Hogwarts Legacy Makes the Familiar Feel New

Hogwarts Legacy is shaping up to be much better than I was anticipating. That's not to say that my expectations were extremely low for the first major AAA title set within the "Wizarding World," but most new IP's tend to have some growing pains with their first outing. Luckily, even if Hogwarts Legacy will end up having some of those growing pains in certain areas, based on what I've already played, the game seems poised to meet the lofty hopes that many fans have had for multiple years. 

Recently, I was able to go hands-on with roughly two hours of Hogwarts Legacy. My demo was segmented across a handful of different areas within the game which gave me a better idea of its story, open world, and combat. On all three fronts, I left engrossed by Hogwarts Legacy and ended up wishing that I could simply sink more into it to see everything that it had to offer. 


By far the most impressive part of my demo with Hogwarts Legacy involved Hogwarts itself. For the better part of an hour, I was able to run around certain sections of the castle's interior and its surrounding grounds. While I wasn't able to see everything that Hogwarts had to show off, what I did see confirmed just how much depth there is to this locale. Hogwarts feels incredibly expansive with nearly everything that you see in the school's exterior being realized internally. It was also just astounding to see this iconic location exist within a 3D space that I could explore at my own leisure. While the Harry Potter films obviously did a lot of legwork when it comes to nailing down the look of Hogwarts, being able to simply walk around campus and learn more about how the school fits together was more fun than I expected. Simply existing as a student and learning my way around Hogwarts might be the thing I'm most excited about with the full game. 

While I was running around Hogwarts, I also gained a better understanding of how various quests will work in Hogwarts Legacy. Most quests that I completed in my demo had me doing pretty basic tasks for various students alongside competing in duels or other games scattered around the school. I wouldn't say that most of these tasks ended up being all that compelling, but they did lead to me talking to more students, which in turn gave me opportunities to flesh out the type of character I wanted to be. 

For instance, most dialogue exchanges that I experienced in Hogwarts Legacy allowed me to either be a kind, amiable student, or become the biggest Slytherin bully Hogwarts has ever seen. One interaction, in particular, let me essentially blackmail a fellow student for a reward after collecting their secretive diary. There isn't a morality system in Hogwarts Legacy that will track the type of character that you're becoming, but you can absolutely create your own version of Draco Malfoy if you so choose. 


When it comes to the combat in Hogwarts Legacy, I found that it offered a surprising amount of depth. Beyond giving players basic attacks that can be cast by spamming the right trigger, a later mission in Hogwarts Legacy that I experienced let me choose up to eight specialized spells that I could equip at a single time. These spells would let me do everything from cast fireballs, whisk enemies into the air, or unleash indescribable pain (thanks, Crucio). Each spell has a brief cooldown of its own though which means that you can't spam abilities, and instead, have to be more tactical with how you use each. Additionally, certain foes that you'll face will have defenses that can't be penetrated unless you unleash a specific spell on them. 

Some of the first combat encounters that I found myself having in Hogwarts Legacy ended up in me dying and having to restart, primarily because it took a bit to wrap my mind around how everything worked in concert. With so much happening at once and so many enemies to juggle between, being defensive in Hogwarts Legacy (whether via blocking or dodging) is just as important as getting your own attacks off. All in all, the various combat mechanics unite to make an incredibly engaging system that I feel like I've only scratched the surface of in my brief playtime. 

(Photo: Warner Bros.)

Story-wise, I'm still not sure of everything that Hogwarts Legacy will have in store, but what I did experience was quite compelling. As a longtime Harry Potter fan myself, what I appreciated most from my short look at the narrative came with some of the Easter eggs that those at Avalanche Software placed within. It's clear that this game was made by hardcore Harry Potter fans that are looking to inject a number of fan-favorite elements from both the books and movies into this story. And while I won't say what some of those surprises are just yet, there are definitely moments in Hogwarts Legacy that will get fans talking. 

Hogwarts Legacy has a good chance of being the biggest game of the year, but beyond sales, it's also just shaping up to be incredibly fun. This feels like a world that will be easy to get lost in for dozens upon dozens of hours, which is all I've personally wanted from this game since it was first revealed. There's still a lot left to see with Hogwarts Legacy, but I can now confidently say that I'm looking forward to the game far more than I already was at the start of the year. 

Hogwarts Legacy is set to launch on February 10th for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game will then release on April 4th, while those on Nintendo Switch will have to wait until July 25th. 

This hands-on demo of Hogwarts Legacy was played during a preview event hosted by Warner Bros. Travel accommodations were provided by the publisher.