Despite the cultural phenomenon that is the Harry Potter franchise there have not actually been too many video games set in that universe. In fact, taking out the official movie tie-in games and the LEGO games, there are almost none, which is what makes this new games from Avalanche Software (not Avalanche Studios, the creators of Just Cause, as I originally believed) all the more surprising. But an open-world, story-driven RPG is upon us, and so without further ado, here are my early thoughts on… Hogwarts Legacy.
- The character creation is fine, with numerous pre-set faces to choose from, with the ability to then use sliders for things like skin or hair colour, and options of hair styles, facial markings etc. It’s all relatively standard stuff, though a few more skin tones wouldn’t have been amiss. My Hogwarts student is one Miss Ivy Crafthorn.
- The graphics are kind of a mixed bag. Hogwarts itself is gorgeous, with all the bricks and staircases looking clean and detailed. The bits and pieces, like suits of armour and moving paintings, are all great. The characters are somewhat less special, especially their faces and mouths in dialogue. I never like the way teeth look in these games.
- All of the spells look amazing. The sparks of light from the tip of your wand are satisfying, and the effects each spell has on environments or enemies is always a joy to see: statues can be rebuilt with Repairo; you can reach a troublesome collectible with Accio, and you can give yourself some light in the darkness with a good old-fashioned Lumos. In combat, you just yeet mofos away with Depulso, or set them on fire with a bit of Incendio. It’s win-win. The sheer number of available spells can get overwhelming, and I’m not ashamed to admit a panicked button mash now and then in heated combat. Having four separate slots of four spells each is poor design, in my opinion. Why not just a Witcher style wheel? I hate having to take my thumb off the movement stick to change spells in the middle of combat.
- The audio is also good, if not great. The fully voices player character responds in conversation realistically. The ambient sound effects when exploring the Castle grounds or nearby forests is basic but well done, with animal noises and cracling fires etc. Shopkeeper dialogue is super repetitive, with the same greeting lines all the time. There is a subtle use of the Harry Potter movie theme in the background music, which is also appreciated.
- The quest design is basic, but at odds with the story. There is no time limit on attending classes — I spent three days out of Hogwarts with no consequences. You obviously have to do the main quest to progress the story, but apparently only if you want to. There’s plenty of other things to keep you entertained, such as small mini games or cultivating plants or mixing potions, not to mention a million collectibles.
- From what I can tell, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of personal stats to deal with, and only changing your clothing has any effect. You get points to unlock ‘Talents’, which are the same sort of stuff you see in every game – ‘area of effect of skill X is increased’, ‘cast spell y faster’, etc. The inclusion of gear is conceptually fine and makes sense, but I hate the way developers include intentionally daggy clothing. Why not just make them all cool, so you don’t look like a clown when you are fighting evil wizards? I also hate this new UI of ‘character stands in the middle of boxes’ that seemingly every single game has.
There was a lot of talk before this was released from all sides of whatever argument was going on. But as far as the game goes, all that matters is this: the game is awesome… so far.