Ever since the PlayStation 5 reveal event in June 2020, when Harry Potter fans were given the first mere glimpse at Hogwarts Legacy, they’ve waited in terrified anticipation as rumors swirled about the game. Met with near-complete radio silence over those intervening 21 months, the recent news of a dedicated State of Play event was met with much joy and discussion.
Having just watched the nearly 15 minutes of gameplay and five additional minutes of developer interviews and behind-the-scenes clips, I am happy to say that the joy appears well-founded. So let’s get to the discussion part, shall we, and talk about what was shown off!
But first, go ahead and watch for yourself, then pop back in to see what we thought.
The Great Big Wizarding World
While I’ll mostly go in order of what was shown, it’s important to note that any description of the game must begin with noting that Hogwarts Legacy looks to capture a true representation of the Wizarding World. Hogwarts itself will certainly be the center of that world, and where a good portion of the game will take place, but there appears to be so much more out there. Hogsmeade, other wizarding villages, dungeons, and more were shown off in the reveal.
As a reminder, this is a totally original story taking place in the late 1800s, well before the characters we know and love came to Hogwarts. This allows the player to be an avatar, creating their own witch or wizard with which to play the game. We were quickly shown the character creator, and while they didn’t linger on it, there appears to be a good bit of customization that can be done to craft the person you want to be.
The story goes that the player will be a new student to Hogwarts, starting as a fifth-year student. It was explained that you will have a lot of catching up to do, some normal “new kid” acclimation ahead of you, and even the intrigue of being able to sense and harness dark magic that threatens the entire world.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
With the character creation complete, we’re shown the Sorting Hat doing its thing. It stands to reason you can choose your House, or let the Hat do what it does best and randomly place you. I’m interested to find out what differences will be afforded to the game based on the House you choose. And the four houses seem to offer instant replayability to the game, a hint of the RPG elements to come.
Speaking of Houses, the school itself looks stunningly recreated in every detail. We were shown right away the common rooms of all four houses, and they look just as described in the books and shown in the movies, if not better. Late in the show, one of the developers briefly discusses his role in creating the Hufflepuff common room, which was never shown in the movies, and is sure to be a treat for all those badger fans out there.
Your character will take all the familiar classes like Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts, and the trailer spends some time showing scenes from several of the classrooms. This is also where we are shown the first bit of combat, in what seemed to be a cutscene of a dueling session.
Time is spent showing off the castle and several of the environs within, including a teaser of some never seen before spots (the Kitchen!!). There are promises of secrets and puzzles throughout the school’s halls, and the player is shown interacting with the environments by using spells to maneuver the halls and unlock secret areas. There are even a few cameos by familiar faces such as the Fat Lady who guards Gryffindor Tower and one nearly-headless ghost.
The trailer then veers away from the school to detail a bit more of the story, with a possible goblin rebellion putting the peril to witches and wizards everywhere. Interestingly, it looks like players may have a guide through part of the story, as a Professor Figg is briefly shown by your side as you confront what appears to be one of the game’s villains, a goblin named Ranrok.
We’re then treated to a healthy dose of combat with both goblins and humans, and told the dark wizards have made an alliance of sorts with the goblins, but to what end we do not know. Combat looks quite pretty with lens flare and particles everywhere, the spells seem to hit hard, and it all looks very fluid.
The trailer spent quite a bit of time discussing the spells and charms you will learn and all that goes along with them, quite appropriately for a Potter game. It details the various types of spells enemies may use against you, and how some may prefer enchantments and disabling spells to direct attacks. It even showcases a troll barrelling you over in a charge attack. It looks like quite the array of attacks your witch or wizard will have to contend with.
You certainly won’t be defenseless though, as you’ll have quite the arsenal yourself. All the favorite offensive spells are here, like expelliarmus, incendio, and diffindo. Even accio and leviosa appear to play a significant role in the battling system. You’ll have use of a shield charm to defend against enemy attacks, and you’re even shown picking up and throwing exploding red barrels and using enemies’ own weapons to finish them off.
There are hints of enemies having particular weaknesses, and you’re shown using finishing moves and magic attacks from the aforementioned dark magic you can tap into for particularly aggressive attacking. The combat system looks fluid, deep, and truly satisfying, seeming to be a significant part of the experience on offer here.
In the true fashion of the RPG genre, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that let you craft exactly the kind of playstyle you want to pursue. There appear to be 5 different upgrade paths, though the brief time that particular screen was shown only revealed three of them, including stealth and core abilities. Completing various tasks awards you experience points, leading to an increase in level that awards talent points you can sink into those various upgrades.
It is also stated that you can craft, loot, or buy your own magical gear, so a crafting system must be in there somewhere, though it wasn’t shown off here. That gear can then be upgraded and specialized to contribute even further to your choice of playstyles. We got a very brief glimpse of a screen that was similar to the Skill upgrades, only this one appeared to just be for gear.
Potions, herbs, and beasts, oh my!
Much like in the books and movies, the game will see the various non-spell types of magic play a big role. The trailer gives a quick glimpse of some potion-making in action, with a twirling of the right analog stick to crush ingredients and a quick button press to add a liquid ingredient to a potion. Specific potions can be brewed to increase abilities and strength in combat, and it makes sense to expect that healing potions will be on tap as well.
Herbology isn’t to be left out, as we see two instances of plants being used in combat. The player is shown fighting a goblin with spells while it is being attacked by what looks like heads of cabbage, and a mandrake is used to great effect to take down three enemies at once. I’m really encouraged to see this variety of options in the combat system, with even more than what is referenced in the books and movies.
The trailer also gives an eyeful of the various magical beasts inhabiting the game, which will apparently be seen both in classes and in the wider world around Hogwarts. Centaurs, hippogriffs, trolls, and many more creatures are shown, and one imagines that is just the tip of the bestiary iceberg.
You’re not in this alone
Just as The Boy Who Lived had friends to accompany him on his journey, so too will you have companions along the way. The trailer tells us that you will learn spells from friends you make at school, and some of those friends can go on missions with you. Three individuals are named specifically, all seeming to have fully-realized storylines that you will learn throughout the game. It remains to be seen if there will be more than that, but just having this was a pleasant surprise that adds to the RPG-ness of the game.
Back at Hogwarts, it looks as though the famous Room of Requirement will act as your home base within the castle. As the trailer explains, the Room will provide what you need, including areas to grow plants, brew potions, and upgrade your gear. The Room itself is beautifully realized, two stories of space stuffed with oodles of stuff to explore and discover.
Directly in the center is what we come to find out is called a Vivarium, where you will keep and raise your own menagerie of magical creatures. The trailer reveals that the land inside this Vivarium can be upgraded and customized to reflect your personality, giving it a very Fallout 4 base-building vibe.
Beyond the castle
The remainder of the trailer focused on what is waiting for you beyond the walls of Hogwarts. Hogsmeade is the first stop, and just as in the game, there are a variety of shops that will allow you to acquire supplies for your adventures. Potion ingredients, herbology supplies, and various outfits were shown in the trailer, with the potential for many other types of vendors to be present.
The outskirts of Hogsmeade will have its intrigues as well, with bands of dark wizards apparently stalking the area. Interestingly, it is told that you must either avoid or defeat these baddies, so the possibility of some stealth gameplay is quite intriguing.
Though we gained a slight glimpse of it earlier in the video, it is now that we see one of the main methods of traversal throughout the world will be by broom! A dynamic season/weather system is shown off as well, with rain, snow, and changing times of day all on display. Weather is prominent through the books and movies so its wonderful to see this bit of detail receive the attention it deserves. And though it isn’t expressly mentioned, we have seen a few clips of flying hippogriffs, so expect that to play into traversal at some point as well.
We are also told that magical hamlets are scattered throughout the world, and this appears to be one place where you can pick up sidequests with their own stories and opportunities to gain experience to put toward your magical abilities.
Magical puzzles are mentioned, as are dungeons and vaults that hold different and more difficult baddies and the requisite treasures should you survive the challenge. Most intriguingly, the narrator intones a warning about a darker path, as we see the player casting the infamous “Killing Curse”. Could the game have a morality scale or system allowing for both good and evil actions and endings?
The trailer ended with a new tagline, “Live the Unwritten”, and a Holiday 2022 release date! I must say I didn’t quite believe the game would stay in this year, and I know it still may not, but it really would be a coup for Sony and Avalanche if it does. Not only would it ride the coattails of the new movie, it would give Sony a nice boost at the end of the year when God of War’s release is anything but certain.
Bits and bobs
That I’ve gone this far and barely mentioned how the game looks is a testament to all that Avalanche shoved into this gameplay reveal. But truly, it appears that they’ve absolutely nailed the look and feel of Hogwarts and the larger wizarding world. The common rooms look just like we’ve all imagined them over the years and the halls of the castle are filled with faces both new and old, along with the requisite moving pictures and other details like the suits of armor and moving staircases.
Though its always a bit hard to tell with a State of Play, the sound also seems to be bang on, with spell names clearly audible and the spells themselves whizzing and twanging around the soundscape as they should. Voice acting sounds top-notch as well, with teachers and students playing their parts well.
What didn’t we see in today’s re-reveal trailer? Quidditch, for one thing, but with broom travel already in the game, I’m hoping this is just being saved for a later date. We also didn’t see any kind of world map, so I’m still holding out for something akin to the Marauder’s Map. But these are both items I’d expect to see revealed over the coming months as the release date draws nigh.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the Hogwarts Legacy State of Play surpassed every expectation I could have possibly had. There was just so much included, from game systems to environments to the various things you can do in the world, that I was just completely stunned. If Avalanche can deliver on the promise they’ve made to gamers, it will go down as one of the best RPGs to grace the PlayStation console in any era.
Stay tuned for more coverage as I next dive into the developer interview portion of the State of Play, which had its very own details and secrets to ponder over.
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