Harry Potter, regardless of the books or the film series, has influenced many of us. I myself sat and squealed to the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, including the the scene when the books left childhood behind forever.
This is known by Avalanche Software (not to be confused with Just Cause-Avalanche Studios). Not only do they know it, but they are like us: bookworms and movie lovers. Therefore, it is liberating that they are already in the conditions to Hogwarts Legacy chooses to carve out his own path. His own Hogwarts legacy.
“His own path. His own Hogwarts legacy”
Instead of naivety, a kind of coming of age story. A teenager in the late 19th century rather than a child of our time. Nor should you think that our hero is a new Harry Potter or Newt Scamander. No, what we get is a blank slate with a background we ourselves create in our head. Less Geralt of Rivia and more Bethesda hero, you could sum it up.
Moira Squier, narrative director, fills in that “you don’t have to compete against someone Harry or Newt. You are you”. She further explains the reasons why they chose the teenage route rather than the child-friendly one.
There is a big difference between an eleven-year-old and a fifteen-year-old. Considering the battles and some of the dark choices you’re forced to make, eleven felt way too young. Fifteen is also young, of course, but Harry had been through a lot by then and we decided it was old enough.
Thus, we play a fifth year student, one who is nevertheless doing his first year at Hogwarts. Why is so far unclear. However, I quickly feel at one with my ginger teenager (first name Bamse, last name Ponny). Playing as ready-made characters is usually my tune, but I still want to say that there is life in Mr. Ponny. A voice. Maybe even love at first Accio throw?
When I am thrown straight into the exploration of the castle, my love feels somewhat more complicated. The so-called “authentic” the interpretation (a fictional castle cannot of course be authentic) feels worthy of the books and films, but also a bit like a delicious backdrop. Stylish but stiff.
“Not just an open castle, but an open world”
I whiz with the broom over castle yards, along pinnacles and towers, over the lake, the woods and the Quidditch arena. I discover Professor Sprout’s greenhouse and the huge library. However, I get the feeling of a technology demo rather than a game whose release is in about two weeks. To Hogwarts Legacy defense it must be said that this lot was tightly controlled. Many places were strictly forbidden to enter. I didn’t get to take part in any lessons and hardly any real content beyond the exploration.
It’s been hard to wrap your head around Hogwarts Legacy. An open world RPG can, as everyone knows, be a lot and it is both strange and significant that this close to the release date I still have big question marks. Moira Squier does what she can to straighten them out.
You decide the rhythm of the game. Determines if you want to immerse yourself in the story or if you want to seek out the When Needed room to brew potions. The dorms in all their glory (can’t see them), it’s this secret room (can’t see it) that will be your base. Likely open to change.
They have worked hard to find the balance between school life and the bombastic campaign. Hogwarts Legacy is also, says Moira, “so much bigger than any of the books, movies and theater performance”. Hogwarts and its surroundings do not only mean Hogsmeade but “tons” with small villages and other things. It’s not just an open castle, but an open world.
[imgd src=”/artikel/bild/1439369″ class=”original nocrop”]The battles offer an unexpected depth.[/imgd
[imgd src=”/artikel/bild/1439371″ class=”original nocrop”]Dragons. You can’t live with them, you can die from them.[/imgd[/imgd
Kelly Murphy, lead designer, adds that it was challenging to make everything feel unified. It is a blessing to be able to expand the world, he says, but also a tough job filled with decisions and balancing. However, Kelly suggests that it is the castle that is the showpiece:
This thing about making an open Hogwarts… Magical and interesting. It is a labyrinth filled with secrets.
However, my hull target for the day takes place far beyond the castle walls. Here more tokens trickle down, as I now seriously get to feel a mission well into the campaign and the magical fireworks the battles turn out to be. I get to keep up with the story as best I can, but in short, Ponny and Poppy (maybe my own Hermione?) take us into a frosty forest.
There are whispers of poachers but also of a conspiracy that goes deeper. Our path is lined with inhospitable centaurs, an abandoned camp and finally a giant arena hidden in a small tent – classic Harry Potter magic. Along the way, we can collect resources and sniff for clues.
My Bamse is only equipped with a magic wand, but with a nice wooden stick he can prove to amaze the whole world. I’d be lying if I said I was in full control, but what feels cemented, however, is that the battles have a satisfying amount of bottoms.
“Batman Arkham vibes, where the weight is in a pretty wand rather than a muscular body”
Heavy wooden boxes are lifted and thrown at the enemy, lightning bolts are called from the sky and by matching the right formula with the right color of protective barriers, I punch holes in them. I am warned when the enemies counter. Green means I can create my own barrier, while red means I have to throw myself away. I get Batman Arkham-vibes, but where the weight is in a pretty wand rather than in a muscular body.
I lift the enemy, they lift me. I chain snappy attacks with larger fireballs. It sounds like chaos, and it is. A wooden bridge gives way but there is something Harry Potter connoisseurs know how to fix: Repair!
A lot falls into place here and I’m looking forward to botanizing through all the formulas – although stealth also proved successful. Almost cheating as in true Potter fashion you can make yourself invisible.
With two weeks left until the release has Hogwarts Legacy seriously introduced himself. It was about time. Admittedly, not all question marks have been resolved. The acting feels uneven and the dialogues somewhat stiff, but above all I’m excited about what everyday life as a Hogwarts student will be like. Lessons, dormitories, classmates and what kind of life there is beyond the magical scenery.
The legacy is leaden but I have a feeling that Hogwarts Legacy managed to manage it.
Footnote: The test is for the PS5 version. The game is released for PS5, PC and Xbox Series X|S February 10. Old-gen release happens on April 4th and, finally, Hogwarts Legacy is released for Switch on July 25th.