Hogwarts Legacy Review – Pure Magic

Hogwarts Legacy Review

No one could blame you if you were one of the many who assumed Hogwarts Legacy would be a cheap cash grab using some of the most beloved source material ever written. After all, we’ve taken several trips to this fantastic world of witchcraft and wizardry over the last 20 years, and none of them is even remotely memorable. Granted, each title was never meant to be more than a tie-in for the accompanying film release. But, after a long string of sub-par releases and much time passing without a whisper of anything new in the works, I think it’s safe to say Harry Potter fans gave up on ever seeing a proper video game adaptation.

Well, Potter fans, rejoice. I’m here to tell you that your patience has paid off. Hogwarts Legacy is an utterly brilliant take on the Harry Potter universe. All at once, it rights the wrongs of its predecessors while shattering every expectation I could have possibly had. It took a long time to get here, but my god was the wait ever worth it.

Note that you won’t see any of the characters you’ve come to love over your time with the books and films. Hogwarts Legacy is set in the 1800s, well before the likes of Harry, Ron, and Hermione graced the school’s halls. Admittedly, the narrative isn’t as strong as the source material, but the tale of a new, mysterious student starting at Hogwarts amid their fifth year does plenty to keep one engaged. As expected with anything related to the Harry Potter universe, this, too, is filled with twists and turns that sometimes hit like a punch in the stomach.

A Whole New Journey

Even more so than the hardest-hitting beats of the main storyline, the havoc one can conjure is a big part of what defines Hogwarts Legacy. If you choose, you can be as benevolent as Dumbledore or as downright evil as Voldemort. Even though I went into my playthrough with a “let’s make Voldemort look like Gandhi” mindset, I had to make several decisions that genuinely left me feeling gutted and empty. And, though I wasn’t entirely able to fulfill my fantasies of being the biggest menace Hogwarts had ever seen (there are no wedgies or swirlies to be found here), it’s these moral choices, peppered throughout Hogwarts Legacy’s surprisingly large map, that have unexpectedly dug their claws into me.

From the North Ford Bog all the way down to the Clagmar Coast, Hogwarts Legacy takes place on a big chunk of land. It’s not quite the size of a game like Witcher 3, but I’ve routinely found myself remarking at not only the impressive size of the map Avalanche Software developed but just how stuffed with content it is. Whether I was making my way through the streets of Hogsmeade, the rolling hills of Poidsear Coast, or the shores of the Feldcroft region, I was never without something to do for more than a minute or two at a time.

So Much To See

Above all else, the true testament to Avalanche Software’s work is just how fantastical Hogwarts Legacy’s world feels. It’s absolutely dripping with fan service, at times convincing me that almost every single nook and cranny would have something new for me to discover. It’s one of the most outstanding efforts I’ve ever seen from a developer when building off of source material, and I would be shocked to find a Harry Potter fan disappointed with the final product.

Most importantly, though, this content is a blast to experience. Treasure caves, puzzles, trials, and much more are to be found no matter the direction you travel. Plus, all of them offer meaningful rewards that provide beneficial upgrades to your character. Keep in mind there’s tons of stuff to do in each side activity. While some may find things get repetitive, I at least can’t recall a single time that I earned a reward that I didn’t feel was worth my time. Hogwarts Legacy has one of the most satisfying gameplay loops I’ve found myself caught up in over the last decade. Easily.

Bring Your ‘A’ Game

If you’re hesitant, however, about the combat itself, don’t be. It’s fantastic. I wasn’t sure if Avalanche Software would be able to pull off engaging fight mechanics, given that they haven’t exactly had to do so up until now. But, thankfully, my worries were entirely misplaced. As one would expect, you’ll have access to a large pool of spells ranging from environmental aides like Revelio and Lumos to devastating combat arts like Crucio and Incendio. You can equip four different spells at a time; however, eventually, you’re given four sets of four spells to work with. For example, you can have four combat spells tied to one set and four passive spells tied to another. You can then freely switch between them with the press of a button in the midst of a fight.

This system lends itself to some truly awe-inspiring battles, as you end up flowing between 16 different spells without entering a menu or stopping the game. Combine all this with gorgeous animation work (seriously, the animation department deserves an award) and some slick bullet-time slow motion, and you have the recipe for one of the most entertaining, eye-catching combat systems of the last two generations. Be sure to crank the difficulty up to hard, as I’ve encountered a few fights that challenged me just as much as some of the toughest times in God of War: Ragnarok.

Combat aside, a big chunk of what makes fights (and everything else) so much fun is the stunning, original score. Each piece of music has been immaculately curated to fit each scenario, whether accompanying a life-changing boss battle or a casual Sunday stroll through the Quidditch pitch. An homage to the work of John Williams, Hogwarts Legacy will sound every bit as authentic to the films you grew up with while never coming across as less-than. It’s breathtaking.

An Issue Or Two

Of course, with a game of this scale, it’s bound to have issues. Minor framerate dips occur sporadically. And the number of times you’ll hear NPCs repeat themselves when jogging past the area they occupy will undoubtedly get on your nerves. Most frustrating for me, however, was the unbelievably lackluster character creator. Aside from a few minor cosmetic changes, you’re essentially stuck using one of the preset faces. Plus, there’s no ability to change body type. I was hoping to make a character that would require two or three brooms to hold up, but alas, that will have to wait for the sequel.

Hogwarts Legacy is one of the all-time great surprises in my 25+ years of gaming. I love everything about it. The world is stunning. The combat is both satisfying and challenging. And it’s reignited my love for something seemingly lost to space and time. Overnight, Avalanche Software has cemented itself as a triple-A developer, delivering a game that belongs in conversations with the very best. Class is in session, folks.

***A PS5 code was provided by the publisher***

Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.

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The Good

  • Incredible, fully realized world
  • Engaging, challenging combat
  • So much to see and do
  • Tremendous fan service
  • Superb musical score

The Bad

  • Minor framerate issues
  • Repetitive dialogue
  • Story is weak compared to source material
  • Lousy character creator