Hogwarts Legacy review: The Wizarding World game we’ve always wanted

In the quarter-century or so since fans first fell in love with the Harry Potter franchise, there’s no shortage of opportunities to interact with the franchise’s iconic characters and locations from behind a gamepad. But while loyal followers of The Boy Who Lived enjoyed everything from early book-based action-adventures and brick-breaking LEGO creations to titles devoted entirely to Quidditch, they were never able to fully live out their magic World fantasy in an immersive cinematic interactive experience.

Hogwarts Legacy — recently released for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and gaming PC, and coming to Switch later this year — aims to finally fulfill that wish, placing witches and wizard worshipers under the robes of customizable characters , and unleash them in a sprawling, open-world action RPG adventure that rivals anything Harry, Ron, and Hermione have ever tackled in the books or on the big screen.

But does the highly anticipated, long-gestating game deliver on that promise, delivering an experience as refreshing as butterbeer? Or does it leave a nasty taste in your mouth like the nastiest of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans? Let’s hop on the broom and find out.

The wizarding world game fans have always wanted

Hogwarts Legacy Product Card

While there are occasional flaws that detract from its magic, overall Hogwarts Legacy is the immersive Ratchet game fans of wizarding world games have been waiting for.

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For the series’ most ardent fans, Hogwarts Legacy will justify its price of admission the moment they set foot at the titular school. The game’s story takes place roughly 100 years before the events of the books and movies, and players wield the wand of an original character–the fifth grader who’s been given a custom look. But the earlier time period and lack of familiar protagonists don’t come at the expense of presenting the most complete version of Hogwarts ever committed to any medium.

Not limited by book descriptions or movie sets, Hogwarts Heritage’s vision of a fascinating place of learning is a vast, detailed playground waiting to be explored. It’s full of expected gameplay elements–from main and side quests to optional challenges, countless collectibles, and countless character interactions–but it’s also full of secrets, surprises, summons, nods, and Easter eggs.

A host of familiar locations and events, such as the Great Hall and the Sorting Ceremony, are explained and beautifully realized. There are also more subtle inclusions, such as touching paintings, nasty pranksters, and a host of other fan-centric elements you’ll encounter at every turn. But it’s the elements of the unknown — the environments, encounters, and interactions that have previously disappeared from the page and are limited only by our imaginations — that make it the ultimate Hogwarts experience. For every well-established corner, there is a new crevice waiting to be discovered.

While the purest Potter fans may have trouble leaving the hallowed halls of the school, they’ll want to visit other familiar places like Hogsmeade and the Forbidden Forest. Like Hogwarts, these areas not only have the most complete implementation of them ever seen, but are also fully explorable, filled with key objectives and optional gameplay, and the opportunity to create your own Potter-esque adventures.

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If you’ve played any number of open-world action RPGs over the past few years, the formula of Hogwarts Legacy will feel comfortably familiar. Like the recently released Horizon Forbidden West and Gotham Knights (or any of the last three Assassin’s Creed entries), it includes a huge map filled with activities to keep you busy. non-stop. But while it includes combat, crafting, quests, collectibles, a character progression system, puzzles, and other expected elements that might read like a rote checklist for the genre, none of it feels called into or sloppy. Implementation.

Rather than simply transplanting gameplay into a nostalgic presentation, Hogwarts Legacy instead organically weaves the aforementioned interactions, activities, and challenges into its well-established universe. Early in the game, you can complete a quest that involves retrieving five lost books. It’s a goal that could easily lead to a time-killing errand, but instead uses its rich universe to become even more. The quest giver is an eccentric student who accidentally gives her book The Gift of Flying while trying to cast a load-relief spell. This takes you to the amazing Hogwarts library, where you can use the Accio spell cleverly to find and capture the winged books.

It’s a minor side quest, but it’s also meaningfully representative of the game’s larger ability to consistently turn potentially mundane things into, well, magical things. Other examples include a stat-based gear system that doesn’t apply boosts to the usual chest armor and helmets, but might find you benefit from a damage buff while wearing a very Potter-like striped scarf or enjoying some extra defense, which Thanks to a smart pair of glasses.

It doesn’t hurt that developer Avalanche Software was thrown some softballs, like integrating resource gathering and crafting — two types of staples — into Hogwarts Legacy’s herbalism and potions classes. Likewise, the cosmic Floo spell is an obvious replacement for fast travel. But the studio also deserves credit for deftly conveying these obvious interpretations. While traversing a vast world on a broomstick or creature mount is a breeze, it can also be a mechanical nightmare. But it’s handled so well in Hogwarts Legacy, delivering one of the most immersive and joyful experiences in gaming.

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Just as mixing Wiggenweld concoctions in Potions class translates perfectly to crafting a typical med kit, learning spells and other combat skills as part of a Hogwarts curriculum allows for an ideal mix of gameplay and source material. These classes strike the perfect balance between bringing out the signature charm of the license and giving you the ability to kick ass. Just like in the books and movies, fans are treated to quirky professor introductions and character-filled classroom antics, but the moments never outshine their welcome. Instead, spells and other skills perfectly support your progression path as you learn and level up.

Once on the battlefield, these magical abilities shine even more, both literally – shooting jaw-dropping effects out of your wand – and figuratively, supporting a game we never wanted more A deep, layered combat system with traditional weapons. While spells come in the expected elemental variety, deftly frying and freezing enemies with just a flick of the wrist, these powers barely scratch the surface of what’s possible behind the wand. With dozens of spells, grouped into different specialties–such as damage, control, force, and unforgivable curse–there’s no shortage of ways to vanquish evil with style.

While many spellcastings are reserved for non-combat purposes, such as puzzle solving and lockpicking, your arsenal still has seams busted at the seams with wand-spawned abilities that benefit you when surrounded by nasty kinds. Whether you’re facing an army of goblins, taking on a pair of tall trolls, reducing the spider population in a cave, or just teaching your human opponents some manners, we encourage you to mix things up and experiment with your ever-evolving kills Skill.

Heavy use of favorite spells will only get you so far, so combining multiple magic types—perhaps adding cabbage now and then—is key not only to survival, but also to appreciating the depth of this rewarding combat system. Powerful ancient magic, also tied into the game’s core narrative mysteries, adds another layer, essentially serving as a superpower that can turn even the most menacing of mythical monsters around.

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Hogwarts Legacy is as much a fan-service licensed game as it is an open-world action-RPG, but the castle floor isn’t without cracks. Because its authenticity and attention to detail are often so intense and engaging, areas that lack this care can feel mediocre. Some spaces that fill the map — such as extensions that aren’t specific parts of Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, or the Forbidden Forest — can feel sparse, more like generic fantasy environments than actual Potter level counterparts.

Repetition also ruins the experience later in the game, when enemy variety starts to dry up and combat encounters start to feel loopy. This occasional late-game tedium, combined with even more lackluster environments, made me wonder what a less ambitious and more inclusive Hogwarts legacy might look like. Would it work better if it took place entirely on a school playground, like Batman: Arkham Asylum unfolds within the boundaries of the titular mental institution? The size and scope of the game is certainly impressive, but at times it feels like it’s shooting for the stars when it should be parked on the moon.

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The supporting cast are also missing some of the series’ signature magic, and more importantly, your relationship with them. Strong friendships with peers — and even close relationships with professors and other grown-up characters — have always been as important to the series as Fantastic Beasts. While Hogwarts Legacy does aim for this, letting you interact with a plethora of colorful characters—some even with the last names Weasley and Black—the bonds and friendships forged rarely convey the emotional depth of the source material. More often than not, you feel like a lone wolf hero with lots of acquaintances but no real ride-or-die relationships.

It’s also hard to ignore major omissions, such as the absence of Diagon Alley and a playable game of Quidditch, which seem like missed opportunities. It might not be entirely fair to accuse the developers of not including certain content, especially when those elements may appear later, via downloadable content or an inevitable sequel. Still, it’s hard to hop on your broom and imagine how cool it would be to hit the token gas and throw yourself at the Snitch.

In the end, while Hogwarts Legacy lets you collect and care for a menagerie of magical creatures, the feature feels more like a collectible petting zoo than meaningful in-game content. It’s certainly a welcome addition, and fans will surely appreciate it, but I’d trade my most powerful wand for the chance to bond (and fight alongside) a creature companion. On the plus side, you can pet every cat you come across, and the soothing “purr” of the PS5’s DualSense controller makes the act more comfortable.

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Minor flaws and wishlists aside, Hogwarts Legacy manages to deliver the Harry Potter game we’ve always wanted–without the boy wizard. It piles fan service as high as the titular school’s tallest spire, then complements it with a variety of engaging gameplay that any action RPG would be proud of.

While this core gameplay experience is impressive on its own merits, crucially, it’s also thoughtfully woven into the fabric of the beloved series. The result is not only a solid action RPG with a pretty Potter livery, but a truly immersive, cinematic interactive experience that will have longtime fans raising frothy butterbeer glasses celebrate.

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