Fans have been crying out for an open world Harry Potter game for years. One that allows the player complete freedom to explore Hogwarts, ride a broomstick, practice magic, and all the other joys that being a wizard provides. It may have taken a bit of time, but Hogwarts Legacy grants that wish, however, it does so in such a complete and engaging way that there’s a constant supply of new mechanics and ideas that all serve a purpose throughout. If there was any doubt that this wouldn’t deliver, I can safely say those worries can be firmly cast aside.
You play as yourself as a fifth-year student, someone with a key so important, the entire world’s safety is at stake. Not only that, but you harness a unique type of ancient magic, the likes seldom seen before. With a goblin uprising and dark wizards hot on your heels, every day at Hogwarts is anything but dull. The story is engaging enough and doesn’t rely on previous books to lean on, offering a new and exciting tale told at the end of the nineteenth century. It is how Avalanche has woven the day-to-day life of being a student, character development, friendships, and adventure into such a succinct and exciting tapestry that you’re constantly thunderstruck.
There’s no specific time cycle or clock where you have to be at classes on time or back in your dorm for any kind of curfew or bedtime. Instead, your quests can take place at any time in the day, and the flow of progression doesn’t restrict you from completing tasks at any particular time. If you need to go to Professor Sharp’s potion class, you’ll simply head there and time will automatically pass if you’re too early or late. Assignments make up the most enjoyable part of your day, as different teachers will task you with completing a whole manner of lesson objectives in order to unlock a new spell or skill.
These are where the lesson-side of Hogwarts Legacy plays out. Short cutscenes featuring students playing with mandrakes in herbology class or stroking mooncalves in beasts class will play out, followed by a chat with the teacher to either obtain an assignment or hand it in. They’re important if you want to unlock all the spells (well, almost all of them), but also give you tons more stuff to do when not getting lost in the many wings of Hogwarts or uncovering the secrets of ancient magic. Side quests can be picked up from students wandering the halls or other NPCs in the surrounding villages, forests, or areas around Hogwarts, too. Then, there’s the bounty of other activities to keep you busy.
Merlin’s Trials are short puzzles that require you to use spells for environmental solutions; Beast dens let you use your nap-sack to capture creatures throughout the world and take them back to your vivarium in the Room of Requirement; caves and dungeons are ripe for exploring and gathering resources and gear; rooms locked behind mathematical equations, chests, and mirror puzzles fill Hogwarts along with tons of other short environmental ones; and Field Guide pages are hidden everywhere, giving you plenty of reasons to explore every nook and cranny. These activities are all but a fraction of things to do in Hogwarts Legacy. There’re so many other reasons to play and explore, all helping you to gain XP and find new gear and decorative items for your own private quarters.
One of the coolest features of Hogwarts Legacy is how you can decorate and upgrade your own private space in the Room of Requirement. From the carpets and furniture to setting up your own potion and botany stations, you can cast a spell to customise it exactly how you want. New areas and items become available the more you play, allowing you to make it look exactly how you want it to. In terms of customisation, you’ll also find loads of gear scattered throughout the game, from new glasses and gloves to robes and outfits. Each offer a chance to enhance your offence and defence, and it’s refreshing to keep things so simple in this regard. If you don’t like the look of a new hat despite it having fantastic stats, you can change its appearance to that of a previous item. The level of customisation is fantastic, whether in the way you look and in the Room of Requirement, and it’s yet another facet of how much this game has to offer.
It floored me just how much there is to do outside of the main story quests, as well as how smartly designed they all are. Nothing feels arbitrary and everything serves a purpose, from the smallest puzzle to the more involving side quest. It helps that everything looks gorgeous, from the grandeur of Hogwarts’ architecture to the lush greenery of the Scottish highlands. Students go about their day-to-day business, animals wander the woods, fields, and lakes so naturally, and small yet significant details from the way books float around the library to the exuberant goings on inside Honeydukes all add to its appeal.
It never gets old travelling to Hogsmeade and visiting the Three Broomsticks or flying across the Quidditch pitch and walking through the Great Hall. The world comes to life in such a living and breathing way, and I was constantly left in awe of how magic truly feels alive within the world. Speaking of magic, you’ll end up unlocking a ton of spells that can be used both in combat and to solve puzzles and unlock pathways. Accio and Wingardium Leviosa pull and move platforms and objects; Lumos lights the way; Reparo mends bridges and broken mechanisms; and Revelo reveals secrets in the darkness.
In battle, all the magic at your disposal works in such a wonderful way that you’re never left without a way to break down magical shields on enemies and dish out tons of damage. Bombarda fires a savage blast; Incendio launches flames at enemies; Glacius freezes them; and Confringo makes things explode. These are only a fraction of the spells used to damage, but there’re also those that launch enemies into the distance, slow them down, slam them into the ground, and more. If these weren’t enough, you also get the opportunity to harness the power of the Dark Arts, such as Crucio and Imperio, and doing so provides a thrill like no other, assuming you’re comfortable enough to learn such a wicked and evil skillset.
Enemies come in many different forms, and they’ll all have particular skills of their own you’ll need to parry and counter. Talents are additional abilities that are layered onto your spells and skills that can be unlocked when you level up, gaining an additional Talent point to do so. Some of these are gamechangers when it comes to movement and damage, and you’re given plenty of freedom to tailor them to your playstyle. As with most games, the higher your level, the more equipped you are to deal with enemies, but in Hogwarts Legacy, each new ability, spell, and skill feels important.
You can also craft potions to help with everything from invisibility to thunder damage and grow plants like the mandrake to damage enemies, all easily equipped. Outside of combat, you’ll unlock the ability to fly on your own broomstick, which can be upgraded to become faster. Flying mounts such as the Hippogriff can also be acquired, helping you to get from point A to B in a faster and more stylish way. There’s nothing Avalanche hasn’t thought of, both when fighting your way through the game and getting around, and I haven’t been this impressed or obsessed with gameplay since last year’s Elden Ring.
If there’s anything that lets Hogwarts Legacy down, it’s a whole manner of dialogue that repeats far too much. Every time I arrived at Hogsmeade, my character would say “all roads lead to Hogsmeade” almost always. During certain quests, I’d hear characters repeat the same line almost straight after saying it, and even wandering around Hogwarts, I’d comment on quests yet to be completed repeatedly. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a huge sore point, but it did become repetitive. There’re also some glitches I encountered, like texture popping and characters in cutscenes stuttering, but they were few and far between, and something I can imagine being easily patchable.
What Hogwarts Legacy does is offer the full student experience of being a witch or wizard. It leaves you in awe with every new mechanic, spell, and location, and keeps you gripped to both how it plays and where the story takes you. The range of characters are diverse in both race and gender, something highly commendable in today’s day and age. The developers have poured in a ton of care and consideration to make it a game for everyone. It’s inherently British, from how it looks and the vernacular used, giving fans of the books and the films a cosy sense of familiarity and warmth.
Hogwarts Legacy does what so few games do these days, leaving me to think about it every second I wasn’t playing. Even now as I write this, I want to be back at Hogwarts solving puzzles and exploring, wondering if there’s still somewhere I might have missed. Exploration is so satisfying, as is the combat, and the way it captured my imagination with its inventiveness, freedom, and characters has been nothing short of remarkable. Avalanche has nailed everything about this game, and I think it’ll be some time before I can get it out of my mind. That reminds me, I think I left some Fluxweed growing in the Room of Requirement, so I better be off.
We at GodisaGeek would like to acknowledge the comments that Harry Potter creator J.K Rowling has made regarding transgender people. Her regular comments discussing these issues have affected countless members of the LGBTQ+ community, many of whom will be boycotting Hogwarts Legacy because of this (regardless of Rowling’s involvement in the project).
At GodisaGeek we believe that trans rights are human rights, and offer our full support to the LGBTQIA+ community. Our coverage of Hogwarts Legacy is presented as a critique of the hard work that the team at Avalanche put into making a great video game, and nothing more.
So much to do
Combat and exploration is thrilling
Engaging story and characters
Some technical issues