Howdy hidey ho! Look, I’m not a Harry Potter fan, so going into this means the only reference I have is how everyone was a pedophile when Emma Watson first showed up in the movies as Hermione Granger. That’s the extent of my Harry Potter knowledge. But here I am, about to find out if Hogwarts Legacy lets me have a digital relationship with adult Hermione…
…I felt like a magical badass…
In all my in-depth searching for Hermione, all I ended up finding out was that the combat system starts out simple, then you learn combos, and then it quickly escalates. And when I say quickly escalates, I mean that in the best way possible: it becomes rightfully intense. The skill ceiling is a bit low, and it can occasionally cause confusion, but you get “there” pretty quick. In short, I felt like a magical badass in this simple, yet effective system by midgame. And to keep things interesting, they provide both stealth missions (and just in general as an option) as well as proper puzzles. The dungeon puzzles were, much like the combat, not all too difficult, but just the right amount of necessary thinking. The exploration itself, which is a mix of linear dungeons and open world, is where you might have some mixed feelings. For one, the platforming elements aren’t always solid and can look and feel rather wonky. The other is that once you’ve unlocked the broom (and neat but quite frankly useless other mounts), exploration is mostly then the linear dungeons and Hogwarts Castle. But that last part is actually a positive: Hogwarts Castle is probably THE most fully realized digital castle I’ve ever explored, and it’s a surprisingly glorious maze. Are there any problems, then? Yes: the gear management is abysmal and requires mindless open world puzzles to expand (needlessly limited) carrying capacity. In summary, the highlight is the most magical combat ever made followed by the most fully realized castle you’ll ever explore.
…some of the side quests are totally worth doing.
And all your exploring comes to a head in about 30 hours if you’re like me and do a healthy helping of smelling roses along the way. Due note: the in-game time tracking is inaccurate and seems to stop in menus or when paused. From there, though, the game has not only an endgame mission for you, but plenty of things to do. And let me tell you: some of the side quests are totally worth doing. There’s definitely no shortage of content, here, rest assured. Take your time and there’s something to do, plain and simple.
…still a good-looking game that digitally realizes the world of “magic” in a way no other game has…
For starters: use Fidelity mode. Performance mode’s visual hit is just too hard. And don’t bother with Fidelity ray tracing mode: while it can provide proper reflections, it’s too compromised and still has its draw distance issues. This is because this game is another last gen game dialed up to 11. Its use of UE4 is likely part of why its ray tracing mode is subpar: UE4 was not initially designed with ray tracing in mind compared to the likes of UE5 or even proprietary engines (Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart has VASTLY superior ray tracing that runs in 40 fps!). This doesn’t mean the game is ugly, mind you: it’s still a good-looking game that digitally realizes the world of “magic” in a way no other game has… despite some occasional visual bugs and hiccups in the castle all caused by occlusion based rendering. It simply lacks the overall lighting techniques found in games designed for current gen. All the evidence you need is the leftover crawl/squeeze loading sequences. On the flipside, the game does feature properly budgeted facial animation for cinematics, and even general dialogue animation scripting is relatively decent. This goes a long way with how much dialogue the game has… albeit it takes a page from PlayStation’s playbook and your character self-narrates a little TOO much. This segues into the story, and while I never spoil it, it’s an easily tracked narrative that is delivered with just the right amount of adult-themed punch that reminds you that sometimes bad comes from good intentions.
…the most fully realized, digital representation of “magic” to ever be made.
No, I didn’t find Hermione Granger. What I did find was a game that has surprisingly good combat designed to be accessible yet intense: a very delightful and hard-to-achieve combo. And it’s wrapped up in a game that is easily the most fully realized, digital representation of “magic” to ever be made. Add to that it’s lengthy adventure and high quality animation, and I can only imagine how Harry Potter fans must feel when they play this. It’s held back a bit by flaws like its wonky platforming and cumbersome gear system, and it perhaps tries to build too much on top of its last gen foundations, but this was nonetheless an absolutely magical adventure.