout and other bonuses collectibles.
Also available in the field guide is a log of inventory collected from clues to quests or hidden items, or your stored ingredients for potions and gear upgrade. There is a log of the foes, characters, and locations you have encountered, even items available under Collections. You can even view the items available to use in The Room of Requirement that you unlock later in the game. Owl Post to read up on current and previous correspondence from faculty, students and other citizens, and access to the map, quests, and settings.
Challenges tracks your overall progress of various aspects of the game. Each of which have various challenges that unlock a reward. Combat, Quests, Exploration, Field Guide Pages, and The Room of Requirement. Without going into each of them, Combat, for example, gives you specific moves and combo challenges that you need to hit. Once you tick them off, a reward is unlocked.
Talents is the skill tree system of Hogwarts Legacy. Split into five categories, each offer various improvements to your spell casting load out, stealth abilities and upgrades to potions and herbology items. Each level you increase, a Talent Point is available to spend. I found that I was leveling up quickly at the start of the game, but it started to plateau as I was reaching level 30. So, ensure you spend the points wisely as there is no way to reset and respend them.
The fighting mechanics of this game are so much fun. Whilst I am playing it on the second hardest difficulty, there is quite the skill required to master the combinations of spells when you battle the many foes you encounter. Casting spells is achieved by pulling the R2 Trigger and pressing either of the Square, Triangle, Circle and X buttons. As you unlock more of the core Talents, you can even equip four loadouts of spells for each of the D-Pad directions. This means, there are 16 spell slots and choosing your core layout will give you the biggest advantage in game.
You can also dodge with Circle, lock on to a target by pressing the Right-Stick R3, cycle between targets and even aim directly with L2 and cast with R2. I always forget to cast Protego though and block incoming attacks with Triangle. A skill I am yet to master.
The visuals of this game are incredibly detailed. There is literally no detail too small, just spend five minutes wandering around The Great Hall in the castle and you can easily be distracted by the paintings, the statues, and the overall grandeur of the environment around you. Even more impressive is once you venture out into the land surrounding Hogwarts, The Forbidden Forest is riddled with treasures, side quest locations and spiders. Lots of spiders.
Hogsmeade has all your favourite traders, including a place to get your hair re-styled. And there are heaps of little hamlets strewn across the land, each with their own trade offerings, quests, and collectibles to find.
Leaning into the visuals, the outfits and gear that are available are stunning. I was lucky enough to tune into Twitch for some exclusive drop items that are not only rare, but beautiful. However, in most action RPG games, the most suitable and high stat items for loadout are not always the most visually appealing.
Not to worry! I am a wizard, remember? I can apply a visual style to any outfit I want. I can apply the most hideous looking face mast for protection but change the appearance to be wearing my nice gold-rimmed rectangular spectacles. I can be absolutely stacked with stats but look the way I want. It is fantastic. Also, Just wait until you unlock The Room of Requirement, and you can start to place the items you have collected on your travels. It is like Sims but for Wizards and Witches.
Travelling around the map is easy once you unlock the fast travel locations in each of them. In classic Harry Potter style, you fast travel with Floo Powder powered fireplaces. Whilst convenient, the small talk provided by the witch in each fireplace becomes extremely tiresome. Once you get a broom, there is nothing better than flying over the countryside to make your way to the destination. There are not many games where I would prefer the actual travel over the fast travel option, but Hogwarts Legacy is so beautiful, I just cannot help myself.
Another notable mention of this game is the transition between story and cut scene. Whilst there is a brief black out on the screen, the transition into attending a Hogwarts class is one that I always love to see. I feel like I am right there sitting in that classroom and watching my fellow classmates perform magic. I am almost sad when the scene ends as I want to see more.
Whilst Hogwarts Legacy does not have a Persona-like social system where I can actively befriend a character and chose to hang out with them, the choices made can still impact the outcome of quests and subsequent endings. Yes, you can learn the Unforgivable Curses, but the choice to do so will change the way the rest of the game plays out for you.
You might be thinking to yourself, “But what if I want to choose a different path? What if I chose a different house? What happens if I deny the Unforgivable Curses?” Well, you are in luck because there are four profiles available within the game. Four. I can only assume that due to there being four houses at Hogwarts, that there are four slots. But really, there is nothing preventing me from creating a secondary Hufflepuff profile and living out my best villain arc.
One of the best things about this game is the longevity that it offers, and I honestly cannot wait to create secondary profiles and play it all over again and again.
Having played the game for just over a week, I am very confident that this will be one of the best games that I have ever played. If not for the fantastic gameplay and story alone, for the simple opportunity it offers me to visit Hogwarts and explore at my own leisure. I am extremely thankful that this game exists, and I hope that Avalanche Software continue to expand this incredible experience.
Hogwarts Legacy is currently available on PC, Xbox Series X, and PlayStation 5. There is a delay on previous generation consoles as the developers continue to optimise the game for lower spec hardware. With Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 unfortunately unavailable until April and Nintendo Switch further delayed until end of July, there is no better excuse to get yourself a PS5!
Visit your local game trading store for physical console copies, or your digital marketplace for the downloadable version. I will also suggest getting the deluxe edition. Whilst it does not offer any difference in missions or gameplay, you do get some sweet, sweet exclusive items and bonuses.
A press key of Hogwarts Legacy was provided on PlayStation 5 for the purpose of this review.