I've always been inclined to put my hands on a game and judge it for myself, trying to take hype stoked by careful marketing with a grain of salt. With Hogwarts Legacy, that was a more difficult task than most, as not only was news about the game everywhere before release but the ten-year-old child in me hungry for a fifth book couldn't wait to get my hands on another mystery set in the Wizarding World. After some time with the game, I can say it generally does live up to the hype. But I've also been a gamer for far longer than a Harry Potter fan. That part of me has been left a bit underwhelmed at times.
Hogwarts Legacy's environment is absolutely exquisite
The tutorial section of Hogwarts Legacy features a beautiful design as it is. However, even that doesn't hold a floating candle to the meticulous, loving detail with which Hogwarts Castle has been recreated. I didn't use Floo Flames for the first two hours. I couldn't help but enjoy simply exploring the many passageways and corridors, trying to get a feel for where things were. Seeing the world buzz around me, paintings playing music, suits of armor groaning, Peeves being, well, Peeves, helped to make the castle feel truly living. Although, I do admit I wish I could have personally interacted with the environment more. Globes and bowls of apples didn't quite do it for me.
I've been playing the game on PS5's fidelity mode, and all of the little details come through in crisp, clean graphics. Venturing out into the wider world did not disappoint, either. I've had very little trouble with aggressive pop-ins or loading textures. Overall, the environment clearly matches the bright, bouncing whimsy I would expect from a Harry Potter title.
You can take Hogwarts Legacy as slow or as quickly as you want to
The castle alone is chock full of puzzles and side quests to distract you from continuing with the Main Story. They can lean a bit on the simple side, particularly items that only require you to throw a spell at them, such as torches. Once you reach outside the castle grounds, the variety of activities rapidly increases, in a very refreshing way if you were like me and spent too much time ogling tapestries.
My best advice is to just take the game at your own pace. If you know you want to take your sweet time and complete every side quest before you move on, go for it. I can also reassure you that you won't lock yourself out of side quests and small puzzles by piling through the Main Story. If you're finding yourself a bit bored in the first few hours, focus on progressing the story and unlocking new spells. Once you reach the first season change, you'll find a lot more ways to tailor gameplay to your liking.
Related: When does the Vivarium & Room of Requirement unlock in Hogwarts Legacy?
Hogwarts Legacy's combat feels exciting and even perilous at times
Speaking of spells, I was a bit wary of the conversion of an imaginative, but at times rudimentary, magic system to something that needed to be more concrete to translate into gameplay. For the most part, Avalanche software has done a phenomenal job of balancing this. Hogwarts Legacy generally adheres to the spirit of the Wizarding World's magic while also making me think twice about how to set up my spell wheels are best set up. Incorporating satisfying parry mechanics was also a nice touch.
On normal difficulty, I've found myself relying on Stupefy more than I thought I would, as taking a few errant hits quickly leaves me reaching for Wiggenweld potions. There's also a wide variety of enemies available to fight, and they can respond very differently to certain spells, forcing me to change tactics to dispatch enemies efficiently. Overall, this makes combat a worthwhile and satisfying experience.
Some of Hogwarts Legacy's gameplay mechanics don't make sense
Combat in Hogwarts Legacy came together well, but other aspects of the game's mechanics can sometimes feel nonsensical. For example, the inclusion of an Invisibility Potion that requires either a significant amount of effort from Galleons to produce makes no sense when my character can simply use a Disillusionment charm fairly early in the game. Including a cumbersome lockpicking mini-game, when my character is literally opening a lock with magic, feels a bit unnecessary, too. Don't even get me started on the Castle Map.
Managing the gear system can also quickly feel like a chore. Pieces of gear are found early and often. Even with inventory expansion from completing Merlin Trials, trucking to Hogsmeade, to selling three-quarters of all the loot I just found gets repetitive. I'm hoping this gets better after diving more into the systems to improve your gear, but, to be fair, I haven't reached that point yet.
Related: How to get the spell for Avada Kedavra (Killing Curse) in Hogwarts Legacy
Roleplaying in Hogwarts Legacy feels awkward and limited
This is by far the one aspect of Hogwarts Legacy that I have been most unimpressed by. I remember reading a book series that forced its characters to grapple with the consequences of their decisions, even when those decisions were made in the name of doing the right thing. In the book series, using dark magic would leave you shunned in wizarding communities, and unforgivable curses were a one-way ticket to Azkaban.
Hogwarts Legacy seems to want to tell a story about the consequences of wielding great power in irresponsible ways. But, combined with its current dialogue system, roleplaying inside that story is a mess. I'm currently playing as a Dark Witch. So far, I've been politely traipsing off to classes while stealing from my classmates in a petty fashion, with absolutely no consequences for my actions. I've received no word from the Headmaster's Office, not even House Points taken. Overall, a darker playthrough just feels really trite and contrived. I have not unlocked them yet, but based on how the game has handled consequences thus far, I just don't know how much I'll enjoy unforgivable curses being brought into the mix.
Hopefully Hogwarts Legacy's story expands with its world
At this point in the game, I'm cautiously optimistic. It's entirely possible that I just haven't reached the consequences of my actions, and the story will end satisfyingly. Most other aspects of the game seem to have been handled with great care, which gives me hope.
My ability to explore rapidly expands, not just around Hogwarts Castle but the area. I'm still eager to discover more and more and seek out references and memories of a series very fondly. Either way, I'm more determined than ever to see this story through to its end.
Looking for more of our coverage of Hogwarts Legacy? Check out How to Avoid Losing Gear from Chests When Your Inventory is Full in Hogwarts Legacy and Hogwarts Legacy – All Potions, their ingredients, and where to find them here at Pro Game Guides.
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First Impressions Review – Hogwarts Legacy