As a little girl, I couldn’t help but dream of an acceptance letter to Hogwarts, the same as a lot of kids I’m sure. Of course, I had to grow up at some point and face the reality that there’s no such thing as magic (you’re right, Uncle Vernon, I hope you’re happy!), but this year, I finally get to be the student I long to be, my dreams are now a reality thanks to Hogwarts Legacy.
Since its initial announcement back in September 2020 at a State of Play, I just knew this is a must-play for me. The chance to finally walk the halls of that famous school for witchcraft and wizardry? Sign me up. Of course, there’s one odd stipulation that’s practically unheard of in this wizarding world, and that’s that we start our school journey here as a fifth-year student.
This instantly caught my attention, as what reason could there possibly be that my magic doesn’t come to fruition until a few years after other prospective students? Of course, this point of intrigue plays a role in the story. Mind you. If it weren’t, this plot point would be very disconcerting and leave me with many questions.
To be honest, there’s an awful lot to unpack when it comes to Hogwarts Legacy, but the story seems like a good place to start. I have to say the overarching narrative does become slightly tedious as the hour’s roll by, summer turns into autumn, autumn into winter, and so on and so forth. Initially, the very knowledge that I get to stand in these halls is enough to enrapture me, but this feeling can’t go on forever, as evident by the fact that I feel more and more dreary as my time here goes on.
That’s not to say that there aren’t good bits to the main plot, and I can safely say that some of the side storylines are fantastic, but I’ll discuss more about them in a bit. The game begins with you and Professor Fig making your way to Hogwarts, which, of course, isn’t exactly smooth sailing, a slight detour demonstrates that your character has access to a very unique and rare form of magic. In fact, it’s so rare that nobody truly knows what’s going on with it, and therein lies the mystery that hooks you from the second you enter this world.
However, as you settle in, make friends, enemies, and attend your classes, the story truly begins after several hours, wherein you get to unravel the origins of your magic, as well as work to stop the main antagonist, Ranrok, from achieving his dream of destroying wizardkind. I’m not fond of spoilers and therefore don’t want to divulge too much information on what this all entails. Just know that sometimes things can feel a little bit repetitive and redundant. To me, this is a real shame. It’s a magical world with endless possibilities. The development team at Avalanche shouldn’t be afraid to explore it to its full potential rather than over utilise certain story aspects and locations.
The idea of uncovering events of the past bit by bit is great as, in theory, it should further entice you and give you a sense of determination to get to the bottom of the mystery. However, after nearing the conclusion of winter, I could only bring myself to care about side quests and stories, as the overarching one lost its way several hours prior. The pacing of the narrative feels off at times, though the writing remains fantastic throughout, as evident by Sebastian Sallow’s series of side quests.
Speaking of which, his storyline is by far and away my favourite, as it features everything I can possibly expect from a story in this world. It features desperation, heartbreak, fearlessness, tenacity, and a test of friendship. More than that, this is how you learn all about the Dark Arts. Or, more specifically, the three unforgivable curses – Crucio, Imperio, and Avada Kedavra.
Yes, you can learn all three of them through Sebastian’s series of side quests, and that most definitely helps to make this my favourite story in Hogwarts Legacy. Not only is it solid in its design, but it gives me the means to be an evil wizard. Well, as evil as the game allows me to be anyway, which leads me along nicely to what might just be my biggest grievance with the open-world RPG.
There’s no morality system. This, to me, seems like a silly thing not to include in a game set in the Harry Potter universe, especially when it allows you to learn a spell that quite literally causes instant death to those struck with it. Good witches and wizards don’t use this spell. They’d never dream of it, yet when I use it, the only real consequence is little comments in combat, depending on who you’re with.
To me, this is such an oversight. I want consequences for my actions. A lot of RPGs utilise this mechanic flawlessly, yet Hogwarts Legacy doesn’t even attempt to. It doesn’t even make the slightest impact on the story. This is an RPG. Give me some choices that make a difference, and let me fully embrace my reality as a dark wizard. Or, for those that choose to be pure and good, give them different rewards for it. Varying story paths, anything to give the game a replayability factor and a feeling of freedom.
Fortunately, another important RPG factor is solid. The character design happens to be near flawless, as each one, be they student, teacher, villain, or citizen, feels like they have a purpose and backstory. Better still, I’m happy to see that while the students certainly match the house that they’re in, not all Slytherins are evil. Some are there due to their competitiveness, a few like power, for others, it’s the house of their family, and for the odd couple, it’s their willingness to bend the rules for those that they love. Honestly, I’d argue that Ravenclaw pupils are worse, as some are overly pretentious. Are they wise? Sure. Street smart? No. But they still play a part, and while not all Ravenclaws fit the stereotype, those I’ve come across certainly have the correct traits in some capacity.
When it comes to the gameplay itself, Avalanche does a very good job. The world is open and dynamic, with plenty to see and do. In fact, I often find myself fending off the tedium of the main story through exploration of the land and iconic castle. It truly is a marvel. I can’t help but stare in awe. I’ll never forget the first time I got to walk through those halls after leaving the Slytherin common room (yes, I’m a Slytherin. I want to know the unforgivable curses, so this is hardly a surprise) to head to my first ever class – Defence Against the Dark Arts.
This is where you get to learn the first of many spells on offer in Hogwarts Legacy. There are numerous categories that they fall into, as some are defensive, others are all about damage, and some charms are to help you navigate through the world. If you come across a broken bridge, a flick of the wand and Reparo can get you across, while a cast of Bombarda blows the enemy away with a high-damage explosive impact.
Naturally, you can expect to come across some fan-favourite spells from the Harry Potter books and movies, such as Expelliarmus, Lumos, and Wingardium Leviosa. Though I have to admit that it’s the plants and potions that intrigue me the most, I could guess a lot of spells that are in the game, but those two are a bit harder to nail down. I’m happy to say that the variety on offer ensures that however you choose to play, you can. There are plants to help in combat and potions that can provide all sorts of boosts.
Personally, I’m a fan of the Thunderbrew potion. It has some truly shocking results. Though I can’t deny how happy I am that Mandrakes are present in Hogwarts Legacy, these screechers wreak havoc on those it comes in contact with. I couldn’t help but tentatively name my first one Lags after resident PT screamer, Laguna (Ruby’s cat).
In combat, you can equip four spells in one section, though through talent upgrades, you can unlock a further three segments that also hold four spells, so you can switch between them at the press of a button and have constant access to what you need. As for potions and plants, you can select one at a time to equip, though that’s all you need, quite honestly.
One of my favourite things in the game is combat, and I have to say that it’s a lot of fun. Admittedly, I’m a full-on aggressive wizard, so I tend to use heavy-hitting spells such as Bombarda, Incendio, and of course, the three unforgivable curses. Naturally, this means I have a lot of points in the Dark Arts category of the talents section. In essence, the three unforgivable curses are much more powerful, and I can regain health for each cursed enemy that I kill – very helpful when I fight against the odds.
However, if you don’t intend to embrace your dark side, there are spells, stealth, room of requirement, and core categories too, which give benefits to various spells, movements, potions, plants, and more. As is traditional with RPGs, you get a talent point each time you level up, so you don’t have to worry about being short on passive skills and spell improvements.
You might wonder what the Room of Requirement is. Well, this nifty place is basically your hideout, a place where you can better your gear through traits and upgrades, as well as grow plants and brew potions. However, I’d argue that the most important and impressive thing about this area is that it allows you to rescue the beasts that inhabit the world. Unfortunately, poachers run rampant in Hogwarts Legacy.
It’s not uncommon to come across them on your travels. Don’t worry though, for no matter how angry these abhorrent witches and wizards make, you can get back at them through Poppy Sweeting’s questline. As an animal lover, I can’t help but dive in and extinguish those evildoers and save those creatures. Again, a morality feature would be fantastic here, because while my methods are certainly questionable, my motives aren’t. As long as it involves beasts, I can’t say I care much for humankind.
So, I’ve gone on about the story, gameplay, the world, and what have you, but how does Hogwarts Legacy perform? Well, on PS5 (the platform I used for this review), it runs like a dream. After 30 hours of game time, I’ve yet to encounter a problem of any kind. Then, unsurprisingly, the visuals are stunning. It’s everything I could wish for, and given the disappointment I feel towards the main story, this helps to lessen the blow.
I will update this review with Nintendo Switch performance as soon as I have the chance to try it out, so stay tuned!
Overall, I highly recommend Hogwarts Legacy, for while the primary narrative gets tedious over time, there are many stories to uncover in Hogwarts Legacy, plenty of which feature some stellar ideas and writing. Combine that with fun and easy-to-grasp gameplay, well, you’re in for a magical time.
If you now feel the urge to dive into this remarkable world, our Hogwarts Legacy spells, Hogwarts Legacy beasts, Hogwarts Legacy classes, Hogwarts Legacy Dark Arts, and Hogwarts Legacy plants guides can help you to make the most of your time here.
Hogwarts Legacy review
There’s no denying that the world of Hogwarts Legacy is magical and full of stuff to do, but the main story loses its way and becomes stuck in a realm of repetition. However, solid gameplay design, terrific characters, and intriguing side quests all come together to create the ultimate experience for Harry Potter fans