Hands-on Hogwarts Legacy Preview – Swish and flick

The looming figure of Hogwarts Castle always fills me with nostalgia and excitement. Pointed spires reaching up to a clouded sky full of magic and shrouded in mystery. Hogwarts is a place that has been captured in the hearts of Harry Potter fans for decades. Even for those of us who have become disenfranchised by the wizarding world for one reason or another, the silhouette of the venerable Scottish Castle has made its mark.

Hogwarts Legacy is born from and driven by two things: Hogwarts Castle and the ideology of individuality. Hogwarts is a constant in the world of the Harry Potter franchise and is revered as the home of magic for most witches and wizards.

Even as you play as your own character, no matter what happens, Hogwarts feels like home.

Hogwarts Legacy

This feeling of ‘home’ in the game is portrayed through a plethora of small details, making the setting recognisable without being overbearingly Harry Potter. There’s no Harry or Voldemort. There are nods to characters from the franchise here and there, but the 1800s setting ensures that you get to play the game in your own way without being pushed to the side by a boy with glasses and a scar on his head.

Fans of the series can finally do what they’ve always dreamed of doing – study at Hogwarts.

I spoke with Stephen Dona, the game’s technical systems designer, about the core philosophy of the game and how it’s portrayed through the systems and design choices. “One of the big mantras we had, when we started making this game, was ‘be your own Wizard.’” Previous games in the Harry Potter franchise have always been about playing Harry and the story that he lived through.

Hogwarts Legacy features its own original story, decades before that of The Boy Who Lived. It brings an unknown story to fans and gives them the experience of playing it themselves for the first time, unlike previous games that are just a retelling of the original books. It also gives players the opportunity to customise their own character in the game, highlighting the individual and letting players follow their own path.

Whether Potions, Charms, Transfiguration or Flying, students have the opportunity to attend a variety of classes, study, complete assignments and take part in exams. Primarily, the game is an RPG set in an educational institution, so of course you’re going to participate in school life. You’ll socialise with other students, play games with them and assist them when they’re in need.

I thoroughly enjoyed helping another student named Cressida Bloom during the preview. She’s a bookworm who has managed to piss off the librarian by inventing a spell that makes her books fly, but now they’re flying around the library and she can’t get them back. She requests your help, so you walk around the library using the spell ‘Accio’ on each book.

Using spells in the game feels real.

The coordination of visuals, audio and player controls is combined in a way that as soon as you press the button to cast a spell, you hear and see your player character physically casting and then the effects immediately after. Compared to other games where using magic feels like a simple point-and-click, or aiming a weapon in an FPS, Hogwarts Legacy has a tactile approach to the use of magic.

This has been achieved through the implementation of the Spell Wheel. As you unlock spells, you can place them in your quick-cast spell wheel. Each wheel has four spell slots, but you can cycle through multiple wheels, perfect for grouping spells situationally – or however, else you’d like.

Spells that have practical, real-world uses (like Lumos or Accio) can be placed together, while combat spells (like Expelliarmus or Stupefy) can be placed in their own spell wheel, allowing players to switch quickly between spell wheels if the situation suddenly changes from a puzzle to a battle, or vice versa. 

The combat system in Hogwarts Legacy is one of the most complicated but intuitive systems I’ve experienced in a long time. It feels fluid and satisfying, especially after a few minutes when you’ve really got the hang of it. At its core, the combat system is complicated. Reading about it isn’t helpful in the slightest. To get that sense of achievement through combat, you need to be able to try it yourself and get a feel for the pacing and flow of both the enemy AI and spell cast times.

“It’s like long-range fencing,” Dona told PowerUp! “Parry, block, get your opponent into a compromising situation and then hit them.” As someone who generally isn’t a fan of real-time combat, I was shocked to see myself confidently dodge-rolling out of the way of enemy spells before getting up to counter-attack with my own magic. It felt like I was a professional spell-slinger after only a few minutes and it was at this point that I didn’t want to put the controller down.

But the thing I’m most excited about is Hogwarts itself.

A monolith of a castle that lives and breathes magic. Though my time in the building was minimal, the visuals were nothing short of stunning. Just the thought of being able to spend hours exploring halls lined with talking paintings and moving staircases is an exciting one. The possibility of living in a world that I could only dream of as a child is as enchanting as it sounds.

Hogwarts Legacy will launch for Playstation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on 10 February 2023.

Please note that while JK Rowling – known for her harmful and malicious comments about transgender people – was not directly involved in the development of the game, she will profit from the sales of Hogwarts Legacy. 

If you would like to support the transgender community, consider donating to The Equality Project who is working to provide assistance to transgender people in Australia.

For people in the transgender, gender diverse or non-binary communities in Australia, you can find support services here.

To support LGBTQIA+ representation in gaming in Australia, please visit Checkpoint Gaming.

Courtney Borrett
Courtney Borrett
Courtney is a writer with a passion for video games and anime. She loves cozy, story-driven games, but also finds inspiration in the strange and downright weird. She has a love-hate relationship with League of Legends. When she's not running it down, you kind find her on Twitter @koutonii

━ more like this

Alienware AW3225QF 32-inch 4K QD-OLED Gaming Monitor Review

Alienware returns with an excellent 4K 32-inch gaming monitor that's perfect for PC, Mac & Consoles while undercutting the competition

Alienware m16 R2 Review – Lacking soul

The new Alienware m16 R2 has a revised design for better performance but is otherwise a somewhat generic machine lacking Alienwares soul

Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut Review (PC) – Ported with a shur-i-ken attitude

Though this is my fourth time reviewing Ghost of Tsushima—think: original on PS4, PS5 upgrade, Legends multi—I couldn't be happier unsheathing it again. There...

CORSAIR K65 Plus Wireless 75% Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review

Corsairs delivers its first ever 75% keyboard in the oddly named K65 Plus and its a banger. It's a great performer with wireless connectivity that will surely please.

Kingston Fury Renegade PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD Review

The Kingston Fury Renegade NVMe SSD is an exceptional performance package that will delight gamers and professional creators alike.