Hogwarts Legacy

Hogwarts Legacy, get your wand and broom ready | Tried

How many times, on September 1st, have we hoped that the letter to start the academic year in the most famous school of magic and witchcraft ever would be delivered to us – perhaps by an owl? Well, this year, even if with a different date than the tradition, finally the dreams of all who have fantasized about entering the Wizarding World will come trueà: February 10 will be released on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC Hogwarts Legacy.

A few days ago I had the opportunity to dive into the open-world world created by Avalanche Software and published by Portkey Games, testing the title for an hour and also having the opportunity to speak with one of the game designers of the game. A few weeks from the official release of one of the most talked about and awaited titles of the year, I’m therefore ready to tell you a little about my short (but intense) experience in Hogwarts Legacy.

Like going home, but in the past

Let’s start from a dutiful premise: as a great Harry Potter fan, since the very first announcement of the game in the now distant September 2020, I have always tried a mix of equal parts of hype and terror. Compared to the old titles inspired by the franchise, which limited themselves to retracing the history of the books with more or less acceptable results, Hogwarts Legacy is a much more ambitious project; in fact we don’t find known characters (if not some exceptions), we don’t have to impersonate the protagonist of JK Rowling’s adventures, we don’t have to hunt down Voldemort and so on.

We are indeed in the Magical World that we know, but at the end of the 19th century and therefore many years before the birth of Harry Potter, Dumbledore’s landing as headmaster, Tom Riddle’s arrival at the school and everything we’ve seen or read. The absence of all these elements, and the creation of a completely new story, was what initially left me perplexed when the title was announced; how to create a game based on the iconic fantasy franchise, without inserting its vital elements? I got the answer as soon as I took the pad in my hand during my test: la familiarity.

Hogwarts castle has been recreated by Avalache with incredible accuracy: every detail has been taken care of with obsessive precision, so much so that it took years just to be able to develop the building (which, I remind you, represents only a small part of the immense open-world map). A team has in fact dealt solely and exclusively with studying all the books and films of the saga, in order to reproduce any element of the lore of Harry Potter exactly as it was described or shown.

The result of this work is a Hogwarts exactly as you imagine it: immense, imposing and majestic. Although during my hour of play I was only able to explore some of the areas inside the castle, such as the library and the herbology greenhouse, between paintings that move as the character approaches, objects to interact with and simply huge spaces incredibly rich in elements, if I wanted to examine every corner I would have spent practically all the time at my disposal.

A living and pulsating world

If the inside of the school is magnificent, the outside is no different: I got to take a ride on the broom, flying to the school area to admire its external structure and courtyards. Also in this case the meticulousness with which Alnwick Castle has been reproduced in the game (exactly, this is the name of the “real” Hogwarts castle, which was used for filming the first two films) is incredible, considering the amount of spiers, towers, doors and windows that have been inserted.

Speaking instead of the broom, when I got on it I feared two things: first, that it would have been complex to handle and therefore I would have crashed into the first wall, and secondly that the game would have dropped frames when reaching speed or high altitudes. To my surprise, I’ve been proved wrong on both counts since the controls to fly are extremely simple and intuitive, and can be consulted at any time by pressing one of the arrow keys; in fact, it is enough to take advantage of the analogs to change direction and decide the altitude, and the R2 key to increase speed. As for the gameplay however, even darting at full power and reaching the highest peaks of the castle, I did not encounter any frame drops: Hogwarts Legacy held steady at 60fps (as well as the standard mode for next-gen).

Unfortunately, even though I was able to hover over the magnificent Quidditch pitch, complete with training NPCs, in the outer grounds of the castle, in Hogwarts Legacy — at least for the moment — the most popular sport in the Wizarding World is not playable. However, it cannot be excluded that it will be included, together with other events such as the Three Wizards Cup, in a future DLC, so who knows, maybe we won’t have to fantasize for too long. One of the elements that is present right away in the game, and that I was able to admire, albeit in a small part, are the fantastic animals.

Hogwarts Legacy

The Wizarding World is full of creatures of all entities, sizes and shapes, and as we know in the title of Avalanche it will be possible to create a real farm inside the Room of Requirement, an entirely personal space inside Hogwarts where the protagonist can cultivate his skills and create tools of various kinds. However, fantastic animals are scattered everywhere in the immense open-world world and, although I have been able to see very, very little of what lies beyond the school, during a side mission I got a taste of what that will be waiting for us.

In fact, my experience outside of school was limited to a short walk through a forest, which left me with a very precise idea: the world created by Avalanche is alive. I’ll explain. When it comes to Harry Potter, the places mentioned in the saga are quite limited; we have the school, the Hogsmaede location, Diagon Alley, the Forbidden Forest and a few other settings that have become recognizable throughout the story. Since in Hogwarts Legacy you can instead explore a vast map, ad hoc scenarios have obviously been created. The biggest fear in this regard is to find yourself faced with sparse expanses of elements, with only a few NPCs and activities here and there but with very little flesh real (to give you an example, exactly what happened with the recent Pokémon Scarlet and Violet).

Well, what I saw gave me hope that Avalanche has managed to create a challenging open world and that it invites the player to explore each area, but having not had the opportunity to wander freely around the map, I just have to wait until I can have the entire copy of the game in my hands to find out. Instead, what I have been able to experience sufficiently are the fights, which are an integral part of the gaming experience, and which have given the development team many worries.

Wand in hand and high alert

The game designer I chatted with and that I mentioned in the introduction dealt specifically with the fights, and he revealed to me that it was quite difficult to choose which ones to insert, and above all how to make everything functional. If on the one hand the repertoire of spells named in the Harry Potter lore reaches a hundred and therefore inserting them all into the keys of a pad would have been impossible, on the other magical duels require dynamism and flexibility. It was therefore not possible to put four or five generic spells, but to give the player the opportunity to use the ones he wanted based on the situation or the enemy to face.

The solution that has been adopted is probably the best there was: each of the 4 keys on the right of the controller corresponds to a spell that can be cast, while the four directional buttons have been used to be able to switch between different slots, for a total of 16 spells at your fingertips. Obviously, within the game there are many more, and to interchange them just open the appropriate menu and choose the one we want to replace. Clearly, at the beginning of the adventure we will only have basic spells available, then increasing the repertoire throughout history.

Hogwarts Legacy

This mechanic works, but I have to admit, having been thrown into the action in medium res and therefore, not having had time to get used to the commands, it was quite complex to be able to manage the whole situation at the same time: between spells to cast while keeping an eye on each one’s cooldown, slots to change, enemies to avoid and shield to activate to protect myself from blows, the experience was quite intense (or, for those who know a little English, the more appropriate term is overwhelming).

Finally, I want to say a few words about character creation: considering the very high customization possibilities – sometimes too much – to which the titles released in recent years have accustomed us, I must say that in Hogwarts Legacy I expected something more. There are in fact classic choices such as the shape of the face, the hairstyle and the texture of the skin, but it would have been nice to be able to modify the individual elements, such as the nose, mouth and eyes, as well as the general build, which is standard for anyone. In short, I imagined that I would spend a lot of time creating my magical counterpart, while the process only lasted a few minutes.

We will instead talk about the narrative in the actual review, since I was able to get just a taste of the story (or rather, of its beginning), and therefore for the moment I cannot give a concrete judgment. But one thing is certain: we won’t be the Harry Potters of the situation, always ready to help others and avoid evil at all costs; on the contrary, we will have full freedom to choose whether to employ dark magic or notthus tracing our path as we prefer.

Hogwarts Legacy: let’s draw the first sums

So, after so many words, Hogwarts Legacy has lived up to expectations, and is it worth playing on February 10th? In my opinion, yes. Although there is still some doubt regarding the population of the open-world and the convenience of the combat system, the work of Avalanche undoubtedly constitutes a truly ambitious project, which if it reflects what I could see in an hour of play has all the makings of being not only the best Harry Potter game ever created, but also one of the best RPGs of 2023.

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