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Hogwarts Legacy brings the best out of the wizarding world

Hogwarts Legacy gives you the freedom to explore the wizarding world like never before

I had my fair share of skepticism about Hogwarts Legacy. Plenty of games in the wizarding world have been released over the years, and aside from the Lego games, they’ve all been disappointing. It seemed that no one could nail the experience of going to Hogwarts and becoming absorbed into this universe outside of following Harry’s journey. I needed the freedom to do it my way, and that’s exactly what Hogwarts Legacy provides.

From the moment I stepped foot on the grounds, Hogwarts felt alive in a way it never had before. That sense of wonder which comes from people using magic all around you filled the air, and your classmates feel like proper students of magic with how they chatter and study. You can even find students from different houses mingling around the school – something the books never bothered with much.

It’s not just the people, though – the castle itself feels like a living entity too. This version of Hogwarts shakes itself free of the limited geography of the movies and creates something that is more exciting to live in.

At one point, I accidentally pressed up against a wall, only for that wall to suddenly revolve, revealing a chest on the other side. In that one simple moment, I felt not only the joy of exploration but the ancient history of the school and the countless secrets within its walls – literally, in this case.

Hogwarts Legacy students chatting in the courtyard

Wandering Hogwarts' grounds has never been more rewarding.

However, this game will always live and die on its magic. The Potter games of old could never get this right, but Hogwarts Legacy finally steps back and takes a new approach.

Your basic utility spells like the revealing spell or unlocking spell are unlocked via a minigame but can be used any time at the tap of a button afterward, but anything for combat has a cooldown timer, forcing you to use a variety of spells in combat – and trust me, “variety” is the right word when it comes to magical abilities.

While I didn’t get to see how many are in the game, the ten or so that I got to use all did tangibly different things to my opponents. You lift your opponent into the air, pull them towards you, fling them away, set them on fire, or use the torture curse on them if you’re a monster. On top of that, each spell has a different color associated with it, and some opponents will have magical shields that you must color-match to deactivate.

The offensive magic feels fantastic and has seemingly endless possibilities, but there is a disappointing lack of variety in defensive spells. You can anticipate incoming attacks via a Batman: Arkham-style target indicator around your head, but the choice of color for this indicator is a pale orange, which makes it quite difficult to see in some environments – especially when the enemies are intent on setting you ablaze. Perhaps this will be fixed in the final release with accessibility settings, however.

Hogwarts Legacy using the Cruciatus Curse

Hogwarts Legacy's combat is fiddly, but worth the effort.

Still, if you do react in time, your options are to either tap Triangle for a dodge or hold it to deflect. It’s a shame that there aren’t more dedicated spells for defense, given one of the most iconic spells in the franchise, Expelliarmus, is a disarming spell.

However, this may be purely out of necessity because switching spells on the fly can be quite fiddly.

On a PS5 controller, tapping R2 shoots a basic magic shot that does very little damage. Holding R2 and then pressing one of the face buttons will cast one of the proper spells. However, as you progress you’ll unlock more slots for active spells, with 16 possible slots in total, meaning you’ll have four diamonds or four spells each. You can switch between these by holding R2 and pressing a direction on the d-pad.

Perhaps it’s just because I got thrown into the deep end with it, but I often found myself struggling to coordinate my attacks in battle because there was so much to be thinking about all at once. I think that when you get eased into it, learning each spell one by one, it’ll be easier to get to grips with, but even then, it’s still a lot to process. I can’t help but wonder if players using a keyboard will have an easier time, purely because they’ll have more buttons at their disposal.

Hogwarts Legacy great hall

Hogwarts Legacy is a truly open wizarding journey.

Once I got my head around it though, I was having a lot of fun. When looking at combat in the books and films, it’s easy to wonder why they never use any of the cool spells in a fight, but now you finally get to do it yourself. Maybe I’m easily entertained, but I never got bored of launching my enemies high into the sky until they collided with a wall at unsettling speeds – a much cooler signature spell than Avada Kedavra, I’m sure we can all agree.

Whether these positive feelings remain over the course of a full RPG remains to be seen, but there are many features I didn’t get to see that give me hope. For example, your classes will have a real impact on your magical abilities, and you’ll be able to form relationships with your professors as you complete assignments for them.

Hogwarts Legacy is the Harry Potter game fans have always wanted – it’s really that simple. It understands that fans of this universe just want the freedom to explore and live in it as much as they can. The characters and magic available all push you toward that ideal fantasy, but there’s plenty to like here for those new to the universe too.

If you want to catch up on the controversies surrounding the game and book author J.K. Rowling, you can read our explainer at that link.