Hogwarts Legacy Review: The Best Harry Potter Game Ever

Hogwarts Legacy Review: The Best Harry Potter Game Ever
Images via Avalanche Software

Written by 

Ben Williams


6th Feb 2023 11:00

In the over half a decade of its creation, Hogwarts Legacy developer, Avalanche Software, has had several layers of pressure on its shoulders. One is that outside of the Lego titles, there hasn’t been a fundamentally decent Harry Potter game in over twenty years. The second - bringing in and satisfying varying levels of Wizarding World fans from across decades of fandom. The third is a combination of the others: meeting the massive levels of anticipation making a game for such a franchise can bring.

Thankfully, whilst putting together this Hogwarts Legacy review, our expectations have been blown away. As Avalanche Software’s first entry under the Warner Bros Portkey Games label, they’ve certainly raised the bar - because Hogwarts Legacy is the best Wizarding World game ever made.

Disclaimer: While the creator of the Harry Potter franchise was not directly involved in the creation of Hogwarts Legacy, their comments on social media around transgender people are hurtful and dangerous given the size of their platform. 

We’d implore you to read our explainer of the controversy so far, and consider supporting trans rights charities where possible.

A New Link to the Past

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Set in the late 1800s, Hogwarts Legacy is a self-contained prequel taking place long before the Harry Potter storyline - making it approachable for all manner of fans from new arrivals to the franchise, all the way to veterans who read Philosopher’s Stone back in 1997.  

A custom-made protagonist of your own design, you begin the game as a Hogwarts latecomer, about to start as a fifth-year student who needs to play catch-up with his classmates. Discovering you have access to a long-lost ancient and powerful form of magic, an adventure typical of the Harry Potter franchise ensues as you try to unravel your abilities, who is hunting you for them, and why. 

Interweaving a multi-faceted mystery alongside balancing your witch or wizard student life in true action-adventure RPG fashion - you’ll discover an array of wonders from all elements of Hogwarts’ part of the Wizarding World in and outside of the classroom. From potions and herbology to magical creatures, you’ll also learn numerous spells to quell dark wizards and other enemies, whilst finding out more about the magical realm as you explore and meet its inhabitants.

What’s New First, Nostalgia Second 

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Kicking off with the story with a strong opening act, Hogwarts Legacy grips you from the outset - even before getting you to the namesake school. By starting you off in linear gameplay before letting you properly explore, you’ll be acquainted with what’s unique about this chapter of the Wizarding World with its own characters, stakes, and intrigue surrounding the various mysteries.

When that opening shot of the castle hits the screen though, Hogwarts Legacy does hit longtime fans with a wave of bonus nostalgia that you can ride for the rest of its opening act. After being put into your assigned house by the Sorting Hat; Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw; which you can thankfully change if you don’t like the talking headwear’s decision, you’ll have the whole school open up to you to explore. 

From the get-go, you’ll have access to discoverable Floo Flames for fast travel. However, Hogwarts Legacy does a fantastic job of making you ask yourself why would you want to. With Avalanche creating a fitting reimagining, Hogwarts is in itself a wonder to explore - being as graphically pleasing to the eyes as the rest of the game itself. 

As you roam the 19th-century corridors listening to a self-playing string quartet, hearing students gossiping about love potions, gathering collectables for your Field Guide in learning about the castle, and dropping in on a married ghost couple arguing on the stairs, the only thing better is watching Peeves the Poltergeist terrorise students for the fifteenth time. 

As you later acquire your broom and Hippogriff mount, even riding through the skies and enjoying the sights of Hogwarts lake is far more fun than taking the Floo Powder route. That’s especially if you’re playing at the sublime 60FPS Performance Mode, far better than the pretty but sluggish-by-comparison 4K-at-30FPS Resolution Mode. By and large, Hogwarts Legacy further immerses you into the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry but not just crafting your own adventure, but fleshing out the around you. 

What’s more, voice acting from the entire cast is first-rate- including Simon Pegg as the headmaster, Phineas Neggullus Black. The fact that your protagonist’s standard voice carries a soft Daniel Radcliffe or Emma Watson-esque voice respectively, is a nice touch for encouraging immersion through familiarity for returning fans - even if that wasn’t intentional. 

A Spellbinding Time

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In your first main story missions attending classes and picking up a handful of spells, you’ll be introduced to an array of students and teachers - who can be just as fascinating or larger than life as those from the Harry Potter books and movies, at least in their own way. 

As well as incorporating mini-games like Summoner’s Court, or tutorial missions to get you acclimated to mechanics like wizard duelling, Hogwarts’ assorted cast of teachers and their big personalities work well in keeping you engaged so as to help re-immerse you into the Wizarding World, if not for the first time. 

Accio Friendship

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The same goes for students you meet as well. Although you’ll meet quite a lot of fellow young witches and wizards traversing the halls and classrooms, a select group from different houses will be going along the main story missions with you - along with their personal stories and investments that bring in different perspectives.

Take Natsai Onai for example, a Gryffindor originally from a Ugandan wizard school who moved to Hogwarts once her mother became a Divination professor - offering fascinating insight as a witch from another part of the magical world settling into a new country. Then, with the animal-loving Hufflepuff, Poppy Sweeting, there’s the Slytherin Sebastian Sallow - whose family was directly hit by tragedy thanks to the goblin rebellion that’s part of the game’s plot. 

Ironically, Hogwarts Legacy has few bugs within the scope and size of the game, but most of those came from Sebastian. Despite the occasional Goblin NPC running in circles, or the doors of Hogwarts taking a few seconds to load open, the most blatant bugs were of your Slytherin friend’s robes being inside out - or just the back popping up on the front like a kilt. Since these were during main story quests, it’s still only a small issue, but an immersion-breakingly hilarious one at that.

This Story’s a Keeper

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The most important friends you’ll follow, though, are in the footsteps of the Keepers - those who in the past safeguarded the ancient magic, and must find more about to overcome the villains of the present day. Alternating between main quests and side missions - some of the latter being needed to unlock story missions - over a lengthy campaign of at least a few dozen hours. 

After visiting the small town of Hogsmeade and a few hours of gameplay, you’ll have access to the massively wider world map and all it holds - including more creatures, dungeons, and Hamlets - which are essentially small villages. There, you’ll have even more opportunities for vendors, Floo Flames, collectables, puzzle opportunities for loot, and side quests.

Unlike Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, Hamlets don’t have that many characteristics different from one another - feeling more like copy-and-paste iterations with swapped-around layouts. Nevertheless, Hamlets are actually home to some of the game’s most interesting side quests that offer a deeper look into other parts of the magical world - unlike some side missions at Hogwarts, which are more like search-and-fetch quests. 

Also in line with standard RPGisms, there are dialogue options for almost all conversations as well. Still, even for little choices which affect the ends of minor side missions, for example, we found there aren’t many deviations in terms of consequences.

After a phenomenal start, the story’s pacing altogether does stagnate for a while at the 15 to 18-hour mark, before regaining steam halfway through the “Keeper’s Trials” - up until then involving quickly tiresome “solve puzzle, combat, and repeat” dungeons. 

Having various prerequisites for missions like a level minimum or needing to complete certain side missions can be a pain if you just want to move forward with the story, but the building tension and eventual payoff into the second half of the game’s story is well worth the wait.

Stupefying Combat

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Creating an engaging combat system has always been an issue with Harry Potter games, making it easy to question how Hogwarts Legacy could solve the conundrum. In actuality, it’s the most exciting part of the game, but that's mainly due to flourishes on an established formula.

With your basic cast attack, you’ll steadily acquire up to six different types of coloured assignable spells; Damage, Levitation, Force, Utility, Transfiguration, and Unforgivable Curse; for exploration, puzzle, solving, and combat. 

There are also what’s marked as “Essential” spells with their own controls and/or prompts for certain situations. For example, we hope you like the word “Revelio”, because if you want to know the locations of collectables, enemies, loot, and puzzle solutions, you’ll be casting the environmental highlight charm every time you enter a room.

Combat doesn't break the mold, but it does offer satisfying feedback and animation that makes things feel flashier than they actually are. In truth, it's not too dissimilar from, say, the Batman Arkham games, but just like in Gotham City, the challenge comes from varied enemy lineups and positional awareness.

No Need to Cast Doubt

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As a whole, combat feels fantastic from encounters that are fast and fluid, to intense and requiring strategic thinking on the fly. In duels with wizards, witches, and other enemies, you’ll not only be needing to consider normal attacks, dodging, breaking shields, and timing throws plus finishing moves via your unique ancient magic skills - but also deciding what loadout of spells works best for you against particular foes as well. 

It’s a system with DNA similar to other games of the modern era. The Witcher 3, Assassin’s Creed, God of War, and many others came to mind. As a result of those comparisons nevertheless, Hogwarts Legacy makes the best of third-person fantasy combat fit the Wizarding World like a well-worn glove. 

Above all else, the most satisfying is its countering - utilising the shield spell, Protego. When about to take damage from an incoming attack, your protagonist will have an orange or red ring pop by their head in a Spidey-Sense/Batman Arkham series fashion. If red, it can’t be blocked and you need to dodge. If orange and timed right, you can hold the control for Protego to stylishly block the blow and counter with a Stupefy stunning spell. 

You may get tired of facing some of the same types of enemies in long-running missions after a while, but the satisfaction of countering a cocky enemy and knocking them down in turn - especially before barraging them with your own powerful spells - never gets old.

The same can be said for mastering your favourite combos. Nothing can beat lifting an evil goblin with Levioso before pushing him away off a cliff with Depulso, or bringing a spider up-close with Accio to hit it hard with the close-range fire Damage spell, Incendio. 

On the other hand, Hogwarts Legacy’s variety in gameplay can make it feel a little too cluttered, and all of its spells for diverse situations can be an example of that. 

Having different spells for fighting big bosses at a long distance, close-range battles, using stealth, rescuing magical beasts, or transfiguring your secret base in the Room of Requirement, you’ll soon fill up the max of four spell sets you can eventually acquire - only making for sixteen spells in total. 

More often than not, you’ll need to either keep switching between spell sets in the heat of combat or give in to swap out to certain spells individually. In the opening hours, it’s not a big issue at all. Over time, though, feeling the need to keep your spells tidy and organised so as to not spend another few minutes sorting and memorising them again, becomes a regular chore. 

Oh Gear, Oh Gear

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On the topic of repetition, that’s where Hogwarts Legacy’s biggest issue sticks out like a sore thumb: gear management.

On a positive note first, how Hogwarts Legacy lets you customise your look and equipment loadout is wonderful. Throughout the entire game, you’ll be finding equippable items of magical clothing that buff your Defence and Offence, sometimes with Traits to bolster more. 

Getting stronger gear as you progress, you’ll be swapping out items constantly. Although, if you have a particular look you want to keep, you can change the appearance of any item you’re wearing to that you’ve owned - even if it’s no longer in your inventory - but still keep the stats of the high-levelled item. So, you can nicely tailor both your buffs and appearance to however you wish. 

Annoyingly though, as you change a piece of gear to one with higher stats, there are no options to keep the appearance you have currently. So, if you’ve got a custom appearance for all six pieces of clothing you’re wearing - that’s a lot of endless menu-diving and re-equipping you need to do to keep the same look you want with every change. 

Any gear you no longer need can be sold to the many vendors across the world - starting with those in Hogsmeade - which is also how you’ll make a lot of your gold to buy potions, recipes, plants, seeds, and much more. 

Be that as it may, that’s what makes your starting inventory capacity of just 20 slots quite a nuisance - forcing you to constantly go back and forth to unload gear for gold. If you’re in a fixed area though, such as a dungeon on a mission - you’ll have to destroy your items to make room, for no extra resource in return. 

As a fix, you’ll likely jump straight to the many Trials of Merlin puzzles across the map to increase your inventory slots - forcing you into a grind just simply wanting easier gear management. That is if you have the required Mallowsweet Leaves to take part in each trial. Otherwise, you’ll have to get more - feeling like another superfluous obstacle. 

On some level, Hogwarts Legacy works great as a Harry Potter game that finally integrates classic role-playing game mechanics. On the other hand, it’s captured one of the classic downsides of them as well. For all of the spells in this game, you’d think there’d be one to tidy up all of its clutter.

Room for Requirement

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RPGs often come with an optional depth of extra choices in ways to play. For better than worse, Hogwarts Legacy is a prime example of that - with what’s given to you for potions, plants, and magical beasts via the Room of Requirement.

The same known in the books and films, this magical room essentially acts as your secret base to craft means to mass-produce resources that make gameplay easier, also customised to whatever aesthetic takes your fancy. 

Investing the time and effort needed is entirely up to you, but unlike the gear system, the inventory management of organising potion and plant farming is fun when you get into the swing of things. Soon, you’re able to regularly and quickly restock health and stat-buffing potions, along with screeching Mandrakes or Chinese Chomping Cabbages for the battle. 

To that end, the Room of Requirement makes for not only a nice relaxing change of pace between quests - and a money saver in the long run - but your assistant House Elf, Deek, is adorable as well. 

The only aspects of the Room of Requirement that feel unnecessary are the collecting of magical beasts and their uses in optimising your equipment. After “rescuing” creatures like Mooncalfs and Puffskeins, the idea is to then care for them in exchange for crafting materials like fur and feathers. 

The issue, though, is that these crafting materials are used for gear upgrades and traits that aren’t swappable between pieces of gear. 

So, when you inevitably switch a piece of gear for a newly found one with higher stats, you’ll have to re-craft those same upgrades. Reacquiring the materials from the beasts you already have cost nothing extra. But in reality, over the course of the game after getting this ability, it’s one grind too many when you could just be enjoying the fun parts of the game. Besides the cute animals, you can do just fine without the extra hassle if you don’t want it. 

Is Hogwarts Legacy Good?

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Although sharing many similarities with action-adventure games and RPGs that came before, Hogwarts Legacy technically doesn’t do much to break the mould. But, that’s because, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t need to. 

There’s a slight bit of mess in execution, but altogether, Avalanche Software’s main mission here was to make the Wizarding World fit into the open-world video game template. Altogether, that’s been pulled off remarkably - delivering an immersive open-world adventure that makes you want to explore everything it has to offer, sure to have people re-play over the years to come.

It’s not just terrific in telling a unique story that doesn’t involve Harry Potter at all, but because of all of those familiar gameplay elements that have been adapted with the world and its lore; combat, flight, balancing missions, customising gear; everything that’s great about Hogwarts Legacy feels unique in its own right because it works so well. 

The Verdict

Whether you’re a diehard Potterhead or casual Wizarding World lover, you’ll have an epic time no matter what level of fan you are.

Even though there is optional padding, it’s optional nonetheless. The core experience of Hogwarts Legacy is still not only the best game in the entire franchise but a seriously fun RPG that will take your breath away in its pinnacle moments. 

All in all, 80 points to Hufflepuff. 


Reviewed on PS5. Code provided by publisher. 

Ben Williams
About the author
Ben Williams
Ben is a Senior Guides Writer at GGRecon. After getting his start writing film and game reviews for Alt:Mag, he went on to write for other sites including KeenGamer, Overclockers, GameByte, and FragHero. All about action-adventure games, RPGs, and anime, Ben is often found thinking about either Pokémon or the next Mass Effect game.
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