‘Hogwarts Legacy’ video game gives solidly fun wizarding experience

Published by Warner Bros. imprint Portkey Games, "Hogwarts Legacy" is an immersive, open-world, action role-playing game set in the 1800s Wizarding World, which puts players at the center of their own adventure. (Courtesy of Portkey Games)
Published by Warner Bros. imprint Portkey Games, "Hogwarts Legacy" is an immersive, open-world, action role-playing game set in the 1800s Wizarding World, which puts players at the center of their own adventure. (Courtesy of Portkey Games)

Since the first Harry Potter book was released in the late 1990s, the magic of the Wizarding World has enchanted children and adults alike in a way not seen by a fantasy series since J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. There have been many great LOTR video games, but the magic of Hogwarts has been decidedly harder to capture in video game form, with the best attempts being the LEGO versions that came out more than a decade ago.

The steady level-up of our Muggle technology has finally let this magical world shine. "Hogwarts Legacy" boasts an immersive, massive open world that finally gives the Hogwarts experience so many have wanted for so long. Broomstick riding, potions and charms classes, talking to paintings, exploring the Forbidden Forest (so named because it is forbidden to go there), wizard duels and more are just some of the joys contained.

Players in "Hogwarts Legacy" will take on the role of a boy or girl who enters the school as a fifth-year student, and who only started learning magic at the age of 15. However, our main character has a special ability to access powerful Ancient Magic — alluded to in Harry Potter lore but never really explored.

"Hogwarts Legacy" takes place in the late 1800s, although you'd be hard-pressed to guess that based on the relatively modern clothing styles and the way characters speak. I guess we can't expect the place to change much on a technological level, as mundane Muggle inventions such as cars and electricity don't work well in Magical Britain, but if the game were set in 1990 instead of circa 1890, I don't think we'd notice any difference at all.

Because it's set in the past, our favorite characters from the books obviously can't make an appearance — although there are some predecessors, such as a Weasley professor and the headmaster, Phineas Nigellus Black, who is the ancestor of book characters like Sirius Black, Bellatrix Lestrange and Draco Malfoy.

The main storyline involves a clash between wizards and a goblin leading a rebellion, and for some reason a mere fifth-year student is thrust onto the front-lines of deadly battles where, make no bones about it, many, many people die. It sure feels like maybe the teachers and other adults should not have conscripted a child into a war, but I guess when the fate of the world hangs in the balance there's no other choice.

The player can also learn to use the three "unforgivable curses" that mark someone as a dark wizard, such as the Avada Kedavra, a curse that kills almost any opponent instantly. It's going to be the player's choice whether to go down this path, but I do feel it's a bit of a cop-out in that there's basically no negative consequences for using those spells, even in front of teachers. (The spells are very handy, though.)

The real magic in "Hogwarts Legacy" is everything that isn't the main storyline, however. There are a ton of memorable characters to meet and lots of side quests to learn new spells, earn money and find and tame magical beasts. You'll gain access to the Room of Requirement, a large, customizable area where you can create the magical room of your dreams, filled with furnishings, fields to grow magical plants and pens to raise endangered magical beasts (and sell their offspring for golden Galleons).

You'll get to explore the town of Hogsmeade and visit Diagon Alley, buy your wand at Ollivanders, see magical jokes and toys at Zonko's, buy potion ingredients and get a drink at the Three Broomsticks tavern. Pretty much the only thing you can't do is play Quidditch (which is no great loss; the existence of the Golden Snitch ruins the game).

As developed by Avalanche Software, there are currently no plans to make any downloadable content, but based on the game's massive success, it seems improbable that there would not be something else coming down the pipeline eventually. Currently, the game is available on PC and the latest generation of PlayStation and Xbox consoles, but it will also be coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch this summer.

If you're a Potterhead, "Hogwarts Legacy" is a must-play.

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