Hogwarts Legacy is a third-person action-adventure role-playing game with several faults, but the most notable exists outside the title itself. Because of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s stance on trans people, many are justifiably backing away from the Wizarding World, including this game.
My love of the Wizarding World started later than many. I didn’t get into the franchise until my teens, as my parents forbade anything related to witchcraft. However, as a teenager, I decided I was old enough to venture into the fantastical books and movies without asking my parents’ permission.
Many of my peers were right — the story was pretty good, and my love grew for the Harry Potter series as I read each book and watched every movie. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was my favourite of the titles. But even beyond Harry and his friends, I loved the world, the dragons, the spells, the potions, and, most importantly, I wanted my own acceptance letter to Hogwarts.
Clearly, I was too old to be accepted (not to mention the fact that Hogwarts doesn’t actually exist), but I still dreamed of exploring the school’s halls, going to the magical classes, and even taking the fifth-year O.W.L. exams.
I’m almost 30 years old now, but Avalanche Software finally delivered my invitation to Hogwarts through Hogwarts Legacy, and I loved every minute of it.
Hogwarts Castle is beautiful. As I’m nearing my 20th hour in the game, I still haven’t found all transportable locations in the school, and I’ve solved even fewer of its secrets. The school and its surrounding grounds are more magical than I could have ever imagined.
The castle features moving portraits, ghosts, and a massive staircase that magically moves into position when you ascend. It also has frogs that swallow you whole and spit you out in another location, books that flap their pages like wings, and bronze moths attracted to your Lumos spell. Exploring the castle was one of the most appealing parts of the game; I’ve spent hours traversing the castle’s secrets and trying to figure out its various puzzles.
Story-wise, the game takes you through unexpected twists and turns before you reach the castle, but once you do, you’re directed to head straight to the Great Hall, where you arrive at the end of the Sorting Hat ceremony. After the hat asks a couple of questions, it sorts you into either Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff or Slytherin. You can pick your desired house if you’re not a fan of the Hogwarts Legacy’s suggestion.
The hat suggested Slytherin for me, and I was escorted to the house’s common room, which revealed itself after a bronze snake slithered through the floor onto the wall, forming the room door. We learn the most about the Gryffindor common room in the films and books, so seeing Slytherin’s hall in Hogwarts Legacy is very cool. Aside from the staircase, the entire Slytherin dorm is underwater, with windows that look out into the Black Lake beside Hogwarts. Here, in the dorm, you meet a few of the key characters that you’ll interact with frequently throughout the game.
While discovering the secrets of the school, you’ll also meet professors and take classes that appear in your quest log as side missions. After each lesson, you learn something new, like a spell or how to ride a broom, create potions, and make the most of mandrakes. Interestingly, some main quests required specific spells that you can only learn by completing sidequests. However, if it’s not a spell required for the main mission or a side quest, you can skip learning it. I still haven’t finished the requirements to go to my second Herbology class, as I hate using magical plants (a condition to take the class), and I could care less about the Flipendo spell.
Beyond Hogwarts, which I could spend hours talking about, you can explore Hogsmeade’s several shops, including Ollivanders, where you get your own wand, and the Three Broomsticks, a rustic tavern where the characters drink Butterbeer in the novels and movies. You can also explore the rest of the world, including various towns in the countryside, the Forbidden Forest, caves in the nearby mountains and more.
There are a couple of forms of transportation, including broomstick and Hippogriff, that make traversing the world easy and fun. I elected to fly across the fields on my Hippogriff, called Caligo, instead of transporting to different points on the map. And seeing how the world changes from season to season, I was impressed by how different and beautiful the world looked during the fall and winter months. Like in the movies, Christmas was just as magical.
Hogwarts Legacy ensures its gameplay is exciting by using spells for everything; if a cave is too dark, the ‘Lumos’ spell can light your way. If you need to move a box to get to higher ground, you use ‘Accio’ to pull it and ‘Levioso’ to make it rise. If you see a lock, instead of a lockpick, you use ‘Alohomora’ to unlock it, and if you want to burn some shrubbery in your way, you cast ‘Incendio’ or ‘Confringo.’
The spells are easy to access, and you can efficiently utilize up to 16. Of course, there are more than 16 spells, but even if you don’t have the right one in your slots, you can easily add it in less than 20 seconds. Unfortunately, messing with your spell slots is so easy that I’ve accidentally moved some during combat, leading me to cast the wrong one when fighting a mountain troll.
Combat flowed smoothly, and I felt like a true wizard. You can pull an enemy in with ‘Accio,’ make them crash to the ground with ‘Descendo,’ and then throw them away with ‘Depulso.’ Or, you can freeze an enemy with ‘Glacio,’ then blow them up with ‘Confringo’ to deal extra damage. Spells thrown at you can be quickly blocked with a ‘Protego’ shield and followed up with ‘Stupify’ to stun them.
Ultimately, Hogwarts Legacy made me feel like a wizard. Of course, there are several issues. For example, while some fights go well, if you’re off your rhythm or have a spell slotted into the wrong spot, it can throw off the course of the battle.
Either way, Hogwarts Legacy’s combat is thrilling, and I purposefully fight any enemy I come across because stringing spell combos together is incredibly fun. You also have Ancient Magic available, which adds cool-looking finishers. Some burn enemies to dust, while another calls down lightning and blows them up. My favourite is a specific finisher for fighting spiders that makes them smaller in order to squash them.
My least favourite part of the game is the main story. In Hogwarts Legacy, your goal is to stop a Goblin rebellion. The leader of the uprising, Ranrok, uses some form of evil ancient magic and a wand, which Goblins are forbidden from casting in the Wizarding World. Your character, a student in their fifth year who’s just learning magic (for an unexplained reason), encounters this evil Goblin after a surprise teleportation to Gringotts.
To defeat Ranrok, you have to unravel the secrets of this ancient magic by solving puzzles, defeat statued knights, speak to past professors through magical talking portraits and look into Pensieves to learn more about the past (a Pensieve is a unique instrument that allows you to view the memories of other wizards).
While trying to solve ancient mysteries, you’ll also need to slow down Ranrok and dark wizards before they uncover a mysterious ultimate evil power. I won’t say much more about the storyline, but you’ll forge friendships with your classmates in both primary and sidequests, and eventually start working together to take down these foes.
It feels like you’re watching a Harry Potter movie, so the tone and events in the game are on point and, like other aspects of the franchise, bring you into the Wizarding World.
However overall, I didn’t find the story very compelling, but at the same time, it’s the type of tale I probably would have enjoyed when I was younger. 10-year-old Dean would have dreamed of participating in this story and fighting against leagues of villainous wizards.
You get to create your own character at the start of the game, and as a Black person, I’m impressed by the character customization options. There are a variety of skin tones and hairstyles — about five different hairstyles typically seen on Black men, which is more than many of the games I’ve played in the past.
While you can adjust aspects of your face or skin tone with a slider, several other settings allow you to customize your character, including a face option featuring varying sizes of ears, noses, lips and more. You can also select your voice and decide if you’re a witch or a wizard, whether you choose feminine or masculine features. I think it’s important to mention that choosing between a witch and a wizard is too limiting because there are a variety of genders in the world.
In terms of Hogwarts Legacy’s characters, however, there is a lot of diversity.
Teachers are of varying skin tones, and so are classmates — even though most of my Slytherin classmates are white. The bartender of the Three Broomsticks is also trans and reportedly voiced by a trans voice actor, though some argue this character was only added to Hogwarts Legacy to fight against the Rowling backlash.
I tried to make my character look just like me, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get my wizard exactly how I wanted. There also aren’t options for how slender or large you can make your character. However, oddly, my hair can be recreated precisely — blonde hair with a fade, and you can see my roots almost perfectly.
Aside from my actual appearance, players can also decide what they want to wear. You’ll find different gear, scarves, robes, uniforms, hats and more throughout the game. Each piece of equipment has defence and offence stats and traits or trait slots that offer a bit of an edge in battle, like a more powerful ‘Crucio’ curse. You can create new traits to slot into gear if it has the required slots. You can also change the appearance of any outfit, which is a nice touch. This means that if one robe has higher stats than the stylish robe you were rocking, you can easily adjust its appearance, so the higher stats match the one you grew fond of.
In Hogwarts, you can also access a fully customizable Room of Requirement. You can add decorations like paintings, mirrors, statues and more. You can also change the room’s appearance, the style of the floors and walls, grow plants for Herbology, make potions and tame beasts.
The forests around Hogwarts are also filled with poachers, so part of the story has the player saving beasts like griffins, Thestrals, Kneazles, unicorns and more. Once you’ve saved several creatures, you can store them in your vivariums, and play, feed, groom and breed them. For me, catching and taming these beasts is one of the most fun parts of Hogwarts Legacy, and they give you access to magical items you can use to create traits that attach to your gear. I loved the struggle of catching a unicorn, breading them and then raising and caring for a baby unicorn.
Hogwarts Legacy’s user interface is far from perfect. The menu isn’t the best and can be confusing at times, but it’s easy enough to navigate once you get the hang of it. Further, levelling up is a bit different than other role-playing games. Every time you level up, you’re awarded ‘Talent Points,’ which you use to get new perks, including being more difficult to discover when using the Disillusionment charm or giving your ‘Bombarda’ incantation a larger blast radius. There are core talents that increase the benefit of health potions and the range of the ‘Revelio’ spell.
I’ve been playing the game with increased fidelity and ray tracing, and it looks stunning on PS5. Of course, there are prettier titles — Demon’s Souls and Ratchet and Clank, for example — but Hogwarts Legacy isn’t a current-gen exclusive title, so it’s expected not to look as good as titles built from the ground up for Sony’s latest console. The game can run at 4K or 60fps, depending on which graphics mode you select.
It’s worth noting that I had a few issues with an NPC cutting through an elevator and another situation where I got stuck swimming; with the latter glitch, I had to quit the game. You’ll notice bugs occasionally, but for the most part, they aren’t game-breaking.
Hogwarts Legacy is slow to start, but once it starts ramping up, it becomes stellar.
The game isn’t as narrative-heavy as titles like God of War, but it reminds me of Insomniac’s Spider-Man. To be clear, I’m not saying that these two games have a lot in common, but they both feature great exploration, an easy way to get around their large maps, enemies to fight, and sidequests that have you looking everywhere.
I wish the game featured little things like Quidditch or romance options — of course, no snogging, as they’re children. However, there could have been a cute dance like in The Goblet of Fire. I would also like a morality system for when I cast the ‘Crucio’ Unforgivable Curse on enemies, as well as a way to use the beasts you catch in combat, like some sort of magical Pokémon game.
Hogwarts Legacy is a fantastic title that has, unfortunately, been muddled by very justified controversy — Rowling definitely ruined a video game that could have been great for many. I loved being a wizard soaring through the air on my broomstick, casting spells, and taming beasts, and I smile every time I pick up the controller to play more.
Hogwarts Legacy is available on PC, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has repeatedly stated her anti-trans position. Dean Daley and MobileSyrup do not endorse Rowling’s anti-trans stance. Here are several resources explaining how trans and LGBTQ2S+ people feel about Rowling and why many have opted not to play Hogwarts Legacy. MobileSyrup hopes that covering the game brings awareness to these important issues and shines a light on the controversy surrounding Hogwarts Legacy.
Image credit: Warner Bros. Games