Hogwarts Legacy Review: A Magic and worthwhile Journey

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I knew Hogwarts Legacy was succeeding when I found myself 10 hours in without thinking about its connection to Harry Potter. Instead, I truly felt like I was laying the history for that legacy universe and its living world. Hogwarts Castle is meticulously built, the magic and gameplay feels fluid and natural, and your character’s journey is impressive. Set in the 1800s, you are a late 5th year student joining Hogwarts to learn spells and attend class but are also thrown into defending an ancient magic that others would like to harness to destroy the land.

Hogwarts Legacy launched last week on PS5, Xbox Series S/X and PC and will be available on last gen consoles and Switch later this year.

Lumos! The wizarding game we always wanted.

It is hard to put into words the impact the Harry Potter franchise has had on me. The books were a cultural phenomenon and the Deathly Hallows in particular is one of my favorite books of all time. By going back in time, Warner Bros. Games, PortkeyGames and Avalanche software were left with a clean slate to introduce you to a brand new and exciting world filled to the brim with magic, exploration, and wonder. Erroneously, not much confidence was originally placed in the developer because of their previous games, but they pulled it off brilliantly. Hogwarts Legacy is always showing you something new or offering an upgrade or a place that you actually want to explore. Open-world games often feel like they suffer from tedious map clutter and side quests that are just boxes to check off for completion. Every nook and cranny here is alive and fun to explore.

Some moments felt the same way that I felt walking into Disneyland as a young kid. The castle is ornate with decorations and endless halls to explore. I spent hours just walking around the castle grounds truly feeling like a wizard attending Hogwarts. This is where Legacy succeeds most – it’s the most complete Wizarding World role-playing experience. Everything in the world feels connected, and consistently traveling the world rewards you with upgrades and quests to complete and interesting dungeons to explore. The game is incredibly rewarding and respects the world while at the same time expanding on it.

Legacy does a great job of making you feel like you are a young 5th year student learning about its world and magic. The professors and students have great personalities, and side-characters hold their own in a franchise filled with iconic characters. Many do a great job of standing out from the primary teachers in the Potter universe. The music also works very well and feels very Harry Potter-like. I especially loved gaining experience while completing tasks as the reward sound is fantastic.

I would have loved to have more choices and not just “good or bad” responses to quests and stories. There is no dark or light journey to take, and often even using unforgivable curses or “unknown to the modern world” ancient magic had little reaction from others around you. However, while the story is one of the best we have played, it lacks any real punishment or rewards for decisions, and the PC performance can often frustrate the player.

The game moves you forward regardless of how you actually treat the world around you. A perfect, non-spoiler example is how much characters badger you that poachers have been destroying many beautiful beasts and it’s purely evil – then the economy in the game is so lopsided the best way to make money is to gather beasts and sell them for profit although you sell them to people who will care for them and re-home them. Before you dispatch poachers you can often here them having the same dialogue – they are doing this for money and just need to survive. Still – we were glad to rid the world of poachers and just wish the game explored decisions in more thoughtful and impactful ways.

The journey to unlock the potential of your talent and spells is perfectly balanced. Unlocking new spells as part of character developing side-quests and expanding your unique control of this ancient magic only a select-few can see and use is strong and bolstered by a great supporting cast. From the beginning, however, I felt the character creation voice options didn’t really work – you can only change the pitch of the original actor’s voice and this results in a weird modular sound or deep voice that does not translate well to cutscenes. The Mass Effect: Andromeda “cardboard” lip syncing issues that plagued that game has a similar effect here. It distracted me in a lot of cutscenes and some characters can often feel strange to interact with.

Combat, Exploration, and performance

Hogwarts Legacy surprised me with some difficult areas and it gave me a great feeling that it respected my time at nearly every turn. From the story to combat, it does the best job to make you feel like you are there. You eventually can unlock 4 “diamonds” of spell combos you can easily swap around. Spells have cool-downs, and as you level up, special talent trees open up to make your spells more effective. Talent trees are fun to unlock – such as making generic spells curse enemies or making stealth a lethal and viable option.

Unlockable gear is automatically turned into a transmog piece of gear that you can swap out at any time which is something that took Destiny 2 two games and many years to implement! Combat difficulty can be changed to “story” mode at any time and the AI becomes easily dispatchable. You can also take potions like the Maxima potion to make your spells extremely powerful. Its a fun combat experience although the enemy AI could have used more varied voice acting; you often run into the same enemy voice over-and-over.

Combat was never an issue; however, on PC, the performance – even on my RTX 3080 with DLSS – was often extremely poor and inconsistent. I had many crashes, pop-in, weird fog issues – and especially at night – the performance dropped to below 20 FPS; and even a RTX 4090 would drop to shockingly low numbers. I found myself constantly tweaking settings that never stuck. Often we had to turn on Frame Generation. Restart. Turn off Frame Generation. Restart. And we could not get the game to change from “recommended” settings to Ultra or even to truly turn off Frame Generation without jumping through hoops

I was so plagued by a wide variety of issues that we doubt that many current benchmarks can be trusted to truly represent the playing experience. Performance can wildly change just walking from hall in the castle to another or opening a door at night. This should be fixed with patches, but for now the PC version is a broken port and the best experience is on the PS5. The Xbox Series X is great as well, but the PS5 has a year-long exclusive dungeon that unlocks some of the best spells in the game early and provides discounts at shops.

I swapped my 3080 for a 4080 FE and frame generation and DLSS set to Quality in 4k. The difference is astounding and I got nearly double the performance in most areas. The best PC performance is with DLSS 3.0 and the RTX 4000 series. We were unable to test AMD’s offerings but the game features FSR 2.0 and will be great for owners with those systems.

There are more demanding scenarios (with much lower lows), but they are not very repeatable (variance above 3%) because of the way the game loads, fog, weather/light variations on the same run. My runs were within 1%-2% of each other. Other times they were wildly different and inconsistent. On our 4090 PC we often would see 45 FPS with 1% lows at 34. It desperately needs patching with optimization by Nvidia and AMD. View distance affects the FPS significantly, and this game is very CPU-limited which kills framerates without Frame Generation.

Even a struggling port at launch is lifted by the next generation of graphics cards. DLSS 3.0 saved our RTX 4080 gameplay and let us enjoy many sections with Ultra settings we would have otherwise struggled with using DLSS 2.0. And turning off DLSS 2.0 on a RTX 3080 resulted in an unplayable experience in many areas.

None of that took away from my joy. The backdrop of the beautiful Hogwarts castle on the world around is not perfect but often can take your breath away. The open-world contrasts with the school offering beautiful beasts and varied areas to explore. Perhaps the best part of the game mechanics are simple to learn puzzles mixed with difficult challenges and dungeons.

The Hogwarts fiction can get you lost in its world with a truly engrossing feeling of power once you string dodging together with combinations of spells to destroy large groups of enemies. It never gets dull, and once you learn to fly or use “Revelio” (reveal), it will begin to show how much you can really do in the world.

Conclusion: A mystifying journey currently held back by poor PC performance.

Hogwarts Legacy is easily a 9/10 with one of the best stories in recent memory. Non-fans of the Harry Potter universe looking for a great open-world wizard and witch game will have fun, but fans of the series will enjoy it the most. Hogwarts Castle itself is meticulously designed and intricate. All its secrets and layers beg to be explored and you can spend an entire play session just roaming the halls. The combat is a little repetitive but allows you to combine spells and move fluidly with a variety of movement and stealth options. Like most games these days, it might feel bloated for those that want a more traditional journey but for this fan of the series, it felt rewarding to explore. Some moments in the game, like using the broom for the 1st time, took our breath away.

Hardcore Harry Potter fans will enjoy Hogwarts Legacy – it is the best game entry in the series by far. It provides a true wizarding world experience from beginning to end. The conclusion has a variety of endings; however, the developer made it clear if you want to be evil – you can be evil with little consequence or admonishment from the world. This lack of character depth may leave some wanting but the writing and story itself is enough to make it a small nitpick in comparison. We highly suggest non-fans of the series give it a chance just for its story and its sense of wonder.

Unfortunately, the PC port needs serious work and optimization so you may want to wait a bit if you plan on playing at 4K with anything lower than a RTX 3080 and a high-end CPU. Currently for 1440p and 1080p gamers, it is best played on Next-Gen consoles.

Hogwarts Legacy is the best entry in the series by far and this is a great restart for the franchise We look forward to more and we wholeheartedly recommend the game to everyone.