If you've got the capital to spend on Hogwarts Legacy at launch, we'd recommend getting in there sooner rather than later. The story catches you off-guard and keeps you wanting more, combat is fluid and far better than anything we could have asked for and the castle is beautifully large and doesn't shy away from any detail mentioned in the books.
It finally happened. We got our letter to Hogwarts. By that, we mean we finally got our Hogwarts Legacy review code. Essentially though, it’s the same thing. Hogwarts Legacy is such a wonderful excursion into the world that was built nearly 25 years ago that it almost feels as if we were actually invited to attend Hogwarts and its surroundings (of which there is plenty). It takes the world from the original books and beautifully weaves an entirely new story into it. All while managing to keep Harry Potter’s name out of its mouth.
For years, Avalanche Studios, makers of Just Cause, have been trying to bring some form of the Harry Potter universe to life. What better place to start than with one of the most iconic locations in fiction history: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Accompanied by a score that would make even John Williams wet himself in delight, Hogwarts Legacy does almost everything right; from Hogwarts and its grounds to a story that somehow manages to bring together new concepts, characters, and locations to an already lived-in universe.
Obviously, Hogwarts Legacy isn’t without issues. NPCs often feel lifeless with deadpan expressions, and the game’s UI and map feel relatively clunky compared to a game like FromSoft’s Elden Ring. These troubles are countered by everything else that Avalanche did perfectly — exploration and combat, coupled with a decently fun and exciting story.
Your journey has just started
Enter Magnus Vulpe; Stuff’s own character that embarked on a journey to Hogwarts. And no, that name isn’t set in stone. We were in a rush to get going, and chose the first Latiny-sounding name that we could think of. Come to think of it, that’s probably how most of the Wizarding World got their monikers.
The first step, before ever laying eyes on the castle, is to create your character. The (rather shallow) character creator is detailed enough to let you make a character that feels like yourself. It’s not The Sims level of deep, but that’s okay. Soon after you’re given free rein to Hogwarts. You’ll be covered head-to-foot in the most absurd clothing known to man, all of which is stolen from students and teachers alike.
Legacy opens in Diagon Alley but don’t get too excited. It’s only a cutscene. You’re accompanied by Professor Fig, a teacher that’s been tasked with getting you, the main character and late-comer to Hogwarts, up to speed. That all happened off-screen though. We’re just here to exposition-dump before making our way to Hogwarts. This will take a while, involves Ancient Magic, a portkey, and a couple of tutorials. You’ll figure it all out.
You’ll spend most of your time at Hogwarts with the aforementioned Professor Fig and two students – Sebastian Sallow and Natsai Onai. They accompany players through the game’s larger side quest storylines and even be a party to the larger story of the goblin rebellion in the background. If you’re not spending time with either of your friends or exploring the grounds, you’ll be with the teachers and other adults of the game – of which every single one is memorable. Our personal favourite was the Charms teacher, whose eccentric personality was a highlight. Unfortunately, the teachers aren’t in the game as much as we’d have liked. But we get it, story has to story. And spiders won’t kill themselves, will they?
Besides the main storyline, which closely follows the character’s relationship to Professor Fig and Ancient Magic and how the goblin rebellion plays into it all, there’s loads to do. Side quests fill the castle. They’re not the most engaging – often mere fetch-quests – with their only purpose being to gain some XP and nudge the player into exploring every facet that Hogwarts castle has to offer. Some sidequests are less shallow. Those are the ones usually accompanied by either Sebastian or Natsai, as they actually give the characters an opportunity to connect. Otherwise, you’ll run errands for people in the castle and Hogsmeade. It’s as dull as it sounds. But for fans of the Harry Potter world, the little bits of lore spread throughout make the boring quests worth it.
Nearly as hard as Dark Souls
There’s no debate – combat and exploration are where Hogwarts Legacy thrives. We’ve known for months that Harry Potter fans would have an excellent time seeing the castle. However, we were pensive about the game’s combat system. Our worries were proved false almost immediately. We were blown away by just how fluid and satisfying combat was. Who knew that blowing up spiders, dark wizards, and goblins would be as fun as this?
As much as Legacy wants you to explore, it wants you to expend the same energy on mastering the spells at your command. Fighting monsters in Legacy is intuitive but if you want to progress you’ll be required to spend time and effort becoming the best wizard around. Even near the end of an almost 32-hour campaign, we found ourselves being overwhelmed by enemies’ attacks. If something doesn’t work, Legacy wants you to try again with a different set of spells by your side or reevaluate your strategy altogether.
The game makes use of typical ‘bosses’, though it’s rare that a name and health bar will ever appear at the top of your screen. When they do, they’re exciting and engaging, forcing you outside of your comfort zone when it comes to the tactics you’ve grown accustomed to. Beyond this, Legacy prefers to just throw you the same enemies over and over again, sometimes with stronger spells than the last. Occasionally, you’ll be given the opportunity to fight a troll or some other magical beast, but most of those are hidden in the game’s beautiful open world.
This is more of a personal issue, but we found the game’s colourblind modes to be distinctly lacking. Needing to distinguish colours correctly is an essential point of the combat, and it’s clear that enough attention wasn’t paid to the deuteranopials buying the game. Enemies are able to conjure up differently-coloured shields during a fight, with the only way to break them being to send back a spell that matches the shield’s colour. In the fast-paced gameplay, that often becomes almost impossible. The same works for the main character. Certain spells are unblockable, forcing the use of the roll button. Unfortunately, we struggled to tell when a spell was coming that could be easily blocked or not. This left us rolling way more than most will.
Besides combat, the game has a decent gear menu built right in. As you explore and complete quests, you’ll find chests and bags scattered around the map filled with galleons and some brilliant gear. Some chests reward you with either the funniest or most heinous pieces of clothing imaginable. Those were often our favourite to use and upgrade, since the clothes you wear translate into the game’s cutscenes.
However, there is a limit to what you can carry. Slots are limited, which forces the player to keep an eye out on inventory space and when a trip to the nearest travelling salesman is necessary. There are little puzzles strewn about the map that’ll let you upgrade your storage space once you complete enough of them. Think of them like the Korok seeds dotted around Breath of the Wild’s map, though not nearly as cute.
There isa skill tree baked in, though it’s not as obnoxiously large and developing as the more hardcore fans were expecting. Still, it managed to keep us engaged, offering spell upgrades that’ll make you powerful enough to match the ever-increasing level count of your enemies.
If you’re a fan of feeling sick, Avalanche will try and entice you to play on Fidelity or Fidelity with Raytracing mode, which offers the best picture of Hogwarts yet, with the small caveat that gameplay is locked to 30fps. We used the Balanced mode, but a Performance option is available if 60fps is still not enough for you.
We did experience a few performance issues here and there that can’t be ignored. Certain doors that lead either inside or outside the castle trap you with short loading animations before opening themselves up. It’s certainly not like this for every door, or even most of them, but it’ll get on your nerves the more that you explore.
Another small detail we noticed was the constant loading-in of the world’s assets whenever you turned a corner just a little too fast. It’s not a major distraction, and it’s something we only noticed a handful of times, though it does make us wonder how the hell the PS4 and Xbox One (and eventually the Switch) will handle running such a powerful game.
Hogwarts Legacy Verdict
After taking a quick peek at 2023’s release schedule, we don’t think that Avalanche could have picked a better time to release Hogwarts Legacy. Barring Tears of the Kingdom — which will most definitely win Game of the Year — we’re struggling to think of a game that’ll hold the public’s conversation for longer than it takes to write a thread on Twitter. Unless FromSoft has a sequel to Elden Ring tucked away, it shouldn’t be a concern for Avalanche. Exploration, story and combat all make Hogwarts Legacy worth the price tag, and not even the minor inconveniences we experienced could discourage that. Prepare to be lost for quite some time in a world you already know, and remember to keep yourself hydrated.