For the first time in the history of the Harry Potter franchise, the wizarding world is being offered a big-budget open-world RPG. A commercial success no doubt, but is the game really worth it?
[Updated Feb 21, 2023 11:20 AM] For the first time in the history of the Harry Potter franchise, a big budget video game has been released on next-gen platforms. Hogwarts Legacy has been available for a few days, and testifies to the immensity of the popularity of the wizarding universe. This open-world RPG offers all Muggles who want it the opportunity to finally join the prestigious school of Hogwarts in an adventure tailor-made for the players. A technically state-of-the-art game that has kept fans excited since its announcement 2 years ago. But is it really worth it? The answer in our test below.
The first point that it would be necessary to specify is that a video game like Hogwarts Legacy is aimed at different types of audience. Warner Games and Avalanche Software had to provide an enjoyable and accessible experience for laymen of the wizarding world, meet the expectations of regular open-world RPG players and, ultimately, create a world worthy of the demands of the most demanding fans. fans of the Harry Potter saga. Three different axes with which it is not necessarily easy to juggle to build a solid game, which can be defined as accessible, rigorous and sufficiently complex not to be boring.
And on this aspect of balance, impossible not to salute the performance of Avalanche studios. The world of Hogwarts Legacy respects the foundations of the wizarding world to the millimeter, sometimes resuming its most minute details and extending, often brilliantly, certain still unexplored aspects of its universe. The most demanding Potterheads will be satisfied to find Hogwarts taken up in every nook and cranny, places and objects associated with the most obscure references from books or films, but also and above all some answers to questions hitherto unexplored by the work of J.K Rowling and Warner. Like, for example, the question of international magic or that of the links between the world of wizards and that of Muggles.
To this must be added an essential factor in the construction of Hogwarts Legacy: to propose an original story and to develop a world sufficiently engaging to accommodate it. And once again on this point, Avalanche hits the mark. The representation of Hogwarts and its surroundings, and more generally of Scotland, is astoundingly accurate. All the landscapes are breathtaking, from mountain peaks to riverbeds, to extremely picturesque wizarding villages. Note however that the performance of the PC game is, for the moment, ridiculously weak.
Again, Avalanche made the right choice to set its story in the late 19th century, since in truth that's a period that fits extremely well with the world that J.K. Rowling built (and one that would fit politically and social issues of the author). We're not going to lie to each other, steam locomotives, owls, haunted mansions and house elves, the world of our wizarding friends is a bit stuck in the old days. Which makes Hogwarts Legacy and its time the perfect canvas to represent it and even develop it to a level never seen before.
Regarding the game's story, its main quest if you prefer, it is not its biggest strong point but remains sufficiently well-crafted to be relevant. It must be said that the universe created by Avalanche offers an extremely solid basis for a new scenario, a scenario that was not easy to create without a literary or cinematographic basis. The characters surrounding our hero are relatively well characterized, and where your classmates are, with some exceptions, fairly generic and ultimately forgettable, the Hogwarts professors are almost geniuses. Everyone has their character, their passion, their facial expressions and the most important thing in the profession: their style of dress. The game's story isn't the most original, but it fits very well into the Harry Potter universe and keeps us interested enough to pull us through to its end. Subjectively, one could criticize a side that is too ubiquitous for all audiences and a slight lack of risk-taking.
Now we must address the inevitable issue of gameplay. After all, Hogwarts Legacy is a video game, and a video game must meet certain criteria. Especially when it falls into the open-world category. Indeed, the success of the "open-world" format over the past five years has prompted many licenses to adopt it, and where some like Zelda or Dark Souls have adapted to it brilliantly, others like Assassin's Creed, Batman or Sonic proved to us that it was not enough to stick the words "open-world" next to a big name to obtain a quality game.
However, we can thank these failures for showing us what the flaws of the genre are: a poorly interactive and, ultimately, lifeless universe, and the lack of worthwhile reasons to explore it. In this regard, Hogwarts Legacy is in the middle of the table. The wizarding world is beautiful, engaging, well-constructed, and interactive, but Avalanche barely struggles to give us good reasons to wander around. Exploration challenges are often repetitive (damn Merlin the Wizard) and while the main quests remain well written and original, the side quests are often identical or even lean a lot towards Fedex. Something that all open-world RPG enthusiasts will notice extremely quickly and that all fans of the Harry Potter universe will instantly forgive. For neophytes of one or the other, however, the gaming experience remains fun and rewarding.
The big plus point of Hogwarts Legacy is its fights. The array of spells, potions, and finishers available to the player is dizzying. The parrying and rolling mechanics strongly energize the confrontations and the skill trees as well as the equipment allow you to create a real feeling of progression throughout the game. From young talented mage you will quickly become a magico-Terminator. Note that our 15-year-old protagonist doesn't seem to mind regularly killing magical creatures and even his fellow wizards, making him a brave hero or a teenage psycho, the choice is yours. In any case, the fights are enjoyable, the progression real, and the difficult mode difficult enough for controller aficionados.