Over two decades ago, the “Wizarding World” captivated a generation. With a couple of successful film franchises behind it, WB Games are now at the plate to deliver an unforgettable experience for fans. Hogwarts Legacy is an open-world title, allowing players to get the full Hogwarts treatment with a brand-new narrative. Does this game finally deliver something worthwhile, or is this yet another case of a licensed property gone wrong? Let’s find out.
Every Harry Potter movie always had one thing in common, which was a well-paced narrative that built in steam until delivering a fantastic climax. Hogwarts Legacy’s plot works a lot like that, but it has a different notion of delivery. Players take control of a fifth year student who ends up enrolling in the wizarding school during a turbulent time, with events set nearly a century before those we are familiar with. An evil goblin has begun to search for something that can rip the world apart, and due to the player mysteriously being tied to the sacred artifact, a plot begins to unravel where the player must ultimately uncover secrets and take down the several looming terrors before a disaster strikes at their beloved school.
As far as the narrative goes, this one is great and is interesting enough to keep the player captivated until the end. It’s the world however that Avalanche have built that truly make this title special. You see, Howgarts Legacy allows the player freedom, where they can roam around not just the school, but the entire world around it in order to progress. Lore can be found with students and civilians alike, as well as in books, stories, and the grand architecture of almost every building you enter. The atmosphere is unmatched for interactivity and nostalgia, bringing what was once just tales into a fully realized universe, where exploration takes precedence as you proceed on your journey towards becoming a legend.
The gameplay within Hogwarts Legacy is quite layered. Starting as a rather novice (yet still skilled) wizard or witch, the player must attend classes in order to learn spells, create magical plants, and gain experience by simply exploring and talking to various students and professors who are willing to guide you along your way. While on paper it may sound like a stretched-out tutorial, Hogwarts Legacy has provided a more involved experience here, where the player feels like an integral part of the school, with the ability to poke and prod at nearly anything in order to obtain new magic and abilities that assist in pushing forward within the main story.
Controls are simple at the core, with the player being equipped with a wand, an eventual broom, and even beasts later that will all allow new areas of the map to open for exploration. I really cannot stress enough how large the world is, and thankfully, the gameplay is silky smooth as these controls are tight and fluid outside of a few camera nuances that can usually be adjusted to after just a short time. Nearly every portion of the school can be explored and trekked through on your journey, and there is something really captivating about how the world moves around you as you simply exist within it. Players will see staircases and doors animate before them, while also able to take to the skies and breeze through the wind on their broom – viewing sights only once dreamed of, and of course take up quests as they attempt to solve smaller puzzles and problems that NPCs have, in exchange for currency or collectibles that broaden your arsenal for combat.
While the world here is mostly at peace outside of the center plotline, there are a lot of reasons to use your wand for fighting. Dark wizards and entities run amuck all over the grounds just outside the school, as well as several other beasts that only can be handled through magic. Luckily, there is a very wide arsenal that you are equipped with that can take down foes with a little practice. Utilizing your wand, you must chain together attacks in order to take out enemies. A basic attack will be your standard blow, with other abilities coming into play to weaken or disable enemies. For example, some enemies can be levitated or disabled in order to break through specific defenses. Others require special techniques involving a colored spell system in order to take out. For example, an enemy with a yellow shield typically will need that type of magic used in order to be vulnerable, so the player must understand how to chain and attack in order to take them down. It does get more complicated, but the game allows players entry into its own depths with those classes and chores within the school, so progression feels natural and organic.
Of course, the world itself also will require spells to be used in the same manner to explore. Players can flip switches, open locks, and simply interact with items in order to open new paths and obtain items, and there are so many items and scrolls hidden that most will find no issue diving in and feeling fully immersed as Hogwarts simply begs the player to prod the grounds, not only to progress – but to get silly enjoyment out of the mundane. If you are a longtime fan, there is so much to be captivated by, and the quality of the world building is almost unparalleled. From the fauna to the moving pictures and beyond – I never have seen anything like Hogwarts Legacy in terms of a simple video game providing such satisfaction and reward for simply exploring, as even side-quests feel meaningful with the bounties they bring that continue to broaden the universe you are in.
At times, it almost feels like too much. There is so much to do and see that it took me personally four hours before I even stepped onto my first quest, and that never let up once for my entire playthrough. Customization is also well balanced, with the ability to gather materials to craft and build outfits and combat items readily available once unlocked. Luckily, the game never forces decisions to be permanent, so you can always adjust attire and spells to best fit how you want to play the game. For instance, you can equip any attire and hide it if it doesn’t fit your own personal style. The HUD also is rather intuitive, allowing the players to map out spells to different control sets, and then change to those on the fly. This means you can have non-combat sets and combat sets, fully ready for whatever mission and able to be switched with the press of a button.
Sure, there are a few minor setbacks. Minor glitches occur at times that do not break the experience but can cause a little annoyance. The vibration function on the controller sometimes can get stuck, making the player reload checkpoints to get it to stop at times. The gear can also over encumber the player, and while taking up specific quests can fix this, it is something that can be a bit of an annoyance as if you pick up too much gear, you must decide to destroy old garbs before collecting new ones. Again, these nags are very minor in scope compared to the entire experience, and something a patch should be able to work out quickly. This is a game that you ultimately play at your pace. Sure, you can breeze through the plot in around twenty hours, but for those who want more, several playthroughs are demanded to see everything this world has to offer.
From the lighting to the character models and heavily detailed environments, this may be the game that truly captures the capabilities of this current generation of consoles. The level of detail is astonishing, with fluid animations of both the characters and the world itself, providing an incredible atmosphere that at times can be breathtaking. Hogwarts Legacy is one of those titles you can use to show off the power of your platform, setting a bar for all other games to come after it with its lavish fauna and depth as past stories unfold through an environment that builds around the player. The character models also are well done, with faces able to show emotion – bettering the storytelling that over-arches the main experience.
The sound is also stellar. The soundtrack is as you would expect, with familiar tunes that work well at capturing the importance of moments of discovery. There is something splendid about the way this title makes you feel on that first broom ride or by finding specific treasures that creates a warm, rewarding feeling, and that is one of the finest features it offers overall. The vocal performances are also great, with each actor managing to deliver in an exceptional way, ensuring that the narrative feels just as important as the element of exploration.
Hogwarts Legacy is a technical spectacle. For a fan of the franchise, there is so much to do and see and everything feels engaging and interesting, with one of the finest video game universes I have personally ever seen to date. Whether you want to cause chaos or do good, there is something for everyone here, and the journey from sorting hat to end credits is one that truly needs to be seen for any fan of this magical wizarding universe. Fans who have waited for years to get to experience those words in the pages of books can finally expand their experience in a world built for them, which they can fully explore and customize. While it may be a licensed game, Hogwarts Legacy enters this generation with style, delivering an incredible experience that will not soon be forgotten.
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