Hogwarts in all its glory

Hogwarts Legacy – Review: Wands at the ready!

Not for you if:

  • Your moral compass is dead set against J. K. Rowling
  • You're looking for a thrilling, narrative-driven experience
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Let’s be honest, it feels like we’ve all collectively been waiting for this game to come out since we first picked up a Harry Potter book as kids. And although we won’t be heading to Platform 9 3/4 to board the Hogwarts Express, our letter of admission to Hogwarts Wizarding School did arrive, even if it did take some more time than we thought it would. With all the expectations riding on this game, most people would assume that Hogwarts Legacy could never live up to the hype. Yet, somehow, Avalanche delivered one of the most well-received games of the past few years, managing to outsell even Elden Ring and take over the internet for weeks.

Needless to say, Hogwarts Legacy has been a colossal success, and with good reason. Even though it’s not the GTA-style sandbox that most people wanted so they can commit war crimes using the Forbidden Spells, it’s exactly what we dreamt of as kids. As the name aptly implies, it provides a great experience of what being a Hogwarts student would be like and does a good job bringing the Wizarding World to life, not through the pages of a book or a camera lens, but through a teeming with life, fully interactive world. It’s far from perfect, but it does live up to the expectation and it’s nice to see that such an active and friendly community has popped up around this game on social media – especially on TikTok.

Before we get to the juicy part of this review, I believe we should address the J. K. Rowling-shaped elephant in the room. There is a relatively small group of people that have tried to actively boycott this game over Rowling’s transphobic comments. While I do agree with the fact that Rowling should face the consequences of her remarks, I also think that we should be able to distinguish a creator from his creation. At the end of the day, Harry Potter is a children’s fantasy series that concluded more than 15 years ago, and Rowling had no input in the creation of this game. Just like it’s fine to enjoy Kanye West’s earlier albums without liking the person he is today, you can enjoy Rowling’s stories without liking the person she has become – or always was.

Standing up to evil wizards with Natty

TL;DR

Hogwarts Legacy feeds into your sense of wonder as few games do. It’s far from perfect, but it accurately presents a charming world that you are already familiar with, yet somehow, even after finishing the game, you’ll feel like you’ve barely scratched the surface.

All images in this article are in-game screenshots taken from the PlayStation 5 version of Hogwarts Legacy.

Hogwarts Legacy: Presentation

If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll find that the visual presentation of Hogwarts Legacy can be quite exhilarating, especially in its portrayal of the Wizarding World, the castle, and the surrounding environment. If you’re expecting a cinematic-style presentation here, you’ll be disappointed, Hogwarts Legacy is not that kind of game. As a clear-cut RPG, almost everything is rendered in-engine and as such, the character models can sometimes look a bit off. At the same time, the world is absolutely gorgeous, and the amount of time and work the devs have put in this game is quite evident.

  • The Grand Hall during the Sorting Ceremony
  • The Hogwarts Field Guide

Hogwarts is more impressive than ever

This isn’t the first time we’ve got a fully explorable Hogwarts to play around in, but it’s definitely the best rendition out of the bunch. The older Harry Potter movie tie-ins, now considered legendary amongst most gamers, used to offer a decent depiction of the iconic castle, they were held down by the tech of the time. Needless to say, such constraints do not apply to Hogwarts Legacy, which offers a completely seamless world for you to explore, even venturing outside the castle grounds for the first time ever (let’s all pretend the Deathly Hallows games never happened).

The castle itself does trigger your sense of wonder, and at the same time, everything around you will feel very familiar. I found myself exploring the grounds quite often, looking for familiar sights from the books or the movies, and feeling a huge relief when all of them were actually there. The Grand Hall, the Common Rooms, the Chamber of Secrets, the Quidditch pitch, the Clock tower: they’re all there, and they are very faithful to the books. Avalanche has put great attention to detail in the world. Dare I say, this game paints a picture of a Wizarding World that is better connected, in stark contrast to the books where every place feels so far apart from one another, and it all ends up coming across as rather disjointed.

Hogwarts aside, the map is rather large and there is a handful of locations you’ll be able to visit during your playthrough. From Hogsmeade to little hamlets, abandoned ruins and ancient magic dungeons, there’s a rather wide variety of locations to feast your eyes on, and they all look different enough that you won’t be bored, but same enough to keep up the consistency of the world. As you move through the story, the seasons will change, and so will the weather and the decorations of each location you visit. This contributes greatly to Hogwarts Legacy remaining thematically consistent throughout its runtime, and that is some high praise.

  • Changing seasons at Hogwarts
  • The potions classroom at Hogwarts Legacy

Consistently full of magical moments

The character models and the animations are pretty much what you would expect from a 2023 RPG. Your character will always look substantially better than the NPCs, and the animations are pretty fluid when traversing the world, and even more so during combat, which can look absolutely fascinating, bringing the bombastic spell fights from the movies to life. Clothing, items, and fantastic beasts look absolutely gorgeous, but the game does fall apart a little when it comes to facial animations. Some NPCs can look somewhat jarring in close-up shots, and the mouth movements seem to have a bit of trouble keeping up with the dialog. It’s only a minor issue, and it does detract a little from the immersion, but you can clearly see where the devs decided to cut corners.

Flying around on a broom or on your mount can really help you reach new levels of tranquility, as you fly above familiar locations or discover new sights. The sense of speed is visualized brilliantly when flying on a broom where you can speed up, they absolutely nailed that. The same goes for all the beasts you can tame and take care of, or just admire in the wild. Hogwarts Legacy is jam-packed with truly magical moments that feed your sense of wonder.

Runs like a charm

Hogwarts Legacy is very well optimized, and the performance is stellar across the board. Playing on Fidelity with Ray-tracing, I was able to hit a steady framerate of 30FPS throughout my playthrough, with the only dips and stutters I encountered being in the prologue. Even though there are no dips or stutters when in combat, setting the game to Performance mode, provides a buttery smooth experience. Weirdly enough, I found the middle option, Fidelity mode – no ray-tracing – to be the worst out of the bunch when it comes to performance, but it does solve some of the Ray-tracing quirks. My biggest gripe with Ray-tracing is a bug that caused fog to spawn constantly on all locations, whether indoors or outdoors, but that has now been addressed with the latest patch.

Loading screens are also next to non-existent since most of the open world is loaded in chunks. The only loading screens you will encounter will be when fast-traveling or entering a dungeon. Depending on the speed of your storage, you might encounter brief loading indications when moving from inside the castle to outdoors but these don’t take longer than 2-3 seconds. Everything is so fast in fact, that the animations of the UI when opening or closing the menu can come across as a little sluggish.

While we’re on the topic, I’ve seen a few people complaining about the UI in this game. Basically, you navigate the menus by using a cursor whether on PC or console. While a cursor on console is not my cup of tea either, this is nowhere near as bad as Modern Warfare II.

Mandatory Mandrake scene

Hogwarts Legacy: Story

The story in Hogwarts Legacy can be… hit or miss, but that’s okay. Most people won’t be playing this for the main story anyway. It does the job of getting you hooked in, and acting as a vehicle to introduce you to all the gameplay features and show you around the open world. But most people, just like me, will find the side stories present in Hogwarts Legacy to be much more entertaining than the main plot. While I appreciate the subtle attempts for a political storyline and the few twists that kept things from getting boring, I do understand that this game is aimed towards younger audiences (regardless of the fact that most people playing it will be well into their 20s), and thus a convoluted story is not the best option. There’s still plenty of stuff to like here, let’s take a better look:

Approaching the firs Pensieve

Ancient magic shenanigans

After you create your character, your magical journey begins immediately. You receive your letter from Hogwarts, but you are a little older than the usual admittance age, so you will be starting school in Year 5. Right off the bat, you are introduced to Professor Fig, one of your main companions in this journey. Fig has taken the responsibility to teach you some essential spells and get you up to speed with everything. On the road to Hogwarts, you find out you can interact with some ancient magic artifacts, and see traces of magic other people cannot see. After interacting with an object surrounded by traces of ancient magic (which turns out was just a Portkey), you are transported to a remote location that confirms your unique ability to interact with and harness ancient magic, so you and Professor Fig start investigating.

After finding a Pensieve and watching a memory, you are introduced to the legend of the Keepers, four prominent professors of Hogwarts (not the founders though), that had the same unique ability as you and could invoke ancient magic. As you try to uncover the secrets of this peculiar form of magic, a goblin named Ranrok and his band of rebels will stand in your way. You see, the Wizarding World has been in turmoil since Ranrok and his ‘loyalist’ goblins started an uprising against their human masters – something that is hardly surprising since Goblins are literally treated as slaves. Problem is, Ranrok seems to somehow have found a way to harness ancient magic himself and corrupt it, to make his troops more powerful.

Thus, your main objective will be to complete all four of the Keeper trials, essentially dungeons, that will lead you to more Pensieves so you can piece together the whole story of the Keepers and master the ancient magic. At the same time, you will have to repel Ranrok and his loyalists and keep them from gaining access to more sources of ancient magic. Pretty straightforward.

  • Exploring a source of Ancient Magic in Hogwarts Legacy
  • Professor Fig using Reparo

Hit or miss

The story itself is fine and does a decent job of getting everything rolling. The stakes are seemingly high and the progression is highly visible since seasons change as you progress in the story, so you always feel like you’re moving forward. What made it feel unengaging in my opinion, is the fact that most major plot points are addressed either through flashbacks (Pensieve memories) with people you know very little about or through people just sitting in a room and talking (exposition). There is little player agency in the main story quests, and that made them come across as tedious.

At the same time, I have to applaud the structure of the main story quests. Avalanche has split up each main story quest into many smaller quests that feel like set-ups for the final pay-off. For example, to unlock the location of a dungeon (final quest step), you have to first investigate with your companions, sit through some classes, learn extra spells, and gather resources. This might initially come across as more busywork, but it’s actually an excellent way to make the story quests feel rewarding – it is aptly explained why you can’t access the dungeon straight away: it’s simply because you don’t know how to cast x spell or you simply don’t know where it is. All these sub-quests introduce you to new mechanics or areas of the map, which you are subtly encouraged to explore and play around with. You’re not meant to speed-run through the story of Hogwarts Legacy, you’re meant to enjoy everything this game has to offer.

A glimpse of the Keepers

Choosing your House & your companions

As soon as you set foot in Hogwarts, you will be assigned to a House as part of the Sorting ceremony. The Sorting Hat will ask you a few questions and sort you into a House depending on your character, but you have the option to pick the House if you don’t agree with the Sorting Hat’s judgment. Honestly, this is one of the best aspects of Hogwarts Legacy, and they have absolutely nailed it. The Houses have really played a huge part in bringing the community together, as it would seem that we have all collectively agreed that Gryffindor is the worst House and have embraced the Slytherin party culture.

The House you’re sorted into does play a major role in the side quests you will have access to, as all Houses have unique storylines, and each has a different amount of quests available. Gryffindor has access to the largest amount of quests, and Ravenclaw has access to the least out of the bunch. This does make for a great way to introduce replayability, as the unique storylines are actually quite interesting. At the same time, your House colors will dictate the primary colors of all your non-unique clothing items, so do keep that in mind if you plan to unleash your inner fashion beast. Each house also has access to its respective common room, and they’re very accurate to what’s described in the book: Gryffindor’s is extremely cozy with a fireplace, Hufflepuff’s is in the cellar, Slytherin’s is dark, gloomy and located in the dungeon, and Ravenclaw’s is in the Astronomy Tower, has the best views, and is obviously the best one. I do recommend just going with the House you’re sorted into by the Hat in your first playthrough, as each one is guaranteed to have some pleasant surprises.

No matter which House you’re in, you’re going to meet and interact with four different characters, one from each House, who will serve as your friends and companions on many side or story quests. These quests are really cool because they subtly highlight the best qualities of each House. Natty, a Gryffindor, will help you stand up to oppressive wizards and help those in need. Sebastian, the fan favorite, is a Slytherin that is interested in the Dark Arts, but as a means to help those he cares about, not as a way to hurt others. Poppy from Hufflepuff will teach you all about magical beasts, how to tame and take care of them. Ravenclaw’s Amit will show you how to use your intelligence as a weapon and convert your book smarts to street smarts. These ‘Relationship’ quests are the aspect of Hogwarts Legacy I enjoyed the most, and I would have liked to see more side characters playing the role of Companions, rather than that of simple quest-giving NPCs.

  • Choosing a House
  • Close-up of Amit Thakkar
  • Close-up of Natty

Hogwarts Legacy: Gameplay

No matter how you slice it, this game is an absolute blast to play through. There are no dull moments, whether during exploration or during combat. There are so many things to interact with, that even by the end of the story, I felt I had barely scratched the surface in regards to all the things that are there for you to discover in this game.

Exploring a sprawling Wizarding World

The world does a great job of feeding your sense of wonder. All of Hogwarts and the surrounding areas are sprinkled with secrets and fun easter eggs for you to interact with. Nothing is as fascinating than an enchanting castle of course, so it’s no wonder that Hogwarts has tons of secret rooms for you to discover and activities to take part in. The Chamber of Secrets, the Room of Requirement (more on that later), and more special rooms created specifically for this game, coupled with duel clubs, broom trials, and mini-games. There’s so much stuff to do. And of course, let’s not forget all the charming interactions, like the portrait choir, the ghost chases, or the casual school life stories. I love how classes are actually treated as mini-quests with their own cinematics, instead of being something optional. It feels like the absence of a curfew that would have you sneaking around past prefects and teachers is a bit of a missed opportunity.

You are also free to roam around all the surrounding areas at all times. No more school trips to Hogsmeade, as you can pop there at any time, grab a butterbeer, and get acquainted with the residents, most of which will assign you new quests or be useful in the story. The same goes for all the other hamlets in the Hogwarts Valley, although those are smaller in size and in significance when it comes to questing. You can travel from point A to point B through different means: you can fast travel through the Floo Flames if you have already been there before, take the scenic route and walk (yeah, right), or you could just whip out your broom/summon your mount and fly like a proper wizard. You are at all times encouraged to wander around and be curious, especially when it comes to quests. Exhausting your dialog options might help you uncover crucial information to your quest, that you would otherwise not have and could end up in you running into a (metaphorical) wall.

A large number of dungeons are also present in Hogwarts Legacy. Some are dedicated to the main story, and are otherwise inaccessible from the overworld, while some are tied to side missions or are meant for you to stumble upon blindly. While they all look the part thanks to great art design, the same cannot be said for the way they play out. They all feel uninspired and similar to one another, are empty aside from enemies and gear chests, and the puzzles are not that challenging either. Thankfully, the interactions in the overworld make up for the lack of interesting gameplay in the dungeons. Namely, the Merlin Trials are puzzles that while simple, are pretty engaging and do a great job of keeping things fresh.

  • Dungeon in Hogwarts Legacy
  • The Herbology Classroom

From Expelliarmus to Avada Kedavra

Combat in this game is an absolute blast. There are 31 spells that you can use in the game in total, some of them you get right off the bat, and some of them are learned throughout the course of the story. Of course, not all of them can be used in combat (some are utility spells like Lumos), and you can even opt out of learning some of them, like the Unforgivable Curses. Aside from the basic spells, like Protego and Stupefy, you can assign up to four spells in your cast wheel. When you have unlocked all the upgrades, you can have up to four cast wheels available and you can swap between them on the go, to unleash some devastating spell combos on your opponents.

Speaking of combos, chaining spells is almost necessary to be a good duelist, considering each spell goes into cooldown right after it’s used. Spells have very cool interactions with one another and are meant to be applied in combination with basic casts (basic attacks) for maximum damage. Magic feels very powerful in this game, it’s very satisfying. In most fights, you will be pitted against multiple enemies, but the fights are honestly not that difficult when playing in the Normal difficulty, so I found myself setting the game to Hard. Indicators for incoming attacks make it easy to guard against most enemies, but some attacks can’t be deflected and you will need to dodge, as getting hit in the higher difficulties tends to take out large chunks of your health.

Learning a new spell

Brewing potions & leveling up

If you find yourself getting into trouble, you can always heal up using potions that you should have prepared beforehand. There are plenty of defensive and offensive potions and items that you can use in battle to gain an advantage as well. You can brew potions on your own in the Potions classroom or in the Room of Requirement, or you can buy them from Hogsmeade or other hamlets. If you’re feeling extra DIY, you can even grow the resources you need to brew the potions yourself in Herbology class or in the Room of Requirement. Embrace your inner Half-blood Prince/Princess.

Being an RPG, Hogwarts Legacy offers the necessary skill tree to complete the experience. Every time you level up, you can spend points to make yourself more powerful and change the way your spells behave. Skills are split into different categories, depending on what benefit they offer, and you can even indulge in the Dark Arts and improve your abilities to commit wizarding war crimes, if that’s what you’re into.

Craft your own wizarding experience

There are plenty of customization options in Hogwarts Legacy. When it comes to gear, you will get tons of it through quest rewards, opening chests, or buying them from vendors. The best feature is that you can choose how the gear you have equipped looks, without having to alter its stats, and that way you don’t have to look ridiculous in order to be at your most powerful. You have limited inventory slots, so you will often be forced to sell items to make space for new ones. Thankfully, once you have collected an item, the way it looks is permanently stored in your inventory, so you can apply older items’ appearance to new ones even after you have discarded the old item. True quality-of-life stuff.

The aspect of the game that offers the most customization options, however, is easily the Room of Requirement. You unlock the room pretty early in the game, and you can set it up in any way you like. The contents of the room, as well as how it looks are completely up to your mood, with Deek, the friendly goblin, able to adjust even the lighting to make you feel right at home. Of course, not everything will be unlocked from the get-go. You will have to gather recipes for objects like furniture or decor that you would like to conjure in the Room, through questing, exploring, or just straight-up buying them from a vendor. Further along the story, you will also unlock a Terrarium, which will allow you to collect magical beasts and take care of them when needed. And harvest resources from them, that’s mostly the point.

Hogwarts Legacy: Verdict

Hogwarts Legacy is a truly fascinating game. It’s one of the few games where the open world actually works, and is one of this project’s best attributes. Dozens of hours in, and I couldn’t help myself getting distracted by all the small, magical details sprinkled throughout the game. The visuals are by no means groundbreaking, but they paint an accurate picture of what Hogwarts looks and feels like in your head. It’s faithful to the source material, but at the same time, it’s got so many original aspects. It feels authentic. This is not a Harry Potter game, it feels more like an homage to Harry Potter, and a good one too.

The story might not be this game’s strongest point, but Avalanche did a great job making the companions and the Houses actually important. The only problem is, the relationship quests are limited to a few characters, and the House-specific stories are not as many as I hoped they would be. And of course, the absence of Quidditch. By the time I finished my playthrough, I was only thinking of starting a new character and playing through a different House.

Lastly, the most important point I wanted to make is that Hogwarts Legacy is by no means a letdown. Does it deserve all the internet hype it got? Absolutely. Despite the controversy, this is a very well-made game and the Harry Potter community is one of the most inclusive ones out there. There are tons of fun to be had here. Decent RPG, brilliant Harry Potter game.

Huge thanks to CDMedia for providing the review copy we used.

George Makridis

Posts published: 146

Editor in Chief. Studying Communication & Media. Listening to Hip-Hop. Watching advanced humor sitcoms and dumb superhero flicks. Has way too many games in his library and not that much time to actually play them.