Hogwarts Legacy Review (PS5)
Man, Hogwarts was really lax before Voldemort came into power.
Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
I love Harry Potter. I was born when the books were being written and the movies were still being made. I just found the series in my school’s library, thought it sounded interesting, and well that caused me to set out to read the whole series and then watch the movies. I was able to watch the Deathly Hollows movies in theaters (and man was a certain scene in Part 1 pretty awkward with my mom there). Though don’t think too bad of me, as I was never someone that made Harry Potter my whole personality (I did have a friend like that, and man was it annoying), I just picked my house and thought about how it would be to actually go to Hogwarts. So, you can imagine how happy I was that we were getting a Harry Potter game that could truly flourish outside of the book’s events.
Hogwarts Legacy’s intro is crazy. After making your character, you find out that you’re joining Hogwarts as a fifth year due to special circumstances. You’re a late bloomer and this is mainly due to your rare ability to see and wield ancient magic. To help you adjust before arriving to Hogwarts, Professor Fig is assigned to you to help you adjust and get used to doing magic. You two are joined by another who talks about the goblin rebellion being led by Ranrok and brings out a container that you seem to only see a glow from and seemingly the only person that was able to open it. Just as you’re getting cozy, the worst happens as you three are attacked in mid-air and well…one doesn’t make it. And just when you’re thinking “well, surely he must have gotten out safely” Thestrals become visible to you. You and Professor Fig manage to make it out in the nick of time thanks to the key in the container being a portkey and transporting you two to ruins.
When you finally make it to Hogwarts, you are sorted into the House of your choice. While it doesn’t seem like there is a Head of House, Professor Weasley takes up the mantel of helping you adjust at Hogwarts and get ready for you to succeed at your O.W.L.S. (which personally is pretty unfair that you have one year to learn everything so you can have a good career). She not only gives you a wonderful introduction to Hogwarts, but gives you a book, the Field Guide, that was made to keep track of your progress through giving you ways to practice and to get lore.
To not spoil anything, Hogwarts Legacy not only has the threat of Ranrok, his loyalists, and Victor Rookwood looming over you, but also finding out about The Keepers and doing their trials to be deemed worthy as you see their memories about a past ancient magic wielder named Isidora; all while you try to catch up and fit into Hogwarts. A lot to cram in, but I assure you it’s all interesting.
I really liked going through the main story. It gives you enough for you to become hooked in finding out what’s going on truly and I love how dramatic it can get. Though, it does have the problem of your character being good at everything their first try and no one really batting an eye as you kill enemies like it’s nothing. I also think it was a great choice to set this back before the events of the books started. While the game was still rooted in history, it allowed Hogwarts Legacy to become its own thing. Though, I do think it would have also been interesting if it was set in the future, letting you see how the book events shaped the wizarding world.
Before heading into the meat of Hogwarts Legacy, I also would like to mention side quests. While the majority of side quests you’ll be doing will be quick oneshots, I think they were well written (at least the ones I ended up doing). I’d say they’re in the same vein as Dying Light’s side quests, as you can sense the character’s personality and you can ask about their past and get to know that they’re friends with other students. This really helps in not having these side quests not seem like the same old same old and keep them from not going stale as quickly.
We do have longer side questlines in the form of companions though, and these are pretty well done. For Slytherin, we have Sebastian whose sister was cursed due to an unfortunate encounter with Ranrok. He goes down a dark path to try and find a cure for his sister’s curse and his best friend Ominis joins to try and dissuade him from the path he’s taking. Sebastian’s questline is the best out of the three for sure. Hufflepuff’s companion is the lovely Poppy who loves magical creatures and not only fights against the poachers, but also aims to save the rare creatures from their hands. Lastly, Griffindor has Natty who is set to find evidence against the Loyalists, despite her mother’s wishes, as she doesn’t want her new home to be ruined by them.
Sadly, Ravenclaw doesn’t have their own companion questline, which seemed it would be with Amit since he appears briefly later on in the main questline. On one hand, there is already so much that I can see it hard to have it in naturally, but on the other I really do think it could have been a good questline where Amit learns that it’s not all just about reading but also applying it in the real world and getting real world experiences.
The combat here is simple enough to pick up and use, but also have nuance to it that makes it more complex as you feel for the style you want to go for. You start with your basic cast that allows you to deal damage and get into a combo without having to deal with cooldowns. You also get spells to defend yourself, your wizardy sense can sense upcoming attacks and you can block most of them with Protego, which you can follow up with a Stupefy counter to stun them. You also have a dodge for the attacks you can’t block (and honestly I ended up instinctively dodging then blocking). As you progress through the story, you will then be able to unlock more spells, some for combat and others for use outside of combat, through doing assignments given to you by your Professors or just through the main questline. Combat wise though, you can a good number of spells in each category. Enough to give you options to how you want to fight, like slicing into your enemies or levitating before bringing them to you to set on fire, or to slam their face into the ground. Some enemies do have shields of their own though, which will require you to use a spell with the same color to break it before they can take damage. You also have ancient magic, which you cumulate as you attack and will let you do a big attack when you have a filled in gauge.
There are also combat items you can use. There are potions you can drink to increase certain aspects for a certain time, like increased defense or decreasing cooldowns, and magical plants that you can use to attack your enemies. It’s hard to remember to use them, but they can be a real help. You will also be able to put talent points in to make your spells stronger, potions and combat plants stronger, make stealth easier, and give you more spell slots to work with in the form of sets you can switch between.
Though, I did notice situations where I’m pretty sure I didn’t get the heads up about an upcoming attack. Some enemies are pretty annoying, even when looking in the Field Guide for their weakness, and due to the scaling this game has it never really felt like I was getting any stronger.
I personally think that the combat is decently hard, and I played on Normal throughout the whole game. I think this has mainly to do with having to multitask as you can get overwhelmed while fighting enemy groups as multiple of them will attack at the same time. Although, if you’re someone that finds Souls games easy this won’t be a challenge and will find it easier than everyone else.
There is stealth here, which is fine for the most part. There isn’t that much focus on it, with only a few sections that require stealth, which is good. Casting the disillusionment charm will allow you to sneak past enemies, but getting too close when you’re facing you will cause them to be suspicious until they realize they’re looking at a witch/wizard. If you manage to sneak up on them, you can cast Petrificus Totalus on them to take them out. I did find it hard sometimes to see if an enemy was facing my way or not, but you can shoot a basic cast to distract them or just go into combat anyway.
The only thing that is a bit iffy is flying. When you first get your broom, it is a bit weird to control especially since your camera and descending/ascending is tied to the same stick. Weirdly enough, I kept thinking it had inverse controls. Though, once I got used to it, it was fine. Not to spoil this, but I did feel that the magical beasts you can ride felt worse control wise. There isn’t really a reason to fly on a beast other than to feel cool or if you’re using it as a ground mount for areas that you can’t fly in.
Hogwarts Legacy has a very interesting leveling up system. In contrast to other games giving you experience as you defeat enemies, it is instead based on completing Challenge tasks the Field Guide has. Challenge Tasks basically are a mix of doing collectibles, doing quests, defeating enemies, and engaging with the different mechanics you’re introduced to. Each Challenge has a couple levels, with each having a reward for completing them, and you stop getting experience once you fully complete it. Considering that a lot of people wished for a proper Harry Potter game to be able to explore a fully fleshed out Hogwarts, and maybe Hogsmeade, and that they undoubtedly wanted you to engage with every mechanic, this was a great choice.
Taking this segway, there is so much to do in Hogwarts Legacy. It’s almost overwhelming, especially when you look at the World Map and see how big it is, but at the same time not due to how everything was slowly introduced to you. A big aspect has to do with the Room of Requirement. Once you unlock it, you will unlock more rooms where you can really spread out your needs. While you can decorate it, this is mainly used so you can craft potions with ingredients you either gathered while exploring/defeating enemies and you can also grow various plants to not only use in potions, but also use in combat. There are even some other utilities to get fertilizer without paying for it to increase crop yield or to randomly get a byproduct every so often (as of course it takes time for things to brew and grow). You do need to buy the spellcraft and have moonstones to be able to conjure them beforehand. You can also save magical beasts and while you can sell them, you can keep them in vivariums so you can take care of them, be rewarded with ingredients you can use to upgrade your gear, and breed them to see the babies.
The only downside is that the spells used only in the Room of Requirement takes up slots in your spell slots. I really wished these spells only popped up in the Room of Requirement and vivariums as they have no other use outside of these areas. Sure, it only takes a couple seconds to assign spells, which lessens this blow, but I would have still wanted the Room of Requirement to have its own spell set.
There are also a bunch of collectibles you can do as well. There are Field Guide pages to get which you can get through using Revelio to have a page appear by important lore items or through doing puzzles, Merlin Trials to complete to increase your gear slots, ancient magic traces you can collect to increase your gauge, balloons to pop and landing platforms to land on, astronomy tables to find constellations, and there are even three secret puzzles to do. There is a lot of collectibles to find if you want to 100% the game, and even then, if you just want to 100% the Field Guide you just have to find most of them which is nice as well.
I honestly would recommend cooling it on doing side quests and collectibles. And I’m saying this as someone that didn’t and spent my opening hours in Hogwarts excitedly exploring. Not only are the spells and mechanics you’ll be engaging in introduced to you (and then expanded later on) as you progress through the main story, but the world scales with you. Which can cause combat encounters to be too hard too early. So I suggest doing the main story quests, companion questlines, and doing the side quests at the beginning that are meant to introduce you to different aspects of the game. Of course, go about leveling up if you need to hit a recommended level for a quest. I would suggest at least waiting until after it’s Winter to go ham on collectibles and side quests as by this time mostly everything has been introduced.
I was also able to do the exclusive Haunted Hogsmeade quest and it’s a shame this is an exclusive. It’s a really great side quest that is really creative and definitely plays on the spooky vibe that you expect from the name. Sometime during Winter, you’ll notice a side quest in Hogsmeade where a house elf named Penny will tell you that her master is selling her shop. Of course, you go about buying it, but the seller is hiding something. You soon find out that a chest in the back practically leads you to a whole limbo world and you’re locked in. Locked in with a particular poltergeist that finds you his little plaything. Fast forwarding to when you get out and your shop fully opens, this serves as another place to sell your unwanted gear (sadly it doesn’t include any and all items despite what Penny says), but you get a slightly higher sell price for all of your items.
I played on performance on my PS5 and Hogwarts Legacy played really well for the most part. There were some instances that I noticed a second or two of frame drops towards the end, but overall pretty good.
Thinking about the game’s negatives, I’d say it’s a lot of small things that didn’t quite get enough development. To list off what I could remember: I wished there were more character customization, there is no pause during cutscenes, limited gear slots was annoying, controlling the ridable beasts didn’t feel good (and there isn’t really any reason to not just use your broom), after a while I wished there was a way to skip the alohomora minigame, NPCs could have been more lively, choices don’t have consequences, no Ravenclaw companion questline, no way to have a companion join you outside of their questline, Garreth Weasley not being one of the major side characters, and no way to respec your talents. It’s also a shame we don’t get more than the first class of each subject, as I really think they were well done. I actually really liked the Professors, and while you can talk to them to get their background, I really liked how each of them taught and participating. None of these negatives really impacted my enjoyment of the game though and I’m still satisfied with what we ended up getting.
I was honestly concerned about the possibility that this game would fail to reach my expectations or just be a game that I just couldn’t get into. It also may not have helped that I didn’t watch anything about it pre-launch other than one trailer. Long story short, I was cautiously excited about Hogwarts Legacy. Well, I’m happy to say that Hogwarts Legacy is a great game. I was so worried about not enjoying it, but it grabbed me right away. The story is really interesting to go through, the side quests you do are well written, the gameplay is fun, exploring Hogwarts and the surrounding area was fun, and all the other things you can do both overwhelming and enjoyable as well. I also really appreciate the transmog system as you don’t have to sacrifice fashion for stats (or vice versa) especially since I found my favorite outfit early on. There are aspects that Hogwarts Legacy could have done better, but it could honestly boil down to it being too ambitious so not everything was able to be fleshed out. Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not, Hogwarts Legacy is definitely worth picking up. You may even find time melt away as you play and find out you just did a 10 hour session like I did.
You can really tell that those working at Avalanche was passionate about making the best Harry Potter game they could. I even wouldn’t be surprised if the developers are big Harry Potter fans. You can tell that they did their research and they did a really good job in not only having it set in the universe, but also have it be their own thing. I’m really happy we were able to get Hogwarts Legacy and it turned out to be a massive success, despite the controversy, and I really hope we end up getting another game. Whether it’s from Avalanche in the form of a sequel or another standalone game to expand on the great foundation they made and/or going with a different approach; or from another studio which would have big shoes to fill.