If you love the Harry Potter series of films and books, and fantasised about losing yourself in that world, Hogwarts Legacy is a fabulous game that will fulfill that wish.
Hogwarts Legacy is an open-world action adventure game with limited role-playing elements, set in the Wizarding World Harry Potter and Hogwarts created by J K Rowling.
Previously, there were calls to boycott this controversial title to cancel Rowling due to her views on transgender issues, and there were great pains taken to distance Hogwarts Legacy from her.
It was made clear by the developers that Rowling is not involved in the development of the game, and Hogwarts Legacy is simply developed from the world she created in the books.
Despite that, many critics panned the game and gave poor reviews because of its association to the author and her views.
Controversy or not, Hogwarts Legacy as a game in itself is a richly detailed and immersive Wizarding World experience chock-full of Harry Potter fan-pleasing activities and Hogwarts lore.
Of witches and wizards
Set in 1890 in the Wizarding World, Hogwarts Legacy depicts the events that occur 100 years before the Harry Potter series.
So don’t hope to meet Harry, Hermione or Voldemort in this game, although some family names will be familiar to fans, such as Weasley and Black.
You play as a new student joining Hogwarts in the fifth year who has a rare ability to see and use ancient magic.
After an eventful detour that sets the scene for a bigger mystery involving a goblin attack and ancient magic, you get to experience all the highlights of Hogwarts, including being sorted into one of the houses by the Sorting Hat, taking classes, learning spells, making friends with other students and helping them in quests.
Unlike most role-playing games (RPG), Hogwarts Legacy offers limited character creation and no customisable character stats like Strength or Stamina, so there is not much role-playing per se.
You can customise your character by selecting the gender, voice and cosmetic appearance such as face, skin, hair, eyes and even scars, and even customise your wand at the Ollivanders wand shop, which is also a cool experience for aspiring witches and wizards.
There is some replayability with regards to which house your character belongs to, such as which common room you have access to and some different dialogue options, but not much else differs in the grand scheme of things, which limits the game’s replayability.
The world of Hogwarts Legacy feels alive and bustling with activity, with characters walking or running around, chatting with each other, shopping, having tea and eating, that it feels truly immersive.
I enjoy eavesdropping on the lively and elaborate chatter of NPCs (non-playable characters) which are brilliantly written, such as the students’ lengthy complaints about their professors, bemoaning their unsuccessful spell casts and even one student chiding her friends for not inviting her for cauldron cake.
Apart from the expansive grounds of Hogwarts, you can also walk to the charming village of Hogsmeade with its many wizarding stores, and also the Highlands around Hogwarts, which include areas like the train station, small hamlets, lakes, forests and caves.
Thankfully, there are plenty of fast travel points known as Floo Flames to make sure you can traverse the huge map quickly to complete the many quests.
While exploring, you can gather ingredients for making potions, collect Moonstones to create decorations for your private Room of Requirement, and even find new secrets, chests and puzzles for rewards.
I find that constantly casting Revelio (revealing spell) everywhere will reveal many hidden secrets and loot, hints to solving puzzles and even access to areas not visible to the naked eye.
Exploration in Hogwarts is a real treat with plenty of objects to interact with — you can play with novelty items at Zonko’s Joke Shop, pinch snacks and drink Butterbeer at Three Broomsticks, strike on bells and chimes, and even pet cats!
Petting cats also rewards you with the sound of their satisfied purring — who can resist petting every single one?
There are many puzzles to solve in Hogwarts Legacy, and these involve the use of spells to manipulate objects, such as floating platforms, using Lumos (light spell) to attract moths, unlocking doors with Alohomora (unlocking spell) and control mechanisms, and also strategically using dimension changing portals.
Apart from puzzles in the main quests, there are also plenty of Merlin Trials, secret treasure maps and ancient magic traces scattered around the map to be solved.
These reward your character with additional gear storage and increase your ancient magic power meter, all which can make your adventure a lot more enjoyable.
With so much to do and explore, it is tempting to just focus on the multitude of side quests but the game makes sure that you complete main quests to learn spells needed to complete the side quests.
For instance, you can only take flying classes at Level 6 and the Beasts class at Level 15 that enables you to catch beasts after progressing in the main questline.
These skills will greatly aid in exploration, so it helps to pace an easily distracted gamer who is keen to just explore and not do the main questline.
Even within the walls of Hogwarts and outside in Hogsmeade, there are many locked areas that can only be opened when the Alohomora (unlocking) spell can be casted, which force one to explore the same areas repeatedly.
As a student of some renown, you’ll find plenty of NPCs including students, staff members and merchants who will enlist your help with optional side quests. These will reward you with experience points, building positive relationships and useful items.
Fantastic fan favourite
The game does great fan service for those who love the Harry Potter series of movies and books and the wildly imaginative Wizarding World. What a treat it is to explore Hogwarts and be blown away by its grandeur and depth of detail!
I was awestruck as a fan can be — running up and down the majestic shifting steps of the Grand Staircase, twirling in the magnificent Great Hall and admiring the ceiling with the enchanted floating candles and sky, ogling all the animated paintings and portraits, squealing when I met a Hippogriff, and delightfully listening to all the chatter of the students, staff and even resident ghosts.
You get to meet the annoying poltergeist, Peeves, sneak into the forbidden section of the library, and pull out a screaming mandrake out of its pot, just like what Harry and his friends did.
If you need some “me time”, you will eventually unlock your very own private Room of Requirement where you can decorate it like a Sims game, and furnish it with growing stations for plants and brewing stands for potions, and even a loom to upgrade your gear.
Another big highlight is that you can catch fantastic beasts of the Wizarding World like the Puffskeins, Jobberknolls and Mooncalves, and store them in a vivarium, kind of like what Newt Scamander does in the Fantastic Beasts movies.
You can feed and brush them, and in return, they will provide you harvestable parts that can be used to upgrade and add traits to your gear. There are even shiny variations of beasts to catch, which makes one think of the “gotta catch ‘em all” Pokemon games.
One drawback is that Hogwarts Legacy does not include a Quidditch competition. Instead, there are some rather lame timed trials and balloon bursting activities for those who enjoy broomstick flights.
Casting and combat
Hogwarts Legacy’s combat focuses on spellcasting and combos and is surprisingly satisfying even without melee combat.
There are plenty of tactics to use — foes can be pitched into the air with spells and slapped around with combos, fire and freezing spells can be used to wound them, enemies can be disarmed and have their weapons thrown back at them, and even plants can lend a hand.
For instance, you can also grow offensive plants in Herbology class and toss them at your enemies, such as Chinese Chomping Cabbages that bite your foes, Mandrakes to deafen and stun them, as well as the acid-spitting Venomous Tentacula to deal damage.
Your character also has a devastating ancient magic attack that can be unleashed once the ancient magic meter is filled during combat.
A critical tactic is to use Protego (Shield charm), Stupefy (counter-attack) and rolling dodge to avoid getting hit, as multiple foes can deal plenty of damage up close.
Boss battles can be challenging but can be overcome with a generous stash of Wiggenweld healing potions, quality gear to boost defensive and offensive stats as well as well-timed spell combos.
Unlike conventional RPGs, there are no character stats to speak of, but there are skill trees in the form of “talents” where you can spend points to buy talents as your character levels up.
Another big part of skill enhancements is through equipped gear, which can be found in loot chests scattered around the map. Gear can also be upgraded with parts harvested from your pets, so there is quite a lot of character optimisation to do in-between quests.
Bedazzling and spectacular
Hogwarts Legacy is visually spectacular with its attention to detail for the curious eye to appreciate, like self watering cans, flying books, swarming butterflies and swirling lights, all that makes for a very busy scene.
But the price to pay is the severe drop in frame rates especially in Hogsmeade and Hogwarts when there was plenty of activity during the day.
The night and day cycles in Hogwarts Legacy are not just for visual effects — there are certain quests that you can only perform at certain times of the day.
Classes take place in the day while quests that involve sneaking about usually take place at night when curfews are imposed.
Exploring Hogwarts at night can be a rather creepy experience when the quiet hallways are populated by ghosts, portraits and statues suddenly speak to you and things fly around you.
Unfortunately, I played Hogwarts Legacy on my PC with a decent RTX 3070 graphics card and encountered quite a few issues.
Apart from the frame rate drops in busy areas, I also encountered several crashes to desktop and game-breaking bugs. There were many occasions where my character is stuck in places and cannot move.
For instance, I was flying around the Highlands on a broomstick and landed on a hillside but was unable to move. Thankfully, I could use the map and fast travel to a Floo Flame without losing any progress.
On the upside, Hogwarts Legacy has a great soundtrack that successfully captures the wonder and enchantment of the game, especially the cheery music in Hogsmeade that makes one want to hang out there and soak in the atmosphere.
Classical music dominates the studious atmosphere in Hogwarts while suitably creepy music haunts the dark caves in the game.
Although the soundtrack is composed separately from the ones used in the films, the game pays homage to the film’s soundtrack with short fanfares reminiscent of Harry Potter’s theme.
The game also features excellent voice acting and facial expressions of the characters, which brings the characters to life.
Although the animations are not as sophisticated or as emotional as mocap heavy games, like say, The Last of Us or Gears 5, it was engaging enough for the many interactions with the huge number of NPCs.
The bad news is, I frequently experienced some issues in hearing the dialogue occasionally – the voices can cut out mid-sentence and become very soft.
The problem persisted even though I tried changing the audio setting to mono, stereo and multi-channel. Thankfully, the subtitles help to fill in any critical pieces of dialogue but it was an annoyance nonetheless.
Hogwarts Legacy is what a Harry Potter fan dreams of, less so for Quidditch fans and those unfamiliar with the Wizarding World.
There are plenty of lore references, inside jokes and quips that might be missed by the uninitiated, kind of like going to a concert and not knowing most of the songs.
However, for fans who have watched the films and read the books religiously, Hogwarts Legacy is designed to delight as it encapsulates the greatest highlights of being a student of magic in Hogwarts. That said, the lack of Quidditch matches and multitude of game-breaking bugs are a letdown.
Hogwarts Legacy is available on the PC at S$79.90 on Epic Games and Steam, PlayStation 5 at S$100.90 and the Xbox Series X|S at S$99. It will be available for older PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles on May 5, 2023. A Nintendo Switch version will also be available in July 2023.
- Definitely pleases fans of the Wizarding World with rich lore and inside jokes
- Ticks the right boxes for Harry Potter fans with spell-casting combat, potion-making and tending to fantastic beasts
- Amazingly detailed world that is fun to explore with loads to do and items to collect
- Game-breaking bugs with serious graphics and audio glitches
- No Quidditch matches to play
- Limited replayability due to restrictive role-playing elements