Hogwarts Legacy review: Spellbinding stuff

(PS/Xb/PC) ***** Age: 12+

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Ronan Price

Harry Potter without Harry Potter? That’s the least of the surprises from this terrific deep dive into the mythology of Hogwarts via an open-world RPG.

Set approximately 100 years before the books – that’s pre-Potter and even pre-Dumbledore – Legacy frequently steps outside the established history to introduce new characters, fresh ideas and subtle revelations. Did we know there was another wizarding school in Africa, for instance? Not me anyway.

The main protagonist – a full customisable character of your choice – has something of the Potter mystery about him (or her) when he/she arrives at the game’s outset to Hogwarts to start as a fifth-year student. Why so late? And why can he/she see and do things others cannot? That’s left for the slowly unspooling plot to explain, but first your proto-Potter must learn the basics of wizarding.

So Legacy lets you loose in a wonderfully recreated Hogwarts, all random staircases, animated paintings and bustling student population. You spend your days pinballing between lectures (spells, potions and the like), completing quests and generally immersing yourself in the magical university.

It feels like catnip for a Potter fan – the chance to explore Hogwarts and its surroundings, jump on a broomstick, battle baddies with spells or potions and drink in the lore of the books.

The fact that, structurally, Legacy resembles many another open-world RPGs – Assassin’s Creed, for instance – is unfortunate but inevitable. The likes of fast-travel and a map littered with icons makes sense in the context of keeping you on top of this sprawling adventure.

You’ll collect endless amounts of loot – new cloaks, hats, glasses, etc – that convey vital stat bonuses but can also make you look rather goofy. After several hours, you’ll begin to earn talent points that enable you shape your character further.

Possibly the most divisive gameplay element is the sheer amount of time you spend fighting creatures with your range of spells, of which you quickly accumulate many. You’ll need to know your accio from your levioso to ensure you grab, levitate and blast enemies effectively.

Fortunately, Hogwarts Legacy amounts to much more than just being a shooter with wands instead of guns – which admittedly it can occasionally become. The sheer verisimilitude of the environments and the broad range of activities – quizzes, broomstick racing, collectibles, beast rescues, to name just a few – ensure devoted Potter fans will be in Hogwarts heaven. Even players with limited exposure to the books or films will still find Legacy an enthralling world if they enjoy that sort of light fantasy mixed with familiar RPG mechanics.