If you’re somebody who grew up with Harry Potter, then Hogwarts Legacy is the game you’ve been dreaming about. You’ve probably got some well-placed nostalgia in the original games; enjoying the experience of going to class at Hogwarts, casting spells, and exploring the grounds. Until now, no game has come close to capturing the magic of the world of Harry Potter. While Hogwarts Legacy does have some of the pitfalls that many modern RPGs of today do, no game with magic feels as joyful to play as this.
Hogwarts Legacy takes place over a hundred years before Harry Potter took his first train to the wizarding school. In the game, you play as your own student, unusual in that they’re beginning their magical journey at Hogwarts in their fifth year, but also in that they can tap into and harness a powerful force that not many people have been able to prior. It’s simply called “ancient magic”, and its rarity has made you a target for Ranrok, the leader of a goblin rebellion, who has allied himself with dark wizards to try and harness your ancient magic for their own purposes.
While Hogwarts Legacy has little to do with the franchise it was born from, the plot is serviceable enough to keep you intrigued, even if it does take a bit to get going. There was rarely a surprise as the story played out, but I appreciate the dedication of Hogwarts trying to do its own thing and not simply being a retread of the conventions that we’ve come to see from both Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts. Regardless of where the story goes, it does a great job of nailing the feel and tone of a story set in the world of Harry Potter, which is a plus.
But I’d fervently argue that the crux of the Hogwarts Legacy experience is just living your life in the world of Hogwarts. From a gameplay perspective, you’ve probably played the type of game that Hogwarts Legacy is before. It’s an open-world that’s populated with activities to undertake, characters to engage with, and secrets to uncover. Hogwarts Legacy’s world isn’t as big as other open-world games, but it’s packed with things to discover. Hogwarts itself is a marvel comprising winding corridors densely packed with hidden nooks and crannies just begging to be uncovered. The surrounding areas like Hogsmeade offer a shopping district for players, while the Highlands around Hogwarts is also explorable. It’s bigger than you’d expect but smaller by the standard of most open-world games.
There’s a whole bunch of activities packed into Hogwarts Legacy’s world to uncover. The open world is filled with collectibles packed with little lore-laden tidbits that I’m sure fans of the Wizarding World will enjoy uncovering. Other activities include Merlin’s Trials, which act as Breath of the Wild-esque shrines, offering puzzles to solve with minimal guidance, and of course a wide range of beasts and dark wizards to take down.
Surprisingly, one of the strongest cores of the Hogwarts Legacy experience is the combat system. You’re eventually given just over twenty spells and each of them serves a great purpose in battle. With the press of a button, you can block spells with Protego, but perfectly blocking allows you to parry, throwing back a Stupefy to stun your attacker. There are dodge rolls as well for avoiding the odd unblockable attack, but magic is the solution to most of your problems in Hogwarts Legacy’s combat.
I say that because the combat has been tuned to take advantage of most of the spells you’ll wield. Where other games might just add elemental weaknesses to their combat, Hogwarts Legacy has you exploiting physical weaknesses to get the jump on enemies. You can suspend mutant toads by their tongue mid-attack with Levioso, exposing their soft underbelly to deal critical damage. You can even slash that same tongue with Diffindo, a severing charm, to insta-kill it. A troll’s club can be Flipendo’d to deal critical damage to itself. You can even use Expelliarmus to interrupt a wizard’s casting or rip an axe out of a non-magical enemy’s hands and throw it back at them. There are even more options to exploit enemy weaknesses too, and it helps encourage the use of your whole repertoire of spells.
Spellcasting and combat are just one side of the coin, however, as you’ll still have to do what you can around Hogwarts to be a star student for your house. Attending classes often unlocks new spells, but also opens up questlines for other students around Hogwarts who might need your help. There are clearly two tiers to Hogwarts Legacy’s side quests – some of the more involved quest lines feel like they could be in the main game, while others are delivering certain goods from one area of the map to another.
Spells are not only used in combat either, with some of them being utilised to solve puzzles too. They’re the kind of puzzles that have clear solutions, so no immersive sim-like interactivity is present here, but they’re still just as satisfying once you realise what you have to do to solve them. It’s especially exciting, and perhaps even Metroid-like, to unlock a new spell and then go exploring to see what new areas of the castle or highlands you can explore now. It all comes together in the sense that there’s always something to do or see in Hogwarts Legacy no matter what point you’re at in the journey.
Through the story, you’ll eventually be given access to The Room of Requirement. It’s designed to scratch that base management itch that many players might have – allowing you to conjure furniture to decorate it how you see fit. It’s so undemanding that if you hate this kind of thing in games you can safely ignore it, but it’s simple enough to engage with that it pays dividends if you do. You can set up potion stations, potted plants, and more to create your own little terrarium of sorts, which can then be harvested once a certain amount of time has passed.
Within the Room of Requirement is also a selection of habitats to house the friendlier beasts in the game, which can be captured in a knapsack out in the wild similar to Newt’s suitcase in Fantastic Beasts. Emptying the knapsack then allows you to care for the beasts (or set up the systems that will care for them) which in turn provides you with materials to enhance your gear with. It’s another system with enough depth to it that it’s impressive that it’s even included. But if it’s not your thing, you can engage with it as much as you like.
The main story will take most players around fifteen or twenty hours to complete, but Hogwarts Legacy’s world is full of other activities to fulfill. Completion of optional quests and finding certain collectibles contribute to challenge meters, which subsequently unlock sets of gear for players. It is admittedly done-to-death design in open-world games, but there is so much variety on offer here in a world so compelling that it doesn’t ever feel incessantly grindy. If you’ve got your eyes on completing everything, you could easily pull fifty or so hours out of Hogwarts Legacy or even more depending on how long you spend on each task.
And I say that with love because Hogwarts Legacy is really good at making you feel inefficient. The world is so inviting, and the activities are just so compelling that I rarely travelled in a straight line from one objective to another without getting distracted by something else. I haven’t felt this compelled to explore an open world since dare I say it, Elden Ring, but it feels like the right mix of size and density for the type of experience it’s providing.
It’s not all great though, and there are some things that I think Hogwarts Legacy could most certainly do better. For one, the gear system is great. There’s a nice variety of robes, scarves, glasses, and hats on offer that any wizard or witch would love to wear. You can even transmog anything at any point, but the gear itself feels a little bit tiresome to manage. You’ll often find yourself with five robes, all looking the same, but with slightly different stat increases. It’s not a huge dealbreaker, given that the combat feels more rooted in skill rather than pure number or stats crunching, but it was annoying enough to have to keep selling off the old stuff that I had to mention it here.
And then there’s the absence of one of the most integral parts of the Harry Potter experience – Quidditch. There’s in-universe justification for why it’s not playable in Hogwarts Legacy, but it feels strange not to have it here when every other aspect of the Hogwarts experience is here. It by no means demotes the feelings of the experience, but even having the big Quidditch arena stand there, going unused, feels like a bit of a misnomer to not include it.
From a presentation standpoint, Hogwarts Legacy does its best to align with the same visual style of the films. While it incorporates some of the classic motifs from John Williams’ now iconic score, Alexander Horowitz’s original score does a great job of evoking the wonder and whimsy of the Wizarding World without entirely relying on the crutch of nostalgia. My favourite touches were the very subdued but, once again, whimsical pieces that played while exploring. They just helped to give such a sense of tone and place to Hogwarts and its highlands as you uncover its many secrets.
Hogwarts Legacy is the Wizarding World game that fans have dreamt of for years. It offers a dense and rich open-world to explore complemented perfectly by a surprisingly robust and engaging combat system unlike anything else. While the story does live in the shadow of its predecessors, and managing gear can be repetitive, Hogwarts Legacy is a truly magical experience and utterly bewitching from beginning to end.