Hogwarts Legacy Review

Hogwarts Legacy begins by painting a moving mosaic for our players by addressing that we are a brand new student entering during our fifth year. This is quite unheard of and only has happened a few times before. Our player is assigned a Professor near the end of summer to help us catch up on our studies of being a Witch or Wizard. We discover during the opening cutscenes that we are imbued with ancient magical powers which allows us to see what others can’t and lets the player traverse following the trail to discover what powers we truly have. The setting is late 1800’s and long before most of our magical wizarding friends we are more familiar with arrive at Hogwarts. It’s roughly 50 years before one arrives. However, there are familiar names within the school, professor Weasley and Headmaster Black are just a couple. The story, written by Port Key Games developer studio Avalanche, leaves Hogwarts shrouded with mystery for the player to uncover the truth about what is going on with the main villain; Ranrok. Ranrok is a goblin who is amassing an army and forming a rebellion. Many rumors surround him due to him also being a user of the ancient powers we possess, there is a lot to discover in our journey becoming a powerful wielder of magic. 

Right before the start of the main story, we get to design our new player. The character design options are numerous and range from: 30 different presets, 19 skin tones, 50 different hairstyles, glasses, freckles, moles, hair and eye colour, face shape, and even your character’s gender. I was curious how they would address pronoun usage if I created a male but sorted in a Witch dormitory. The amount of depth you can design your character was satisfying. My only complaint for this section of the game was the voice tone you were allowed to pick from. It sounded as if they had one actor recording lines and then autotuned the pitch up or down. This makes sense due to the size of the game, but did seem like a shortcut when playing and hearing the odd inflection in our player’s voice. 

The gameplay of Hogwarts Legacy is brimming and ready to make the player feel like there is lots of work to do. As we get to Hogwarts after a lengthy opening, you slowly gain full access to the grounds and the surrounding areas until learning a few of the basic spells to cast. These will help us protect ourselves from various enemies beyond the school’s walls. We learn new spells by attending class through quests. The quests aren’t timed, so the player can casually explore and then proceed to studies without feeling forced or pressured. We are the last of the students to be assigned a house by answering a few questions to the sorting hat, and are then asked if we truly want to be assigned to the recommended house having full control of our placement. 

The house sorting provides new faces to see and talk to, this is where multiple playthroughs will come in handy when looking for a new perspective. The houses are also designed with themes in mind and each unique. There is also an achievement for being in each house and making it about 3-5 hours into the story. Not to fear, we have 10 save slots to choose from, so we could have 10 different characters if not using too many save slots per character. 

Combat worried me the more footage that leaked for the release, but I was proved wrong with the arenas and combat. There are numerous spells one can choose to use during battle; 16 battle specific ones, then there are others unrelated to combat and used for decorating our personal Room of Requirement or taming magical beasts. The Cursed spells that everyone has been dying to use are locked behind a level requirement. Sadly, you won’t be able to run around in the beginning of your journey on a killing spree.

That leads me to Traits, with each level gained for the player, we unlock a trait to select. The max level is 40 for our player with traits being sectioned by type and level unlock requirement. These are passive upgrades that will make combat with certain spells easier or make it harder to be spotted while hidden. There are coloured shields enemies can use and we must use a certain class type of spells in order to breach their defences. Our most basic cast deals minimal damage but doesn’t suffer from a cool down. Once a main spell is used it will slowly cool until ready to use again. Using spells in combination is how you deal serious damage quickly. One of the early combos taught is Protego chain which blocks, then you hold B to Stupefy leaving the opponent open for basic casts with RT. The amount of spells available will surely be fun to take on enemies.

The difficulties presented are Story, Easy, Normal and Hard. The player can edit the difficulty at any time and is not stuck with their choice. The difference between these difficulties is tied to how enemies interact during combat and their swiftness with moves. The harder the selection, the lower amount of damage we are able to dish out. 

The map is so much larger than what I was expecting. This truly is an open world game scattered with numerous puzzles that act as collectibles for us to solve and collect. Most of the collectible type puzzles lead to a chest that can be opened which rewards either gold or clothing. There are different clothes that improve the player’s Offence and Defence. They are listed with a level recommendation to be used and also have rarity listings. The more rare an item, the more galleons they are worth when selling to a vendor. Our main way of earning money in Hogwarts Legacy is selling items that we find or earned from exploration and opening chests. Gold comes in handy when it is used to unlock new upgrades for our room of requirements which in turn allows the player to plant and brew more in general. Hogwarts is the largest area on the map to visit, but there is more to discover such as small hamlets that are in the vicinity and Hogsmeade. As the player explores, they use the spell Revelio to find new guide pages or puzzles in the castle. Exploring is a great way to earn XP in the beginning, killing enemies also rewards XP as well as quests being the best. After attending broom class once, the player is able to purchase a broom at hogsmeade and is allowed to fly anywhere outside of towns or Hogwarts. Just like we are able to upgrade our clothing using found ingredients in the world (or bought) we can upgrade our broom’s speed with a quest with the local quidditch shop keeper. Quidditch is unfortunately not something in the game and though the field is present, no games are occurring this year which is explained by the headmaster. A Hippogriff can be unlocked later as well as a third mount and are unlocked through the quest line.

Learning new spells from attending classes will help in solving the game’s numerous puzzles left around the grounds. The minimap in the bottom left of the screen will show all the pathways around and will highlight whatever quest is selected. After playing a large portion of the game, I found the radar to be extremely helpful in finding my way around. The castle is far larger and more true to the books than the movies of Harry Potter. To further address that, Hogwarts Legacy is based on the Wizarding World more so than this being an adaptation of any of J.K. Rowling’s stories. Following the golden pathway will take you around corners and up stairs with ease. Fast traveling is also an option once you have discovered a nearby Floo passage with it lit green. 

Our room of requirement can be upgraded by learning new plans after purchasing them. We are taught how to conjure new items usable or just decorating with and can also rescue magical creatures once the Nab-sack has been unlocked. This is most definitely inspired by fantastic beasts by allowing us to suck up and release a magical creature within our greenhouse in our room of requirement. It’s considered rescuing them due to the poachers scattered throughout the forbidden forest.

The audio for the game is spot on and equivalent to the likes of the Harry Potter film franchise. The shots are sometimes identical to those of the films, such as the intro and title scene. The scores are theatrical and do change based on the player’s location. There is classical domain free music that is played in certain areas of Hogwarts by magical instruments. However, when flying around or in the heat of combat, the music will spice up. The audio in terms of voice acting is my biggest gripe for the game, pitching the same voice down and sharing it for characters is very noticeable. The autotune of voices can leave certain cutscenes feeling off with peculiar screams or tones. The audio design for casting spells and using them are also helpful as the player explores. When entering a new room or area that has a puzzle, the player’s character will reference what should be done or Revelio will sound a ding for something nearby. 

The visuals are stunning to take in. The scenery is a lot to take in and rich with detail when looking over the hill of a hightower on the nearby grounds. The game runs in 1440p 60 fps on Series X while Series S runs 1080p 60 fps. I played on a Series S and felt like I was missing out on the extensive detail put into the visuals with leaf physics along bridges and the seasons changing with progression. There are options to lower the resolution for older generations to help the load times and make the game feel more fluid optimizing game performance. When running in between sections of the castle, the player will see a small spinning circle indicating a quick load of the next area behind the door. These feel smooth and brief for the most part. There are other types of doors that must be held to load the next area and I’ve had issues with one door in particular. A quick fast travel nearby seemed to have fixed this issue of not being able to use the door, but it happened only a few times. Being able to decorate and change the ambience of your room of requirement allows for the player to play in a style how they desire. The in-game physics are fun to play with at times. From the first time you control your character, you’re able to kick and roll around pots. Later in Hogsmeade you can play with leaves. There are fun parts of minor animations to toy around with, but aren’t flawless. The physics for clothing can be the buggiest of the bunch, making NPC’s robes clipping through legs making it appear as a cape. 

This game is tremendous. Flying and teleporting do help cut down on time traveling, but exploration is needed to level up on pace to keep up with the main story missions. There is a guide book that the player earns after house sorting that helps us keep track of challenges, quests, a map, traits, skill tree, and more. This guide book can be accessed by pausing or pressing select for a quick use map.

The interface for Hogwarts Legacy is functional, but could be faster. The use of the cursor more than tabbing between pages is faster. Use of the guide book will help track quests and see what is required for the next quest. Hogwarts runtime could be long depending on how invested you get – hours can easily breach 100 if the player is attempting to learn all of the plans for the room of requirement and catching all the beasts. Finishing all side quests and main quests and then having the option of finding every collectible & puzzle the game has to offer will easily take the majority of the time. The main story experience will leave most gamers putting in the average hours of a work week to clear the quest line. The map does help label every area with a collectible counter, so cleaning up is easy. Then to add to the fact that you have the choice are replaying the game as a different type of Wizard or Witch in another House, using different side characters who have unique stories and companion quests. Some of the puzzles will leave you scratching your head and feel satisfying to finally figure out. The game’s pacing seems slow at first, but it has a lot more to teach than what you might be expecting. The real game begins only after several hours of gameplay allowing the player to move freely and advance through classes by choice after finishing multiple tutorials.

Hogwarts Legacy is a brilliantly massive open world RPG that allows the player to create an extensively unique character to mold into their moral choice. You can control the options of what to say, but aren’t overwhelmed with choice. The Positive and Negative choices do affect character’s lines and how they treat you as you come across them later. The pacing of the game is ramped up with more knowledge and power we gain through quests and rewards. The developers of Avalanche should be proud of this artistic game that accomplishes setting an atmospheric setting for such a magical place. This feels like an inspired, true form of Hogwarts, feeling bigger and more in depth. The amount of detail to the lore is intricate and does take place 100 years before the main events of Harry Potter’s story. There are minor notes here and there through guide page collectibles or side quests. This is a story about the player and their journey to discovering what secrets they can unlock. There are classic staple moments in the game such as learning to fly or potting Mandrakes then they take them a step further making them usable. Mandrakes and other plants are usable items in combat and help attack enemies or have some effect. The game feels true to the statement of feeling as if it’s made by fans.

Conclusion

This is the most in-depth look into the wizarding world of Harry Potter we’ve ever seen and being able to explore with hours of content to discover, quest, and fight through. Hogwarts Legacy is worth the price point and is a well polished addition to the wizarding world.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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Good
  • Fun combat
  • Fantastic audio/visual representation of the world of Hogwarts
  • Lots to see and do across multiple playthroughs
Bad
  • Story pacing is slow
  • Minor bugs and glitches
9.6
Excellent
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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