Five Days in Hogwarts – Videogame Review
Announced in 2020, and delayed from last year, the anticipation for Avalanche Software’s Hogwarts Legacy is finally over. Having paid for the preorder, I have been immersed into the world of Hogwarts for the last five days and here’s everything I have to say about it. There’s a lot to talk about so I’ll be splitting up this review into sections to find what you’re looking for.
As a fan of the Harry Potter series, this game had a lot of expectations to meet. Having seen the movies countless times, I always came away from them wishing we could have seen more of the wizarding world itself inside and outside of Hogwarts. I also wanted to see more kinds of magic being used in battle and always felt that they’d underutilized spells in the movies during these kinds of scenes.
The plot does well at drawing attention and intrigue right out of the gate. You come in as a fifth-year student with your own acceptance letter. This helps with the believability of the story and magical knowledge your character has from the start. Once I started going to more classes and doing assignments and side quests, I almost forgot about the mysterious underbelly of the story and it would pop back up in the middle of an unassuming mission which was a fun way to make sure you’re paying attention. I don’t want to give too much of the story away so I'll stop there before going into spoiler territory.
The map for the game is large but not too big that it’ll take forever to work your way through it with items to collect at every turn, in and outside of Hogwarts. The wizarding school itself is a maze of classrooms, secret rooms, and side quest adventures of varying difficulty that you can unlock as you keep leveling up. The classes are brief, to-the-point, and serve as a natural tutorial for learning new spells and gaining new abilities that flow seamlessly into the story of being a student at Hogwarts.
Hogsmeade is another important universe-original location in the game that acts as a resource center of shops where you can buy and sell items for yourself and for classes. There are also easter eggs for long-time fans of the books and movies that were exciting to encounter along the way.
Control and Gameplay
The controls of the game are easy to pick up on in terms of learning spells and how, when, and where to use them. The in-battle combinations you can do are challenging but satisfying both in the feeling of when you nail it as well as visually with cinematic moments that rival, or dare I say outdo, the battle scenes in the movies for comparison. It can be a bit crowded at times during some of the battle sequences, which contributes to the difficulty, which is where the settings come in. The game has four settings–story, easy, normal, and hard– that add to the many ways you can change and personalize the experience.
Side note: Though many may have expected a lot more spells from a game about wizards, there are spell “talents” that upgrade spells to make them more effective in use and potions that you can make as well.
As far as gameplay is concerned, some of the highlights of course are the process of learning and using spells on the controller. Learning to fly on a broom is as confusing as it is to comprehend flying on a broom would be, however, once you’ve got it down it becomes easier to navigate and pick back up. In battle, you have to wait for powerful spells to recharge after each use which is annoying for persistent difficult enemies. There are upgrades to shorten this recharge time but it’s still not fun to wait for.
When battling bigger enemies there are pieces of the environment to interact with to increase damage, but sometimes once you run out, you run out and have to spam your basic spell while recharging and your right pointer finger will hate you. There’s a secret aspect of the battles that I’ll save for people wanting to still play and get the full experience of the story, but it makes the more difficult battles worth enduring.
Graphics, Visuals, and Character Customization
The part that many people talk about for any game these days is graphics. For Hogwarts, overall the graphics quality isn’t anything super special. Quality-wise, I didn’t see anything I haven't seen before in a game but especially compared to other recent games. In the beginning, the quality was running smoothly but as you figure out how to move through the game quicker and if you begin to skip parts of cut scenes, the slight lag starts to creep in. Although it wasn’t anything too serious, I began noticing these changes in quality pretty early in the game.
The artistic visual aspect of the graphics, however, exceeded my expectations. In the mind of a lifelong fan, the visuals of the castle well maintained the idea of sweeping and vast interiors with immense attention to detail for the full “old magical castle” effect as
well as the spooky “mom come pick me up I’m scared” ambiance of the Forbidden Forest.
Being an RPG, you get to make your own character and customize it as you move along in the game. This could easily take a lot of time to do in the beginning and even
longer when you start collecting gear. There are plenty of refreshingly diverse character designs that you can pick and run with or use other face presets that you can adjust as well as a wide variety of hairstyles and colors. Another nice detail is the addition of different
optional facial scars which is a clear nod to the original “chosen one” himself from the series. Some of these features can be changed at one of the Hogsmeade shops as well. Your character also of course gets to be sorted into one of the four houses where you can go with the game’s choice for you or choose your own.
Soundtrack and Voice Acting
On more of a side note compared to the rest, I feel like I can’t do a review on this game without talking about the soundtrack. The soundtrack for the game manages to compliment the film series’ iconic and recognizable score without constantly being a direct rip-off, and I found it to do well at elevating the story and action.
The voice acting is also not anything special like we saw in last year’s new God of War, but it also isn’t cringe-inducing like other new releases. The story’s guide/mentor character stood out to me in his performance thus far but other than him, everyone else is fairly average but doesn’t hinder the story in any noticeable way.
To conclude, the game is overall a work of art and serves justice to its inspiration and builds thoughtfully onto the existing lore and universe. Although I'm far from the finish line, the creators of the game have said that each house has its own set of adventures different from each other so the game's replayability is built in for players who wish to find something new to enjoy about the game upon every replay.