(Photo courtesy of Epic Games)

Hogwarts Legacy filled with beautiful gameplay, long-winded side quests

Whether you want magic, mystery or disgustingly hairy spiders, Hogwarts Legacy has it all.

Hogwarts Legacy by Warner Bros. Games is a beautifully rendered video game filled with epic magic combat, collectible beasts and plenty of customization options. The downside, however, is that despite having a wonderfully large world to explore, the people and side quests in the game feel disappointingly shallow, which detracts from the overall experience.

Branching off from the popular book series “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling, Hogwarts Legacy takes place in the 1800s and follows the story of a newly transferred fifth-year student as they explore their unique talents revolving around an ancient and unknown magic.

As the story unfolds, our character must fight goblins, poachers and wayward wizards and witches as they try to uncover the mystery surrounding their power and fulfill their ultimate destiny — whatever that may be.

Already there has been much discussion online regarding the author J.K. Rowling and her transphobic views, and whether this is reason enough to boycott the game.

 It’s not.

While Rowling’s views are unacceptable, she did not have a hand in creating Hogwarts Legacy. While some argue that Rowling benefits from game-related royalty payments, I don’t find that a compelling reason not to play. After all, she’s already a billionaire.

Despite the controversy, Hogwarts Legacy is graphically gorgeous. It truly excels in making Hogwarts and the world surrounding the school look magical.

I could fly around for hours just taking in the views from the back of my Hippogriff. Compared to the broom, the Hippogriff can fly up high off the ground, making people look like insects from that high up. Soaring through the skies, Hogwarts castle looks absolutely breathtaking and the little hamlets, lakes and forests are crisp, clean and alight with life. The small detailing on plant and animal life, such as individual leaves and fur strands, and realistic physics involving water make the world seem truly magical and alive.

The map is considerably large, although not on the scale of games like The Witcher 3 or Red Dead Redemption 2, so it isn’t overwhelming. 

The already-breathtaking scenery changed as I progressed through the main story, shifting as the seasons changed in the game. So far, I’ve seen summer, fall and winter, and the detailing involved with these weather changes only adds to the magic and beauty of Hogwarts. 

For example, in fall, Hogwarts castle and the woods around it are filled with bright hues of orange, yellow and brown. In winter, brilliant flurries of snow blanket the ground and roofs of Hogwarts. In addition to the beauty, the changing seasons remind the player that time is passing on their journey, making the world more realistic.

Now, we can’t talk about Hogwarts Legacy without discussing arguably the most important aspect of the game — magic combat. 

The combat mechanics in this game are crazy fun since the game has 34 spells for the character to choose from. With spells ranging from explosive bolts to ones that will freeze opponents in ice, it is nearly guaranteed that a player will be able to gather a spell repertoire that will cater to their desired gameplay experience. 

Control-wise, it took an hour or so to get the hang of the specific button sequences and quick-paced fights, but after a small adjustment period, giant spiders were all too easy to demolish.

Another enjoyable aspect of the game is collecting magical beasts, then caring for them in your own animal sanctuary called the Vivarium.

One of my favorite little creatures is Puffskeins, which are essentially the embodiment of a cotton ball with eyes. In your Vivarium, you can feed and brush the animals as well as name them and customize the space. (This is similar to another secret chamber I won’t mention because it wouldn’t be Hogwarts without a little mystery).

There are also some rideable beasts — not only the Hippogriff, but also the Graphorn and the Thestral — that can be earned through the successful completion of quests and story progression. The controls for both the broom and animal mount were surprisingly easy with a handheld controller, so it’s up to the player’s preference on which one to use when traveling.

On a similar note, the broom is also obtained after the player attends flight class for the first time, and multiple designs are available for purchase at Albie Weekes’ Spintwitches Sporting Needs store. 

Sadly, there is no Quidditch, but the arena is still available for players to fly around and pretend they’re chasing the golden snitch. 

However, for players hoping to use their brooms beyond just travel purposes, there are broom races that, when completed, will allow the player to upgrade their broom to make it faster.

Character customization is another highlight of Hogwarts Legacy that isn’t often seen in other RPG games. Honestly, it reminded me a bit of Sims 4 with the multitude of customization options ranging from hair color to minute facial features.

I spent about 30 minutes curating my character, down to the very last beauty mark and eyebrow slit. Hogwarts Legacy also offers up far more skin color options than I’ve ever seen in a game, and in multiple different shades of each color, so players can perfectly craft their desired look.

Players can choose from eight different voices, four feminine and four masculine. While the customization permits players to choose both male and female traits, players must choose to be a witch or a wizard to determine their dorm placement. However, it’s not a very important choice; the main common room has no restrictions, and that’s the only room that matters.

However, Hogwarts Legacy isn’t without faults. Chief among them is the shallow depth of the universe, especially with its side characters and quests.

While the main storyline is fascinating, the side quests fall short.

Now, I know I shouldn’t compare this game to an open-world RPG like The Witcher 3, but I am. The Witcher 3 had a great main storyline, but it also had incredible side quests that had me genuinely invested in characters I was never going to see again. 

Since you’re playing as a new fifth year, there is a lot the player needs to learn and catch up on, so the professors give you extra assignments to complete in return for new spells.

For example, the flight professor, Rolanda Hooch, makes the player fly to random locations and pop balloons, which is incredibly tedious. I actually stopped playing for a week because I didn’t want to do these quests, and I still cringe whenever I have to talk to a professor. 

I know Hogwarts is a school, but when the quests start to feel like the schoolwork I’m avoiding in real life, I simply cannot relax and enjoy the game. 

Other quests in the world outside of Hogwarts feel flat as well, and I can’t even be bothered to complete them half of the time because I feel no sympathy for the characters and their pathetic stories.

The side characters aren’t nearly as bad, but the game takes its sweet time letting you get to know them. Seventeen hours in, I really only know one character, Sebastian Sallow. I would love to learn more about other characters like Natsai Onai, who is a transfer student from Uagadou. Despite the amount of time I’ve played, I’ve only gotten bits and pieces of her backstory and I would like to be able to play and fight alongside her more often. 

Despite these issues, Hogwarts Legacy truly is a wonderful game with plenty of mysteries to explore, evil people and monsters to kill and flying eagle-lions. Honestly, what’s more to love?

— By Emily Cook

Hogwarts Legacy
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