By Samuel M Acosta
Writer’s Note: There was, and still is, a lot of controversy surrounding this game’s creation and release. This is a review of simply the game as a product and will not factor in the ethics of whether the game should be played. This should be the decision of the individual.
As a kid, I grew up on Harry Potter. I saw all the movies, read all the books, owned most of the LEGOs and played most of the movie tie-in video games. The games’ quality ranged widely from sub-par to extremely entertaining. Yet, since the final movie released over a decade ago, the gaming world has seen very little of the wizarding world. “Hogwarts Legacy” is not only a nostalgic return but a high-caliber game that rivals many RPGs of the past decade.
“Hogwarts Legacy” lets the player live out all of their Harry Potter dreams. Getting sorted into houses, attending classes and exploring the school is just the beginning of what is in store. It is incredible getting to see some of the beloved locations from the films and books, like Hagrid’s Hut, the Great Hall and Hogsmeade.
Sadly, Quidditch is not featured in the game, though flying on a broom is a key aspect of traveling the map. I understand how big of an undertaking that would have been to Quidditch, so I can accept that it is not included, but it is still sorely missed.
In terms of plot, the player has to be pretty forgiving. There are a lot of unexplained story elements that need to just be accepted as reality. This game has you play as a character able to wield an ancient power that nobody has ever heard of before with seemingly no explanation as to how. This can be odd at first, but once that is accepted, it’s easy to enjoy the oddity. Being the hero that saves Hogwarts and the world is always satisfying, though I do wish that they had spent more time explaining the villain’s motives. It all seemed very surface-level and could’ve used some more depth.
While the story is nowhere near as intriguing as the books or films, it is the characters that make it so engaging. It’s easy to care for certain characters or hate others, but they are dynamic so those tastes will differ depending on the player. This is something that is so hard for games to get right. Usually, characters are written in a way that they will either be universally loved or universally despised. That is not the case here. For me, I loved the Slytherin student Ominis Gaunt, a blind fifth-year from a prominent pure-blood family who rejects his family’s beliefs. Yet my roommate hated Ominis. It was all based on preference due to the dynamic writing of the characters.
The world is incredible, both in its design and how easy it is to get around. Every inch of it is gorgeous, with Hogwarts completely explorable from top to bottom, along with the surrounding lands full of forests and coasts. One minute players can be crawling through a dungeon fighting spiders and the next they can be flying on a broom looking out over the ocean, both of which feel inherently magical. By being able to fly by broom or hippogriff, plus the addition of a well-designed fast travel system, traversing the map is both enjoyable and expedient.
The combat is one of the highlights of the game. The ability to create combinations of spells that produce a variety of play styles is intuitive, yet the challenges of combat also don’t make any of the spells become obsolete. It is not like normal RPGs where players unlock a weapon and then hours later that weapon becomes completely useless. Everything players learn or obtain early game will still be useful later down the road. It gave this wonderful new excitement to discovering new spells and abilities, as it became less about picking up something new and throwing away the old, and more about learning how the new paired and complemented what the player already had.
This game’s biggest flaw, however, is that the enemy variety is severely lacking. While fighting is fun, players will spend the whole game fighting the same spiders, wizards, and goblins, with the occasional troll or zombie thrown in. This can become extremely tedious further into the game. I wish there had been a little more effort put into creating a few more enemy types to spice up the combat encounters.
Something I did not expect from this game was the large number of puzzles and how deep they got. Some were simple, such as finding secret levels or buttons to open doors. Others were more complex, like chess puzzles where players have to place pieces in order to get a checkmate. These help to break up some of the combat-heavy portions of the game and also make for satisfying challenges when trying to unlock the optional rewards that the game offers,
It is the combination of seamless entertaining gameplay and the breathtaking world that makes it so easy to invest yourself in the game. And investing myself is exactly what I did. Within 72 hours of the game’s release, I had poured nearly 24 hours of my time into playing. By the time I beat the main story alone, not counting the many side quests and challenges that are available, I had played for 32 hours. I foresee myself putting several more into it by the time all is said and done.
“Hogwarts Legacy” is not only a great Harry Potter game but an absolutely incredible video game in general. While it isn’t perfect, the mechanics are smooth and engaging, and the world is easy to lose yourself in. In fact, I would say that it’s one of the best games to come out in years. For fans of either the franchise or of RPGs in general, this game is a must-have.
I give “Hogwarts Legacy” a 9/10.
“Hogwarts Legacy” is available for purchase wherever games are sold
Samuel M Acosta is a Senior Theatre Comprehensive Major and an Arts and Entertainment writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper and writing plays.
Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Games