The next chapter of the Potterverse has been out long enough for nearly two weeks. Here’s how to enjoy your first playthrough.
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books were — and still are — a genuine phenomenon. All seven in the series are in the top 10 best-selling books in the UK ever, and also feature in the top 50 globally.
It’s hard to understand in this age of unlimited internet access, but for a brief spell between 1998 and 2007 children would queue for hours at midnight outside bookshops, many of which no longer exist, in order to get their hands on a copy of the latest release. Film interpretations were market with posters that didn’t even include the title.
The cultural influence cannot be overstated, spawning films, games, toys, and a host of consumer paraphernalia. And while there were some fairly enjoyable attempts to create games that followed the book storylines, the graphics, gameplay, and length were all limited by the technology of their time.
Hogwarts Legacy is 2023’s answer to those first Potterverse games; but there is one crucial difference. 2001’s Argonaut Games ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ game was released just three years after the first book. Executive producer Chris Graham aimed it at eight-to-fourteen-year-olds, with puzzle-based gameplay designed to be simple to enjoy, but also sufficient to challenge the mind of a child.
But these children have grown up and are still gaming. Moreover, the global gaming industry has grown rapidly, as tech advances and it is infused with ‘adult’ money — video games global revenue will reach over $365 billion in 2023, while more than 3 billion people will be playing video games by 2027. This makes the industry already more valuable than Hollywood and the global music industry combined.
Therefore, this game is PEGI 12 rated, though it seems likely that further extensions will be PEGI 16 or even 18 rated. And more importantly, it’s far more complex both because of the different age range targeted, and because 2023 games are simply far more technologically sophisticated.
And this complexity means it can pay to know what you’re getting into.
Hogwarts Legacy: top 5 tips before you start
1. Pick the right house
At the start of Hogwarts Legacy, you get to pick between the four Hogwarts houses — Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw or Gryffindor — and some people will choose their house based on the one they feel has best represented their personality since the age of 11.
However, playing the game, and despite the protestations of developer Avalanche Studios, it is clear that Ravenclaw has the least amount of content, while Slytherin has slightly more than Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. The sorting hat does base its decision on asking you some questions, but you can override its decision — just like in the books.
Of course, your house only affects house-specific quests and access to your common room — the rest of the game is open regardless of your initial decision.
2. Broom practice
One of the most sought-after objects in the game is your broom, which allows you to fly around the game. To unlock this, you need to complete the Jackdaw’s Rest quest, followed by the Flying Class main mission. This was not obvious to me when I first turned the game on, so it’s worth knowing the title of the initial quest you need to complete.
For context, the broom is a niggly thing to get good at, functioning more like an airplane simulator than a magical device. Take your time to get accustomed to it, as the controls do not feel natural at first.
And as I learnt early on, unequipping in mid-air means you will likely fall to your death. Continuity on the physical hardiness provided by innate magic has never been the story’s strong point.
3. Sell loot and brew potions
Unlike many modern games, you don’t pick up loot automatically. After enemies are defeated, there’s often all sorts of useful items on their person — Acromantula venom, anybody? — and you must go through the often-tedious chore of picking up each item individually.
You can then use these items to grow plants or brew potions, saving your galleons for more important purchases. Anything not needed should be sold rather than discarded, again to help grow your in-game bank balance.
Importantly, some items must be bought and cannot be found or created. This makes saving the Knuts an important feature of the game.
4. Master the basics first
Hogwarts Legacy is an open-world game, with all the advantages and drawbacks that this type of gaming experience offers. The key thing to bear in mind is that it’s easy to be tempted to go off the beaten path straight away, but this is in my view a mistake.
Many of the side quests are much more fun, and become more achievable, if you first master the basic skills and spells, many of which can only be learnt through the main quest storyline, or from the relatively basic class assignments. Broom flying can only be unlocked after a dozen or so quests for example, and many of the most basic spells are learnt after about three hours of play.
5. Have fun
Hogwarts Legacy has been designed to be an incredibly immersive and enjoyable game. If you find yourself in a quest you find boring — leave it. You can always go back to it later. That’s the joy of open-world gaming.
Set in the 1800s, the game absolutely nails the spectacular feelings both of reading the books for the first time, and of nostalgic memories of summer days spent re-reading favourite passages.
As these are non-spoiler tips, I can’t say much more than this. However, I would recommend setting aside several hours of peace, a widescreen tv, and enough snacks to take down a Hungarian Horntail.