Yes, Nick, I promise not to get us demonetised in the first thirty seconds. So, as I’m sure you know, Hogwarts Legacy is based on the work of JK Rowling, who is a massive TERFy C-word. As such, reviewing it puts one in an awkward position online, as the feeling in some circles is that even acknowledging it is giving oxygen to her and her horrible C-word opinions. But damn it I have a job to do and I feel bad for the no doubt hundreds of ground-level people on the dev team who probably think she’s a C-word as much as any of us at this point, so how about this: I’ll review the game strictly on its own merits, but start out by affirming as clearly as possible that I think JK Rowling is a – we’re past thirty seconds now, right? Cunt. Does that offset things enough? The game’s set in Victorian times and none of the Harry Potter characters from the books appear in it, so if it’d make you feel any better you could just squint and try to convince yourself it’s an adaptation of The Worst Witch. Or Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic. Or the Spellcasting 101 series. Or Discworld. Or any of the other ten million things that came up with the idea for a nerdy schoolboy wizard BEFORE JK Rowling got her sallow TERFy hands all over the concept.
Hogwarts Legacy is less “be a character from Harry Potter” and more “be the main character in a work of self-insert Harry Potter fan fiction.” You play a student who starts Hogwarts in the fifth year, which is unusual but they made an exception for you because you’re THAT bloody great. Everyone wants to be your friend inside thirty seconds of conversation, you master every subject on your first go, and you’re also the only person who can use a super special kind of magic for only the most super special people and in the end you save the entire school and everyone in it from apocalyptic disaster. Which is funny, because you sound like a complete tit. I can only speak for the male protagonist, whose voice has such an eager beaver twattishness about it that as a British person who went to a grammar school, I feel personally attacked. “Oh yes I did all my homework teacher may I sit on the lawn for ginger beer and buns?” I strongly suspect they got actual teenagers in to voice the schoolkids, so what the game gains in authenticity it loses in people who can actually act for shit. Apologies to the voice actor if they get wedgied to the top of the stairs and back because of this.
Anyway, the fan service is as frontloaded as an ill-fitting bra on prom night. So you get your very own wand and can micromanage the niceties of its length and material which didn’t seem to have a gameplay effect but whatever, if it makes a few more fans wet their house-coloured knickers. Oh, of course you get to pick your house, too. Y’know how that works. Griffindor for heroes, Slytherin for villains, Ravenclaw for nerds and Hufflepuff for the kind of people who tick the little box that says “Yes, I would like to receive emails about future promotions.” But honestly the game gets things off on the right foot, protagonist played by Wilhelm Von Twattyvoice aside. We open with some exciting set pieces and introduce magic combat which is fairly nuanced with a satisfying feel even if it’s a bit annoying when you’re trying to hit a specific dude and the autotarget seems to think it’s more of a “To whom it may concern” situation, then you get to school and there’s lessons and characters to meet and minigames and a bit of intrigue and I was thinking “Gosh, this is actually rather jolly so far, I wonder when the other shoe will drop.” Then your teacher says “Oh, you’re new, aren’t you? You’d better go and pick up your crafting equipment.” And there we fucking go.
Yes, there’s equippable gear you craft upgrades for. Victorian-era Hogwarts dress code was apparently a bit lax, ‘cos after a certain point you show up at class and it’s school uniform, school uniform, school uniform and then you at the end in a jester’s outfit and gold lame bathrobe and a traffic cone on your head. And while you’re picking up those crafting materials, take a good look at this open world we made. Why not make a start on the collectibles? Did we mention combat has a stealth option? Oh well that fucking fits ‘cos you snuck this Jiminy Cockthroat bullshit in right under me nose. It’s like the moment you first leave Hogwarts the cardboard facade faceplants into the dust and the true colours are revealed. No more jolly hockey sticks on the lawn for you, you snivelling little teacher’s pet bitch, time to get grinding lest thy numbers not go up. What a startlingly apt statement on the modern education system. So bolted onto the Hogwarts and Hogsmeade campus like an astroturf lawn nailed to the side of a toybox is an open world whose vastness is matched only by its pointlessness, consisting of fifty square miles of copy pasted grassy hill with the occasional hamlet, that is, one house, one pub and a communal sheep tied to a fence.
And considerably more occasional combat encounters with one of the game’s three or four enemy factions, copy pasted so many times you’d assume Hogwarts was being besieged by the Mongol hordes. Combat remains tolerable, although one wonders why the entire region’s defense and law enforcement is being left to the fucking after school clubs, and the game keeps unlocking new combat spells, possibly for the sake of book accuracy, but they all basically do the same thing. Whether you levitate an enemy or pull them or push them or freeze them or turn them into a chair, any stun is as good as another, frankly. Although having said that the transform spell has an upgrade that lets you transform dudes into explodey barrels that you can then throw at their friends, and that led to a serious drop in combat difficulty. Don’t worry, it’s not one of those unforgivable spells like the one that instakills dudes. This is perfectly acceptable because it instakills, like, three dudes at once. Hogfarts Dregacy casts a broad net of gameplay activities – there’s also flying races and puzzles and part of gathering crafting materials involves capturing animals and collecting them in your magic wardrobe.
The game even tried to persuade me to start breeding them in there. Well maybe you get off on cleaning manticore spunk off your pyjamas, game, but the broad suite of gameplay tasks combined with the dullness of the world gives it all a flimsy, shallow quality, like a carpet covered in Ritz crackers. And there’s the usual horrible triple-A menu screens that insist on playing out their fucking book opening animations every fucking time you turn a page and this annoyance compounds and compounds because you’re constantly going into the menu to select quests and fast travel back to Hogsmeade to sell the nine shitty pairs of snooker referee gloves clogging up your three ketchup packets of inventory space before you tackle spider cave three of ten squillion. Dogshits Smegmawee starts well but in the back half turns into the pieces for three boring board games jumbled up in a single uninteresting box, and as such I don’t recommend. Thank Christ for that. Probably the best possible outcome for me, I can advise against giving it money even on its own merits, because it is, by the definition laid out in my Gotham Knights review, a game made by cunts. As well as being, in a slightly more literal sense, a game made by a cunt. Yes, Nick, I’ll add bleeps to the Youtube version. Just don’t blame me if we give everyone tinnitus.
Sucks that there’s two HLs in gaming now.