games / Reviews

Hogwarts Legacy (Xbox Series X) Review

March 15, 2023 | Posted by Stewart Lange
Hogwarts Legacy Image Credit: Avalanche Software
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Hogwarts Legacy (Xbox Series X) Review  

*Apologies for the delay in this review, I had an issue posting the article. Thanks to Adam and Jeremy for the assist and apologies to everyone else.

After a couple of delays, Hogwarts Legacy has finally arrived for current gen consoles amid a level of controversy, which I’m going to lead with addressing. Firstly, I have never read, seen or engaged in any Harry Potter media before. I know a few bits via life osmosis, but otherwise I have no knowledge of the source material aside from a couple of general knowledge quiz answers. Secondly, I understand fully the issues that people have with the creator of the series. I absolutely do not condone what she has said or the causes she funds, but I’m also only here to review this game as a game. So I’m not going to discuss any of it further than that and I encourage you to follow suit in the comments section. Also I’m keeping this spoiler free and again I’d like for you to do that as well.

Hogwarts Legacy is set roughly 100 years before the events of the Potter saga, with a Victorian era Hogwarts yet to experience rationing and the blitz, man walking on the moon or Frankie Goes To Hollywood encouraging everyone to Relax. You play a new student to the school, who due to being rather special and gifted, is allowed to join the school as an older student which you spend the first few hours being told is unusual by all the lovely teachers and students desperate to be your friend. The character creator is fairly limited but allowed me to make a faithful recreation of my awkward teenage self, albeit with a stoic English private school accent instead of my own Scottish one. Throughout the game you unlock new clothing options and accessories for your character, but more on that later. You’re thrown right into the action as the story ramps up from starting your studies at your new school to saving the world from the big bad evil really quickly. Being an open world game, as soon as you start exploring the world outside of the school, there’s lots of busy work to keep you distracted from this impending doom, like helping a little troll guy find his goat/rabbit looking creature or running delivery errands for merchants.

The first thing I did notice about the game are the graphics though, and it’s hard not to. Running on an Xbox Series X in graphics mode, the game looks absolutely incredible. Character eyes still have the inevitable 1000 yard stare that we expect, but the marble corridors, the brickwork and staircases in the school look extremely detailed and the outside world looks fantastic, especially around Hogwarts itself and the nearby town of Hogsmeade. Once you unlock the broomstick to fly around on, it’s really easy to find yourself just enjoying the scenery and exploring to see the sights without a mission agenda. I think this level of detail is going to be something really appreciated by the fanbase, complete freedom to explore the world they’ve grown up with. Graphics aside, the level of detail is phenomenal within the school building, with sculptures and busts moving and talking, ghosts floating through the halls and students milling around. The school does feel alive and that’s something I have to give credit for, at no point does it feel like you’re wandering lonely or boring halls.

The school itself maybe could have played a bigger part in the gameplay, though. While professors do provide side missions and assignments for you, I feel like a school structure would have suited the game much more than a lot of the side missions you find yourself on. I don’t need to be playing Hogwarts Bully or anything, but I feel like the introductory classes in the first hour or so of the game make more sense than doing what should be the work of the local constabulory once you have the broom and a few fast travel points. There are lots of collectibles and these range from glossary/index pages to “fantastic beasts” to collect, store and seemingly mate in a Narnia-esque cupboard which I’m sure makes more sense to someone with prior source knowledge than it does to me. As a result, I never found myself drawn to these side-missions unless they gave me access to a new spell or ability, because the gear that they give you is quickly superceeded.

This is where my main frustration with the game comes in. You unlock a wealth of clothes and accessories throughout the world, giving you the mandatory “level up the gear score” inventory system of a live service title. One thing the game does differently than others I liked it that it allows you to keep the appearance of the gear you like while applying the benefits of another, which was handy as a lot of the legendary gear looks really stupid, or being penalised because you don’t want your character to wear a hat or glasses. Unfortunatly you find yourself changing the gear so often that it feels like you spend as much time in the character customisation screen as you do in combat throughout the game, which is a shame because the combat is fairly solid. Being a wizard, you get a wand right at the start and while this is customisable, I am yet to establish any benefit of doing this. I think another one for the fans. The wand acts a little bit as a blaster but the integration of spells into combat keeps it fun, especially early on until you unlock a few overpowered spells around the halfway point which seem to make most combat encounters a formality rather than a challenge. Plus, there are maybe 3 or 4 spells which have roughly the same impact on your foes, stunning them a little off the ground for increased damage. I didn’t get to a point where I found it boring, mainly due to my supply of chomping cabbages, but I was disappointed to get the point where I didn’t feel a challenge any longer.

The spells can also be used for solving puzzles throughout the world, both for unlockables and mission progression and a lot of these are well put together. I can’t help but feel like the game has been designed to be slightly more accessible to younger or non-gamers as they lack little challenge to anyone with experience of gaming tropes but this isn’t always a bad thing. You do feel like a “wizard, ‘Arry” as a result of how a lot of these game sections play out. The story itself is engaging enough and as a “muggle” I was kept playing quite happily for the story itself despite the seeming lack of recognisable characters, aside from a few that even I know are clearly little easter eggs or nods to the long terms fans of the series. The main downside of the game is absolutely the open world pit that it falls into as I found it too needless and shoehorned in, but I guess it could have run the line of being a big beautiful world without anything to do. All I know is that if I was a Hogwarts fan, I’d have liked it to have been more of a magical student simulator than a generic open world fantasy game, which is what this essentially is when you strip back the glossy exterior and universe source material.

That has to be my biggest takeaway from the game. Without the built in fanbase and wealth of source material, what we have here is a decent but not great fantasy game, falling short of the likes of Fable 2, set in an open world stuffed with pointless busy work and a live service-esque inventory system crowbarred in. Because of this, Hogwarts Legacy falls under the good, not great category for me. Fun combat and great graphics and detail aside, there isn’t anything new or exciting to be taken from this game and while I did find fun as a non-fan, it’s definitely the built-in fanbase that this has been made for and while that is absolutely rightly so, I just have to wonder how much of that fanbas has been turned away from the series before getting to live out their fantasy of flying through the castle grounds and over the inexplicably obsolete Quidditch pitch.

The final score: review Average
The 411
While Hogwarts Legacy is beautiful to look at, the substance is only slightly deeper than the skin. The combat is fun for most of the game and the plot is engaging but there is too much busy work and menu interaction to really immerse me fully. I'm sure fans of the source material will have a lot of fun but for me it falls just short of being a classic fantasy game, without the Harry Potter skin on top this would likely be much more forgettable of a title.

article topics :

Hogwarts Legacy, Stewart Lange