A Successful Spellcraft

Strides into the Wizarding World in gaming is picking up it seems, with triple-A projects such as Forespoken taking notice – this made me realize how heavily neglected the genre has been for as long as I can remember. Sure, we had the Lego Harry Potter series and such, but nothing to the level of Hogwarts Legacy. Thankfully, not only did Avalanche Software develop a world that’s entirely worth exploring, but they also exceed expectations in almost every facet of the project. Whether you love the Harry Potter franchise or just want to explore a beautifully crafted world as a badass wizard, Hogwarts Legacy provides the player such level of immersion, it’s comparable to Red Dead Redemption 2 in that regard – despite falling short in plot and technical elements.

You’re Spellbound

Hogwarts Legacy is an open-world action RPG set in 1890’s within the Harry Potter universe. The game allows the players to create their own character that’s fully voiced, a house to represent with limited or unique questlines based on your choice, limited dialogue options and much more. You are a student who has been summoned to attend Hogwarts as a fifth-year, which is something that rarely happens. Eventually, you find out you possess the power to see traces of ancient magic, which then starts your adventure into uncovering mysteries filled with epic moments and plot twists. It is a well-acted story with some decent backdrops that all crumbles before it’s ever able to pick up – unfortunately this is the weakest element of Hogwarts Legacy where pacing suffers greatly within its own plot. The best story element of this game is its interactions with students within Hogwarts and side-missions. Sure, the main questline has some excellent animations and set pieces, but the overarching story is entirely foretelling. There were far too many moments where things that turned sideways could have been mitigated with the Accio spell for example.

The structure of progression is also designed too heavily into teaching the games mechanics; when I was 10 hours in, I was still unlocking gameplay elements that could have been taught much sooner – the way you unlock quests is a bit confusing. I was stuck for about an hour not knowing how to progress until I checked my O.W.L letters for further instructions, whereas before, letters were being unlocked and read to me automatically. At the start of my adventure, I was told that some parts of progression would lead to meet requirements like levels and/or side quest completions – part of the hour hold up was doing those things in mind, only to realize it was about reading letters all along. For the most part, the game does a good job in describing to players the elements of its design, but it quickly gets lost in the noise.

Fortunately, the overall experience is excellent. Although there’s a ton of fetch-quest, it is done so well when implemented with the spells you learn throughout your journey. The game is centered around Hogwarts, so you will be attending classes and such to learn new spells, but it’s not limited to just that path – you will be adventuring off learning new tricks and even unforgivable spells. You will meet companions that’ll lead to Relationship quest to further bond with them in preparation for what’s to come. There’s so much to the design of the story that it gets a pass for its poor main questline.

Merlin’s Beard, Keep Exploring!

It’s open-world design means exploration, and you will do much of that – taking inspirations from its immersive factor of Red Dead Redemption 2 to the fun mystery bits of Breath of the Wild’s Shrine challenges, there’s much to do. If you desire to remove HUD elements, it’s there within the Accessibility settings – but regardless of your choice, you will be encountering strange relics, abandoned ruins, dungeons, enemy dens and camps, small outpost and large towns, mystery to solve, environmental puzzles, the Forbidden Forest (!!), different regions and more. It’s vast and will take you dozens of hours to explore it all – mind you, it’s not as enormous as Witcher 3 for example, but it’s large enough to feel like it’s a real world.

This is coupled with the ability to ride fantastic beast and fly your magical broom. Quest would allow for you to increase the speed of your broom as well, which means much swifter turns and faster burst of speed. Interestingly enough, gust of wind can benefit your travels during flight which I found to be a nice touch to detail. Flying on a Hippogriff is also pretty neat and not too similar to the broom fortunately – you can ride mount the beast that can easily transition to flight, with some added work to animations, making it feel weighty and responsive. This is also in relation to fast travel post too, in case you want to quickly complete some side quest or gather some materials. It’s truly a great feeling to properly play through an environment as a wizard, I don’t see myself putting this game down, ever.

Wand Battle, Cultivation, Crafting and then some Breeding

Hogwarts Legacy is a responsive action game – as a wand wielder, you will swiftly cast spells in combining effects for maximum damage. There’s a nice amount of debuffs you can apply to your enemies like Fire, Ice, Float, Stop, Curse and Impact. Some will be shielded with different elements and in order or to break them, you would have to match it with spells, or else it deflects. Thankfully, there’s friendly fire, so if there’s one casting an AoE on you, it can also damage the enemies. Enemy variety is decent enough, though there’s much to be desired – you will be facing Goblin rebels, dark wizards, Trolls and some beast like spiders, toads and wolf packs. Some of the bigger beasts are limited to story beats of the game, which is a missed opportunity – I don’t entirely put the developers at fault because the level of work put into the overall project is insurmountable either way.

Controls are very intuitive, albeit a bit tough to get use to at first; right trigger is your main attack, while holding it and tapping one of the face buttons would cast other spells. You can freely allocate anytime in and out of battle which can be a bit cumbersome at first, however you can unlock up to 3 additional ability loadouts later on to swap even faster. There are about 30 spells to master, which can be enhanced further via Talents and because this is an RPG, you can further increase its potency with mods placed into your gear – gear you’ll get from enemies, chest and completing activities. Cosmetics plays a huge role to your overall experience, where getting new outfit looks unlock with every new pickup, and wand handle from specific chest/quest. Leveling is as expected, you will get XP from downing foes, completing quest and even more so from challenges.

You will need to gather materials if you want to further enhance your character – that means cultivation and gathering – but Avalanche Software went a step further with a secret room called Room of Requirements, a place where you can customize to your hearts content with furnishing, farming, aesthetics and even breeding (!!!) – that’s right, you can capture fantastical beast and care for them within 3 different biomes, that can also be further customized. It’s a very welcoming distraction that adds much more depth to the overall experience.

An Engine with Limitations

Hogwarts Legacy looks absolutely gorgeous – from outfit designs to the environmental, there’s a level of care put into this game that is rarely seen outside the likes of CDPR, Santa Monica Studios, Rockstar and Naughty Dog. There’re so many elements implemented, it’s quite unbelievable; you can explore the entirety of Hogwarts Castle top to bottom; there’s moving portraits, ghost roaming the halls, armor suits interacting with each other, poltergeist terrorizing students and so much more – all happening dynamically as you roam the world. The level of detail is unprecedented with beautifully lit corridors, physical-based rendering that reflects from materials realistically, global illumination in lighting and shadows done excellently in and out of ray-tracing mode and much more. Coupled with excellent anti-aliasing and crispy image quality in any graphics mode – it’s truly a treat. Walking animations is believable and responsive in and out of gameplay alongside some extremely neat clothes physics. Alpha particle effects from magic is a sight to behold – truly some next-gen stuff happening in this game, especially on PC if you’re running an RTX card.

But all of this comes at a cost it seems – working under the Unreal Engine 4 model, you will see some strange loading instances during your travels in dense areas like stuttering for example. The streaming tech does a splendid job for the most part, but you will often find yourself loading between zones in Hogwarts when trying to go through doors. Facial animations are giving me Andromeda vibes thanks to its AI generated efforts. You will find yourself in a lot of emotionless conversation in the course of your adventure. Thankfully, the eyes are done well enough to not be too creepy.

Additionally, the unfortunate “fade-to-black” transition plagues the real-time cutscenes more often than one should experience – leaving a lot of what you’re going to play disjointed. That means every moment from world interaction to cutscenes will fade-to-black when transitioning almost every second of the game.

UI also leaves more to be desired – it works for the most part, but there’s no mass sell, and dismantling gear doesn’t yield resources, making you waste a lot of potential materials. Additionally, there’s no sorting of gear too – with very limited space to hold, you’ll be back tracking to shops more often than you’d like. Combine all of this with its technical shortcomings and it can be a nuisance at times.


Yet, despite its technical and plot shortcomings, Hogwarts Legacy thrives in its making. Avalanche Software’s first real AAA project bore fruit and I can’t wait to see them implement their learned experience moving forward. The wizarding dream is finally here.

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