Hogwarts Legacy Is Just PS1 Harry Potter - With Microtransactions
Warner Bros. Interactive and Avalanche Studios are shooting a Patronus of hype into the sky, as we finally got our first real look at Hogwarts Legacy on March 17. Although the long wait for an open-world Harry Potter game is nearly over, that hasn't stopped critics and fans alike waging their own Wizarding World War over Hogwarts Legacy.
While the pairing of "open-world" and "Harry Potter" is enough to have some racing to Gringotts to draw out all their Galleons, others aren't sold on the supposedly AAA game we've heard literally nothing about. We know there have been some problems behind the scenes of Hogwarts Legacy, but as it turns out, the dark cloud of a certain She Must Who Not Be Named might not be the only problem the ambitious title has. Hmmm, haven't we been here before? Yes, we have... 21 years ago.
You Dun It Nao Arry Porrer
Back in the day, who could forget Pottermania? In the late '90s and early '00s, that lightning-scarred kid and his round glasses were everywhere. Although Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone came out in November 2001, we only had to wait a matter of weeks until it arrived on PlayStation and PC. To this day, the image of pixelated Hagrid is still burned into our memories - in the best possible way.
With the movies and games releasing on a nearly yearly basis, the early days of Hazza's days on console gave us some titans of the fantasy genre. Although most of us dropped off when Prisoner of Azkaban jumped over to being an RPG, Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets remain legends. So, as soon as Warner Bros. lifted the veil on Hogwarts Legacy, I found myself thinking of pixelated Hagrid and how we'd never see his angular face again. F in the chat, please.
Despite there being 21 years of technological advances between games - and Hogwarts Legacy being set well over a century before the Harry Potter games - you'll need to keep reminding yourself Harry, Ron, and Hermione won't be sitting in the Gryffindor common room. Elsewhere, a trip to the Herbology greenhouses, exploring dungeons, and even a goblin mine ride has us harking back to the Potterverse of yesteryear.
We're still very much tethered to the past. Well, future. Keen to remind us this is still a Harry Potter game, you'll spot cameos from Nearly Headless Nick and Peeves. It's not a great sign when one of your biggest selling points is the return of a ghost who was erased from the movies after Chamber of Secrets. I'd also bet my last Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Bean that a young Albus Dumbledore will appear. Avalanche has been particularly cagey about when exactly Hogwarts Legacy is set, and remembering Dumbledore went to Hogwarts in 1892, I'm he's being saved for a shocking Star Wars-esque cameo.
Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
I'm totally for Hogwarts Legacy if it can recapture even an ounce of the magic from the PS1 games, however, one part of the trailer had me wanting to dive deeper - like my very own Rita Skeeter. There's a whole section dedicated to the Room of Requirement, which we're told is "of the most remarkable secrets of Hogwarts." That's all well and good, but the appearance of countdown clocks has the idea of microtransactions stamped all over it. We're getting some serious Farmville vibes here, where you can pay to finish a timer early.
The idea of microtransactions is almost as irritating as the Herbology teacher that says, "Class, please welcome the newest rose in our garden." Alongside getting what you need from shops in Hogsmeade, another line refers to being able to "loot, buy, or craft your own magical gear" - sounds pretty microtransaction-y to me. How the Room of Requirement works is the biggest leftover question of the reveal (apart from what's going on with multiplayer), with fans being told it will sense what you need.
Then again, Community Manager Chandler Wood has reassured already irate players that microtransactions won't be part of their Hogwarts Legacy experience. Posting on Twitter, Wood explained, "We've seen this question coming up and want to set the record straight. There are no microtransactions in Hogwarts Legacy." That's all well and good for now, but with the business model of microtransactions seemingly already in place, how long will WB stick to its wands before the Dark Lord's greed sneaks in?
It's Not All Surf And TERF
That doesn't mean Hogwarts Legacy looks like a total bust. Across the board, there seems to be much more diversity - compared to calling the only Asian character Cho Chang. In particular, the character creator showed off a variety of different options that should appease those that have complained The Sims doesn't offer us enough choice. Still, it seems odd that this would've been the perfect opportunity to show off those promises of transgender witch and wizard options.
Elsewhere, I'll admit the promise of flying around the skies above the wizarding world on your broomstick looks pretty slick. As long as we don't have to play those dire Quidditch matches where you had to try and grab the Snitch in The Philosopher's Stone, we're okay. The various monsters look like imaginative additions that wouldn't look out of place in Fantastic Beasts, and finally, hooray for the Killing Curse.
Later Harry Potter books and games were criticised for being too dark, but when it comes to Hogwarts Legacy, that could be a major bonus. We're still not sure how the so-called mortality system will work, however, the footage gave plenty of flashes of green, as your playable character killed their rivals. It's doubtful dark magic will be in use on the grounds of Hogwarts, but with the opportunity to go full Tom Riddle, I'm going to start practising my evil wizard cackle. If nothing else, casting spells and defences look like they've come a long way from the ol' swish and flick that Professor Flitwick taught us all those years ago.
Like A Phoenix From The Ashes
Ultimately, the jury is out on Hogwarts Legacy and whether it'll be the next Elden Ring or just another Cyberpunk 2077. Speaking of the former, we're sadly in an era in which anything in the fantasy genre will be held up against FromSoftware's mahoosive hack 'n' slash epic. Had Hogwarts Legacy made its original release window of 2021, it would've stood out on its own. Instead, anything in a post-Elden Ring era will have its open-world capabilities compared to the Lands Between.
Being able to explore new crevices of the castle we think we knew so well will be interesting, and as an aside, I'm pumped to see the golden bathroom that the movies cut from Goblet of Fire. Hogsmeade looks like an okay way to pass the time, while a "build your own homestead" idea is The Sims with magic, but ultimately, Hogwarts Legacy feels a bit like the devs have thrown everything at it in the hopes something will stick.
At least Warner Bros. has managed to drum up some new interest in Hogwarts Legacy, and even a grizzled ol' Filch like me will admit it doesn't look as bad as I thought it would. Then again, I still find myself pining for Malfoy and his snivelling PS1 one-liners. Two decades after we first creaked open the doors to the castle and took to the skies on our brooms, it remains to be seen whether there's still an appetite for the Wizarding World. Will Hogwarts Legacy be heading home with the Goblet of Fire or is this one game doomed to be whacked by the Whomping Willow? Watch this space...