Hogwarts Legacy does not just dip its toes into the long-forgotten wizarding world of Harry Potter, it drowns head first in it, thus producing a 50-hour-long magical adventure that relies solely on nostalgia.
However, when the nostalgia has run its course and the veil is lifted, what remains is a painfully average AAA open-world experience that belongs in the PS3 / 360 era.
Hogwarts, Old Friend
Seeing Hogwarts again in Hogwarts Legacy is like seeing an old friend. From the opening shot, which I'm convinced has been recreated from the Sorcerer's Stone movie, to the year-end feast in the great hall, everything is a beautiful reminder of the friendships and tragedies that occur in these same classes, corridors, and mountain passes hundreds of years later in the HP books (and their movie adaptations.)
Hogwarts Legacy doesn't waste any moment shoving a warm glass of Butter Beer down your throat and smacking you with a Leviosa lesson. As soon as you complete the tutorial, you are free to explore every nook and cranny of this iconic magical school and the world beyond it.
And what a world it is! Visually, at least, it's the most detailed depiction of Hogwarts in a video game. Fans of the movies will feel right at home, and fans of the books will be ecstatic when they stumble upon locations and places that never made it to the movies.
It's an absolute delight to walk into Hogsmeade for the first time and visit every shop you could only ever dream of doing before. I was leaping with joy the first time I got to visit Honeydukes because of how excruciatingly detailed everything looked. Driving curiosity from nostalgia isn't extraordinary, but Avalanche Software does a fine job of tempering your expectations.
While Hogwarts Legacy's open world isn't as massive as something like Skyrim, it's still intimidating to look at as a Harry Potter fan. Once you unlock a mount, you're free to traverse the open skies without any restrictions, and that feeling is liberating.
Hogwarts Legacy's map, sadly, is the most atrocious I have seen in any open-world game in a while. It's so bad that you're better off not using it aside for fast traveling. The silver lining here is that you get to discover and explore new POIs all on your own instead of relying on the map to guide you to nearby "question marks," as is the case in most modern games.
Dozens and dozens of 19th-century chapels and castles surround the peaceful countryside of Hogwarts. These uncharted areas hide challenges, collectibles, rare loot, enemy encounters, and occasional side quests.
The meadows, mountain passes, and innumerable caves and dungeons occupy these environments. From a distance, the landscape looks all the same, however, since Hogwarts Legacy takes so much time fueling nostalgia, exploring the open world, despite how redundant it is, becomes a guilty pleasure.
Navigating Hogwarts grounds, on the other hand, is more exciting. Aside from the usual set of collectibles, there are hidden rooms and secret passageways locked behind environmental puzzles. Unfortunately, the rewards you find inside those places aren't as satisfying as stumbling and accidentally discovering the places themselves. Like other parts of Hogwarts Legacy, how much you enjoy exploring its open world depends solely on your enthusiasm for the HP universe.
When your nostalgia meter drains out, you will find yourself in a rather unimaginative copy-paste open-world structure that in no way compares to some of the modern heavy hitters.
A quick note before we move ahead. The Xbox Series X version of the game that I got to play for this review had a few visual and technical glitches. The most jarring was the frame-rate dips when entering a new corridor in Hogwarts and during some story beats.
I didn't experience anything game-breaking, and I hope these issues get fixed with a day-one patch. I'm, however, concerned about the last-gen ports of the game that won't come out until 4th April.
Goblin Kind, Ancient Magic, and School Life
Hogwarts Legacy's story begins as an intriguing tale of discovering the truth behind the long-lost ancient magic and combating the unruly members of the goblin kind, who are also searching for it.
The goblin rebellion leader, Ranrok, is a formidable foe but is in no way memorable compared to the atrocious and enigmatic power-wielding dark wizards like Voldemort or Grindelwald. It's not like the former doesn't have the caliber of being as tenacious as the other two. It's just that the story doesn't spend enough time building his character. By the end, Ranrok becomes a forgettable one-dimensional antagonist who won't invade your thoughts after you finish the main campaign.
The story kicks off on the right track with an action-packed chase sequence in the Gringotts. It's quickly evident that the protagonist has the power to see traces of this ancient magic, and they, alongside a monotonous Professor Fig, go on to complete four trials and unravel the rather predictable secrets surrounding this powerful magic and the people who could wield them.
As I said, it starts on the right track, and the story is full of déjà vu moments from the Harry Potter books. There is a Weasely, a Black, a Professor Sharp that looks like the 19th century Professor Snape. Story missions and side quests often yield moments similar to the ones you might have witnessed in the Harry Potter books and movies. These moments are the highlights of Hogwarts Legacy, and Avalanche Software has done a fantastic job hitting all the right notes at the right time.
One mission where you rescue a majestic Hippogriff from dreadful poachers and fly the countryside on their back for the first time is invigorating; an obvious nod to the scene from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Buckbeak first takes Harry on a ride.
These not-so-subtle nudges to the HP books and movies and their splendid recreations here are the sole reason that pushed me to witness Hogwarts Legacy's main story, which by the end becomes laughably predictable.
The companion quests are a highlight and sometimes intertwine with the main plot. These are well-written, impactful stories that are worth seeing through, whether it's Sebastian Swallow's harrowing descent toward the Dark Arts or Poppy Sweeting's brave ascent toward becoming a beast keeper. These stories stuck with me through the end, and I wish there were more of them.
Button Mashing Avada Kedavra
Hogwarts Legacy features ranged combat where you spew magic spells on humans, goblins, cute beasts, and gothic architecture. It's not state-of-the-art, mind you, with the first few hours being an absolute slog.
You unlock spells by completing assignments for your Professors and via story or companion quests. It's a neat way to get you to attend classes in the game.
Once you unlock a handful of unique spells, the button-mashy combat gets a little life, primarily because it once again invokes a deep sense of nostalgia.
It's satisfying to hear your character shout out familiar-sounding whimsical words. Combine those with incredible spell animations and sound design, and the sluggish combat becomes somewhat enjoyable. I just wish it felt more impactful to use, especially on the controllers.
Seldom, you will also come across boss battles that are nothing more than just bullet sponge (, or dare I say magic sponge) enemies that you must repeatedly hit until your fingers are as red as the tip of your wand.
Hogwarts Legacy features a loot-based gear system that's common in pretty much every AAA action-adventure or RPG nowadays. Unlike past HP games, you can customize every aspect of your gear in Hogwarts Legacy and insert stats-enhancing traits on Extraordinary and Legendary ones. There's also a simple way to change the appearance of your gear for free.
Buildcrafting isn't the focus in Hogwarts Legacy though I did enjoy the occasional trek to find legendary gear or traits that could, for instance, greatly increase damage with the Expelliarmus spell or decrease the damage taken from Inferi.
Going off the beaten path isn't the only way to acquire legendary gear or skin in Hogwarts Legacy. Simply completing story or side missions and defeating enemies can get you a handful of them via the Challenges tab.
The combat in Hogwarts Legacy becomes more potent when you unlock the option to brew potions and grow combat or restorative plants. While you can undertake these tasks in their respective classrooms, the ideal way to brew them is by setting up workstations in the Room of Requirements.
The enigmatic Room of Requirements is your customizable base in Hogwarts Legacy. From decorating the interiors to setting up combat mannequins for spell practice, there is a whole array of things you can add or change to make your ideal Room of Requirement. Oh, and connected to this room is an infinite meadow where you keep tamed wild beasts.
Nurturing the beasts you capture on your travels will grant you special crafting materials necessary to upgrade the gear and customize traits. However, since you will constantly get new gear pieces with better stats and because there are barely any legendary and extraordinary gear with ground-breaking traits, you won't have any reason to stick to your current equipment and upgrade them for long-term use.
The Verdict (3/5)
Hogwarts Legacy offers nothing more or less than a video game experience in which you can live your Harry Potter fantasies without dire consequences. It's a game driven by nostalgia. The male protagonist's voice even has an uncanny resemblance to that of Daniel Radcliff's.
In Hogwarts Legacy, you can spew unforgivable curses in front of your Professor, and he won't bat an eye. You can stay out of your bed at night and still not lose any house points. It shows glimpses of what a mechanically complex Harry Potter RPG with real choice and consequences could be like.
It could have taken a note out of games like Persona 5 to be a better school simulator but chooses to be a surface-level fantasy appealing experience. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's hard not to be disappointed, given the potential of this universe.
It's still, however, a painstakingly detailed recreation of Hogwarts that many of us grew up with, one that will enthrall you as long as you continue to cave into the nostalgia it so heavily relies on.
Xbox review code was provided by the publisher