Paige Stegina | A&E Editor
Ever since Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was released in 1997, the Wizarding World has taken the world by storm, first with the novels that brought about the story of a young boy swept into a world of magic and wonder. The seven novels have sold more than 500,000 million copies worldwide, with every one of the novels reaching #1 on the USA Today Bestseller list and winning countless other awards. The seven novels are the foundation of the franchise, it has grown significantly since the first-time readers followed Harry onto the Hogwarts Express. The eight film adaptations brought the story to life on the screen with Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, and many others. This would not be the only time that the Wizarding World would be brought to the screen, with the first of three Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movies releasing in 2017. In 2016, The Cursed Child play brought the franchise to the stage in a continuation of the story following Harry’s children. Recently HBO has announced that with the revamping of their streaming service, now under the name MAX, the main novel will be adapted yet again, this time as a television series that will reportedly remain true to the novels.
However, one of the more intriguing recent additions to the franchise has been Hogwarts Legacy, the open world action RPG that was released by Avalanche Software in February of this year. Despite the controversy surrounding the author and the attempted boycott of the game, Hogwarts Legacy has become a remarkably successful game. In its first two weeks alone, the game sold over twelve million copies, earning $850 million, 256% more than the estimated launch of the game. The game also broke the record of concurrent viewers for a single player game with 1.3 million views. This is all within the first few months of the game’s release with it still not being released on all platforms with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One releasing in early May and Nintendo Switch in late July. This game had elevated expectations from the very beginning, with those who read the books wanting to be able to explore the castle and have their own Hogwarts adventure ever since they read the first books. With the disappointments of past video games, there was certainly a significant amount of pressure for the game to allow fans to enter the world in a way they never had before. The game lives up to expectations in many ways, with its storylines, characters, and immersive nature.
The game itself is strong in many ways. From the very first moments of the game, the player is brought into the story of the player character who is starting Hogwarts as a fifth year. For any fans of the series, this is very unusual for a Hogwarts student, but in terms of gameplay it allows the player to learn more advanced spells. You have been taught basic magic by Professor Fig, the magical theory professor, in preparation for the new term. However, you soon find that you have a connection to an ancient type of magic that is protected by the Keepers. Throughout the game, the player needs to complete the trials set by each of the Keepers, unlocking their memories through a pensive and discovering the mystery behind the magic they possess.
The developers clearly hold strong knowledge and respect for the series and the fandom itself. In the very tense first cut scene as the player is on their way to Hogwarts in a flying carriage, they are attacked by a dragon which results in the character seeing death for the first time. It is the intricate details like this that bring the game to another level, especially for fans. The small details of the paintings in the castle, the tiny easter eggs such as a brewing potion in a bathroom, the inclusion of Peeves the poltergeist. The developers even needed to create the concept for the Hufflepuff Common Room, a place that was never directly seen in the movies or described in the books. However, the earthy, cozy atmosphere is perfect for the house.
The strongest aspect of the game that is agreed upon by most players is the immersive nature of the game and the nostalgia it brings. For the first time in history, fans can explore the world they fell in love with to the greatest extent possible. The map is massive, with the castle alone as a palace where the player can intentionally or not, get lost wandering the halls. The castle includes all four common rooms (although you can only enter the common room to your character's house), the Great Hall, Grand Staircase, Room of Requirement, classrooms, and the iconic bridge. Iconic locations, such as the Quidditch Pitch and the Forbidden Forest along with Hogsmeade with Ollivander's, the Three Broomsticks, Hog’s Head, and other shops are all available to explore as well. As if this was not enough, the developers created small hamlets all across the map to explore, with puzzles, challenges, and combat along the way. The soundtrack both inside and outside of the castle are fantastic, blending tones of the original soundtrack into the original creation. The game encourages players to enjoy the game multiple times, with exclusive quests for each house.
There are a few drawbacks to the game. There are some smaller glitches and bugs, especially within the first weeks of release, but that is to be expected with a massive game release such as this one. There could be more interactivity in the game with NPCs. Although the side character’s storylines are very strong, players cannot interact with characters they do not have an assigned quest for. The game also lets you directly choose your house, giving only very brief questions from the sorting hat before allowing the player to change their house if they wish. The same applies for the player’s wand. Certain features of the game, such as the Vivarium, a place where you can house magical creatures you can save while exploring, could be expanded upon so there could be more creatures you could house instead of restricting the species and creatures in each. However, none of these features affect gameplay significantly and are only minor drawbacks to the game. Another critique of the game has been that the player character does not have much of a background, this may be a move on the developers part to allow more immersion. Without the character having a spelt-out backstory, gamers can imagine it on their own, connecting them even more with their character as they navigate the world. The character is truly a blank slate, and you can take the story anyway you would like. The dialogue options allow the player to take the story either in a good or evil direction, although the main choices are made at the end, not allowing the player to go completely evil.
Lastly, the main content itself only lasts around fifty hours. For those who have played other open world RPGs such as Assassin's Creed or Elder Scrolls which can take hundreds of hours to complete. However, this may only be a sign that the game has space to be continued in the future. It could be the developing team released Hogwarts Legacy to test the waters and see if it would be a successful adaptation with the fans. With the criticisms and compliments of this game, along with the exclusion of certain features such as Quidditch, it is quite possible that either a DLC or sequel will expand upon the game.
Finally, the world of wizards, witches, magic, and wonder has been brought to life in a way that can be explored and adored by fans. Even with the drawbacks, it is an extraordinarily strong game with fantastic graphics and storylines that brings nostalgia for the original series. Hopefully, the success of the game will lead to more adaptations that will allow fans to explore the world in ways they never have before. Even if it does not, this game opens a significant amount of content and exploration possibilities for those that never got their acceptance letter by owl.