author: Giancarlo Saldana
Hogwarts Legacy Review: Bewitchingly Enchanting
Harry Potter and his friends may not star in Hogwarts Legacy, but the magic of the series shines through in a game that is as enchanting as it is immersive.
Back in 1997, the first Harry Potter book came out and took the world by storm. “Pottermania” spread throughout the world and you often saw kids wait with their parents in full costume outside bookstores to get their hands on Prisoner of Azkaban during midnight releases. Movie theaters would then sell out so you sometimes had to rely on a bit of Felix Felicis to get tickets to Chamber of Secrets on opening night. Even today, the Harry Potter brand is still going strong despite its author’s controversial opinions that have stirred debate among its fans.
- One of the most impressive displays of magic realism in a video game;
- Beautiful visuals and character models bring the Harry Potter world to new life;
- Fluid combat with plenty of spells to try out and master.
- Finicky graphical issues that may disrupt your experience;
- Questionable gameplay choices that plague looting, outfitting your character, and switching out spells.
J.K. Rowling’s viewpoints aside, the series has been known for its imaginative take on magic and witchcraft, and millions have fallen in love with the idea of wielding magic and experiencing everything Harry and his friends did during their time at school. Fortunately, Hogwarts Legacy manages to do just that and then some as it is one of the most faithful displays of all the wonder the series is known for. Not only does it manage to hold its own as a standalone adventure, but it outdoes itself in bringing the world of Harry Potter to life.
A Masterpiece of Magic Realism
I will say that I never got caught up on Pottermania. I read two of the books, saw some of the movies, and played some of the LEGO games, but I don’t have as vivid memories with the series as certain diehard fans do. Despite this, I instantly fell in love with the visual direction of Hogwarts Legacy simply because of how quickly it pulls you into its work faster than a Summoning Charm ever could.
Part of the reason why the game feels so inviting is because it is not distracted by characters from the main series. Taking place in the late 1800s, the setting allows the game to shine on its own without needing to worry about past characters, stories, or even 3D representations of past actors. Its connection to the main series is strong, however, with various references to family names, creatures, and of course, the legendary Hogwarts School that connects it all together. This setting gives the game a chance to establish its roots, tell its story, and allows its characters to develop on their own.
We've prepared interactive maps for Hogwarts Legacy that contain the game's secrets, collectibles, Merlin trails, collection chests, ancient magic hotspots, sidequests and more. Make sure to check out our original guide and the interactive maps.
The true success of the game lies in its nearly perfect presentation that weaves magic realism into everything you do. From conjuring spells that transform chairs into tables to gateways that completely change your environment the second you walk through them—Hogwarts Legacy is an ever-charming surprise. Add to that realistic visuals, facial models, and animated personalities and the game feels and looks incredible—and this is coming from someone who wouldn’t call himself a fan of the series.
It's not all without its fair share of issues, however. The game runs smoothly in Performance mode but it sometimes stutters when you turn on its Fidelity setting. Loading times are also a thing here, which is rare for a PS5 game, so you will sometimes have to linger a few seconds in front of a door before it opens. I also ran into a problem when no new missions would load but easily fixed it by restarting my save file. Hopefully these minor issues get patched up as everything else about the game’s presentation is quite stunning especially when admiring the Scottish countryside below atop your flying broom.
Go to School and Save the World
The game plays out like most modern action RPGs and follows the story of your character as they start their classes at Hogwarts as a fifth-year student. When it comes to the plot, don’t expect a masterpiece of a story as most of the conflicts relate to a group of goblins wanting to use dark magic for their own evil purposes. As you would expect, your character holds the key to stopping them so not only do you need to worry about being a student but you have to save the world, too.
Its plot is told through main quests that push the story forward while side quests let you make connections with your fellow students and even explore parts of the world outside the school itself. These quests range from exploring dungeons that only open with ancient magic and fighting giant armored guards at the end to surviving herbology class and learning how to re-pot a mandrake.
These overall quests follow a similar pattern to most other open-world games so don’t expect to be wowed by features you haven’t seen before. While the main quests will be more fleshed out, side quests can range from the typical fetch errand to missions that involve combat or puzzles elements. There is a good mix of lighthearted missions to pass the time to more thorough side quests that net you some nice rewards and even the chance to get to know your fellow classmates more.
Here is where you can choose various conversation choices to suit your personality. These won’t come back to haunt you like in most decision-based games, but they add a further layer in tailoring the game to your tastes. Personally, I chose to be nice and polite to my professors while being more blunt and matter-of-fact to certain students because isn’t that what House Slytherin would do? Plus, you sometimes get extra spending money for being a bit more demanding after doing someone a favor.
Fumbling with Fashion
While the game excels in creating a world you want to be a part of, it sometimes fumbles over some basic gameplay choices. Take equipping gear for example. As you explore dungeons and defeat enemies, you will find countless items to outfit yourself with such as glasses, coats, gloves, and hats. Some of these look amazing and work with the game’s overall aesthetic, but getting them on or even managing them could have been implemented so much better.
The game suffers from not letting you preview items before you collect them from chests and limits you to how many items you can carry. Say you find a particular large chest and try to get its treasure only to find that your pockets are full. Instead of letting you drop an item you currently have, the only way to make room is to destroy one of your own items or leave the chest alone and somehow retrace your steps and come back to it later on. It’s worse when you destroy an item that you could always sell only to discover it’s actually a pair of gloves with lower stats than what you have on.
Hogwarts Legacy has everything a Potter fan would want from a game in the series and still manages to feel inclusive, robust, and immersive due in part to its beautiful presentation. It may not be a groundbreaking take into the open-world genre and may feature a few questionable design choices, but it is sure to make anyone, fan or not, fall in love with the series all over again.
Don’t get me wrong—outfitting your character in the game is great when you get past moments like these. Though simply equipping every better item you find is a good defensive idea, your character ends up looking like a mismatched mess. You can, thankfully, make any item you put on resemble another one you previously collected so you can stay looking as stylish as ever, though you need to do this manually each time you get something new to try on.
Wearing proper clothes can help keep you alive, but equipping the right spells for the right situation will keep your enemies at bay. Considering you are a fifth-year, after all, you will learn over 30 spells ranging from Wingardium Leviosa to Confringo to spells that let you stop enemies dead in their tracks like Glacius and Arresto Momentum. The game is a boon for anyone who has always wanted to wield some of the spells from the books, but they also serve to create a very expansive combat system that forces you to adapt your attacks to the situation.
Each spell has a different category which corresponds to a certain color: purple for force, yellow for movement, and red for damage. Certain enemies will sometimes defend themselves with a yellow force field meaning you will need to cast Levioso, for example, to disable it and unleash a combo of wand strikes to defeat them. In fact, combos are how you win duels against enemies so you will need to master unleashing various spells at different times to make the most of an opening. You also have to keep an eye on when to shield or when to dodge an unblockable attack so not only do these duels and fights against formidable enemies get exciting, but they can also get tough if you don’t think things through.
Using spells means mapping them out to your four face buttons and holding the right shoulder button during combat to cast them. But, because you sometimes will need to use a variety of spells, you will constantly need to switch up your four spells to match each situation. You can eventually unlock four more presets to switch to, but this involves holding the should button and pressing one of four directions. Suffice it to say, it’s a clunky way to change up your spell presets which will, no doubt, keep changing as you play.
Beyond all the quests and side missions, there is plenty to keep you busy such as collecting beasts and caring for them to harvest resources, decorating your own Room of Requirement, or even collecting flying book pages to unlock more rewards. Nearly everything you do in the game grants you experience points and leveling up means you can unlock new talents such as more gear slots or improved spell cooldowns. It’s a game brimming with things to do and it’s no wonder you will want to continue playing it way past the 30 hours or so it will take you to see the credits roll.
Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.
As a game, Hogwarts Legacy is a familiar and tried-and-true adventure that features what you would expect from a game of its size. Its combat system and even certain gameplay functions may not be revolutionary, but what makes it all work in the end is its magical setting and all the wonder you see that takes place all around you. This makes some of the more mundane fetch quests into the Forbidden Forest feel like epic adventures where you don’t know what will swoosh out at you.
For anyone who has wanted to feel like a student at Hogwarts, the game is sure to make that dream come true. It has everything a Potter fan would want from a game in the series and still manages to feel inclusive, robust, and immersive due in part to its beautiful presentation. It may not be a groundbreaking take into the open-world genre and may feature a few questionable design choices, but Hogwarts Legacy is sure to make anyone, fan or not, fall in love with the series all over again.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com