Considering just how massive and globally popular Harry Potter is, it’s a bit surprising that there hasn’t been a proper big-budget, open-world, action RPG set in the universe until now. After years of anticipation and several major delays, Hogwarts Legacy has arrived, letting fans run wild with their own Wizarding World adventure. Developed by Avalance Software, who previously created wholly underrated heaters like Toy Story 3 (not kidding, it’s fantastic), Hogwarts Legacy is poised to be one of the biggest releases of the year. Does this sprawling RPG conjure up joy or is it as magical as a round of rigged three-card Monte?
An Ancient Hogwarts Mystery
Hogwarts Legacy is set in the 1890s, nearly 100 years before Harry Potter and his pals were frolicking through the halls. You play as a new transfer student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, entering during the fifth year of education. Escorted to the school by your mentor, Professor Fig, all manner of narrative buffoonery entails, revealing that you’re capable of harnessing ancient and rare magical powers. Unluckily though, a goblin rebellion is sparking up, led by the evil Ranrok, and he’s eager to find you and exploit your newfound abilities.
Thrown into the deep end, it’s your duty to learn more about your mysterious powers, push back against the encroaching goblins, and solve a convoluted mystery regarding a secret order of knowledge-bearing guardians. Of course, you also have to attend class and get familiar with the castle, while fostering friendships with classmates through personal quests. The story is hardly confined to the halls of Hogwarts, however, leading you across the Scottish Highlands.
There’s a lot going on in the plot of Hogwarts Legacy and for the most part, it’s passable. Some key parts of the narrative, especially Ranrok’s rebellion and your unexplained ancient powers, feel detached from the rest of the experience. The story of Hogwarts Legacy is best when it plays into your experience as a student at Hogwarts, with quite a few interesting characters and subplots in the mix. Unfortunately, a big part of the main plot feels disjointed and needlessly complex, trying to cover too much ground with little focus. Some fantastic ideas and some bad ones, mixed together with so-so execution, result in an unbalanced story that bounces between compelling and confusing every few hours or so.
Spells, Potions, and Everyday Wizard Wonder
After you get sorted into your house and complete a few intro quests, the leash is truly off in terms of exploration, which is a core component in the gameplay loop of Hogwarts Legacy. You’ll attend a few classes to learn basic spells and get introduced to a few characters, but the biggest draw of the game is searching the sprawling school of Hogwarts from top to bottom. Using your “Revelio” spell, which shows you interactive objects like most other detective vision/eagle vision game mechanics, you can uncover hundreds of collectible field guide pages. Finding field guide pages and completing field guide challenges is the easiest way to earn experience points, further encouraging you to search through every hall and hidden passage.
Leveling up lets you equip better gear and spend some talent points, increasing the efficacy of spells, craftable potions, and your core abilities through several upgrade trees. Combat feels fluid, and with over 30 spells to learn and wield, there are a lot of ways to win a duel. You can prioritize crowd control spells like Leviosa, blast away with Incendio, or even dabble in the Dark Arts and torture your foes with Crucio. Your ancient magic can be tapped for brutal finishing moves, or you can employ the use of potions and carnivorous plants to gain the upper hand. Personally, I unlocked 16 different spell slots and decimated opponents by spamming every spell in my arsenal, but harder difficulties require a bit more patience.
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, Hogwarts Legacy is arguably worth it just for the feeling of exploring Hogwarts alone. Avalanche Software absolutely nailed it with the look and design, and it’s incredibly easy to get lost in the ever-winding passages, dungeons, and grandiose halls. Combat, crafting, and customization are plentiful, with new gameplay mechanics introduced at a good pace. However, Hogwarts Legacy is far from a perfect game, falling victim to notable frame rate problems and glitches, coupled with lackluster enemy variety and disappointing bosses. Thankfully, the good outweighs the bad, but the game has some flaws that hamper the magic a bit.
Hogwarts Legacy wouldn’t be much of an open-world game if you spent all of your time cooped up in the castle. As such, the game extends far beyond the walls of Hogwarts, offering over a dozen unique zones to adventure in. This includes the dark recesses of the Forbidden Forest, the storefront-filled village of Hogsmeade, and rolling mountain ranges in the Scottish Highlands. You won’t need to travel everywhere on foot either, as flying broomsticks, mounts, and the Floo network fast travel system make for quick exploration.
There are tons of optional activities to complete, including over 65 side quests, bandit camps, environmental puzzle challenges, and even world boss-style “infamous foes”. Nighttime-only collectibles like moonlit Demiguise statues and astronomy tables for stargazing persuade you to explore while the sun is down, while treasure vaults and challenge catacombs see you venturing below ground. While these activities are surprisingly fun and cathartic to check off your map, there are a few too many of them, making the completion experience feel bloated.
The extra content offerings continue as well, including magical beast breeding, swappable gear traits, and the customizable Room of Requirement. While it’s great to see all of these various systems feed into each other, I wonder if the time wouldn’t have been better spent on more Hogwarts-y stuff. For example, there’s no Quidditch at all, and the time you spend in class is woefully low. Personally, I would’ve preferred a mini-game or two that ties into each class rather than 90 “Merlin Challenges”. Either way, there are plenty of things to see and do in Hogwarts Legacy, but don’t be surprised if the open-world stuff becomes repetitive after 50 or 60 hours of play.
The Bottom Line on Hogwarts Legacy
Hogwarts Legacy is a game that tries to cram every major aspect of the Wizarding World universe into an approachable and complex third-person RPG, and by most measures, it succeeds. Apart from the disappointing absence of Quidditch, the game covers everything from Dark Arts and Divination to potion-brewing and magical beasts.
While some aspects work better than others, Hogwarts Legacy doesn’t skimp on the content, rather, it over-delivers. Narrative misgivings and technical grievances aside, this is a beefy RPG with roughly 60 hours worth of content that properly captures the whimsical wonder of the Wizarding World.
Note: This game was reviewed on Xbox Series X.
- Hogwarts is enchanting and a pleasure to explore
- Abundant customization, including wands, brooms, and more
- Combat has a nice flow and Unforgivable Curses are fun to use
- Loads of content in the open world
- No interior map of Hogwarts
- Frame rate problems and lighting glitches
- Boss fights are generally disappointing
- Where's Quidditch?