Hogwarts Legacy Review: As magical as it is memorable

I’ll be the first to admit it; I still pop in the older Harry Potter games on both the original PlayStation and PlayStation 2. My love for both the films and books aside, I simply love existing in this world and exploring the nooks and crannies that Hogwarts has to offer. So you could imagine my excitement when Hogwarts Legacy was revealed, promising a vast open world, intriguing combat  and extensive RPG elements that implied one of the most in-depth wizarding experiences out there. I’m happy to confirm that Hogwarts Legacy is indeed the best Harry Potter-esque game to date. Although certain graphical and performance-based hiccups stick out at times, gorgeous visuals, satisfying combat and a downright impressive sense of scale make Hogwarts Legacy a must play for fans of both the Harry Potter franchise and RPG genre alike.

Yer’ a Wizard

Taking place in the late 1800’s, Hogwarts Legacy sees you creating and filling the shoes of a student beginning their Hogwarts journey in the fifth year, a rather unusual situation for a student. The fast-paced and engaging introduction wastes no time in establishing your unique abilities to identify and utilise ancient dark magic, which may just hold the key to the threatening forces that are looking to align to destroy Hogwarts. The less I say from this point on the better, but it’s definitely worth noting that while the story feels rather basic at times, your protagonist feels integral to the story and contributes equally through a wealth of spoken dialogue and dialogue options, which rarely steer the story in different directions, but keep it running at an even clip. Supporting characters like the wacky Professor Fig and endearing Professor Matilda Weasley add depth, heart and an overall sense of charm to the narrative. The story’s villain takes a few hours to dig their claws in, but keep the threat consistent by throwing a number of enemies at you in the form of goblins, trolls and other nefarious wizards.

The narrative takes a back seat at times to allow for general student life, as you’ll experience most of what Hogwarts has to offer from a student’s perspective. You’ll be sorted by the Sorting Hat (although you can ultimately choose your own house) and take part in various classes from potions and charms, to defence against the dark arts and flying lessons where you’ll hone your skills on the broomstick. These portions are framed into smaller, dedicated missions where you’ll need to attend class for a particular reason, usually to learn new spells and progress through the story by meeting with certain professors after class. The latter portion of the narrative does see these aspects lose their consistency, as you’ll only usually attend for the sake of upgrading and improving your character’s abilities. The minigames that take place in class see you completing quick time events and guiding a cursor through a maze in order to learn new spells, which feels rather repetitive at times, but never lasts long enough to wear out its welcome.

These Walls Can Talk

We’ve seen version of Hogwarts in previous Harry Potter games, but this version takes the cake. This is without a doubt one of the most robust, expansive and detailed examples of a single location, as the school of Hogwarts feels packed to the brim with things to do and see. My first few hours spent within the castle walls were of wonder and amazement as I simply strolled about, distracted by the various magical elements scattered about the ground and walls. Every painting moves and talks to you, books and objects fly about the halls, wildlife roam the grounds and students gossip and talk about their days spent in class. Textures pop with detail and variety, be it from one of the four distinct common rooms or various classrooms, each with their own visual flare, authentically replicating the environments we had seen time and time again in the numerous Harry Potter films.

When you’re not navigating between classes, hidden hallways and surrounding grounds, you’ll also be able to head out to the nearby village of Hogsmeade and Forbidden Forest, either within the 30 hour narrative or on your own terms. These areas are also as expansive and detailed, holding legitimate reasons for you to head out in those directions, with Hogsmeade Village serving as a central hub for your to purchase gear from consumables and clothes, to wands and brooms. The Forbidden Forest also hides within its branching pathways various collectibles and secrets to find, while providing some of the spookier vibes found within the game.

Wands at the Ready

I was initially worried about combat and it’s tendency to become repetitive through blasting a handful of spells. Thankfully, my worriers were put to rest within a couple of hours, as combat soon became a battle of reflexes and combinations as you duel your enemies. The back right tigger is assigned to your general basic attack spell, while holding that same trigger will bring up a separate set of spells, with each face button assigned to one of four spells. You’ll frequently use these secondary spells between your basic attacks in combat, as you chain together combinations to wreak havoc on multiple enemy types. For example, hitting an opponent with a few basic shots, only to summon them towards you with the Accio charm and light them ablaze with the Incendio charm feels consistently satisfying, as you rapidly chop and change between spells to suit the situation at hand.

You’ll be able to select from more than 20 spells with various effects. Some spells like Incendio and Expelliarmus charms may be used to disarm and damage opponents, while other spells like Reparo and Lumos are used to navigate various environmental puzzles. The three unforgivable curses also feature and feel incredibly overpowered, although each spell comes with its own cooldown period. Aside from general wand casting, your character also possesses the ability to wield ancient magic, otherwise known as a set of exclusive finishing moves that decimate certain enemies with a single strike. Your ancient magic metre is built by chaining together spells while avoiding damage.

Initial character customisation allows for users to create a the witch or wizard of their choosing. Even if you’re only able to choose from a pre-set list of faces, you can alter hair colour and style, eye colour and even the name, voice and tone of your witch or wizard. Once your journey has begun, you’ll also get the chance to further customise your character through clothing and upgrades, gained from combat, exploration and general shopping. While you might not like the look of an item, each piece of gear, be it a robe, outfit, hat or eyewear, can come with a statical boots to improve the effectiveness of your offensive and defensive abilities and spells. My character soon wore a combination of wacky multicoloured spectacles and glittering robes to maximise my statistical advantage, but does allow for you to finetune your witch or wizard with a sense of purpose in mind.

You’ll also be able to utilise Talents, a selection of magical abilities which cover a wide range of aspects, from spell casting, to stealth, dark arts and general abilities. You’ll spend skill points gained in combat to flesh out your character, but I find it was better to focus on spells and core abilities for the most effective outcome. These changes generally add to combat, but greatly enhance the experience towards the latter end of the game, as they also unlock neat upgrades like a secondary slot for additional spells, which save you ducking back into the spells menu to reassign spells to one of the four face buttons.

Look the Part

Visually, Hogwarts Legacy is as impressive as the next-gen hardware suggests, presenting a number of polished textures and sweeping landscapes thanks to fantastic draw distances. You’ll also get the chance to choose between multiple modes, including a performance catered towards a higher frame rate or 4K resolution mode that prioritises graphical fidelity. While there is an additional mode that aims to strike balance between the two, I found the outright performance mode yielded the best results, keeping those frame rate drops to a minimum. I can’t blame Hogwarts Legacy for minor performance issues, simply due to the fact that it’s packing so much into every layer of the experience. While loading screens are not present, some doors may not open immediately and show a rotating icon as exterior environments load on the other side.

When you’re not running about the halls or fast traveling with Floo Powder, you’ll also be able to hop aboard a broomstick or Hippogriff to fly about the open world as you see fit. While it’s functional, controls feel a little wonky as the left stick controls steering and direction, while the right stick allows for height adjustment. I wish flying would have been confined to the left stick as camera movement feels limited as a result.

Final Thoughts

The developers at Avalanche Software have absolutely nailed what it means to live and breathe within this world. Although the story feels rather basic at times, graphical hiccups and wonky flight controls rarely hold this experience back from being one of the most diverse, expansive and satisfying reasons for Harry Potter fans to begin this memorable journey. Combat feels consistently engaging, while deep RPG elements broaden both your character and general experience with both purpose and pace. Hogwarts Legacy has indeed exceeded my expectations and I can only ask for more.


Highlights: Gorgeous visuals; Deep exploration; Satisfying combat
Lowlights: Occasional frame rate hiccups
Developer: Avalanche Software
Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows PC
Available: 10th of February

Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with a pre-release code provided by the publisher.

Matthew Arcari

Matthew Arcari is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. You can find him on Twitter at @sirchunkee, or at the Dagobah System, chilling with Luke and Yoda.