Dust off your wands, polish your sorghum brooms, take your cape and pointed hat out of the closet: we return to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with one of the video games that has most catalysed the hype of gamers in recent years, finally available to all fans of the wizard saga created by JK Rowling and who here finds a truly enjoyable prequel spin-off that will certainly be among the best-selling and most played titles of 2023. We are obviously talking about Hogwarts Legacy.
There are many questions that have crowded the minds of possible users of the game in recent months; in this review we will answer some of the most common ones (without any spoilers) also giving a judgment of merit to a title that, let’s start with, we were unable to squeeze 100% given the very limited time allowed to the press for testing the final build: but we will return to the subject later, expanding our coverage on the subject subsequently.
Hogwarts Legacy is the most anticipated game of 2023: why?
For many (including us at GamesVillage) Hogwarts Legacy is the most awaited title of 2023. We know very well that there are those who will turn up their noses at this statement, in the year in which games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Starfield and Final Fantasy XVI… we are perfectly aware of the fact that Zelda has mortgaged the GOTY, but here we are talking about the extension of the fandom and the scope of the whole: Zelda will only be released on Switch and will involve a relatively small audience, while Legacy will debut on as many possible platforms, also involving fans of the franchise who are not avid gamers.
The Harry Potter fandom (net of the upheavals of recent times relating to the alternating fortunes of the second film saga and the stormy relationship of the original author with the media and the LGBTQ+ community) remains one of the most numerous and solid and the interest in this new video game is decidedly well placed, given the premises.
In fact, it has been more than ten years since we have seen a triple A video game dedicated to the saga, which over the years has had a videogame development purely linked to the mobile market.
Legacy, on the other hand, wants to be a wide-ranging game, a semi-open world Action RPG with great production values to which Avalanche Software has evidently dedicated itself with all its soul to give fans the experience they have always craved. Portkey Games, the label created by Warner Bros. for the creation of video games dedicated to the Wizarding World, has refounded Avalanche specifically for this game, which has been in the works since 2017. And we must admit that, beyond some sporadic bugs pre-launch patch , it is noted that the skill with which the title was built: not a single day of production was wasted.
Canon is important, but so are the original elements
Legacy is set in the late 1800s, around one hundred years before Harry Potter enters Hogwarts and around forty before Newt Scamander’s adventures in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The choice of the historical period is excellent, because it allows you to ideally hook up to what will happen later, despite being unrelated to it and being able to follow your own tracks, always remaining within the confines of the (in some ways confused and elastic) Potterian canon.
Everything you will see and experience will be perfectly in line with what you know from the books and films, with very few perfectly sensible “practical” licenses, the use of some already known elements here expanded and many others unpublished and perfectly integrated, as by now tradition of Portkey video games, which are authorized by the author but in which she has not had a hand in any way: they are entirely the result of game designers and screenwriters who work on the canon in an exceptional way. And if Hogwarts Mystery on mobile had already presented some very captivating characters, Legacy is no different: the NPCs are all well characterized and have their own, singular, personality, which blends well with the tone of the saga.
Speaking of this, it is interesting to note how Avalanche has based its work on the original canon, largely taking up the work already done previously for feature films, but also by EA for its video games of the saga: the castle is certainly not reinvented, on the contrary , all the locations respect the plans already created illo tempore, renovating and expanding, however some elements, and not only from a visual point of view. An enormous research and implementation work, completed by vast portions of unpublished map relating, largely, to the Scottish Highlands surrounding the famous school of magic.
Hogwarts Legacy: a charm, in more ways than one
Already after a few hours of playing you will have clear how the intent of the game is not to create anything particularly new or original, but rather singular and “wonderful”.
The system remains among the standards of Warner Bros. Games’ best-known ARPGs, from the Batman games of the Arkham series to those on Middle-earth by Monolith Software, drawing heavily on the example of the genre masterpiece represented by The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. In recent months, many have joked that walking around with a drawn wand would have made the game similar to a GTA with magic, but in reality it is, with due proportions, the adventures of Geralt of Rivia that you have to watch. The plot is perhaps less deep, less rich in moral nuances and the game world more restricted, but the setting continually reminds us of it, even if it is not a rip-off but, on the contrary, maintaining its own identity linked to the nature of the context.
The plot, briefly exposing it without spoiling anything, sees our protagonist character (a player avatar in every possible sense) arriving as a “first boy” at Hogwarts at the age in which he should already be in his fifth year, a screenplay choice that integrates the need not to have a barely ten-year-old protagonist and an interesting plot premise, which sees him, among other things, predisposed to see the traces of an ancient and (lost?) form of magic, sought after by some dark wizards and by a ruthless goblin at the head of a dangerous army of rebellion.
Alternating school life, private and classroom lessons and incredible adventures inside and outside the castle, we will have to find out what lies behind this intriguing mystery, helped by a roster of bizarre characters, including assorted schoolmates and teachers of all stripes.
If the system is that of a tested ARPG with main missions that carry the plot forward, secondary missions and more or less free exploration, it is the spirit of the operation that conquers, finally returning to the Magical World that Sense of Wonder that in recent years had gone into hiding and who, instead, made his fortune in the classic saga, which enthralled millions of people with the surprises it reserved for every turn of the page.
The plot is far from silly and childish (the tones are those of Dark Fantasy from the first minutes) but it also comes to terms with the minimal suspension of disbelief to which the saga has accustomed us, often accentuated in role-playing video games: simplifications and apparent ingenuity are part of the experience and it is normal to play along, also because in any case they are seen less than in an average JRPG…
The supreme taste of this game – and it is the supreme lesson learned from the Classic created by CD Projekt RED – lies in letting go without the hassle of “checking the missions” to free exploration: every corner of the Hogwarts castle hides something, whether even just a particularly amusing talking picture or a curious detail, integrated so that you discover it at the right moment.
Piattaforme: PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Developer: Avalanche Software
Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
If we had to judge Hogwarts Legacy only by the atmosphere it conveys, we could only give it a full 10, since if you are a fan of the saga you will also love just wandering around the castle or indulging in some secondary activity. Naturally we are here to judge the Avalanche title in its entirety, which makes us more realistic about many things, although it is impossible not to give due honors to the efforts of the construction team, which has shown resourcefulness, practical sense, great respect for fans and for the original material, expertise in renewing it and integrating it with new elements and the ability to present a unicum whose main flaw lies in not being able to be “all” what one might expect.
“There is no Quidditch”, “The mechanics of alchemy, crafting herbology are too simplistic”, “There are no romances” and much more will be pointed out to him, but at the same time there are many other features that we did not expect, among including the ability to use Unforgivable Curses in a meaningful and consistent way.