6 min read

Hogwarts Legacy

A cozy and entertaining retreat from reality
Hogwarts Legacy
The clothing is half the game.

Grade: B+

Warning: There are spoilers below!

I'm not going to touch the storm of controversy around this game. But I will say that the people who gave it terrible reviews mostly seem focused on the political stances of J.K. Rowling and try to take out their frustration on this title because it's set in her fictional universe, which I think is unfair to the developers. Rowling was not involved with this game at all.

Well, I loved it, mostly. To me, the point of this game was to revisit my childhood and experience some of the Harry Potter world's familiar magic again. On this front, it absolutely delivered. I was blown away by the coziness, too: The seasonal decor, the warmth and inviting character of Hogsmeade, the delightful little mysteries and surprises around Hogwarts castle–which is rendered in astonishing fidelity to the books and movie sets.

Example of one of the many delightful surprises as you explore the school.

Every time I booted up Hogwarts Legacy (HL), it was like sitting down with a hot toddy and watching a snowstorm swirl outside.

The Great Hall at Christmastime.

But like the Harry Potter books, the game gets moodier as the story progresses. The narrative takes you away from classes at Hogwarts where you learn interesting and fun new spells, to darker places, like the caves and wilderness in the surrounding Scottish countryside, to fight goblins and bad wizards. You kill people all the time, though the game weirdly doesn't acknowledge it and ping-pongs you back to innocent and charming plotlines, like learning to ride a broomstick or a hippogriff, like nothing happened. You might not be using the killing curse until you unlock it, but your character leaves a massive trail of bodies in their wake. It sets up a strange contradiction in the story, where your character often takes the moral high ground over enemies who engage in the Unforgivable Curses, murder, and poaching, while at the same time, you murder them, often using those same no-no curses yourself. The game dutifully provides you all three Unforgivables and incentivizes you to use them with satisfying effects in combat and zero perceptible downside (covered more below). In only one instance that I saw do you actually hand someone over to the justice system–the Harlow storyline.

Part of the reason for all the murder your character performs is that HL is built around combat. I'd guess it was one of the first things the developers hammered out and then everything followed from there. It's the centerpiece of the gameplay and, as below, it's fun! Everything that you do, be it potion-brewing, learning spells, or capturing beasts for the loom gear upgrades is in service of pwning enemies.

There is a more "pacifist" play style where you use invisibility to sneak around evil wizards/goblins, but you still have to do things like kill Victor Rookwood, Ranrok (the main bad guy), and countless other henchmen. While Harry Potter kills people in self-defense in the books and movies (e.g. Quirrell, Voldemort), he doesn't feel good about it or seek it out. The sheer volume of gleeful, fun killing, often with Unforgivable Curses, in HL feels completely at odds with the supposed innocence of being a young student at Hogwarts.


Despite the mismatch between your cozy student life and the savage killing you do, the gameplay is incredibly fun. I give an A+ to the designers of the combat engine. It's very fluid, with plenty of opportunity to get creative with curse combos, deliver power attacks with ancient magic, or to throw nearby objects or venomous plants at your foes. You can also cocoon yourself with the "Protego" spell or dodge-roll out of danger. I found myself completely engaged and feeling that this was the most well-developed part of HL.

However, let's talk about Unforgivable Curses a bit more. There's no penalty to using them. The game is loaded with mechanics of different kinds borrowed from other open-world RPGs (talent trees, gear upgrades, hunting, etc.) to the point that I think there is almost too much going on, but the lack of a morality system seems seems like a massive oversight for a game where wizards can choose the dark or the light path. I could easily see a compelling storyline where you unlock Unforgivables if you elect to become a dark wizard, whereas they're inaccessible to those that choose the light path. In GameRant, the lead designer, Kelly Murphy, is quoted as saying "[the players] don't have to use them... and the world does react to their use." But I disagree! I saw other characters, like Sebastian, punished for their use, but I used the Cruciatus and Killing curses constantly with no repercussions whatsoever.

Beyond good and evil, I also noted the following gripes during my playthrough:

  • There's a weird auto-tuned quality to my character’s voice like it’s been heavily modulated from whatever voice actor actually recorded it. It sounds odd
  • NPCs have bland and predictable patterns that break the immersion if you watch them for any length of time
  • Slight delay when you open up the menu is kind of annoying because that time adds up
  • Walking through ghosts doesn’t visibly freeze you! They got so many other details right!
  • Kind of hilarious that you can break into people’s houses and they don’t seem to care while you take their shit
  • Why do you have to wait for potions to brew?
  • Gold farming takes a long time. I postponed my third broom upgrade indefinitely because I thought it would take way too long to get 7500 gold
  • “Rescuing” beasts like Pokémon is a weird mechanic. You use the beasts for gear upgrades and it’s essentially like a more humane version of the Far Cry system where you kill animals for money or materials
  • There are a staggering number of upgrade systems like the Room of Requirement, beast breeding, the Talent tree, Collections, Challenges, broom upgrades, gear upgrades at the loom, learning spells, etc. It seems like a little too much going on
  • The enormous amounts of gear you find in your travels dilutes the experience of finding good stuff. A given legendary item feels almost worthless because it is so replaceable
  • You're also absolutely inundated with low-quality gear even in late game. It starts to feel like clutter and takes the motivation out of treasure hunting
  • Why is there no "Sell all" button in marketplaces? At least I didn't see one and had to sell each piece of gear individually
  • Was Quidditch just too much to put in the game? Why no Quidditch?

Character development and story

This was a more lackluster part of the game for me. I felt as though I only bonded with Sebastian Sallow, your character's misguided Slytherin buddy, because he had the most visible and comprehensible motivation: To rid his twin sister Anne of an evil curse. You meet Anne and see the little homestead where she and Sebastian grew up before attending Hogwarts. You see her in pain and want to help her too. The other characters in your orbit, like Poppy Sweeting and Natsai Onai, explain their backstories, which form their motivations for questing to save animals or kill Harlow henchmen, in dialogue trees that drag on and on.

I felt that the storyline with Sebastian, Ominis, and Anne was the best out of them all, including the main quest with the Keepers. The primary antagonist, Ranrok, is flat, evil, and kind of boring. His motivations aren't nearly as complicated or understandable as Sebastian's, who stumbles into dark magic and gradually becomes consumed by it. You feel for Sebastian (as with Isadora, the Keeper) and get the sense that he's a good person who cares about his sister; he just chooses the wrong path. Good character development causes you to sympathize with even the people who turn out bad.


Mostly great. I was awestruck by the flying around Hogwarts, in particular, and just how good that looked both at night and during the day.

I also thought that the sketched look of this "trial" was amazing:

Overall impression

I'd recommend it to anyone, especially fans of the Harry Potter lore, assuming they don't object too much to the focus on combat and killing.