Hogwarts Legacy Review (PS5) – Totally wizard. Utterly bewitching.

Incant the words ‘Harry Potter’ and that spells ‘meh’ to me. I’m no devotee, though I’ve scanned the books and sat through the films. My partner is — big time. This is why she was horrified to watch me generate a student named Noobius Double-Door, volunteer him to Slytherin and start a ‘high chaos’ run.

I was a dastardly bastard at every dialogue prompt. A turbo Malfoy. But even my dark desires for inter-house drama became dulled by the sheer whimsy and warmth of this interactive universe. It’s tough to be Tom Riddle II in Hogwarts Legacy, because it’s all so…well, lovely.

Developer Avalanche has conjured an authentic, alluring storybook world that I couldn’t put down for the duration of its 23-hour main quest. Aside from a few hiccups, it’s an action RPG as magic as the subject matter — well-designed and intricately detailed, Hogwarts Legacy delights and enchants.

There’s love in its construction; more disarming charm than a well-cast Expelliarmus.

Hogwarts Legacy Review

That being said, forget any hopes of sharing snot-flavoured sweets with Harry, Ron or Hermonie. This is a clean slate plot, set 130 years in the past. The closest Weasley you’re getting is a Deputy Principal – Sirius’s ancestor pops up, too, as an insufferable Headmaster; voiced by a rather underutilised Simon Pegg.

The basic gist: as a newly discovered magical adept, you’re dropping onto campus as a fifth-year. The plot cauldron stirs further when your first day involves a murder attempt, hints of a goblin uprising and the revelation of you perceiving ancient magic that practically nobody else can. From here on out, you’ll need to attend classes, make pals and conduct clandestine, out-of-hours activities to solve those bigger-picture threats.

Clearly, uber-fans will be goblin all this up. But even if you know bugger all about the lore, it’s tough to not get hooked on the gameplay systems that are quickly stacked into your hands, like a towering pile of textbooks. Likewise, Hogwarts itself is more or less the perfect environment to build a video game level around. It’s basically a 3D Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Environmental puzzles abound, there are collectables aplenty and you’re swamped with opps to chase gear, XP or yet another friendship-strengthening sidequest.

Better yet, Hogwarts Legacy is remarkably generous in terms of world-building and conversational opportunities. You’re looking at a Mass Effect level of quality VO, though the yackety-yack options aren’t as numerous and branching. I also suspect that hardly any of my shitty responses shaped much of the world around me. So far as I could tell from a quick post-game reload, a last-gasp choice determines your ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ending.

Given time restraints, I can only speak to the Slytherin ride being well worth the time investment. Afterwards, I did, however, dabble in the other houses and am relatively confident that a similar narrative formula gets applied across Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. Extra points here for letting us keep four unique save files for that purpose.

Your path through the O.W.L curriculum remains the same — one actual interactive class of each subject, and then a secondary, Rocky-esque montage when you re-attend later. Likewise, each house bonds you to two unique housemates, plus a third character from a competing house. The trials and tribulations of this supporting character trio will become your sidequest fodder, and they’re neatly woven into your main quest thread, too.

So yeah, that’s big points for House Avalanche early on. For the price of one game, you’re getting a 23-hour quest (probably treble this for a 100%) that’s worth reattempting four times over, thanks to significant variation.

You’ve also got to hand it to them for putting a high level of care and effort into every other facet of the game. Combat, on Hard difficulty at least, quickly layers up to become a nuanced and challenging activity. Beyond an unlimited zap on R2, you can earn the use of 20+ spells that can be equipped to your d-pad. Every spell is then tied to one of four coloured cooldowns, which encourages experimentation and prevents spamming.

That’s all bolstered with a bubble-shield parry system which, when timely used, will return attacks to sender. There are, of course, unblockable attacks to contend with, via dodge rolls or a blink teleport. And if your cooldown is preventing you from breaching the coloured ‘elemental’ shield of an opponent, just tap R1 to ping incidental objects at them. I used to think slinging manhole covers into people was satisfying in Spider-Man. It’s nothing compared to the thwang of hucking an anvil into someone’s beak.

What’s even more surprising than the combo-tastic combat which I (initially) figured would be too casual, is the presence of decent stealth. Going full Predator mode for one-hit chain kills is the stuff of Splinter Spell satisfaction. Or possibly Metal Gear Stupefy.

Unfortunately, it has to be said that the lock-on targeting system is a touch rusty in close-combat fights or more target-rich engagements. A handful of times I struggled to flick to the correct target in a group. Once or twice, an enemy inexplicably could not be targeted at all. This, coupled with the rare frame-rate chug (even on ‘Performance’ mode) mars otherwise rock-solid wandicuffs.

On a more positive note, the mind-blowing pyrotechnics, environmental destruction and top-tier VFX aren’t limited to dark wizard duels. In all areas, Hogwarts Legacy is a looker. Avalanche’s art department flexes its muscles early, and hard, and doesn’t let up. Whether it’s through impressive physics simulations, dazzling fireworks, intricate object detail or a sumptuous lighting system, every inch of the castle feels worthy of a second glance.

Things get even more insane when you get outside and realise just how gorgeous and expansive this seasonally changing overworld is. An on-foot journey from top to bottom is an intimidating trek, time-wise. Fortunately, there’s a decent (unlockable) fast travel system, rideable beasts and a broomstick to cut down on commutes.

Just quickly on the latter, it feels pretty ridiculous that Quidditch has been omitted from the proceedings. Broom for improvement, for sure — as there’s a perfectly decent flight system in place. Honestly, I’d put a Gringotts vault full of galleons on it appearing as DLC.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only wart on Legacy. Not to be the bearer of a bad owlvelope, but I often ran afoul of bizarre cloak glitches that would clip trenchcoat tails into being aprons (or bunched-up bustles). And while the confines of Hogwarts always seem to be rendered well, it’s clear the engine is being pushed in the outside sandbox. Expect isolated objects and LOD texture pops, far out on an otherwise stunning horizon.

All that being said, these few minor imperfections are vastly outshone by brilliant bonus systems that have no business being as comprehensive as they are. A plethora of side narratives are interwoven with mini-games for you stop-and-smell-the-Asphodels types. There’s a full, Pokémon capture/care/harvesting layer. Not to mention a herbalist’s/potion concoctor’s wet dream with seed collection and real-time growth.

Hogwarts Legacy’s addictive gear game is also (literally) overlaid with a huge wardrobe of chase-worthy cosmetic styles. Extra points to House Avalanche for allowing us to transmogrify wearables to the style we want without sacrificing stats.

Last but not least, you Animal Crossing sorts will no doubt spend ages reconfiguring your very own Room of Requirement. Having most of one’s crafting stations, stables and dirt pots in one place is the practical appeal. Being able to intricately place/size and stylize every conceivable inch of that space is the true time-waste danger.

When you get down to brass bedknobs and broomsticks, Hogwarts Legacy is an ambitious triumph. Stupefyingly so, though it’s not without some patchable foibles and a missing sport that may make diehards Save & Quidditch out in disgust. That said, the sheer level of addictive systems, excessive side plot opportunities and value-for-money replayability zips this to the head of the class.

You could barely classify me as a Harry Potter fan, and even I think enrollment in Hogwarts Legacy is essential.


Hogwarts Legacy was reviewed on PS5 using digital code provided by Warner Bros.


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.

Hogwarts Legacy
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Pros
Incredibly generous runtime for multiple replays
Huge Metroidvania castle nestled in a detailed, massive sandbox
Surprisingly deep combat / gear layers
Overall, magical visuals and that soundtrack
Cons
Teeny tiny inventory space = incessant store trips
Slight technical rough edges, particularly outdoors
9
Overall
Adam Mathew
Adam Mathew
I grew up knowing and loving a ludicrous amount of games, from dedicated Pong console onwards. Nowadays you'll find me covering and playing the next big things. Often on Stupid-Hard difficulty. Because I'm an idiot.

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