Hogwarts Legacy is prepping for release on February 10, but the provided review code allowed for a review embargo that was lifted earlier today. After just a few days with the game, I’m not ready to pass along a final verdict. But the roughly 18 hours I have played are helping to create a clear picture.
In that time, my most notable impression is that the developers have captured what is distinct and memorable about this fiction. Set many decades before the Harry Potter stories that unfolded in book and film, the game has a latitude to tell its own story with its own characters that is refreshing – even if there are a healthy smattering of familiar last names like Weasley and Black that are in the mix. For gamers familiar with the books or movies, it’s great fun to explore the massive castle and the surrounding countryside, which is brimming with secrets, side missions, unique characters, and magical discoveries.
Visually, the game is a treat, capturing the weird and wonderful elements that helped to make the franchise so popular in the first place, and finding ways to make every minute of gameplay pop with little magical tweaks, reminding the player that this is a fantasy world. However, I have encountered many technical hiccups, including frequent pop-in when moving quickly through an environment and some odd hitches in action and combat.
The developers clearly aim for this to be a definitive take on gaming in the Wizarding World. They’ve thrown a lot of options at the player, from broom-riding to spider-fighting to classes with eccentric and prickly professors. Even after more than a dozen hours, I still feel like tutorial elements pop up quite regularly. However, in a game about being a student learning at a school, the narrative around those tutorials feels natural, and learning new mechanics, spells, activities, or character introductions is broken up with long strings of interesting exploration and mission completions.
Combat is fun, primarily because of the spells you’re flinging out and the animations accompanying them. Enemies rarely impress with their nuanced assaults, and thus far, there’s too little variety to the types of enemies I’m encountering. But I enjoy blasting out fire and ice spells, learning enemy weaknesses, breaking color-coded shields with specific attacks, and simply feeling like I’m in the midst of an action-packed magic duel.
Exploration, meanwhile, is tremendously enjoyable. Running around the castle, I’m constantly getting distracted from my tasks to chase a flying key or solve a hidden puzzle – and that’s as it should be if the goal is to match the vibe of the inspiring stories. In recent hours, I’ve taken to my broom, and I’ve been flying outside the castle, which is both enjoyable and makes for a rewarding navigation experience. Thankfully, the game also includes many fast-travel spots, which makes it relatively easy to jump around the large map.
Upgrades and leveling happen through the completion of missions and challenges in the world, and it’s a lot of fun. The best part are the talents that can sometimes dramatically change your approach to stealth, combat, or exploration. But gear progression is also fun, thanks to an intelligent system that allows players to separate functional progression from cosmetic tweaks. I find a lot of gear in the world as I explore – sometimes, a bit too much, especially when it doesn’t always help improve my character and just gets sold at the nearest shop. But it’s a small problem, and each new piece does add a new cosmetic tweak to my collection, which I enjoy.
Hogwarts Legacy is shaping up to be a strong game, but I still have several questions. While the dialogue and voice acting thus far have been excellent, the story is struggling a bit with pacing and finding a groove. And I’m eager to have all my magical options at my disposal as I explore and fight, to see how complex things eventually get.
Beyond the critical evaluation of Hogwarts Legacy, many potential players following the game are aware of a larger conversation around its release. The public transphobic statements from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling in recent years have led to a broader discussion about the support for a game derived from her work. That ongoing conversation includes some who have called for a boycott of the product. Like all of our critiques, Game Informer’s review of Hogwarts Legacy will evaluate the game itself rather than any surrounding concerns or debates, which will not factor into our score. However, in this case, our review will also include a separate note to alert potential buyers to the broader conversation around the game so that each reader can make an informed buying decision.
We’ll have more to share about Hogwarts Legacy in the coming days. Look for the game to release publicly on February 10 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC, with early access for deluxe edition purchasers on February 7. The game will launch on PS4 and Xbox One on April 4, with a subsequent launch on Switch scheduled for July 25.
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