Capturing the essence of established fiction is a tricky business, especially when translated into a new medium. This is a big reason why licensed games often miss the mark, sometimes not finding the tone and nuance that made the original version shine. Avalanche Software meets these challenges with a deft eye and an obvious appreciation for the source books and movies. A remarkable adventure into the wizarding world of Harry Potter, Hogwarts Legacy offers a clever mix of playstyles and experiences that will keep things fresh for dozens of hours while retaining the magical touches that captivate fans.
By setting the game in the 18th century, the developer can borrow story elements and locations from later times in the timeline, but otherwise tell a new story without canon restrictions. Players take on the role of a witch or wizard of their creation and enter Hogwarts as new fifth year students. Circumstances quickly unfold that challenge you to balance your matriculation with a grand extracurricular adventure involving dark wizards, dangerous goblins, and an ancient form of lost magic. The storytelling sometimes serves as an excuse to hit the big beats that await players, like a triumphant ride on a hippogriff or an amusing jaunt through the castle while transforming into a humorous character. If this makes the overarching narrative feel a little flimsy at times, it’s sustained by consistently excellent dialogue and voice acting that propels the plot along with a stellar musical score.
From the armor that catches the eye in passing to the books that fly about like birds waiting to be plucked from the air, Hogwarts is a delightful setting to explore. It’s not hard to see why characters in the books always got into trouble outside of class; It’s almost impossible not to let side quests, collectible hunts, or other activities distract you from your educational path. Secret doors and discoveries are everywhere, as are numerous relationships with young students and eccentric faculty. This dynamic extends beyond the castle’s labyrinthine corridors to the vast open world beyond its grounds. The outdoor environment is filled with beasts to tame, dungeons to conquer and opportunities to hop on your broomstick to speed across the landscape.
A wealth of unique systems and mechanics drive the game’s progression, leading to a mix of exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat play, as well as satisfying progression as you level up and upgrade. The vast majority of these systems are well designed and fun, but it means you’re still getting tutorials in new game processes even after tens of hours in the game. This works to some extent within the fictional framework; After all, you are a student at a school. But it can make you feel like you’re waiting way too long for the full range of options to open up.
Combat is exciting, full of flashy spell effects and fun ways to exploit individual enemy weaknesses. The combat animations are entertaining and convey the feeling of being in a magical life-and-death duel or in a terrifying confrontation with a troll. Too little opposing variety dampens the excitement after a while. That said, I’ve always enjoyed the combat and even the optional stealth routes that sometimes allowed me to dodge the melee with a bit of invisibility potion on my side.
I encountered several minor technical issues over the course of my long playthrough, such as: And some of the game systems are more successful than others; A barrage of useless, low-quality gear rewards is a notable, albeit minor, issue that sometimes slows down the fun. But for those who have long wanted a richly interactive playground in which to live out their own Harry Potter fantasy, Hogwarts Legacy casts an incredibly intriguing spell.
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