Hogwarts Legacy comes out later this week and we’ve spent a little over 15 hours in the game so far, running around the gigantic Hogwarts castle, sneaking into the not-so-Forbidden Forest, buying all sorts of magical contraptions in Hogsmeade, and flying around on our trusty broom. Our review for the game will follow soon, but from our adventures in Hogwarts and its surroundings so far, Hogwarts Legacy looks like a worthy return to the Wizarding World. Avalanche Software has somehow extracted all the best memories of the Harry Potter books and films into a Pensieve, capturing the lore and life of Hogwarts castle. In the process, it has also made a truly fun RPG that has its own merits aside from all the borrowed magic.
While Hogwarts Legacy’s story takes its own route and has little affiliation to the world of Harry Potter, the DNA remains the same. A good chunk of its first 15 hours are spent with a little too much handholding, but once the castle gates open up, you’re free to explore Hogwarts’ surrounding areas. Be it Hogsmeade and other nearby hamlets, or the enchanting Forbidden Forest, iconic locations from the books and the films make the open world a treat to explore, like a big delicious candy you get to unwrap slowly and have all to yourself. In my estimate, the game should take around 40 hours to complete (going by my quest and challenge progression stats) if you partake in a healthy number of side offerings. The first 15 hours alone pack in a lot. Here’s what we can tell you about Hogwarts Legacy:
Return to castle Hogwarts
The main star of the show, of course, is the Hogwarts castle. It is not just packed with things to do and secrets to find, but it is also recreated in such painstaking and beautiful detail that I often stopped to just look at things. From its towering stained-glass windows to its many wandering ghosts; from swinging staircases to talking and moving portraits — Hogwarts is a true delight. It is also massive! I pride myself on having a preternatural sense of direction, but I often got lost in the halls of Hogwarts. A single tap up on the D-pad will helpfully guide you to your objective, but I encourage players to explore and truly discover all that the castle has to offer. The house common rooms are all distinct and true to the essence of the houses themselves. For example, the Gryffindor common room resembles a medieval castle, dripping in red and washed in the golden glow of sunlight. All the classrooms are there, of course, and the grand shifting staircase, the Great Hall, and even the Room of Requirement, which, true to lore, you can mould to your needs. The Room of Requirement serves as a sort of a base of operations for all your mischief. Here, you can craft potions, practice your spellcraft, and grow plants and herbs that aid you in combat.
Witch or wizard
Hogwarts Legacy casts you as a newly admitted fifth-year witch or wizard at the titular school of magic, who happens to have a dormant and lost form of magic coursing through their veins. Dubbed ‘Ancient Magic,’ only hidden traces of this knowlege are left in the world, and you find yourself on its trail accompanied by your mentor, Professor Fig. But there are some dark powers at play as you soon find other, more sinister parties also on the same hunt.
The game begins with a character creation screen that offers deep customisation options. Aside from familiar cosmetics, you can choose your House at the sorting ceremony, your wand at Ollivander’s, and your broom at a sporting goods store in Hogsmeade later in the game. Character customisation is robust and you can pick and choose from among multiple pieces of gear in six categories — handwear, facewear, headware, neckware, cloaks and robes, and outfit. You can mix and match items to look like a total clown, or you can go for a thematic look and dress up like a dark wizard, if you so wish. Your sartorial needs are covered. Clothing gear also comes with stat buffs. Thankfully, Hogwarts Legacy has a transmog system from the get go, so you won’t be tied to the aesthetics of your stat-high apparel.
Ready your wand
Combat in Hogwarts Legacy surprised me. While wand magic combat, at least in the first 15 hours of the game, banks on a list of familiar spells, you are encouraged to play around with combinations of them. Fighting an enemy in the game is almost like a dance. You can dodge-roll out of the way of an enemy attack and return fire with a flurry of spell patterns. You can stun the enemy, then lift them in the air, pull them closer, and blast them away in a fiery final flourish. Your character is also blessed with what the game calls ‘Ancient Magic’. While Ancient Magic forms the backbone of the narrative in Hogwarts Legacy, it is also extensively employed in gameplay. A telekinesis-like ability lets you hurl heavy objects at enemies, or you can obliterate them in a single move when your Ancient Magic meter is full. The game also offers stealth abilities. You can turn yourself invisible, sneak behind an unaware foe, and use the ‘Petrificus Totalus’ spell — I’m sure Harry Potter fans will know what that does! It’s familiar stealth gameplay, but the Wizarding World novelty makes it stand out.
The open world
Outside Hogwarts, the game offers a vast open world with locations both new and familiar. The game map is divided into three major sections — Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and the world map. The Hogwarts area contains the titular castle itself and its surrounding grounds. Hogsmeade includes popular haunts such as The Three Broomsticks, The Hog’s Head Inn, and Honeydukes. Shops in the village sell all that you’ll need on your journey and more. The world map stretches far beyond the castle and its neighbouring lake and hamlets with multiple regions, each marked by a corresponding enemy level. Once you get your broom, you can head out and explore all corners of the map. While airborne mounts such as Hippogriffs did not unlock in my first 15 hours, flying around on your broom is incredibly fun. There’s also a nifty fast travel system that ties in with the Floo network from Wizarding lore.
Hogwarts Legacy is also meaty. In true RPG fashion, it lets you do just about everything you’d expect from an open world Harry Potter game (except Quidditch, unfortunately). Aside from the main story, you can indulge in side quests to do favours for your fellow Hogwarts students, find magical artifacts and lore pages littered around the world, and even attend classes. Taking courses at Hogwarts is tied in with learning new spells, which help you in all your extracurricular activities. You learn to brew helpful concoctions in Potions class, acquire basic spells in Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts classes, and grow all manner of helpful plants in Herbology. Often, to learn a new spell, you have to complete assignments which include in-game challenges related to duelling, crafting, and exploration. Progression also includes a Talents system, in which you accrue points used to unlock devastating new spells and abilities. The abilities are spread across five different trees — Spells, Dark Arts, Core, Stealth, and Room of Requirement — each offering meaningful additions to gameplay.
Hogwarts Legacy’s strength lies in its details. The menu and UI design, the little embellishments on your heads-up display when you complete quests, the common rooms and corridors; all of them come together to make the game not just a faithful recreation of the Wizarding World, but also a meaningful extension of it. The game features open-world loops which we’ve all seen before, but the Wizarding World twist on them makes them feel novel. The in-game music is evocative of the iconic John Williams score from the movies, hitting familiar motifs. Hogwarts Legacy, perhaps most importantly, is a new way to experience the world of Harry Potter and will likely even bring fans of the books and movies, who do not play video games, to its shores.