- Magic atmosphere
- Broomstick flying
- Fighting works (for the most part) nicely
- Hogwarts beautifully recreated
- Very short loading times
- Nice surprises
- Switching between spells a lot is inconvenient
- Little bonding with other characters
- Graphic level hit and miss
- Doesn’t excel in originality
We had to wait a while, but it’s here: Hogwarts Legacy can be played since last week on PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S. The roleplaying game from Avalanche Software, which is published under the Portkey Games label of Warner Bros., will also be released later this year for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
It’s a shame I can’t tell you about the funniest, most original mission I’ve played in Hogwarts Legacy. One mission immediately removed my doubts about the game and also added much-needed originality, combined with a nice nod to the content of the Harry Potter books. This is exactly the content you want to see in Hogwarts Legacy, the fulfillment of a promise that seemed difficult to keep beforehand. The books and movies have shaped the childhood of many. To emulate that so many years later is extremely difficult. Just ask the makers of the Fantastic Beasts films: nice too, but they can hardly be in the shadow of the impact of Harry Potter. That Hogwarts Legacy manages to revive the magic (ha-ha) at times,
…and there I immediately hit a sensitive chord, which I don’t want to avoid. You could hardly ignore it last week: Hogwarts Legacy is a game in the world that the much-discussed, and very rich, English writer has invented and so she earns money from it. The same JK Rowling, through her statements and tweets, is known as transphobic. I respect anyone who avoids the game out of dissatisfaction with JK Rowling as a person and unwillingness to bring her more wealth. That choice is yours. We are here to tell you whether the game is fun, how the combat system works and whether the ray tracing effects add a lot, or whether we prefer a higher frame rate.
To finish this side step, let’s start with the position of the game’s creators. You don’t have to play long to see that Avalanche Software has done its best to clearly distance itself from any form of homophobia or transphobia. That already starts with the creation of your character. You choose to be seen as a Wizard of Witch by the rest of the world, but what that Wizard of Witch looks like or sounds like is up to you. You can choose a male voice and appearance and still be a witch, or combine a female body with a male voice, or the other way around: it’s up to you. In addition, there is the transgender pub owner in Hogsmeade and you also encounter several characters who apparently have a partner of the same sex. At the same time, all this is not so noticeable. It’s subtle moments where the Avalanche team shows that they’re not JK Rowling. It’s her world, but the game is all Avalanche’s.
So that game takes place in a recognizable world, but with a completely new story. It has to be, because Hogwarts Legacy takes place about a hundred years before the events of the Harry Potter books. You will not encounter the well-known characters from those stories, with a few exceptions. It turns out, for example, that poltergeist Peeves was also a nuisance to students a hundred years earlier. You will also recognize names of other characters. For example, the principal is a Black and the junior principal is a Weasley. Those kind of nods to the books come back a lot in Hogwarts Legacy.
Lots of recognition
The show is stolen by, how could it be otherwise, Hogwarts itself. Anyone who has ever been to the film studios in Watford, England, will have seen the model of the castle and the surrounding area there. It’s a work of art in itself, and that work of art has been beautifully recreated in Hogwarts Legacy. You notice that when you walk through it yourself, but especially when you look at it from a distance. In a setting sun, the image of the magical castle is… well, just that: magical.
On the inside you will of course find all the locations that can be recognized from the books and films. Walking into the Great Hall for the first time is an experience, but fans will likely create four characters over the next few months to explore the four different Common Rooms. After an adventurous start, more about that later, you must of course choose Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin. The Sorting Hat asks you two questions that are transparent enough for your preference to emerge here, but the game leaves you free to make your own choice: so you can play as a member of your favorite house anyway. And yes, those houses all have their own space in the castle. The stately, beautifully lit space of Ravenclaw cannot be compared to the raw, but tough dungeon of Slytherin,
A walk through Hogwarts is an experience in itself. The level of detail is high: there are moving paintings everywhere, there are magical statues and so on. Avalanche has managed to keep Hogwarts alive. You see groups of students talking, hear ghosts arguing with each other, see house elves cleaning or preparing food and books flying around. In the midst of all this you can collect all kinds of things that will help you in your school career. Professor Weasley gives you a special book early on that should help you catch up with other students. In practice, the book is a gathering place for all kinds of challenges that can give you experience points and extra sets of clothes. For example, one of the tasks you have is to collect pages for your reference book. You can sometimes find them flying around Hogwarts or Hogsmeade, but many of those pages can be found by looking at specific objects and making the pages with the ‘Revelio’ spell appear. That’s nice, because you often find them at recognizable locations in and around the school, but also in the rest of the game world.
Just like in the movie
Hogwarts Legacy doesn’t stop at the boundaries of the school grounds. For example, early in the game, you are taken to Hogsmeade to get some stuff. Part of this is choosing your own staff at the Ollivanders location. It’s one of the many ‘movie-like’ moments where your path is quite similar to that of the kids in the Harry Potter books. That is of course no coincidence: the makers know how to use ingredients from the well-known stories very well. Nowhere will you get an exact copy of a Harry Potter adventure, but the similarities are evident when you see Thestrals, ride a Hippogriff or get scolded by your teacher during Potions class. The Fantastic Beasts movies are also represented.
Cheap? Perhaps, but exactly what you would expect of course. Hogwarts Legacy is the definition of ‘fan service’: it is a product designed to give fans of the Wizarding World the chance to walk around in that world for themselves. In that sense, any resemblance to the books and films is a plus. However, the game also goes a bit too far. For example, the male voice you can choose for your main character is very similar to that of Daniel Radcliffe in the movies. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s such a small thing that makes the balance between ‘recognizable and therefore fun’ and ‘looks very similar’ a bit in the wrong direction.
Learn spells and fly
However, let it be clear that the similarities with the books and the movies are a plus. It is the Harry Potter sauce that gives this game its right to exist. It has to be, because if you dissect the gameplay, you see many elements that are not very special in themselves. However, before I dive into that, let me start at the beginning. The player is a new student in Hogwarts Legacy, who enters Hogwarts in the fifth year, which is very unusual. To give you a flying start, the school has appointed Professor Fig to help you get started and guide you on your way to school. However, that goes completely wrong when the carriage that Fig, you and a third person are in is attacked by a dragon.
Attacked by a dragon
The accompanying Ministry of Magic employee does not survive, but a Portkey transports you and Fig to a strange place somewhere on the coast. From there, the player and Fig end up in Gringotts Wizarding Bank, where you visit one of the oldest vaults. In it you discover the first fragments of the main story. It turns out that you are sensitive to a mysterious kind of ancient magic, the traces of which you can literally see. That is not given to many. Fig immediately starts investigating what this could mean and you… have to go to school. Because yes, after the opening phase you arrive at Hogwarts and your school career can begin. From that moment on you can alternate main story quests with all kinds of extra quests and activities in the game world.
The main story quests focus on that story and on making sure that as an apprentice wizard you have the right resources to face your enemies. That also means taking classes and getting homework from teachers. Those commands are often quite simple, such as ‘use a Mandrake in battle’ and the reward is almost always: a new spell for your arsenal. You need those spells in battles, but also in the many puzzles you encounter in the game. For example, you have to float a block with ‘Levioso’ to form a plateau with which you can reach a higher area or you can repair a collapsed bridge with ‘Reparo’.
Collecting and selling clothes
You also need these kinds of spells in the so-called Merlin Challenges. These are small puzzles that can be found throughout the game world. Doing these challenges will increase your ability to carry gear. That is necessary, because especially in the beginning you cannot take too much stuff with you and you will often have to stop by a shop to sell your unnecessary clothing. Your garments have an attack and defense rating and can also have an additional bonus, which you can also add later in the game itself. So you are constantly looking for better stuff and sell the rest. This process repeats itself frequently and also ensures that you can easily earn money. You need that money for things like recipes for potions, but your broomstick also costs money. Certainly the latter you want to buy as soon as you have that option,
Flying is one of the most fun things you can do in Hogwarts Legacy. From the moment you have your own broomstick, you can grab your broomstick and fly away pretty much at any time. That goes at a nice pace and for that reason alone, this is of course the ideal way to cover long distances quickly. Fast travel is also possible to specific points within the school, in Hogsmeade and throughout the game world. Traveling to such a point is lightning fast: with a few seconds of loading time you are there. Often you have to fly a little further, but that in itself is just fun. It is a pity that the game forbids you to use your broom in some missions. For example, you have to find a way up somewhere and have to do it climbing, without it becoming clear why you shouldn’t just grab your broom.
When you fly through the game world, you also notice how big the game is and how much there is to do. Small quests can be found everywhere. I already mentioned the Merlin Challenges, but there are also all kinds of camps of Dark Wizards and Goblins that you can attack, nests of spiders and all kinds of other dangerous beasts, and so on. All in all, exploring the game world is just as much fun as exploring Hogwarts. The level of detail within the school is clearly higher than outside, but it is logical that more attention has been paid to this than to the wider environment.
No connection with other characters
By doing quests related to specific characters, you also build friendships and that was also an essential part of the Harry Potter stories. This does not come out very well in Hogwarts Legacy. The story is quite okay and you encounter a large number of quests that are very rewarding, but that is not accompanied by too much development in the relationship with other characters. You can see which characters the game expects you to bond with, but we lacked the emotional side of that. There are games where you feel genuine sadness when something happens to an important character. As far as we’re concerned, you could kill the whole world in Hogwarts Legacy: it probably wouldn’t do much for us. The reason for this is probably twofold. First of all, the dialogues are not of a high level. In addition, the characters sometimes look a bit awkward or unnatural when they talk to each other. The lipsync sometimes looks good, sometimes just not, but especially the movements of the rest of the body sometimes seem a bit too random to be credible. Perhaps that is also an obstacle in building a bond with the characters in the game.
Fighting is still quite difficult
By alternating story quests and other activities, you will of course get the most out of the game. However, it also causes you to level up faster than necessary to follow the story. Enemies in the game world grow with you, but in the story missions it is noticeable that the enemies are usually a bit below your level, which makes some missions a bit easy. Still, that’s not so bad. Howarts Legacy is not an easy game, although you have to see it in the right perspective. It is a game that is not difficult for experienced gamers, but for a game that could potentially appeal to a wide group of people, it is quite a complicated game at times.
Attack, defend and dodge
You don’t notice that so much at the beginning. Doing basic attacks and defending against enemy attacks is easy enough. The first spells also speak for themselves. It starts to get more difficult when you can no longer fend off all attacks, but sometimes also have to dodge them. A yellow indicator indicates a blockable attack, but a red indicator means you must dodge the attack. Cut cake for experienced gamers, but more difficult for mainstream gamers. Then you get that your enemies can have shields of a certain color. If that shield is red, you must use a red spell like Incendio or Bombarda to eliminate that shield. There are also yellow, purple and transparent shields. Is it getting more difficult?
This is also where the disadvantages of the chosen combat system come to the fore. You can have four active spells in your set at any given time. You can see those four spells at the bottom right of the screen. At a certain point you can make several sets and there on the flyswitching between them, but doing it well in the heat of battle already requires quite a bit of concentration and coordination. Even I, as a seasoned gamer, went wrong often enough. For example, I then lost track of which spell I had where in my sets and then a fight becomes a lot more difficult. It still didn’t make Hogwarts Legacy overly difficult for us, but you might expect a game based on the Harry Potter world to be very easy, but that’s not the case. You do have the option to choose Easy or even Story Mode, in which the challenges in the gameplay are considerably reduced and you can simply enjoy the world and the story.
Playing with the combat system
If you manage to master the system, the Hogwarts Legacy combat system works very well. It’s a wonderfully powerful feeling to pull an enemy towards you with Accio and then deal them heavy damage with Incendio, or blast them away with Depulso. The latter quickly became a personal favourite. Looking for groups of enemies in higher areas and then launching them down the mountain one by one: it’s still fun. Also using the special ‘old magic’ that the player can use, makes for nice moments. This is related to the combos; you charge a bar by making combos and, once you’ve filled pieces of the bar, can do strong ancientmagic attacks.
By the way, you don’t have to limit yourself to generally accepted spells when fighting. Unforgivable Curses are also in the game. They take a while to come your way and you can choose not to use them, but you can. The game leaves players free to walk the path of the Dark Arts. So if you like to use notorious curses like Crucio and Avada Kedavra, you can. This also applies outside of combat. Do you help someone out purely out of the goodness of your heart or do you want something in return? In some cases, you may even decide to keep valuables that you have obtained or sought for someone else. In that sense it is really a roleplaying game in which you can fill in a fair part of your role yourself.
Of course the combat system feels very cool and the first time you disarm an enemy with Expelliarmus it gives you a kick. But when you’ve done more battles, you also start to notice that the system is not very original. It was perhaps best described by my girlfriend, who took a look and said, “You basically do the same thing all the time as you do in your other games.” In this case ‘your other games’ are for example The Witcher 3 and God of War: Ragnarok and indeed: countering, dodging and attacking in different ways is the basis for many combat systems. So Hogwarts Legacy doesn’t reinvent the wheel. That is not necessary at all, but it is illustrative of a large part of the content of the game.
If you look at the other parts, you must conclude that the same applies to all those parts. A talent tree that gives bonuses to your skills and makes spells stronger, gear that can be green, blue, purple or orange, corresponding to whether an item is normal or legendary and I could go on and on. It’s a collection of gameplay systems that I’ve seen almost every part of. Hogwarts Legacy reuses them in a good way and pours the Wizarding World sauce over them and that produces a great result. A game doesn’t have to excel in originality to be fun.
It is not the case that Hogwarts Legacy is not original. The quest described on the first page was a welcome surprise and the quest line associated with the Room of Requierement can certainly be called original. However, some micromanagement is involved here, which makes it feel a bit like work at times. That’s not a big deal, because you can largely ignore this part of the game, but I found rescuing and caring for special animals a nice addition to the game, so I wouldn’t recommend skipping it.
Graphics and performance on console
Graphically, Hogwarts Legacy is a difficult game to make an unambiguous judgment about. If I ask the simple question “Is the game nice?” answer yes or no, then yes. Highlights are the details of Hogwarts, but certainly also the beautiful views that the game offers. The game looks sleek for the most part. The tone is set early. The environment that Fig and the player end up in after the dragon attack seems designed to showcase the game’s strongest points. The ruin, the rocks, the sea and the way it hits the rocks: it’s beautiful. Gringotts also impresses. However, the simple truth is that that level is not quite maintained. I even felt that the quality of the environments and the character models,once you’re in the game, is lower than in the opening. Logical too: in a closed ‘instance’ you can of course do more graphically than in a large, open world.
Once in that open world, the level changes a bit. That made the assessment difficult. One minute I see great characters with believable movements. The other moment I see characters who seem a little unnatural in both their appearance and their motor skills due to apparently random shoulder movements and other gestures that seem to have no function other than to ensure that the characters do not look too stiff when talking. The pluses and minuses can also be seen in the environments. There are certainly beautiful environments, but they are often created before your eyes because you see the higher quality textures appear before your eyes. That effect is of course even more intense if you fly around at high speed on your broomstick.
Of course, the graphic quality of your game also depends on how you play the game. On console, the game offers three to five graphics options, depending on whether you have a setup that would allow you to play in 120Hz. The standard offerings are Performance, Fidelity and Fidelity with ray tracing. If your TV can handle 120Hz gaming, there is also an HFR and a Balanced mode. We have made a short clip to compare the Performance mode, without ray tracing, and the Fidelity mode with ray tracing. In the video review you will also find some images that show that difference. Both variants clearly show where their strengths lie. In Performance, the frame rate is clearly higher and the Fidelity mode shows just a little more graphical detail. In the clip, for example, note the subtle yellow effects around the broom handle. It is also clear that the Fidelity mode works with a lock at 30fps, whereby that lock is lifted for the Performance mode and 60fps is the maximum. In the clip, that level is also held almost stable. In practice, I occasionally had some moments when the frame rate came under more pressure, but that was always very short and never a problem.
Ray tracing on PC or not?
On PC, of course, there’s more to choose from. Let me start by saying that this is quite a heavy game. Our test PC is now a year and a half old and therefore no longer equipped with the most high-end hardware, but it is still sturdy enough to play most games at the highest settings. That largely works with Hogwarts Legacy, but that requires help from DLSS. The technique that renders the game in a lower resolution and upscales it to 4k with the help of AI ensures acceptable performance. You can choose whether you want DLSS to emphasize Performance or image quality. In that sense, it resembles the choice you have to make on console, only the result depends on your hardware and the frame rate can be much higher than the max of 60fps on console.
Reboot to change settings
Playing with settings a bit produces the following: frustration. OK, that needs some explanation. Every time you change the graphics settings, you have to restart the game. This is true on PC and also on console. Switching back and forth between Performance and Fidelity should certainly be normal on console, but is not just possible in Hogwarts Legacy. So if you are looking for what works for you, you have to restart the game every once in a while. I can’t tell you why that is, but I do know it’s pretty annoying.
The laborious system did not prevent us from taking a look at what you can do with the various settings. In addition, we have not extensively tested all graphic options. That is a slightly too time-consuming exercise for a review. However, you can already find all kinds of guides on the internet on how to get the best possible performance combined with the best possible images, by lowering certain settings and not others. The clips below are an indication of what the game does with DLSS and ray tracing. All other settings are set to Ultra.
It should come as no surprise that the game runs best when you turn off ray tracing. The game looks smoother, especially because the game world around you is loaded faster. With ray tracing on, you sometimes see the light effects building up around you, which takes you out of the game a bit. But ray tracing certainly makes the game more beautiful. Light plays a minor role in this clip, but when you’re walking around in a dark cave and your staff is the only source of light, ray tracing makes a clear difference. Shadows of characters come into their own much better. The technology also offers added value in other dark environments, such as the Forbidden Forest.But when I turn on ray tracing, even with DLSS Performance, the frame rate regularly drops below 60 frames per second. That may be acceptable enough, but I found playing without ray tracing,
It is important to know that the results of the videos are ‘impeded’ by our capture method. These clips were recorded with Shadowplay and it is not possible to record a video with more than 60 frames per second. I had an fps counter running while playing and certainly in ‘DLSS Quality without RT’ the frame rate there was stable at around 80 frames per second. However, the clip shows 61 as the maximum fps. That’s not correct. So keep in mind that where you see a stable fps of 60-61, the actual number of frames per second was probably higher.
Hogwarts Legacy offers gamers the opportunity to embark on their own adventures within and beyond the familiar walls of the magical castle. The game relies heavily on recognisability, as players will recognize many elements from the Harry Potter books and movies. That is mainly a plus, but sometimes the similarities are very obvious. That does not hinder the fun of the game. You can fight to your heart’s content with all kinds of spells and curses, explore the world, solve puzzles and unravel the story, in which the player himself plays a crucial role. Graphically, the game alternates beautiful images with images that are less convincing, mainly because not all models are equally strong, their movements in dialogues sometimes look unnatural and the game world around you is sometimes built before your eyes. That doesn’t have to be disturbing when playing, but it is noticeable. The game also has some systems that don’t work very well and doesn’t excel in originality, but masks that by the excellently working ‘Wizarding World’ sauce. Just flying over and past Hogwarts feels special and the makers have looked closely at the films in all elements and that is a compliment. Hogwarts Legacy is an atmospheric whole in which there is a lot to do. You can’t get any closer to a place at the world’s most famous school of magic and witchcraft. Just flying over and past Hogwarts feels special and the makers have looked closely at the films in all elements and that is a compliment. Hogwarts Legacy is an atmospheric whole in which there is a lot to do. You can’t get any closer to a place at the world’s most famous school of magic and witchcraft. Just flying over and past Hogwarts feels special and the makers have looked closely at the films in all elements and that is a compliment. Hogwarts Legacy is an atmospheric whole in which there is a lot to do. You can’t get any closer to a place at the world’s most famous school of magic and witchcraft.