June 25, 2024
Hogwarts Legacy has arrived. Wands at the ready! Is it as powerful as the Elder Wand or a bunch of troll bogeys? The Finger Guns review:

The day has finally arrived to receive your Hogwarts letter and attend the sorting ceremony. Avid fans of the series will know that many videos have dropped over the last few months detailing story, combat, gameplay as well as other details. Well Hogwarts Legacy, an RPG set in the Wizarding World, is finally here – let’s get into it. 

“I Am a Wizard, Not a Baboon Brandishing a Stick”

Whilst players may not be playing as the boy who lived, they will get to uncover a magic that not many others can. My lede about receiving your letter wasn’t strictly true as you are in fact late to the Hogwarts party. You’re joining in year five, so there is a lot to catch up on. Luckily for you, you have Professor Fig as your mentor, an esteemed and intuitive wizard of his time. 

The story begins on your way to your first day of school; the beginning of the new academic year and the sorting hat ceremony. You are among your mentor Fig, and George Osric, someone from the Ministry of Magic to help settle you in. Arriving by flying cart, you’re obviously too cool to get the train. There are rumours of a powerful Goblin, Ranrok, in which Osric believes to be a significant threat to the wizarding world. The Ministry is yet to believe him, yet Osric wishes to investigate further. 

Osric has been sent a mysterious package from Fig’s late wife, one that won’t open. Professor Fig’s wife was keen on the history of lost magic. She died trying to find the secrets, speaking of the good it can do. Surprisingly the player seems to be the key that has opened the capsule. Immediately thei cart is under attack, and Osric falls to his demise. The package contains a portkey which you and Fig capture in falling. You end up in the Scottish highlands in some ruins in the middle of the sea, and the story begins here.  

The story itself is twofold: one of Ranrok and the threat he shadows over Hogwarts and beyond, and the other about the loyal followers of Ranrok. These are those that have rebelled against wand holders. They make up most of your enemies in this game, wielding power and spells themselves that you will need to fight against. 

Before your story begins proper, Hogwarts Legacy starts with some character creation. There are very few limits to this customization feature. If you don’t care how you look, you absolute anarchist, there are presets you can choose. If you do want to look just like your Witch or Wizard in-game, then get ready to adjust face shape, hairstyles, complexions, eyes, and voice pitch. You can choose between two voices, and as an addition then change the pitch of that voice to suit your preference. If I have to be honest, the pitch changes do make the voice sound slightly robotic and ‘tinny’. I did choose a tinny voice and you do get used to it, but it is a shame this couldn’t have been enhanced slightly because it is rather jarring at first.  Similarly to the cosmetics, there are a few features in this suite that don’t seem to be optimised properly, and this may be resolved in a patch, but how my character looked in character creation and how she looks in the cut scenes, is night and day – and for the better. 

If you’ve watched any of the pre-release media about Hogwarts Legacy, you will already be aware that you can choose your own house. There will be no chaos or bloodshed in being sorted into a house that is not your own here! It does give you a short quiz if you do want the experience of being sorted. The sorting hat is the first of many character dialogues that make itself aware this is a game built on anticipation, citing “ you come here with preferences and preconceptions, certain expectations”. Why yes, Mr. Hat. I suppose we do. 

“When In Doubt, Go to the Library”

The team behind Hogwarts Legacy have already boasted about the game having over 100 hours of content if you want to complete absolutely everything. With a story averaging around 35 hours, this game has breadth and depth. Luckily for the first few hours, your hand is held quite tightly. Don’t get me wrong, I was actually itching to explore by myself, but I was very grateful for the walkthrough. Hogwarts Legacy does a fine job of showing you the capabilities of your character and the depths of gameplay involved. You feel very contained like a small fragile baby bird, before being let out into your first taste of adventure. Storytelling is captured through narrative cut scenes, and draws so many parallels between you as the player and Harry within the films, offering a familiar experience. 

You are gifted a ‘Wizards Field Guide’ by the Deputy Headmaster, in which everything you learn is safely tucked in there. It’s your virtual handbook and also stashes away your inventory, challenges, map, skill points (known as talents) and collectibles in which that list is nearly never ending. You will never be bored of exploring the grounds because there is much to discover and collect, starting with field pages. Field pages are scattered in Hogwarts and beyond and offer experience points and lore when found. It’s your own encyclopaedia to Hogwarts, offering the opportunity to practice magic and educate yourself on the Wizarding World. 

Experience points will increase your Wizard Level, and this in turn increases your power as a Witch or Wizard, offering tiered rewards mostly in the form of cosmetics. To complete the story, you will have to continue to increase your wizard level through challenges and missions. Most missions are story related, but others can involve helping other students in the perils of goblins. You of course have the odd side story where you will run errands, and play a game or two of field sports with others. Hogwarts Legacy has a variety of side missions that encapsulate both the story and environment well, such as go to this area, and kill this big bad, or go collect 4 of these mystical beasts in a bag and rear them. “Can you find my missing uncle who got wrapped up with the wrong type of goblin” and so forth. I personally have not felt bored by any of the side quest activities and these can be done at your own pace. 

One thing of import to note is the bugbear many people may have with open world games that have character levels, and that is the ‘bottlenecking’ of side quests to complete story.  As the story progresses you will have a recommended level for the missions in order to be able to comfortably complete it. Or, you may have certain requirements to even be able to activate that mission such as needing to have learnt a certain spell by then. Whilst I don’t think it is as harsh as other games such as Assassins Creed Odyssey where players needed complete a good chunk of side missions to progress the story, I am getting to the point where I will need to complete a few side quests to increase my level to not have my wand shoved up my own Diagon Alley in big boss battles.

This is something to keep in mind if you are just wanting to run the story. Although it would be a huge loss if you did just this, as you wouldn’t cover the beautiful landscape and environments Hogwarts Legacy has to offer. Sadly Quidditch has been cancelled for the year which begs the question if we will see this in some form of DLC. However, flying brooms and mystical beasts are at your disposal once you acquire them. 

As you are a late bloomer here at Hogwarts, it has been arranged that you will receive extra tuition by the professors. This is the way your character will learn spellcasting in addition to attending class. Professors will give you a homework task and as a reward will teach you a spell. Homework tasks may be certain feats in battle, or finding something hidden within Hogwarts. It felt a bit of a strange decision to bring your character in in the fifth year.

There were only so many times I could actually buy the premise that everyone in class needed to go over the basics again. If we’re going for immersion, this makes much more sense in second or third year. However, hearing the third professor make up some random quip about how the summer made them potentially forget basic skills they would have been doing for five years got kind of old and is a bit of a stretch eventually. 

Whilst a lot of gameplay has been revealed already, I will be intrigued to see the reception of those who play it. Hogwarts Legacy has painted a picture of an RPG Open World adventure. Whilst it is exactly that, mimicking a lot of mechanics from popular open world games such as Assassin’s Creed, God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, with open world maps, bandit camps and intricate combat (believe me when I saw the word ‘bandit camps’ too, I did tilt my head in question). However, it has released media that suggests it actually isn’t any of those things. I do wonder if the Potter heads that are not typically gamers who jump in are expecting this kind of game. I was certainly under the impression that this would feel more casual than combative.

With real time seedlings to nurture, ingredients to wield for potions, and loads of exploration, it almost felt like it was shown off as a slice of life wizard sim offering the ultimate Pottermore experience. To an extent, sure. You choose your own house, your own wand type, certain dialogue pieces, rear beasts, go exploring, fly a broom, and so on. However, the story is intricate and complex. Woven within everything you do, each player is heading for the same shared goal. This is not an Animal Crossing blend with Wizarding life at Hogwarts. It’s much more God of War Hogwarts, and it does really beg the question – is this the Harry Potter game everyone wanted?  It certainly surprised me with its direction, and while I am finding it thoroughly enjoyable, I feel acutely aware of the many people who may feel surprised at the type of game it actually is. 

Eventually, classes turn into cut scenes, growing plants and brewing potions becomes more hassle than just buying them, and I have not yet seen a difference in my actions for dialogue. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any yet, but nearly twenty hours in the only minor difference I have seen is that I can be mean to fellow classmates and gain a few more galleons out of the task than initially thought. 

Swish and Flick

The combat and spell casting is one of the most exciting mechanics in Hogwarts Legacy. Just a flick of your wand feels slick. Your character changes stance every time they flick their wrist, and by doing so it looks incredibly cool. To learn spells you will first need to guide your cursor along the spell shape to the end. Whilst steadying your wand, there will be symbols you will need to hit, similar to a quick time event, before a flurry of red smoke catches up. Once you’ve reached the end, the spell is learnt and you are able to practice this in-game.

This is a mechanic I assumed would get harder as the game progresses to more advanced spells, but it never does. The smoke never increases in pace making precision more important as you progress, and the symbol pattern doesn’t become any more complex. Eventually this just becomes a bit of a gimmick that could have been skipped. 

Your player will learn all the big hitting spells you hear about in the well loved franchise; Wingardium Leviosa, Accio, Lumos, and many others that avid fans will recognise. The spells fall under categories such as damage and utility and those categories are ordered by colour. Players can create loadouts so they can be cast under certain buttons. At the beginning of your journey it is actually very frustrating to continue to change your loadout, but this can be amended when you unlock talents, which act as skill points. You will then have the opportunity to map multiple loadouts, therefore it eventually being a case of just swapping the load out, as opposed to jumping menus for the sake of opening one door or vanishing one pile of chairs. 

Combat is extremely intuitive and offers much more of a challenge than likely anticipated from a Hogwarts game. You simply can not and will not get away with button bashing your way through battles. Enemies can defend themselves with shields, and those shields can only be penetrated by the accompanying colour of the spell. A red shield can only be penetrated by a damage spell, a yellow shield can be destroyed by Leviosa and so on. Players will need to reactively learn how to block and parry if they are going to achieve the higher difficulties of this game. Basic attacks can be thrown in quick succession whilst then complimented with learned spells and parrying to damage. Additionally objects in the environment can be thrown such as crates, explosives and furniture.

In the early game, your ‘enemies’ are your classmates as you practice magic and duelling away from class. In the world, you will encounter a variety of enemies, mostly consisting of goblins, beast poachers and creatures of the forbidden forest and lakes. You’ll come across the odd boss battle I won’t spoil, scattered every few hours. I don’t have arachnophobia, but now I feel I do thanks to Avalanche and Warner Bros. So cheers for that one – spider trigger warning activated.

It is a fantastic feeling when hits land and enemies fell. You do feel unstoppable and rewarded with raw material for crafting, coins or wearable items. Players can read about weakness of enemies in their field guide to ready themselves down the line. In enemy ridden area’s or bandit camps players can use spells to implore stealth like abilities instead of going on full force attacks. You can adapt it to your play style most of the time. 

When combat is as central to the experience as it is, this makes defence and offence integral. In Hogwarts Legacy your offence and defence skills are all within the clothes you wear. Whether it be mystical glasses, fancy robes, slick patterned gloves, each item will have a value in increasing or decreasing strength. Don’t get me wrong, you can sometimes look like you’ve dressed yourself while drunk, but it is hilarious to see your attire in cutscenes when you have crazy dragon glasses fitted with artisan robes and bright blue gloves. You can find a lot of wearables in chests.

The only bugbear is the limited inventory you can hold. This can eventually be increased by discovering more of your ancient magic secret and completing challenges around this called ‘Merlin Challenges’, but with very infrequent shops to sell these at, you mostly end up destroying them to be able to find out what you have next picked up.  

Interestingly, you do have the ability to have some creatures help you out, or even drink potions to enhance your defence, or power. A caveat to this is that you are not able to craft these in hand. You will have to either create a potions desk, or head back to the Room of Requirement/potions class to do this. This means you can go in completely blind to a mission, not as ready as you would like to be, with no means other than sheer hope to find a health potion. In some areas, you won’t be able to exit them until they’ve been completed.

So hold on to your Witch’s hat and pray you have a slick flick of the wrist. It was a lot of effort to keep going back and forth-ing to Hogwarts after collecting ingredients, so it made more sense to just travel to Hogsmeade and buy them. Maybe I am being lazy, but if I have the raw ingredients, it feels odd to leave a mission half way through to trundle back to Hogwarts to get more health. 

It would be a disservice not to mention the glorious and wonderful visuals of Hogwarts Legacy as well as the places there are to discover. If you worry you won’t be able to visit or explore the castle, the lakes, or major plot locations like Hogsmeade, then let me put your mind at ease. This map is huge and it is yours to explore.

The map is split into three main areas; The world, Hogwarts, and Hogsmead. Everything is accessible and Hogwarts Legacy does a fantastic job of not overwhelming you with areas all at once. Even though you enter the castle relatively early on, there will be a lot you can not do yet due to the spells you have not yet learnt. With floo powder, it is easy to get around once you’ve accessed a fast travel point hung on the wall.

One massive advantage is that floo powder is introduced extremely early on, like within the first hour early on. So if you want to get somewhere fast you don’t have to bore yourself with foot travel if exploration is not your thing. There is such detail within every room, corridor, or mound of land you explore. From violins that play themselves, arguing knights standing guard, interactable tea breaks. Every inch of your screen will be alive in some way. 

Beyond Hogwarts, placed within the world are hamlets, small towns made up of a few amenities and open areas to explore. Side quests can be completed here as well as tens of the collectibles on offer to gather within Hogsmeade. Your main story will take you here pretty early on and this is the first area you properly feel the reins have been let go for you to explore. There are tons of Easter eggs for fans and I think it would be difficult to feel disappointed with the visuals and fidelity of the environments.

Especially when you’re air bound taking in the very landscapes that you once imagined from paper. There are some easily recognizable nooks, such as the lake where Harry sees his Patronus, the famous bridge, and the courtyards. This is constantly complimented with the soundtrack that is made up purely of those familiar instruments, songs, and notes in the series.

Ron’s Howler

In regards to performance, I did run into a few issues that hopefully are smoothed out by the time this hits release. I did have an update during my playtime and since that update things have been running a bit more smoothly. I had a bit of a run in with a few side missions, where they wouldn’t log as completed, or the mission wouldn’t progress. Such as collect x amount of things, when I found one, it wouldn’t log this but the item would disappear. 

I also had a moment where my dual sense did not stop vibrating on a low vibrate for around 20 minutes, I actually had to restart the game because it was so irritating which seemed to stop it. 

Owl post is a way that NPC’s can communicate to you, they should pop up on your screen and just activate when needs be, through this NPC’s are able to tell you to meet them somewhere or inform you of a new assignment you may have. At first this worked, but then I would just go into my tasks list with a bunch of new tasks suddenly having appeared with no explanation, and ‘opened’ OWLs that had never been triggered. 

I would also sometimes finish tasks, and then randomly about 40 minutes later have that OWL be triggered when the mission had already been done. Once, I received about seven in a row, some I had already completed, others I hadn’t. I also experienced one hard crash, but this hasn’t happened since the update. The OWL thing is a still a bit temperamental however. Other than the classic curse of graphic faces just always looking a bit strange compared to its stunning environment, I have had no visual glitches. 

Gosh, there is so much more to say about Hogwarts Legacy, so much that the player has to explore, complete and do, and there are things I’ve not mentioned here that are just as wonderful as the highlights I have. There is even so much more I have yet to do, being only around 20 hours in, that I personally still can not wait to discover. Is this a huge contender for my GOTY already? Absolutely. Is it a “perfect game”? No, not in my opinion anyway, but it is up there. There are certain design choices and mechanics that felt off and I still will stand by my point that this game is perhaps not the game a lot of players are expecting.

There are things that I would have loved to have seen here, that isn’t. I would have liked a heavier lean on the RPG side making it more individual to each player for example. That being said, it does not in any way take away the enjoyment I have had so far playing it. It has been over 10 years since we have seen a Harry Potter video game on consoles. With the technology we have today, this will be a dream come true for some. It’s difficult not to love anything that comes from such a meaningful and beloved franchise for many. I hope that it is also the beginning of a new start to the world and what it can still offer to fans twelve years after the final film. I can’t wait to slow everything down, take it all in, and live out my own character’s legacy.

The hugely anticipated Hogwarts Legacy does not disappoint. An early GOTY contender offers interesting storytelling parallels with the Harry Potter franchise, beautiful and glorious fan favourite locations, and an array of exciting combat and collectibles for hours of entertainment.

Hogwarts Legacy is available February 10th 2023 on PlayStation 5 (review platform), Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series S|X and Microsoft Windows.

Developers: Avalanche Software
Publishers: Warner Bros, Interactive Entertainment

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.

This review was written in good faith. I, nor any of the members of Finger Guns, have beliefs that align with any of the opinions that ‘she who may not be named’ has about gender or the great trans folk in the community, or really any opinion she has on society.  Although we received a promotional code, a donation has been made to a local LGBTQ+ charity in the amount of the games value.

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