Harry Potter is one of the most significant intellectual properties in film and modern-day pop culture. This is a brand that has iconic characters, locations, and stories that have deeply resonated with fans that grew up with it either through the books or the movies—both of which are highly successful and have rightfully solidified themselves in history.
Hogwarts Legacy had a nearly impossible task of living up to the monumental expectations set by the nature of the material it’s trying to work with. The Harry Potter games have juggled between hit-or-miss movie tie-in releases or the charming LEGO adaptations but nothing has ever truly captured the sense of wonder, dread, mystery, and thrill of being in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Not until today.
Hogwarts Legacy allows you to experience the Wizarding World like never before. It’s a game filled with fantastic characters, a satisfying spell-focused combat system, and a beautiful open world that will easily make you lose hours just getting lost in all of its brilliance.
Whether you are a die-hard Potterhead, a casual fan, or none at all, Hogwarts Legacy is a magical experience worth having.
Conjure up something special
Being set in the 1800s, Hogwarts Legacy doesn’t have any of the iconic characters from both the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts stories that fans have come to love. All it has is the universe it takes place in and it’s up to Avalanche Studios to make sure that it holds its own despite the absence of household names like Harry, Ron, Hermoine, Dumbledore, Voldemort, etc.
In Hogwarts Legacy, you play as a student transferring to Hogwarts as a fifth-year (for some reason) trying to navigate his/her way through classes, making friends, and uncovering secrets of the castle. All while being in the middle of a mysterious conflict wherein you are in the center because it just so happens that you also have access to some ancient magic that no one else has (for some reason).
Hogwarts Legacy’s main narrative has a lot of plot holes and unexplained concepts that I feel like the writers hoped people would just accept. They don’t really fully explain why you’re a fifth-year student, or why you have all these special abilities, and yet the story wastes no time in trying to remind you of these two facts every now and then. Usually, I’d disagree with this kind of stuff but it’s something that has been a consistent thing in the Harry Potter books and films for years already. A big part of why the franchise lasted for so long is because of all the unanswered questions.
The mystery will not work unless there is a strong foundation that carries it all the way to the end. That’s how satisfying narrative payoffs are made. While I can’t say that Hogwarts Legacy provided enough closure for me to walk away content, it does do a great job at making sure I was properly engaged all the way and was left clamoring for more. Maybe this is Avalanche’s way of trying to get multiple sequels or expansion plans in the works. If that’s the case, I’m all in.
A cauldron of excellence
The game’s tutorial is practically the whole first act. Hogwarts Legacy takes its sweet time introducing various concepts and gameplay features. While that may sound very alarming, it’s not as bad as you think it is. That’s because a large part of what carries the game is the colorful personalities you meet and its fantastic presentation of the world they live in.
When I first saw that I’ll be playing as “the new kid in school”, I immediately braced myself for the inevitable bullying, isolation, and all that typical high-school behavior that alienates the person who isn’t necessarily part of the group. While there are tidbits of that in the story, most of the characters you’ll meet in Hogwarts Legacy all have their own endearing personalities that you can’t help but just love and appreciate. Even those who are in Slytherin, who are typically portrayed as the evil folks in the franchise, end up as some of my favorite people to get to know.
You’ll be building your relationships by asking them to accompany you in certain scenarios and doing them favors. And it’s not just the students that are memorable, even the professors themselves have their own quirks that distinguish them from one another and I loved every moment with each one for various reasons.
It’s also worth mentioning that the game features stellar voice acting across the board. The energetic performances add so much life to all of these personalities that I knew nothing about and yet I’d go as far as to say that a fair number of them are better than some of the usual Wizarding World characters we’ve already encountered.
Nailing the cast was so crucial to making sure Hogwarts Legacy was successful and I can confidently say that Avalanche Studios passed with flying colors.
No place like Hogwarts
However, the undisputed best character in the game is definitely the world itself. Hogwarts is so lovingly recreated from brick to brick that it was so difficult to stay focused on the main quests just because I kept getting sidetracked trying to explore every nook and cranny. Every iconic landmark from the books and movies is all here and they look absolutely gorgeous to look at. And I haven’t even mentioned the areas outside of the campus.
Avalanche has created a vast open world that doesn’t feel too tiring and intimidating to explore. This is a far cry from the tired formula of Ubisoft collect-athons/ quantity over quality approach with open worlds. Hogwarts Legacy’s immersive environments are filled with so much detail and personality. From random NPC conversations to ghosts flying around pranking students, and even street performances, there is always a story being told. This is a world you want to see more of.
But, not everything is perfect. I did my playthrough on the PlayStation 5 and I did encounter a significant amount of framerate drops and pop-ins, especially when stepping out of Hogwarts. The game also attempts to have a seamless experience without loading screens, but this only happens in theory.
For one, there are a lot of fade-ins and outs in this game. Talking to an NPC, petting a cat, interacting with a store, viewing the map, checking quests, changing gear, etc. it’s all slowed down by constant fade cuts that start to get a little annoying after the first couple of hours. You also slow down with every door as they act as some sort of loading screen for the game to load the rest of the environments. The PC version has fewer of these problems and (as expected) does run and look significantly better but it still has similar issues. Perhaps these are compromises made in order for the older consoles to keep up which only makes me wonder what it would look like if Avalanche makes a sequel that’s exclusive to modern hardware.
A wizard’s power fantasy
Hogwarts Legacy’s combat is both visually impressive and satisfying to play. Players have a variety of spells at their disposal and so I had a lot of fun chaining together different combos. This keeps the action fresh and engaging. You unlock new spells through story progression and you’ll be able to upgrade them by spending talent points that add significant buffs such as an AoE version of Incendio or having Accio pull in multiple targets at once. The spells look and sound fantastic. With the subtle vibrations of the DualSense 5, every hit felt nice and chunky.
For years, combat was one of the main things that Harry Potter games struggled with. Even the movies themselves would somehow make wand combat underwhelming. That’s all the more reason why I’m so impressed at those folks at Avalanche for rising up and overcoming the challenge. I’d compare Legacy’s combat to what it was like playing as a mage in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Just make it about ten times more satisfying and smooth.
The ultimate downside to the combat, however, is the lack of interesting enemy variety. You’ll mostly be fighting humans, spiders, random creature wildlife, stone statues, and goblins. Occasionally, the game will throw bosses at you but they’re mostly just giant armored dudes that are easy to take down. Given how expansive the Wizarding World is with its creatures (there’s literally a spin-off series dedicated to them), it was a bit disappointing to see how little of it was utilized.
At the very least, enemies will require you to switch up your spell usage in order to break through shields that can only be done depending on their color and what abilities you have that act as a direct counter. It works well enough to keep you on your toes and avoid button-mashing with every encounter.
A few more tricks in the bag
Aside from the main campaign, there’s a multitude of extra side activities to keep yourself busy. A lot of these are mostly fetch quests, go here, kill this, get this, bring here, etc. but I always felt the need to still do them since it means more unique conversations with each character. Any excuse to see more of the world and meet new personalities, I’ll take it.
Although, I would’ve liked it if classes became a more core part of the experience. They’re mostly relegated to quick cutscenes and avenues to learn new spells early in the game but that’s about it. There’s no way to actively participate, be late or cut class, fail or pass an exam, you know, all the things that they had to deal with in the original stories.
There’s also a nearly unforgivable fact that there is no quidditch in Hogwarts Legacy. Arguably one of my most anticipated things to see adapted in a video game of this quality is nowhere to be seen. There is an in-game lore reason for the absence and it still felt ridiculous. Even the students in-game mention all the time how dumb the decision was. There is still flying with brooms but it feels a little undercooked. Something makes me think this was the reason why they cut quidditch altogether.
Other than the usual collectibles, you’ll also be acquiring loot throughout Hogwarts Legacy. This is where most of the customization and player expression come in. The initial character creator is a bit limited with options and so the game makes up for it by providing multiple cosmetic options for clothing and a transmog ability from the very start.
The gear you equip only provides minor stat increases so build variety is not really a thing in Hogwarts Legacy. Your effectiveness in combat depends on how you upgrade your spells and chain them together in combos. I actually welcome this streamlining as I feel like Legacy didn’t need the added stress of min-maxing which would’ve pulled focus away from experiencing the world itself. I’d much rather worry about whether or not a scarf fits well with my coat rather than numbers and percentages.
Final Verdict – 9/10
Hogwarts Legacy is easily the best game that uses the Harry Potter IP. It perfectly captures the heart and soul of Hogwarts with an accurate rendition of the iconic school grounds and an expansive open world that feels fantastic and rewarding to explore. The likable cast of characters and simplistic yet engaging gameplay systems had me burning through the hours getting lost in the magic of it all.
This is the definitive way to experience the Wizarding World once more. What you loved about it all those years ago, is masterfully recreated in Hogwarts Legacy. And if you’re not really a fan of the franchise, there’s no better way to jump in and experience just how extraordinary it can all be.
This review was made via a PS5 game code provided by the publisher.