Hogwarts Legacy Final Preview: The Ultimate Harry Potter Experience

The world we inhabit does not provide an abundance of excellent Harry Potter video games. It’s safe to say that nobody has any fond memories of the glut of cheap, exploitative movie tie-ins that afflicted the PS2 and Xbox in the middle of the 2000s.

Portkey Games 2020 reveal of the lavish Hogwarts Legacy confirmed the developer’s intention to reach for the stars with its take on the Harry Potter franchise. After spending two hours in its hands, I can declare that the Wizarding World has never looked prettier.

The game’s combat and exploration — the game aspect of this video game — are robust enough to pull in more casual lovers of the fiction, while the game’s melodic charm, cockeyed whimsy, and high-fantasy shenanigans are presented with slavish loyalty to the novels. The timing couldn’t be worse, as people everywhere begin to question their devotion to one of literature’s finest works.

Just in case you haven’t been following the news, Hogwarts Legacy is set in the 19th century and has its own continuity from the main Potter canon. (There isn’t a villain named Voldemort or a professor named Dumbledore or any of the dozens of Weasleys.)

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Hogwarts Legacy Final Preview: The Ultimate Harry Potter Experience

You take on the role of a transferring fifth-year student and use a robust character creator to customize your appearance down to the skin tone, hair color, eyebrow shading, body type, vocal tenor, and whether or not you like to be called a witch or wizard. After that, you’ll be thrust headfirst into the academic routines of Hogwarts.

My time with the game was split between a perilous story chapter in which I was tasked with infiltrating and destabilizing a nefarious dragon cockfighting ring, and a pleasant afternoon spent on the castle grounds, where I completed sidequests, played minigames and basked in the Persona-like splendor of just hanging out at school.

Game Plan: Sony’s Hogwarts Film

Unsurprisingly, the fighting was the best part for me. Harry, Ron, and Hermione take on an infinite series of identical death eaters, all of whom seem to brandish magical facsimiles of shotguns and sniper rifles, in prior Potter games, which reduces the quicksilver wizard conflicts of the books to tedious, formulaic third-person shooting galleries.

There are several major adjustments to the formula in Hogwarts Legacy. The game plays more like a combo masher in the vein of Ninja Gaiden, despite the projectiles ricocheting back and forth across the arenas.

Your character will always face the direction you’re looking at, and the spells you cast can be chained together to create a screen-filling, health-bar-erasing tsunami. Alan Tew, the director of the game, likens it to long-range dueling.

The physics engine takes great pleasure in your mayhem; in your direction, bodies will float aimlessly throughout the playing area as if they had no skeletons to hold them down.

The controls are intuitive, and after only a few minutes of tinkering, I was able to come up with some crazy, improvised combos thanks to the mapping of your arsenal to the face buttons. With the Incendio, I would Leviosa my opponent into the air, hit them with some filler casts, pull them in close with an Accio, and then set them ablaze.

The physics engine takes great pleasure in your anarchy, sending bodies careening across the map as though they’ve lost all their flesh and bone. Despite decades of effort, no Harry Potter game has been able to capture the novel’s original approach to spellcasting. It appears that Portkey has set a precedent that others will follow for quite some time.

Unfortunately, my time spent exploring the grounds of Hogwarts itself wasn’t as exciting as my visit to the dragon’s lair. Back at Hogwarts, my character had the run of the castle once again while riding on their trusty flying broom (the Roach of Hogwarts Legacy), where they explored every nook and cranny in search of collectibles and clues to simple puzzles, all the while fulfilling the mundane duties imposed upon them by their peers.

Hogwarts Legacy Final Preview
Hogwarts Legacy Final Preview

(One of them inadvertently adorned her books with a charm that made them flutter wildly in the air. I gave them back to her by way of the Accio technique. I went outside and joined a round of what can only be called Wizard’s Curling in a courtyard.

With the use of our wands, my opponent and I was able to lower a pair of leather balls from a wooden platform. Each time they got dangerously close to the precipice without actually going over, we scored a point.

I was hoping that Hogwarts Legacy would have some more nuanced character moments outside of the main campaign, as these diversions were somewhat shallow (Portkey didn’t let us go into, say, potions class or a heavy sidequest digression).

Let’s try to foster true friendships among the students here at school. A Harry Potter game has succeeded if, towards the conclusion of the story, we are willing to die for an eccentric headmaster or a helpful groundskeeper.

When I first looked at my battle Hotbar, I was shocked to discover Crucio, often known as the torture spell, listed among the other spells.

It’s also worth noting that Hogwarts Legacy seems to be immersed in the canon’s bleaker corners. To my utter dismay, one of the spells available to me in combat was Crucio, more often known as the torture spell, which causes excruciating pain on contact. (In the world of Harry Potter, Crucio is one of the three unforgivable curses.

Absolutely unacceptable!) These could be the issues Hogwarts Legacy aims to address; what changed Crucio to make him inexcusable? My character also has some grisly kill moves at his disposal. When my avatar was fully charged, he or she could turn an opposing wizard into a pile of sooty Looney Tunes dust by pressing two buttons on the back of their shoulders.

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It’s strange to see a fifth-year kill someone, given that the Harry Potter books emphasize the innocence of adolescent companionship. Maybe those are questions Hogwarts Legacy plans to answer. It’s a bit shocking at first glance, though.

Of course, if you decide to play Hogwarts Legacy, you’ll have to deal with a lot of inconsistencies, most of which are much more substantial than the typical dissonance we see in video games. J.K. Rowling is now recognized as a leading voice in the global anti-trans movement.

Hogwarts Legacy’s character creator has a wide range of female options, but it doesn’t change the fact that J.K. Rowling owns the rights to the Harry Potter series. If buying this game makes you feel like you’re endorsing Rowling’s dated worldview, well, you wouldn’t be wrong.

During my trip, I had the chance to talk about similar issues with Alan Tew, and you can find the results of our conversation here; but, a simple solution to your problem is unlikely to emerge. A quality Harry Potter video game appears to be in the works. Isn’t there supposed to be a better sensation?

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Frequently asked questions

Can you pre download Hogwarts Legacy?

For the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Hogwarts: The Legend of... is now available as a preloaded game. As of January 25, 2023, you can begin preloading Hogwarts Legacy on Xbox Series X|S. Each console's download is different in size; the Series X file is about 76GB, while the Series S file is about 50GB.

How long is Hogwarts Legacy?

A leak (the original source has been destroyed) on Reddit suggests that Hogwarts Legacy will last about 35 hours. This is around how long a game should take to finish for a typical player. Another leak suggests that finishing Hogwarts Legacy entirely could take up to 75 hours.

Can you play Hogwarts Legacy early?

Hogwarts Legacy is out now for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, with early access available for those who purchase the Deluxe Edition, which also comes with a number of other benefits.