When you play Hogwarts Legacy, you are reminded that Harry Potter’s world is one of the most magical in fiction. In 1998, my mom gave me a copy of Philosopher’s Stone, which is called Sorcerer’s Stone in the US. The first chapter of this magical book drew me right into its world. I was completely hooked.
I thought so, anyway. After the main book series ended and there were no more movies coming out of it, I felt less emotional about it. The overstuffed spinoffs and J.K. Rowling’s offensive comments about transgender people took all the fun out of the series, so I decided it was time to move on.
All of that baggage went away as soon as I started playing Hogwarts Legacy, which comes out on Friday for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Series S, and PC (early access starts on Tuesday, and other consoles will get it in the next few months). This action role-playing game with an open world was made by Avalanche Software so that we can live out our dreams of going to the famous School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as a new student.
After playing the PS5 version for 10 hours, I can say that it captures the magic of the first books. It has an interesting original story, a lot of different ways to play, and a complex world to explore.
To the basics
The game gets around the story problems in Harry’s story by going back in time to the 1890s. After making your character, you go on a short opening adventure before getting to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Even though you’re a new student, you’re starting your magical career a little late and enrolling as a fifth year. That’s probably because it would be strange for a wide-eyed 11-year-old first year to go into dangerous caves, learn dangerous spells, and fight dark wizards.
Customization options are a big part of living out your fantasies about the wizarding world, and they’re a lot of fun. You can choose the gender and look of your character. Then you’ll choose and change your wand and broom (don’t worry, the one you start with is just a loaner).
You also get put into a Hogwarts house based on how you answer a series of questions soon after you arrive at school. If you don’t like your first choice, you can take the test again.
As the shopkeeper watches Hogwarts Legacy, a student witch makes a purple magic light appear at the end of their wand.
Choosing your wand is a cool part of the game, and you can change it as you play.
Only the common room, your uniform, and a few throwaway lines seem to change in the house you end up in. Even though some teachers talk about house points, you won’t be competing for them in the game.
Your education is sometimes interrupted by the main story, which is about your connection to mysterious ancient magic and a dark wizard who is working with the intense leader of a goblin rebellion. Victor Rookwood and Ranrok are the names of these two bad guys, who have great names. It’s an interesting story that adds to the history of this world, especially when it hints at things that happened further back in time, but sometimes it gets lost in the game’s many other things to do.
Living in a world of magic
Every part of Hogwarts Legacy shows how much the people who made it love Harry Potter, but the world and the people in it shine the brightest. Every teacher, student, and place feels different and real, and fans will be happy to see familiar names like Weasley and Black.
Each character is well-written, has a unique voice (Simon Pegg plays the mean headmaster), and looks different, so it’s interesting to talk to them and find out about their pasts. (But it’s annoying that you can’t pause the game during cutscenes.) This character development is shown in both the main story and the side quests, which include things like solving a mystery at the castle, stealing ingredients for a potion, and going into a dangerous cave.
These are different and fun to play, explore, and solve puzzles with, but they feel even better because they let you learn more about the quest-givers and the world. And silly things that teenagers do, like sneaking into the library at night with the help of a charm that makes them invisible, just feel like old-school Harry Potter.
Your custom avatar’s voice acting is good, but sometimes it sounds a little flat, like you’re being too nice or shy. Still, that’s better than listening to a real teenager. The character models are good enough, but the eyes sometimes move in ways that don’t make sense and make you feel uneasy.
The world is also beautifully made, especially the gothic Hogwarts with its moving paintings, talking gargoyles, and interesting student talk. There are lots of collectibles and Easter eggs to find everywhere. When you pick up certain items, you can hear a hint of the John Williams theme, which is a nice touch. Even though Hogsmeade isn’t as big, it’s still full of fun things to do.
You can sometimes see the game’s technical limitations as you run around the world. For example, assets will sometimes load at the edge of your screen, and doors will look stuck while the area beyond them loads. It never felt like the end of the game, but it might have broken your immersion for a short time.
Tips and tricks of the trade
In the early hours of Hogwarts Legacy, your wizarding starts to show its many sides. Your character starts out with the most basic duelling skills and spells, but the way you flick out spells with your wand gives combat a unique, kinetic flow.
You use a magical shield to block attacks and move away from bigger ones. The fights are like those in Batman: Arkham and Spider-Man games, but they have a sorcery look. It feels good right away, so much so that you’ll want more magical battles.
When you get to Hogwarts, you’ll take classes like Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, and Herbology to learn new spells and skills. Importantly, the way quests are set up gives you time to get used to each new skill before adding another. For example, you’ll go to a class and then use what you learned in a few story missions or side quests.
The game wants you to use everything you have, but you should get used to a few simple combos and rely on them to get through every battle. You’ll be playing for a few hours before the skill trees are unlocked, but you’ll likely have a sense of your preferred combat style by then. Pretty much everything you do gives you experience points too, so you’ll level up at a steady clip.
There’s also a constant flow of new gear that’ll enhance your attack and defence, in addition to changing your character’s look. You can also make new clothes look like old ones. This way, you don’t have to look silly just because an item has better stats.
Inventory limits are annoying because they make exploration harder than it needs to be. You can find new gear but not be able to pick it up. It’s annoying to have to quickly get to Hogsmeade to sell things while I’m walking around the castle. At least some of the side quests can help you get more items.
A happy school get-together
Thankfully, Hogwarts Legacy doesn’t lean too hard into its school setting — you won’t have to adhere to a rigid schedule. Instead, you attend class to advance the narrative and add new gameplay elements rather than going because you have to.
When you finish your first flying lesson and get your own broom, the world opens up in a big way. It takes a little practise to learn how to fly above everything, but it’s exciting and shows how big the playing area is.
Hogwarts Legacy has the same magic as the first book’s first chapter. It lets you explore a beautiful world, meet interesting people, and start your own career as a wizard. Fans of Harry Potter have been waiting for this game for decades.