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Hogwarts Legacy Review

Open-world design 101

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Although Harry Potter remains a cultural landmark, it's currently in the midst of a popularity low point. The controversial tweets about the transgender community by series creator J.K. Rowling have alienated massive swaths of audience, and the most recent spin-off film series Fantastic Beasts disappointed both critically and commercially. After years of development, Hogwarts Legacy arrives to hopefully renew interest in. For developer Avalanche Software, the open-world RPG serves as the culmination of their work over the last five years or so.

Hogwarts Legacy

Taking place about 100 years before Harry Potter arrived, Hogwarts Legacy centers around a different child of destiny. The witch or wizard you choose to play as has enrolled in the titular school as a rare fifth-year student. After their journey to the school is interrupted, the student learns that they have the ability to wield ancient magic. They arrive at just the right time as well, as the evil goblin Ranrok is planning to lead a rebellion against all wizards. With the help of Dark Wizard Victor Rookwood, Ranrok is looking to wield ancient magic for their own nefarious uses. To save the day, your burgeoning magic user must work with students and faculty alike to properly harness their innate abilities.

The plot beats in Hogwarts Legacy don't feel far removed from the original series of books. The chosen student facing off against a powerful, evil entity who is working with wicked Wizards and Witches. However, the level of detail here pales in comparison to Harry's adventure. Specifically, there's a glaring lack of depth to both villains and allies alike. Ranrok and Rookwood only appear sporadically, and you often go several missions in a row without hearing about them at all. Which is a shame because the potential is there for fleshing out Ranrok's ideals and plans. He's sick of goblins being oppressed by wizards, and if the writing quality was there, this motivation could have led to some interesting plot beats. But the game doesn't seem particularly interested in fleshing this out.

Likewise, I was excited to work with other students and learn from different professors. The Harry Potter books are known for their memorable side-cast of characters, from Dumbledore and Snape to Ron and Hermione. Unfortunately, you don't get anything close to those bonds in this title. Fellow students occasionally tag along on missions, and some of them have some backstory fleshed out. One student is looking to find a cure their sister from a devastating curse, while another has a keen interest in animals. However, they often end up as one-note mission givers. The faculty you learn from is chock full of variety and diversity, but again, you don't really spend much time with them outside of learning spells.

That's not to say attending classes and learning spells isn't important. It's the backbone of Hogwarts Legacy, and one aspect of the title you would be smart to fully delve into. Some of the spells are unlocked by working your way through the main campaign, but others can only be learned by completing assignments for your professors. Such is the hazard of coming into Hogwarts as a new fifth-year student. The spells you are taught fall into a handful of different categories. Essential Spells such as Basic Cast and Alohomora are always readily available, while others such as Reparo (Utility Spell), Levioso (Control) and Diffindo (Damage) can be mapped onto a spell wheel.

Hogwarts Legacy

Using the shoulder buttons and face buttons, you can cycle through different pre-set spell wheels. You only have access to one wheel, which covers four spells, at the start of the game, but you can unlock three additional wheels as you level up. You cycle through these sets by using the directional buttons. Most of the spells you learn have some use in battle, so it's good to set your wheels based on the spells you figure would be most effective. I typically had my main wheel have one each of Utility, Control and Damage, with the fourth option varying depending on the mission. Most of the enemies you come across, such as goblin grunts, spiders and wolves, can be dispatched rather easily. Other foes, like wizards and higher-level goblins, often have shields that can only be broken by specific spell types. The few boss battles the title features also frequently call on you to mix your spells in order to break shields or deflect specific attacks.

Surprisingly, combat ended up being the aspect of the title I enjoyed most. The Basic Cast is a tool you always have available, and it can get the job done against most enemies. It's basically a third-person shooter where you don't have to worry about running out of ammo. You're not going out there and smacking enemies over the head with your wand or anything. What makes the combat fun, though, is mixing in all the different abilities you learn. It's easy enough to switch between all the spells you unlock if you have them set to your different spell wheels. Being able to use Transformation to turn one enemy into a barrel, then use Depulso to push said barrel into another foe is snappy and easy. There were no encounters in the game that were too challenging, especially since you often have more than enough health potions to survive. And as enjoyable as the combat is, it's certainly not on the level of more advanced action titles. There aren't combos in the traditional sense, but rather specific spell combinations that work well together - like using Levioso to levitate an enemy, then hitting them with Descendo to slam them into the ground.

It's good that the combat is as fun as it is because most of the other tasks you do in Hogwarts Legacy don't provide the same thrill. The title is at its best during the main campaign missions, where you get to use different skills to clear enjoyable, but not too challenging, puzzle rooms. Outside of these missions, though, the rest of the activities are lacking in excitement. A lot of the side quests you come across boil down to collecting and returning items of interest. These make sense to have at the beginning of the game when you are still learning everything but coming across these towards the back-half of the game is disappointing. There are side missions that are creative, such as a trip inside a haunted chest, but these are few and far between.

Throughout Hogwarts and the surrounding areas, there are plenty of activities for you to stumble across. Again, though, these aren't super fun to complete. Specifically, because they are too simple to be enjoyable. For example, there are dozens of Merlin Trials comprised of boring activities such as using Lumos to attract bugs to a statue or using Incendio to light up torches. You don't even get Quidditch to fall back on, as the sport has been expressly banned at the start of the game. You do get a broom to fly around on, which helpfully cuts down on travel time, but your activities on it are limited to time trials and popping balloons. After a rescue mission, you also can get a Hippogriff to ride around on, but again, there's not much to do with it besides travel. The world of Harry Potter seems ripe for fun and unusual things to do, but the activities featured here are lacking in magic.

Hogwarts Legacy

You also spend an unfortunate amount of time collecting ingredients or plants. Once you unlock the Room of Requirement, you can set-up potion crafting and planting tables. Potions and plants have their uses but having to seek out specific ingredients is annoying. Worse still is when the campaign stops to make you do these things. Having to go out and catch creatures so I can harvest their fur or feathers is super boring, and it stops the story dead in its tracks. You can buy some of these ingredients from different vendors, but they cost a good amount of money, and you don't always have a ton of coins to spare.

Another thing you'll consistently find in Hogwarts Legacy are new articles of clothing. Unlike animal material and plants, though, these are more immediately beneficial. Besides just providing a style upgrade, gear is used to boost stats such as defense and offense. You can find a ton of clothing during your adventure, so don't be afraid to sell off any pieces you don't use. The downside to this is that it can get tedious having to go sort through new gloves or hats after every dungeon or wizard fight. Additionally, you eventually unlock the ability to upgrade certain items, as well as give them traits such as increased damage to a certain kind of enemy. Better pieces of gear do become usable as you level-up in the game as well. Leveling up provides a boost to core stats, as well as gives you a Talent Point to use. Talent Points can be used to augment specific spells such as Depulso or Bombarda to increase their damaging potential.

I'm not the biggest fan of the property, but it's clear that Avalanche Software put a ton of work into making Hogwarts as magical as it seems. The sprawling campus is filled with details that fans of the series are sure to eat up. There's a ton of ground to cover on campus, and almost always something interesting to stumble across. That same loving feeling can be sensed in the studio's recreation of Hogsmeade as well. The local town feels quaint and cozy, which is great because you spend a lot of time there buying and selling goods. Having to hear the same two phrases every time you enter the town is almost annoying enough to want to play the game on mute, though. The remaining areas in Hogwarts Legacy aren't as wondrous as Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, but they still have their charms. Other smaller towns have their own personalities, and some of the caves you come across are exciting to explore.

As mentioned before, the option to use brooms and mounts to get around is handy, as there is a lot of ground for you to cover. There are also Floo Flame fast travel stations that can be used, but you need to activate them first. I personally preferred to walk when it came to reaching areas I previously had not been to. Doing so allowed me to gain experience by solving in-world puzzles or defeating common enemies. Main missions tend to send you to new areas, or locations that can't necessarily be fast-traveled to, but side missions have a tendency to send you back to previously visited areas.

Hogwarts Legacy

I have been playing Hogwarts Legacy in Performance Mode, which seems like the ideal way to go for now. The graphics may not be as crisp as they would be in Fidelity Mode, but the title performs better overall. Fidelity mode is supposed to run at 30fps, but it often felt like it was struggling to even hit that during my time with it. The environments have plenty of great detail, and the texture quality is also on par. Character models look good, and animate well; faces in particular looked realistic as well. There is a noticeable amount of pop-in both indoors and outside, though. There's also a ton of clipping to be found, especially when it comes to the robes. My character's arms were almost always phasing through my robe, which was rather distracting.

Outside of those graphical hiccups, I didn't run into too many issues with the title. The only critical issue I had was a pair of crashes during later campaign missions. Thankfully, the title had quick saved shortly before each crash occurred, but still an issue that needs to be pointed out. There are also some slight loading issues when moving from different areas. It didn't seem to matter if it was going from inside to outside either. The load times kind of just popped up randomly.

It's a bit of a cop out to say this, but how you feel about Hogwarts Legacy will really come down to what you think about the property. It's the closest experience to enrolling in the titular school you can get outside of going to Universal Studios. From the carefully crafted academy to the abundance of spells learned, it's an experience fans of the series have long been searching for. However, if you are simply in the mood for a solid action RPG adventure, it's a little tougher to recommend. The plot is lacking in memorable moments and characters, and the side-quests included are bland and simplistic. It suffers from the common open-world issue of quantity over quality. There's still fun to be had in the Wizarding World, but existing fans of the series are likely to be the first in line, while everyone else considers their enrollment options.

Our ratings for Hogwarts Legacy on PlayStation 5 out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)
There are unfortunate issues with pop-in and clipping to be found, but Hogwarts Legacy still looks solid. Avalanche Software has done a great job of making Hogwarts seem as magical as described.
The wand swinging magic is surprisingly enjoyable. There's enough variety to prevent it from getting stale.
Single Player
Bland and lacking would be the best descriptors for the overall plot. Really would have benefited from added characterization for both allies and villains. It's also a classic case of open-world bloat – there are way too many bland side activities to complete.
There were a few issues while playing in Performance Mode on the PS5, specifically some crashing and loading issues. Fidelity Mode suffers from some chugging and stutters.
Hogwarts Legacy may not have enough magic to ensnare all gamers, but fans of the series will find more than enough enjoyment in Avalanche Software's open-world adventure.
Hogwarts Legacy
Hogwarts Legacy box art Platform:
PlayStation 5
Our Review of Hogwarts Legacy
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
Hogwarts Legacy is ranked #1373 out of 1971 total reviewed games. It is ranked #59 out of 101 games reviewed in 2023.
1373. Hogwarts Legacy
1374. MLB The Show 21
PlayStation 5
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