That’s how close you get to the perfect Harry Potter game

Hogwarts Legacy offers a little piece of game magic.

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It’s only February, but already 2023 has one of its biggest and most anticipated games. Hogwarts Legacy is precisely the Harry Potter game that fans of the wizarding series have been waiting for for a number of years, and with a couple of notable exceptions, this is simply a small piece of game magic.

Back to school

Like most role-playing games, Hogwarts Legacy allows you to create your very own character at the beginning of the game. Here you choose your gender, tone of voice, hair color and other aspects, before you are thrown into the magical world as a 15-year-old kid.

However, you are not just any Jypling, but more precisely a fifth-grader who, for unknown reasons, starts Hogwarts wizarding school four years later than usual. It also becomes clear that you possess certain magical powers that others do not, without ever putting too much pressure on you being “the chosen one”.

After an unpleasant encounter with a dragon and a quick trip to the wizarding bank, it’s off to Hogwarts anyway. Here you choose which house you want to be a part of, are guided to your living room and then life at the school takes off in full.

This means that you have to participate in school lessons, get to know fellow students and do homework to learn new spells. None of these ingredients are as intricate as you might think – for example, the first potion lesson simply requires you to crush some ingredients, throw them in a pot and stir around a bit, before the next time you do these things automatically with a simple button press.

I may be a bit odd here, but if anything I wish there were more things to do related to the school’s curriculum and the school hours. Send me home with my arms full of books, make me do homework after school and feel free to add a Persona-like circadian cycle where each day offers real choices between different activities.

Instead, we are served a far less rigid version of Hogwarts, where there is no scolding if you run around at night and you can easily be away from school for several days at a time without anyone caring.

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Full Crowded castle

However, the extra freedom comes in very handy when you first have to explore, and here Hogwarts Legacy definitely lives up to expectations. More than anything else, Hogwarts is the main character in the game, and the castle has been developed with an incredible wealth of detail. The castle simply feels alive, with labyrinthine passages and traces of magic everywhere you turn.

Every nook and cranny seems painstakingly designed to maintain the strangely magical feel of the source material. The corridors of the castle are filled to the brim with paintings, artefacts and other goodies to study and learn more about, and I greatly appreciate the many references to the Harry Potter films and books.

For example, the huge octopus will quickly reveal itself the first time you fly over the lake outside the castle; one can sneak into the basement kitchen by tickling a painting of an overgrown bulb; the statue of the one-eyed witch hides a secret passage leading directly to Galtvang; and if you’re lucky, you can overhear a student who has received a roar from home.

The music also bears the strong stamp of being inspired by what has come before: Certain themes are more or less copied from John Williams and company, while other parts of the soundtrack are completely new compositions in the same style. Unlike many modern role-playing games, the background music is very present throughout large parts of Hogwarts Legacy – even when you are just trudging around the moors or exploring the school – and this contributes to the magical atmosphere that characterizes almost all parts of the game.

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A wide-open world

As I said, the game is full of references to the source material, but at the same time, the developers at Avalanche Software have made a great effort to develop these ideas further and make this universe their own. Yes, several areas in the game are taken directly from the films, but the creators should have all the credit for how they have managed to fill in the many empty spaces, both inside the castle, but also outside.

The world of Hogwarts Legacy does not stop at the castle gates, but instead continues on to the wizarding village of Galtvang, the Forbidden Forest and far, far beyond. It’s a surprisingly large world map to explore, with tons of ruins, magical animals, and challenges to play with.

The game is constantly bursting with new content: When you’re not looking for treasure in murky caves, you can run around the countryside solving Breath of the Wild-like puzzles, and later unlock a series of mechanics that are reminiscent of both Animal Crossing and Pokémon.

Early in the game, you also get access to a broomstick, and this comes in extremely handy when you have to explore the areas around Hogwarts. It can be invoked almost anywhere and anytime and is also a joy to control.

Hogwarts Legacy may not allow you to play Dumbledore, but it is one of the very, very few elements from the Harry Potter universe that hasn’t been carried over to the game.

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Explosive sorcery

Among the items included is a bucket load of familiar spells that must be learned during the adventure. One begins equipped with, among other things, “lumos” and “revelio”, both of which can be used to investigate and learn more about the surroundings; while later unlocking everything from ‘accio’, which allows you to summon things in the environment; to “bombarda”, which fires a powerful explosion.

Hogwarts Legacy allows you to freely choose which formulas you want to have available at all times, and thanks to the ingenious use of the buttons on the controller, you can switch between up to 16 different types of magic with a couple of simple presses throughout the game.

Hogwarts Legacy is a fantastic game that will appeal to anyone who has a fondness for Harry Potter’s magical universe. Here we are not only served a version of the wizarding school that lives up to sky-high expectations but we are also served game mechanics that are in style.

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