Review: Hogwarts Legacy – A Magical Journey

Wands at the ready! It’s time to see what the magical school of Hogwarts has to offer in Hogwarts Legacy by Portkey Games. Explore an open world, dense with activities and quests. Harvest plants, take care of mystical animals, brew potions, but most importantly: stop the Dark Wizards from their evil shenanigans! 

Growing up I had Harry Potter fever. I owned all the books, listened to the audio books, memorized all the movies, it was a time to be alive as a kid. Every holiday season I would binge watch all of the movies, noticing how everyone talked and get swelled up in all the music. My mom is a children’s librarian, so there was no escaping the magical fad. I even owned the Prisoner of Azkaban game on Gameboy Advanced. The games at the time, unfortunately, were not the exciting parts of the franchise. Hearing that the setting was going to get a proper AAA treatment was a revelation. I waited eagerly for its release.

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Reliving the movies that I’ve watched a thousand times was such a treat.

And I got to say, Hogwarts Legacy does not disappoint. All the nostalgia came flooding back as I got sorted into my houses and explored the castle grounds. After the wave of familiarity died down, the differences to the game and the Harry Potter setting became more obvious. Starting with the story, having taken place a century before Harry Potter’s time, the story feels more fresh and able to use its creative juices here and there. You start as a 5th year student joining Hogwarts for the first time, which is unusual. I believe it’s because the developers didn’t want you to play as a little kid, but there’s no real story reason as to why you start later. You notice that you’re able to see and wield traces of “ancient magic” that still exists in the world, giving you extraordinary powers. Dark Wizards are trying to find this power to ruthlessly use it for their own evil activities, and you must solve the mystery of secrets behind this powerful magic and why they’re trying to wield it.

As the story progressed in Hogwarts Legacy, I found myself more engrossed in it. The pacing of main quests and story tidbits is thoroughly put together. There were very few times where I felt I was just doing busy work. Not all of the fun features and side activities the game offers are given to you all at once. It’s not until later that you’re able to take care of animals. When saving animals, you’re left wondering what’s the point of feeding and brushing them, but the game answers that question with clothing upgrades. Hogwarts Legacy gives you a lot of opportunities to get sucked into a casual activity and forget the main quest. You can expertly design the Room of Requirement, get into gardening and potion making, finding and collecting animals to save, solve environmental world puzzles (known as the Merlin Trials), and plenty more things to collect.

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While you get a short questionnaire, you can still thankfully decide your own class for yourself.

That’s not to say the story is perfect. It has awkward reasons on why the main story can’t progress. Most of them are “I’ll study this and get back to you,” which feels like a bland excuse to do some more side questing. But actually! What you thought were fiddly side quests start to intertwined into the main storyline. The characters you meet and interact with slowly reveal deeper, emotional problems you weren’t expecting, and soon everyone you meet in the game plays some role in the storyline. 

A lot of people have been wanting it, so Hogwarts Legacy gave it to us: a miniature open world. When I first scrolled through the world map, I was surprised how condensed everything was. There can be quite a lot of world to explore still, but it’s not sprawling hills of wasteland like some open world games tend to be. The only problem I would comment about the world is, as well put together it was, I didn’t feel the need to really explore it. Most locations in the world are called out by quests and side quests, so there wasn’t a real need to “go rogue,” besides wandering off the path here and there to find some underground loot.

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No matter how you decide to explore, Hogwarts Legacy rewards you with thrilling sights.

Battling in Hogwarts Legacy gives me mixed feelings. While it’s mostly satisfying trying to lay combos of spells and giving a final punch with your ancient magic, the spell management feels clunky. With all the interesting spells that help you solve puzzles and quests besides pummeling people, there are only four slots to store all the spells you unlock. You can unlock quick changes to change out different sets of spells, and I thoroughly contemplated upgrading my spells to do that, but it felt like such a waste compared to the other cool upgrades I could get. Since menus pause time no matter what menu you open, I would simply change out spells one at a time if I need a quick fix, but with most of the battles I kept to the same four spell combos. Part of me wishes there were combos like other fighting games, where if I tapped a button multiple times it would provide different spells. Having to toggle spells just rips me out of the moment. Also timing for blocking and being able to stun an enemy was something I could never land. To cast Stupify to stun someone, you had to first block their attack and hold the block button a little longer. Too bad there was no way to really see how long to hold the button, it was mostly by feeling. When there are many enemies on the screen and you’re attacking with a lot of button presses, the game faces input lag where it must complete a full animation before moving onto a different action. This can cause your blocks to appear too late, or your attacks to land on the wrong enemy as you also turn around. 

While battling can feel clunky at times (hey, maybe I’m just bad at battling), the design of quests in Hogwarts Legacy is well-crafted in creating challenging ways to mix up your battle style. The game offers a variety of potions and powerups, which I would inherently not use because I couldn’t be bothered (or remember) to use additional when battling. But to acquire new and more powerful spells you have to take potions and items and use them in specific ways when you battle. You are also encouraged to explore with your broomstick and perform certain time trials. When engaging in battles, a checklist pops up to the right giving you more challenges to do to help boost your XP. These Dueling Feats are what make battling the most interesting to me because the battle transforms from a remedial task to a task with specific goals behind it. 

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Certain quests require you to perform a various assortment of tasks to encourage you to play the game the way the developers thought it played the best.

If you view Hogwarts Legacy’s art as “stylized,” then you can learn to appreciate it a lot more. I don’t believe the art team was trying to go with an ultra-detailed game, but more of a rounded corners, soft glow kind of art style. The clothing that you can wear to give you better stats are interesting, but I wanting to feel like a student and worked hard on designing a character that I wanted, so why would I want to cover all that up with a big sun hat or worse: an asylum mask (like seriously, who leaves a bunch of asylum masks laying around?) Thankfully the game has a feature where you can change the appearance of an item or remove it altogether. 

While there are a plethora of characters all represented from different walks of life, I felt like a social pariah with my getup. The game has a great selection to choose the exact looks you want and how you sound, there is no gender typing for your character, as you’re always referred to as “they.” So, obviously, I went with slick-back pink hair to really fit my personality as Merril Blankenshire (the name I gave my character). Unfortunately, everyone else in the game wasn’t as loudly expressive as I was, with their normal hairstyles and clothes. It made me feel a little awkward, like if this option was given to me, shouldn’t other NPCs get the same treatment? 

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The bad guys are probably looking for me because my outfit is so terrible.

As unique and memorable the characters you meet are, the enemies can be bland. There isn’t too much variety to them, especially the enemies during the trials in the main quest. Don’t get me wrong, battling the knights was still enjoyable, I was just hoping for something a little more creative as a big boss. 

Saving the best topic for last, the music in Hogwarts Legacy is exactly what you were wanting if you were like me and watched all the Harry Potter movies. I squealed with glee when the exact scene was played during the sorting hat ceremony, but it was MY character that was being inducted into Hogwarts. So many memories spilled from me, it was truly wonderful. Going into the game I was worried the music wasn’t going to be the same as the movies because of licensing issues, but the game pulled through. Every successful quest completion, background gameplay, magical twinkle reminded me of the movies. Sometimes to a fault, however. When the door creaks in the game it sounds exactly like the baby dragons yawning in the first movie when Hagrid hatches the dragons, making me think there were dragons around. The only peeve that the sounds got on was when you hovered over anything on the map. It has this continuous sparkling hum that doesn’t feel great in the ears and it makes you think the place you’re selecting is important. If it had a simple small clink instead of a continuous noise I would be a lot less forgiving of a user interface that uses mouse controls for a console game (which developers should STOP DOING).


In summary: Great story pace that evolves as you journey along. Solid gameplay that offers more than simple quest hunting and completing the main quest. Interesting and memorable characters, and art to dazzle your eyes and music to tickle your ear holes. 

Jordan purchased Hogwarts Legacy on PlayStation 5 for this review. Hogwarts Legacy is also available for Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

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