Windows Central Verdict
Interesting plot and characters
Familiar locations and music tracks
Fun and rewarding exploration
Dozens of Easter eggs
NPC interactions add world depth
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Like many of you, I've longed to explore the wizarding world ever since I read the Harry Potter books as a child. I'm pleased to say that Avalanche Software's game, Hogwarts Legacy, fulfills this fantasy better than any game before it. Best of all, since the plot isn't tied to the Harry Potter storyline, it allows far more freedom in a world that's familiar, but still full of mystery.
Players step into the robes of a fifth-year student who transfers to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the 1800s (long before many of the main characters from the Harry Potter books existed). Since this teenager is unfamiliar with the castle and its goings on, professors are far more attentive and classmates are willing to help explain the lay of the land.
The main plot of Hogwarts Legacy centers around the fact that the transfer student has a rare ability to see an ancient form of magic, which allows them to uncover long-hidden mysteries put in place by a group called The Keepers. It's for this very reason that a powerful goblin named Ranrok and his followers are after the adolescent witch or wizard. But what exactly this malevolent group wants to do with the student is unclear. Players become close friends with Professor Fig, who teaches Magical Theory and aids the student as they run through secret trials left behind by The Keepers while fighting off Ranrok's lot.
I absolutely love the freedom this open-world adventure allows for and haven't wanted to stop playing since I first turned it on. It's very likely that this will end up as one of the best PC games out there. The story is engaging, the world full of detail, and the combat is challenging but fair. There are some parts of gameplay that could have been refined a bit more, but mostly, this is just a fun adventure that I highly recommend to others whether they are fans of the boy who lived or not.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a game code provided by Warner Bros. Games. The company did not see the contents of this review before publishing.
|Publisher||Warner Bros. Games|
|Genre||Open World, RPG, Adventure|
|Release date||Feb. 10, 2023|
|Platforms||Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch|
|Hours to beat||35-40 hours|
|Xbox/PC Game Pass||No|
|Reviewed on||Windows PC|
Hogwarts Legacy and the student of many faces
- How to choose the best wand
- How to get large potting tables
- How to solve the floating candles map
- How to open The High Keep's main gate
- How to complete The Helm of Urtkot
- How to use Rowland's Map
- The Hippogriff Marks the Spot location
- How to capture a Graphorn
- How to get all beasts
- How to solve Merlin Trials
- How to open Eye Chests
- Where to find Troll Bogeys
- Hogwarts Legacy review
While not the most intensive character creator out there, Hogwarts Legacy does offer many customization options. At the start of my adventure, I was able to choose the face shape I wanted from a list of possible options and then customize skin color, hairstyle, hair color, eye color, eyebrow shape, eyebrow color, and facial markings. Additionally, I got to choose between two voices, each with five different pitch options, which I appreciated. Then I got to give my character a name and select whether I'd be in the Witch or Wizard dormitory.
Some of these choices can be changed after the game starts such as hairstyle and eye color, but it seems others like voice, dormitory, and skin tone cannot be altered once the game begins. I was a little unimpressed with some of the hair options at the start of the game, but was happy to find that there are additional hairstyles awaiting at Madame Snelling's Tress Emporium in Hogsmeade, which can be accessed early on.
The customization doesn't stop there. A wide assortment of robes, hats, gloves, scarves, outfits, and eyewear eventually become available. These clothing choices make my character stand out more but also have a more functional purpose which I'll get into later.
Then, of course, there's the matter of choosing a house. The Sorting Hat was placed on my character's head shortly after I arrived at the school and then it proceeded to ask me a couple of basic questions. As expected, the answers I selected determined whether to place me in the Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, or Slytherin house.
The hat's say isn't final, though, as players can go with the initial assessment or can choose a different house if they aren't happy with the outcome. I was slotted into Ravenclaw from the start, but it was a relief to know that if The Sorting Hat hadn't put me in that house that I could have chosen it on my own anyway. All of these customizable options work together to help me create the specific student I want to play as.
Hogwarts Legacy and the wander bug
I'll be honest. While the opening cutscenes laid the groundwork for the game's overall plot and hidden mysteries I was initially more interested in exploring the world on my own and ditching out on classes. Thankfully, the game allowed me to go wherever I wanted almost immediately after the opening Sorting Hat ceremony.
The castle feels HUGE and it's easy to get lost in its labyrinthine layout, but helpful Floo Flame locations allow me to fast travel to areas that I have been to already. There are three maps: Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and World Map. Because of this, finding out where I need to go for a quest can be confusing. Thankfully, pressing a specific button while hovering over a quest brings me to the proper location on the map that I need so I don't have to go searching for it.
When it comes to the main plot and quests, Hogwarts Legacy allows players to do exactly what the magical students are known for: Make friendships, learn powerful spells, discover secret passageways, collect magical creatures, and enter extremely dangerous situations in order to take down an evil band of magic wielders. What‘s more, the game manages to do this while offering a really good balance of open-world exploration, meaningful progress, and captivating story.
There are typically two to five main quests at a time with plenty of NPC side quests. Completing the main quests not only furthers the main plot but unlocks spells and experience points that help make it easier to explore. Once a set of main quests are completed something like a new chapter starts with additional main quests and side quest challenges.
Hogwarts Legacy and the magic of nostalgia
Since the game is published by Warner Bros. Games, it's not surprising that many rooms and locations look exactly the same as they do in WB's Harry Potter movies — from the layout of the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom to the stained glass windows in The Great Hall. They're all rendered beautifully too. The nostalgia is furthered still whenever the familiar musical themes or chimes from the films make their way to my ears.
In addition to audio and visuals, the game constantly flirts with knowledge gained from the Harry Potter books or alludes to the movies without distracting from this brand-new story. One of the main sidequests involves using the spell Revelio to make hidden parchment appear that explains the history of objects and locations I encounter. This not only gives me a fun diversion but alludes to some well-known Harry Potter facts as well.
I can't even tell you how many times I caught myself smiling as I came across a familiar location or a cheeky bit of text that mildly foreshadows events that won't happen at the school for over 100 years yet. Like when I went into the Slytherin girl's bathroom and discovered a snake etched into the sink or when I went into a different girls' bathroom and discovered what looks to be Polyjuice Potion brewing behind one of the stalls (lots of things happen in magical bathrooms apparently).
On a similar note, many of the main Hogwarts characters have surnames that are familiar to Harry Potter fans. For instance, Nigellus Black is the Headmaster while Matilda Weasely is the Transfiguration Professor and Deputy Headmistress. Knowing these last names automatically gives me a sense of the characters when I meet them, but also makes me wonder if the game wants to lull me into a false sense of familiarity in order to lead to a major plot twist. At any rate, it keeps things interesting since I get to choose how I talk to these characters. I can even misbehave or lie in certain scenarios.
Hogwarts Legacy and the enchanting details
This isn't just a feast for the eyes, it's a full-fledged interactive experience. Hogwarts Legacy provides everything you'd expect to find at the magical school — hidden passageways, magical beasts, numerous puzzles, flying brooms, powerful spells, interactive items, and much more. It makes it absolutely fun to explore because I'm never quite sure what I'll come across, but I always feel right at home with each discovery.
The team at Avalanche Software took every opportunity they could to make every location and challenge feel extraordinary, especially in moments that could easily have been mundane. For example, I might need to walk down what appears to be an ordinary hallway, but then while doing so the walls and stairs might shift in a way I never would have expected. These frequent surprises result is a magical world that absolutely knows itself and spares no expense to make you feel like you're part of it all.
The first time I set foot in Honeydukes I was giddy at the familiar sight and only became even more excited when I realized that there were plenty of sweets lying around that my character could interact with and eat. Cat lovers will also be excited to hear that there are dozens of felines both inside and outside of Hogwarts that are all eager for some nice pets.
In addition to simpler interaction, there are puzzles of different kinds strewn around the castle and the world surrounding Hogwarts. Sometimes I can solve these right away, but other times I need to unlock a new spell and then come back. I've found these challenges to be a fun diversion with the exception of unlocking locks with Alohomora. Instead of simply unlocking chests and rooms, this spell requires me to take part in a small puzzle that proves to be very repetitive and tedious by your 8th, 9th, or 10th interaction with them.
On another note, Hogwarts Legacy does an amazing job of keeping places interesting even if you've been to them multiple times. For instance, during my ramblings I've come across a student getting yelled at by a Howler, a pair of students getting thrown out of a shop for stealing, Peeves harassing students, silly ghost interactions, portals leading to other rooms, and much more. There's been more than once when I'm rushing between two quest locations only to stop and watch an amusing scenario play out.
Seasons also play a part in changing things up. The Holidays are closely associated with the Harry Potter series, so I was ecstatic when I realized that time was changing and bringing new decorations to Hogwarts and the world around it. There is no calendar, but one day I happened to wander into The Great Hall and saw that there were floating Jack-o-lanterns and bats everywhere. Soon thereafter, I noticed decorated garlands and evergreens show up alongside blankets of snow. These changes add to the exploratory fun and keep well-trodden locations interesting.
Hogwarts Legacy and the quest of limitations
While there is so much that I love about exploration in Hogwart Legacy, there are, unfortunately, some frustrating bits as well.
During certain active quests, I cannot wander far from the NPCs or destinations that I need to be around or else I get a warning that reads, "Return to the quest area" or something similar. If I don't comply before a short countdown finishes, I automatically get a quest failure screen. The fun of being in a magical place like Hogwarts is being able to explore and see what is hiding behind every lock and corridor, but when the game repeatedly gets in the way of my discoveries, it pulls me out of the fun and shatters the illusion. Fortunately, this limitation only really happens in specific quests that require me to say when you I'm ready to start them.
Hogwarts Legacy and the flying child
I was able to step outside of the castle grounds very early on to investigate the surrounding areas. This includes Hogsmeade Village and a larger world map filled with little hamlets and The Forbidden Forest that surrounds the castle. One of my biggest desires was to fly over Hogwarts on broom or Hippogriff and I'm happy to say I was able to unlock the first option relatively early on. The ability to ride magical beasts unlocks a bit later.
Hogsmeade provides plenty of materials, equipment, and clothing, but some of the shops here are locked until certain classes are completed. For instance, it wasn't until I had taken my first flying lesson at the school that I was able to purchase my first broom from Spintwitches Sporting Needs in Hogsmeade. But once that broom was in hand, I could fly just about anywhere, with a few flight limitations. There are multiple broom designs and fulfilling certain quests also allows me to unlock broom upgrades.
Overall, handling and controls for broom flight is intuitive and fun, but my biggest disappointment is that there are certain areas on the map where flight via broom or magical beast isn't allowed. For instance, while I can fly around Hogwarts without issue, I cannot hop on a broom or land from a flight if I'm in the Hogsmeade area. It was also a major letdown when I realized I couldn't land on Hogwarts castle or enter a building while in flight.
I’m sad to say that the controls for magical flying beasts are a bit different from broom controls in a way that makes them harder to handle. So while I love being able to fly around on a Hippogriff’s back, I can’t always get the creature to do exactly what I want it to on my first try. Landing tends to be especially finicky when there are uneven surfaces, which can be frustrating in high-stress situations.
Hogwarts Legacy and the fashion police
After playing several hours of Hogwarts Legacy, I will never question witch and wizard fashions ever again. Albus Dumbledore sports that elaborate drip in the books for a reason.
There are six types of clothing that I can equip and each one adds to my character's offense or defense to make them stronger. There are dozens of clothing options and each one has a specific level assigned to it, so I frequently change clothes to make myself stronger.
Clothing is found in treasure chests, is given out as rewards for completing quests, or can be purchased from a shop at Hogsmeade. About three hours into the game, I looked absolutely ridiculous compared to all of the other students with my tilted top hat, lizard eyeglasses, and a clashing robe and outfit combo. Needless to say, the cutscenes I endured during this stretch were kind of cursed.
Fortunately, it was here that I realized that I could equip the most powerful items I have in my inventory but change their appearance to any other item of clothing I've unlocked previously. After that, I was able to look stylish and kick ass too. The ability to upgrade gear is also unlocked after a while, but can only be done if the required materials necessary have been gathered.
Hogwarts Legacy and the combat wizard
Combat mechanics feel really good and battles are a lot more challenging than I initially expected they would be. There are several spells to learn during the course of the game, most of which are unlocked after completing quests or attending specific classes. Many of these spells can be used on objects or enemies and provide satisfying effects.
In addition to the basic attack, dodge, and counter options that are always available, up to four spells can be equipped at a time. There are several familiar spells to learn with the option of unlocking The Unforgivable Curses as well. Hurling an enemy into the air and then hitting them with basic attacks adds more damage. However, sometimes enemies shield themselves and the only way to break their shield is to attack with a spell that has a corresponding color to the shield.
Despite always being on the lookout for the best defensive clothing, I found that my health got depleted very quickly whenever I was attacked. Due to this, my fingers always had to be ready to press the dodge or counter buttons. Experience is gained by doing just about everything in the game and each time I level up I can go into a skill tree and increase the power of a spell, make myself more stealthy, or improve one of my other skills. It does a good job of making me feel powerful and allowing me to control where I improve.
Something else that I love about combat is how organically the game allows me to cast certain spells. During a fight, I can use Expelliarmus to disarm axe-wielding enemies and then can hurl an enemy's own weapon at them if my fingers are fast enough. In one specific scenario, I threw an explosive barrel at an enemy on a bridge. The bridge exploded, but I was able to use Reparo to make the bridge come back so I could get the rewards waiting for me on the other side of it.
Hogwarts Legacy and the Steam Deck
A few weeks ago, WB Games Support confirmed that Hogwarts Legacy would be Steam Deck verified at launch. So, of course, I had to test it out as part of my review. It works well but isn't anything amazing in the performance area. While running medium graphics settings on the least expensive Steam Deck model, it usually maintains 30 FPS (even when unlimited framerate is selected) and runs smoothly most of the time. The controls feel intuitive and I personally find that swapping between my various spell sets is a lot easier with a controller than with my keyboard.
Of course, it's easy to swap between Valve's handheld or my computer in order to continue my game file as I desire, which is also incredibly convenient. If you have a Steam Deck, I highly recommend checking Hogwart Legacy out on it.
Hogwarts Legacy and the freezing curse
Hogwarts Legacy runs very well on both my PC and Steam Deck, with one small exception. Though not something I experience every moment, there have been a handful of times when my character has frozen and won't respond to button presses for a few seconds while the world around me continues on. It has proven detrimental if enemies are nearby as I'm unable to do anything while they attack me. At first this mostly just happened directly after cutscenes and fast travel, but then it struck in the middle of the game's final boss and lead to my death.
I even changed keyboards and swapped out the batteries but the issue continued to happen. Now, it's possible this is a problem with my PC and Steam Deck, but everything else ran smoothly and I don't have issues like this with other games that I play.
Hogwarts Legacy and the witch's wish
This is truly a special game. It's obvious that Hogwarts Legacy was made by passionate Harry Potter fans for passionate Harry Potter fans as there are plenty of Easter eggs to discover, magical abilities to unlock, and fantastical experiences to uncover. However, the game is not so obtuse as to push away newcomers or those who haven't engaged with Harry Potter lore in a while.
There are plenty of small little details in each area that work together to create a magical experience. From the unexpected ways that stairs appear before me to the NPC interactions that I come across while running through an area, everything works together to create a full and rich world filled with magical creatures, movie references, and fun wizarding world facts. I highly recommend this adventure to anyone who loves open-world games, satisfying combat, and rewarding puzzles.
Self-professed gaming geek, Rebecca Spear, is one of Windows Central's gaming editors with a focus on Xbox and PC gaming. When she isn't checking out the latest games on Xbox Game Pass, PC, or Steam Deck; she can be found digital drawing with a Wacom tablet. She's written thousands of game guides, previews, features, and hardware reviews over the last few years. If you need information about anything gaming related, her articles can help you out. She also loves testing game accessories and any new tech on the market.