Hogwarts Legacy Review – You’re a Wizard [Insert Name]

    Title: Hogwarts Legacy
    Developer: Avalanche Software
    Release Date: February 10, 2023
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
    Genre: Adventure RPG

Coming from someone who used to stand in line for hours to pick up the Harry Potter books on release day, being able to exist in some capacity in the Wizardry world has always been a dream. In its build-up to release, Hogwarts Legacy seemed to promise an adventure, unlike any other video game adaptation of this series. After playing, the target audience of this experience has me a little confused, but I can’t deny that I was having a great time, no matter what area of gameplay I put time into.

Hogwarts Legacy seems to have two stories to tell. First, you play as a fifth-year student who has been admitted to attend Hogwarts with the help of Professor Fig. The relationship between the student and Fig isn’t explicitly brought to light, but it appears this student is special, with more understanding of their power revealed later. Before even arriving at Hogwarts, the duo is nearly captured by the antagonist Goblin Ranrok who is searching for an item they acquired at Gringotts but ended up at the school in due time.

The story evolves from there; trust me, Hogwarts Legacy has a story to tell. It isn’t held back by a movie set budget either and gets away with high-action moments of explosions and destruction. I laughed at the number of times reparo was used following an action scene. The best part about this campaign is that it feels like a true adventure in this world. It does tend to hold your hand through explanations and lengthy dialogue, but it remedies that by allowing you some agency over the conclusion. Depending on your house, you may be more inclined to sway to a specific ending, but there’s room to be yourself. Still, choices in the game don’t seem to affect the broader narrative and mainly affect side activities and the ending.

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The story has a great way of making each student and teacher have their own identity; this extends to the surrounding world. Each shopkeeper or person you meet can impact the narrative, even though many encounters are optional. Having the freedom to spend time where I wanted or choosing to interact with characters I liked more was a bonus to the experience.

The overall writing is fantastic as it manages fanservice alongside putting a unique mark on the series. Longtime fans will catch recognizable character names, and those who loosely understand may go to Google to check Harry Potter history. Suffice it to say, the primary campaign is pretty good, if not a bit overly cheesy at times, but this is based in a world where magic exists. You can’t get cheesier than that.

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The other story within Hogwarts Legacy is that of the players. You can explore and take on quests at your leisure, which is more highlighted after you acquire a broom and a familiar. The map is massive and full of puzzles, secret dungeons, and places to explore. Sadly, the in-game map is terrible, and I was always confused about which fast travel point was closer to my destination.

During the campaign, a professor will ask you to complete a task or acquire a specific charm for campaign progression. I did appreciate how the quests were organized, but they left it up to you to figure out where certain items are. There’s just so much room for exploring, and without any pressure, it’s easy to get distracted by a flying key or book as you try to complete your Field Guide.

Everywhere you go in the game contains hidden pages to add to your Field Guide. I later learned that this slowly unlocks new gear for me, but you’ll need to accept it. This book had me looking over all environments casting Revelio like a madman.

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Regarding the action elements, Hogwarts Legacy comes with a challenge. Although there is a difficulty option, there are some rather intense areas, which makes me assume this game targets adult fans. Also, later in the game are trials and dungeons that will test puzzle-solving and battle skills, which takes the experience away from the narrative.

It doesn’t feel completely disjointed, but there is something to say about this fifth-year student fighting waves of Dark Arts users and goblins alone. As a typical Slytherin, I began to resent my peers for being unable to do things independently. So why do I have to look for your lost treasure or find that item while defending the school?

My responses after this point became far cruder to NPC characters as I required rewards and praise for my deeds. But back to the action. As you progress, you’ll unlock new charms to use in battle. I suggest doing everything you can to open them quickly because some areas require a specific charm.

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It’ll consume talent points, but you’re allowed multiple slots for organizing hotkeys to your charms. This makes encounters easier because some enemies’ armor is weak to a specific spell indicated by a color. I would compare the battle system to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Enemies approach with some fanfare, and there are optional ways to use the environment to assist. For example, a marker appairs over your head when an enemy is about to strike, giving you a chance to defend or roll out of the way.

Mastering this is crucial to avoid dying, but groups of enemies make it tougher to respond to attacks. Using the right trigger on a controller will shoot out a blast from your wand, but you can combo in various charms. My finger got a little tired from the constant attacking, but at least the battle system is fun in the early hours. Unfortunately, the battles weigh on the experience, depending on what you try to get from this game. They become repetitive, and the enemies lack any surprises after their general introduction. Sometimes it feels like I’m some secret superhero keeping the world safe on my own at night, and during the day, I go around being an average student.

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Equipment can be found throughout the entire game and raises the base stats of a character, along with the option to upgrade them. However, in the opening hours, you’ll want the strongest gear equipped, which will surely leave your character looking strange. There’s plenty of wacky equipment to wear, but I would say that you don’t start looking cool until way later in the adventure.

Additional aspects lend to more time players can invest in this game. For starters, the room of Requirement makes an appearance. Players can customize the room, which doubles as a potion and potting crafting area. It allows you to have a special place for all your stuff, but I never felt like I deserved it over the other students, which made me feel like more of an outcast.

On the performance end, Hogwarts Legacy ran smoothly. I thought the animations during cutscenes were great, but the audio did desync in some areas. Still, I found the overall design of each environment to be magical, for lack of a better word. The game is very well crafted to make you feel like you are in this world. Magical things are happening in nearly every area, and it just instills a sense of curiosity in the player to check it out.

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Hogwarts Legacy is a genuine wizarding adventure from beginning to end. There’s no mistaking that the writing and world-building lend so much to the experience that it overshadows the repetitive battle system and unintuitive menu designs. There’s a true sense of discovery provided that stems from the freedom given to players to take on this game the way they want. The jury is still out on the target audience, but I had a magical time.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.