Hogwarts Legacy PS5 Review. It doesn’t take a wizard of Albus Dumbledore’s expertise to recognise there’s a massive amount of expectation weighing on developers Portkey Games and Avalanche Software‘s shoulders with their epic Wizarding World RPG. Indeed, Hogwarts Legacy is a game that not only has to satisfy Harry Potter fans with its depiction of J.K. Rowling’s fantasy universe, but more importantly, deliver as a fantasy-RPG that is actually fun to play. Not an enviable task.
Yet, Hogwarts Legacy manages to stand on its own two feet without being weighed down by the setting it’s based on. You can be the most ardent Potter aficionado around or not give a Muggle’s toss about the spectacled wizard chap and still be blown away by what the teams have to offer.
It’s clear that Hogwarts Legacy is a labour of love; deftly waving its magic wand to create a stunning fantasy backdrop brimming with lore, compelling combat, memorable characters, and sumptuous visuals that sparkle on PS5.
Hogwarts Legacy (PS5) Review – An Endlessly Compelling Trip Back To A Magical World
Something Wicked This Way Comes
First off, forget about Harry Potter’s tale. Hogwarts Legacy takes place 1890s, about 100 years before the Boy Wizard begins his journey to defeat the Dark Lord. You’re the new kid in school, starting Hogwarts in their fifth year (a rarity in the Wizarding World, apparently) under the watchful eye of your mentor, Professor Fig.
Naturally, this means you’ll be creating your own character. It’s a pretty comprehensive system, and if you’re played any modern RPG lately you should know what to expect. Eyes, hair, face, scars, gender, freckles, all the usual parameters are here, and the freedom is welcome.
I won’t spoil the beginning moments, but suffice to say it’s clear that not all is peaceful at Hogwarts, with an evil brimming beneath its lavish architecture that looks to throw the Wizarding World into chaos. Nefarious wizards and goblin overlord Ranrock look to tear the very fabric of this magical world apart, and it’ll take more than a quick cast of Reparo to fix it.
One of the biggest compliments I can give Hogwarts Legacy is that you feel like a student. The game has a great way of weaving key mechanics and events into your everyday life as a pupil, and the progression feels natural as a result. You’re even sorted into your house before being let loose into Hogwarts via some simple questions, with Slytherin being chosen for my wizard by the Sorting Hat. Pleasingly, if you aren’t happy with the house you are assigned to, you can opt to change it.
A Lush World Brimming With Character And Heart
Portkey Games and Avalanche Software have done a brilliant job of implementing Potter lore into what would usually be pretty rudimentary gaming staples. Fast travel? That’s done by activating Foo Flames you discover dotted across the landscape. Topping up your health and applying passive buffs in combat? Those come through learning concoctions in Potions Class or growing the necessary ingredients to brew them in Herbology Class.
Don’t fancy walking everywhere? Then hop onto your broomstick to take in a majestic view as you get to your location. You’ll even use Accio to nab magical flying Field Guide pages out of the air to swell your growing collection of lore and interesting tidbits. The dedication to the Potter universe is nothing short of impressive, and the game feels more authentic because of it.
Then there’s the locations themselves. Hogwarts Castle is a sumptuously-realised hive of activity, and wondering its grand, almost labyrinthine halls and winding staircases is an assault on the senses. Students chatter among themselves, aristocratic portraits spring to life, ghosts waft through the air and through walls, and suits of armour hum casually as you move past them.
Other areas are equally impressive. Hogsmeade, which is where you’ll find all manner of shops for your wizarding needs, is a picturesque village brimming with medieval English charm, nestled snugly in a valley flanked by the malodorous aura of the sinister Forbidden Forest. The surrounding valley is peppered with small hamlets, hidden caves, lush forests and other areas of interesting, which means you’ll gawping at a lot of stunning scenery in Hogwarts Legacy.
Rewarding Combat That’s Peppered With Tactical Duels
Combat is easily one of the best things about Hogwarts Legacy, and is absolutely pulsating with strategic depth. You have your bog-standard attack (R2), but you’ll need to employ more advanced spells to conquer the majority of foes.
The bestiary is varied and brimming with foes human and animalistic alike, from giant spiders, dark wizards, trolls, goblins, poachers, ancient guardians and more. Certain enemies are protected by barriers that can only be shattered with the correct spell, while others are weak to specific castings, further layering encounters with tactical nuance.
However, combat never feels unfairly stacked against you. Yes, it can overwhelming at times with multiple foes, but once you’ve mastered the art of dodging and counter attack (circle and triangle, respectively) and have a bevy of spells up your wizard’s cloak, duels become an exhilarating experience. Seriously, there’s nothing more awesome than casting Levioso on a pesky Goblin, peppering them with your basic spell before finishing them off with a blast of Configero. Or perhaps that dark wizard is causing you trouble from afar? Nab him close with Accio and show him who’s boss with a quick cast of Expelliarmus.
Over time, your conjuring skills will grow to the point where you can unleash massive combos by juggling enemies with multiple spells, while effortlessly repelling attacks. This requires some dexterous finger work on your part, but it’s oh so gratifying to pull off equally pleasing on the eyes. The controls make it easy to switch between spells with a squeeze of the R2 and corresponding face button, making duels responsible and intuitive. Oh, and there’s some pretty towering bosses you’ll go up against that will make good use of your spell casting and a bit of trial and error thrown in for good measure; even so, they never feel cheap and it’s satisfying to fell a lumbering troll with some deft use of your wand.
You can even mix things up a bit by growing your own Mandrakes and Venomous Tentaculars if you fancy it, lobbing them into combat by assigning them with L1 and watching them cause their own unique brand of carnage.
Speaking of spells, learning them is part and parcel of your student life; some are earned as part of the main quest, others will come to you in the form of Assignments. Here, Hogwarts teachers will request you complete some tasks (usually fetch quests for ingredients, making potions or meeting requirements in combat) and teach you a new spell as a reward.
Spellcasting, Puzzles And Side Quests Help Flesh Out Hogwarts Legacy
It’s a bit of a shame that some classes you attend do not actually allow you to participate; rather, they play out in a quick cutscene, which is a missed opportunity. However, earlier classes – ostensibly tutorials for basic potions, growing and combat – at least make you feel more involved, allowing you to get to grips with the basics.
Assignments aren’t necessary to move the plot forward (main quests will give you the core spells you need) but I felt compelled to do them regardless. Aside from the fact it’s so rewarding to apply them in the field, the feeling of actually strengthening and growing my sartorially-challenged wizard chap is greatly accentuated as a result. It’s also important to note that your spells are put to good use for things besides zapping bad guys. Environmental traversal, puzzles and stealth all make use of your repertoire, whether it’s using Lumos to guide a butterfly back into its magical painting home or using Accio to manipulate floating platforms.
Hogwarts Legacy feels such a cohesive work as a result, with everything that’s intrinsic to the Wizarding mythos weaving its way into every nook and cranny of your adventure – people even use Owl Mail to contact you, which put a huge smile on my giddy face.
Of course, this is an RPG, so expect to hoover up XP and level up along the way, with your stats increasing further by equipping more advanced gear – leading to some decidedly incongruous wardrobe choices as you probably expect. Students and shop keepers alike will even comment humorously on your clobber. Talent Points meanwhile offer a palpable sense that you are becoming a more powerful wizard or witch. Here, you’ll feel points to buff things like Dark Arts, Stealth, Spells and more, which help you refine your character and fashion more of a unique playstyle as you increase your wizarding prowess. You’re never forced in one specific direction, and I never felt penalised for focussing my Talent Points in one key area over another.
The open-world is ripe with exploration opportunities too, and the amount of freedom you are afforded once things open up is impressive. There’s also tons of mini-games including Summoner’s Court, duelling training, solving Merlin’s Trials (these are great and really make use of a wide variety of abilities), popping balloons during flight, broomstick racing for fast time and bragging rights, and more. These are all optional of course, but with so much to see and do, the world is begging to be explored. You’ll also pack your Field Guide’s Collections tab with tons of lore and info about everything you’ve seen and done, so completionists can expect to spend dozens of hours hoovering everything up. Even as I write this review, there’s heaps of stuff I want to go back and discover, as the world has me totally hooked.
Along your wizarding journey you’ll pick up side quests from students and other folk, some more engaging than others. Admittedly there’s a lot dull filler in this department, with fetch quests and the usually ‘go here, do this and that’ rearing their head along the way, but there’s plenty of gems in the rough that offer more nuanced characterisation and give you spells time to shine.
Your fellow students are also fairly fleshed out, and while there’s the generic ‘Hufflepuff Student’ you’ll bump into, named folk are plentiful and have unique personalities that really help to ground you within the Hogwarts universe. There’s no Mass Effect-style dialogue wheels here, although you are given the chance reply cordially or act like a bit of a git, which can lead to some amusing responses.
You also have relationship quests that really accentuate your connection with specific folk, offering a more personal bond with certain characters that will eventually allow them to accompany you at times. The eclectic cast is nothing short of impressive, helped in no small part by the top notch voice acting that really makes Hogwarts Legacy’s characters – from jovial students like Poppy Sweeting to the no-nonsense bark of Nigellus Phillus Black – all the more memorable.
A Stunning World Backed By A Gorgeous Score And Tons Of Content
Hogwarts Legacy is a gorgeous-looking game. From golden-brown sunsets, lavishly-detailed architecture to the dark and moody forests, the game oozes atmosphere; characters look equally impressive, with students’ youthful features sparkling with wonder and joy, while the worn, wrinkled gaze of ageing wizards and teachers mask immense grace and wisdom.
The soundtrack is equally brilliant, evoking an almost child-like curiosity with its whimsical, uplifting beats, although it isn’t afraid to get moody and dark when the need arises. If you’ve watched the Harry Potter movies, then you won’t be disappointed.
Performance wise there’s not much to pick at here, as I didn’t encounter any egregious issues regarding frame rate or glitches save for a few dips in FPS in busy fights. A few times I got stuck on the scenery but managed to extricate myself easily enough, so there’s nothing really to complain about. The Performance Mode I used was silky-smooth and while Fidelity looks sharper, I honestly didn’t find any problems sacrificing eye-candy for frame rate.
Hogwarts Legacy is a masterclass in fantasy-RPG goodness, backed up by a faithful and stunning recreation of one the most beloved fantasy worlds of modern fantasy literature. Yes, some quests are a bit naff and you get the feeling some of the characters could be given more attention, but with so much to do, a fantastic main quest packed with interesting twists and turns, not to mention the chance to become a badass wizard or witch along the way, Hogwarts Legacy is a must-have for RPG and Potter fans alike.
Hogwarts Legacy is due out on February 10, 2023 for PS5, PC and Xbox Series X/S, with early access available on February 7. The PS4 and Xbox One versions are due in April with a Nintendo Switch edition arriving in July.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.
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