‘Hogwarts Legacy’ review: A massive game, alive with magic

Flying only makes this process more enjoyable. Whether on a broomstick or the back of a thestral, flight in Hogwarts Legacy feels exactly how I wanted it to — smooth, swift and stylish, and always with gorgeous views.

As the map expands beyond Hogwarts, past the streets of Hogsmeade and the boundaries of the Forbidden Forest, players encounter sidequests, challenges, secrets, puzzles and obstacle courses at a persistent pace. The world is large, but purposeful and truly beautiful; it’s clearly the result of intentional design, rather than procedural generation. There’s always something to find, a fresh riddle to solve or skill to learn, and my Quests tab is constantly growing. What’s more, I’m actually stoked to complete the activities I encounter, whenever I want to grind or take a breather from the main storyline.

The list of things to do in Hogwarts Legacy feels never-ending. For instance, about 10 hours in, the game introduces interior design mechanics in the Room of Requirement, allowing players to decorate a cavernous space from the architectural touches, to the placement and color of individual tables, chairs, paintings, rugs and tchotchkes. It’s a useful room, too; this is where players keep their clothing-upgrade loom, potions tables, herbology boxes and captured beasts. I’ve spent far too much time tweaking the appearance of my own Room of Requirement — like, hours — but I’m in love with the results and I’ve enjoyed the process immensely.

The main hall of Hogwarts fills the space, with students filtering down twin staircases, the school crest large and lit by two fires on pedestals.

Warner Bros. Games

I see potential for the glut of stuff in Hogwarts Legacy to become tedious, but this hasn’t happened in my playthrough yet. More than 20 hours in, and the magic is still alive for me.

Before actually playing the game, I was especially excited to brew potions because this was my favorite activity in Pottermore, the browser-based Hogwarts-student simulator that disintegrated into gibberish in the mid 2010s. In Pottermore, brewing potions involved reading recipes and physically manipulating ingredients at the proper moments, and I found the process to be incredibly peaceful. However, potion-making isn’t an overly complicated affair in Hogwarts Legacy. You simply get the ingredients and then leave them on the table for a while, just like growing plants. The mechanics fit the game — in a world this busy and vast, gathering ingredients is the challenge, not the minutiae of chopping, stirring, grinding, measuring and timing — but it’s a missed opportunity.

Even just writing that, I’m itching to spend some quality time at a potions bench doing all of these things. Maybe this would make for a solid piece of DLC down the line, Advanced Potion-Making? Just a thought, Avalanche.

Right, back to the actual game.

Two students in Hogwarts school robes brew a potion as blue smoke rises from the cauldron.

Warner Bros. Games

The main storylines in Hogwarts Legacy are generic fantasy platforms. Two main arcs collide: one pits players against goblin revolutionaries planning to destroy wizardkind, and the other is an extensive investigation of an ancient and powerful magic — the same magic that you, the main character, can uniquely wield. The latter arc will be painfully familiar to Harry Potter fans, as it involves a bunch of old farts repeatedly throwing a child into deadly situations while withholding crucial information and stroking their long white beards. I guess we know where Dumbledore got it from.

Personally, I don’t love the focus on the Goblin Rebellions. It’s functional as a basic fantasy premise, but it’s an obvious choice for a Harry Potter prequel and the game hasn’t yet demonstrated that it was a particularly thoughtful decision. The conceit so far is, “goblins are bad, wizardkind is good,” and there hasn’t been an intricate discussion about class, power and revolution within this framework, though these opportunities are prevalent. Regardless of how this storyline concludes, I would’ve appreciated a more nuanced approach or an original enemy.

There are valid questions about whether the depiction of goblins in Harry Potter is inherently antisemitic, or the result of centuries of European fiction that coded vampires, dwarves and other creatures with its authors’ antisemitism. What you need to know is that goblins in Hogwarts Legacy are not meaningfully different to those in the novels, so your stance on the issue is unlikely to shift with this presentation.

A massive hole in the side of a castle wall reveals lush, overgrown foliage and two colorful birds, and two Hogwarts students gaze out in awe.

Warner Bros. Games

The conversation around goblins and antisemitism would likely be top of mind in reviews and tweets about the game, but the author of the Harry Potter novels has made it publicly known that she’s transphobic, and this has understandably dominated the discourse. It’s led some people to call for a boycott of Hogwarts Legacy, and a portion of these folks are rebuking anyone who reviews, streams or talks about playing it. This controversy has consumed any broader criticism about the game itself. I addressed my personal decision to review this game for Engadget in an editorial at the start of the week, which is available to read here.

For anyone concerned about encountering transphobic or bigoted content in Hogwarts Legacy: The author of the Harry Potter novels was not involved in the game’s writing or creation, and in fact, its world is more inclusive than the series has ever been. Crucially, the Hogwarts Legacy character builder allows for an array of gender, voice and appearance configurations, and lets players choose their own names. In fanfiction terms, it’s basically a Mary Sue machine. This is ideal for an interactive role-playing medium — the customization options allow players to project their own identities onto the main character, who is an extra-special, super-powered student sorcerer surrounded by basic magic users. It’s a familiar premise for fantasy RPG players.

What makes this game stand out among open-world RPGs is its density of activities, mysteries and awe-inspiring moments, and its expertly tuned combat mechanics. Hogwarts Legacy is thrumming with magic, and it expands not only the landscape around Hogwarts, but also the boundaries of representation in an incredibly popular fantasy universe. It’s the coolest work of Harry Potter fanfiction I’ve come across in years, and I’m excited to keep playing. Especially if there’s an Advanced Potion-Making DLC down the line.

Hogwarts Legacy Deluxe Edition - PlayStation 5

WB Games

Hogwarts Legacy Deluxe Edition – PlayStation 5

Hogwarts Legacy is alive with magic. It’s a massive and gorgeous open-world RPG that extends far beyond the walls of the wizarding school, with mysteries, danger and cute creatures packed into every corner.

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