How does one manage to keep a fantasy novel series relevant after more than two decades since its first release? Milk it for all its worth, that’s how.
The “Harry Potter” series was a hit when it first came out, and it remained a household name for decades to come. From eight full-length movies, theme parks in Universal Studios, three full-length movies based on the spin-off “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” countless merchandise, fan clubs and college Quidditch teams, “Harry Potter” is arguably the most popular book series of all time.
Released on Feb. 10, the game “Hogwarts Legacy” was originally announced at a PlayStation 5 event in September 2020 as a “full-fledged, open-world RPG.” Set in the 1890s, the events take place a century before the events in the “Harry Potter” novels. You play as your own character, a fifth-year new student at Hogwarts who explores the secrets of ancient magic as well as attends class and explores the school grounds.
The plot consists of your character traveling to Hogwarts on their first day via flying coach with their mentor, Professor Fig. Suddenly, a dragon attacks them, and they fly out. As they’re falling, Fig uses a spell to reach a key that was inside of an artifact. The key turns out to be a Portkey, which teleports them to Gringotts. The key leads them to an old vault filled with ancient magic, and the protagonist soon learns they have a rare ability to see ancient magic (yes, a hero arc where the protagonist can see and do things others cannot and eventually saves the day). The protagonist and Professor Fig spend the rest of the game uncovering the secrets of ancient magic, which conveniently are hidden in a chamber underneath the school.
The main story takes around 30 hours to complete, but after taking your time with side-quests and attending all classes, the entire game actually takes around 70 hours. That means more than half of the game is spent on fun activities and Easter eggs dedicated to the fans. At times it seems there is too much to do that isn’t part of the main story.
Originally, I was skeptical over the mechanics of the “open-world RPG.” Hogwarts is a huge and intricate area to explore. It’s essentially a giant regal castle. I thought the “open-world” would only be open to certain areas such as the common rooms, the Great Hall, the library and specific classrooms and halls.
To say I was surprised is an understatement. The entire castle is open to exploration down to the bathrooms. It is gorgeously rendered and incredibly detailed. It makes players feel like royalty while exploring such a beautiful castle. In fact, Hogwarts isn’t the only area to explore; other areas in the magical world are also completely open-world, such as Hogsmeade, the Forbidden Forest, Azkaban and various nearby valleys and coastlines.
I would find myself exploring the game rather than completing the quests. I was blown away by how beautiful everything was. No detail was left behind. Each area looked identical to the movies and how they are described in the books. There’s a sense of real life when playing as a Hogwarts student. You get to walk around the school, make friends, duel others, fight monsters, attend class with fellow students, uncover new secrets behind every door and end the day in your common room.
Even the seasons change as the game progresses. You unlock new spells, potions and gear by attending class; it is not just handed to you at the start of the game. It is everything a “Harry Potter” fan can ask for. To be placed directly in the story’s setting while creating your own is a fan’s dream.
Beyond the game’s setting and gorgeous graphics, “Hogwarts Legacy” is undeniably fan service. You can ride a broom, buy a wand at Ollivander’s, drink butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks and ride a Hippogriff. While these are fun activities, they add nothing to the actual plot of the game, which is a bit lackluster. The game fulfills every fan’s dream of wanting to visit the fantastical world of “Harry Potter,” but to a casual gamer, there’s not much.
While “Hogwarts Legacy” is a fun addition to the “Harry Potter” franchise, it adds very little to the lore of the magical world. The game is mostly about transporting fans into a fantastical world they no-doubt have dreamed about. There is little to add to the story because J.K. Rowling finished it back in 2007.
To a “Harry Potter” nerd, this game is a masterpiece, but to a casual gamer, it’s very okay. Once the hype for “Hogwarts Legacy” dies, it will be very difficult to create better fan service. At this point, J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. try their hardest to make the most out of their biggest franchise, even if it means shooting it while it is dead.
“Hogwarts Legacy” may be the last of mainstream media hype for “Harry Potter” for a while. The series has ended, and it may be in its best interest to let it die. The game is a good addition to the “Harry Potter” universe, but I can’t imagine what else can be added to satisfy the fans.