Hogwarts Legacy State of Play Soft Review
Contributed by DJMMT
Full disclosure, I hate Harry Potter. And before you ask, no I do not hate Harry Potter because of J.K. Rowling’s personal political views on any number of recent topics to come to light in the last few years. Nor do I hate Harry Potter for the various metaphors that may or may not be in the books concerning various ethnic and/or religious groups. I have hated Harry Potter since I was a kid when the books were first released. Why? Because it’s basic fantasy that does almost nothing original and was liked by white bread fantasy fans that wanted to seem cool for liking mediocre, predictable writing. So please don’t lump me in with the current Harry Potter/Rowling haters. I disliked this franchise before it was trendy.
It is my distaste for the Harry Potter franchise that made me decide that I would skip this most recent State of Play, at first. I wasn’t going to watch it. I usually watch all of them, including the ones for projects I know I’m not interested in. But I really didn’t want to even give 15 minutes to a Harry Potter game. My timeline was flooded with praise for the presentation, which made me curious. But even then, I still didn’t watch the presentation. It was only once my wife, who is not a gamer, sent me the link that I finally decided that I better watch the presentation. My wife is a huge Harry Potter fan, but she almost never tracks gaming news/announcements. She plays literally one indie game a year. And that’s mostly to appease me. It’s always a random short game that can beaten in one session. Games she has beaten in the past include Abzu, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and Journey. She couldn’t even get through Unraveled, because it was taking too long to finish. She’s aware of the many past Harry Potter games, but has never cared to play any of them. Because she really doesn’t like video games. So when she sends me a game trailer, I have to take the time to watch it.
I was reluctant going in but I have to say that the Hogwarts Legacy State of Play really impressed me. Like properly impressed me. I expected something cheap and riddled with fan service that was just looking to make easy money on an IP that just won’t seem to die. But instead they showed a game that looks amazing. Not just amazing for Harry Potter fans. In fact, Harry Potter isn’t even in the game. The game just looks amazing for gamers in general. It’s open world, packed with features, has tons of customization, lets you catch Pokémon (fantastic beasts), and the combat looks, and sounds, great.
I was impressed that they chose to set the game more than a century before the events of the books. While there are a few small cameos, this is not a Harry Potter game. It’s a game set in a world that Harry Potter happens to exist in many, many years later. It’s not about Dumbledore, Voldemort, or anyone else that people who don’t actually care about the franchise, like myself, can just name due to oversaturation in pop culture. They really gave Avalanche Software the freedom to make a proper game that they actually wanted to make. And honestly that’s impressive in and of itself, because their list of previous projects isn’t that impressive. How they got the keys to this kingdom is beyond me. But good for them.
This presentation was detailed. They really wanted to show that this was not a cash grab. They gave legitimate story details, showed an open world that is alive and packed with things to find and do, detailed a ton of side content, and showed a combat system that I’m genuinely curious to see in action. Truly, they did not lean on the Harry Potter name at all in this presentation. They showed a legitimate game in pre-release form that just happens to be part of the Harry Potter universe. The presentation stood on its own merits as a game. This is what we need more of from the games industry as a whole. I’m tired of sequels, remakes, and movie/show tie-ins that simply exist because they’ll make money. I want quality projects like this that have both heart and substance. We deserve those types of games.
One of the best movie games of all time is still The Warriors (2005) from Rockstar Games. I remember when this game was originally released for the PS2. I had never heard of the movie before but the game looked awesome. I was so intrigued by the trailers that I went to Best Buy and bought both the game and the DVD of the movie, which was remastered to celebrate the release of the game, at the same time. Watched the movie and absolutely loved it, because it is a great movie. Then I played the game and loved it as well. It’s by no means a perfect game but it’s very good. Especially for a PS2 game based on a movie. But the reason it’s good is because it wasn’t trying to use the movie to make money. The movie came out in 1979. That means either the game took 26 years to make, or more likely it was simply a love letter to the movie. They didn’t want to leverage the movie. They wanted to show their love for it. That’s how you make a great movie game and that’s why even today it’s still one of the best, if not the best, movie games ever made.
The first Harry Potter book was published in 1997. While the last book in the main series was published several years later and additional content continues to be made, this game has the benefit of not trying to coincide with a specific date/release. It’s not trying to promote a new book, movie, or tv series. It’s just a game that gets to stand on its own legs as a game. Ideally that means that the developers weren’t rushed on the project. Nor were they forced to adapt a specific work. They can just make the game they wanted to make with passion and a genuine desire to make an impressive and enjoyable product. In that mode of thinking, I hope the game does well.
I still don’t like Harry Potter. Personally, I’m almost certainly not going to play this game. The only way I’ll end up buying it is if my wife says she wants to play it. Because it has always been my desire to see her finish a full-length RPG. I’ll give the Harry Potter franchise $60 for that to happen. But only if she promises to play the game through to the credits. Knowing her, she’ll eventually get stuck and force me to help her beat a boss or solve a puzzle. So knowing that, there’s a chance I’ll end up trying the game at some point even if I don’t end up playing it outright.
I’m also really impressed that the game will have a native Switch port. This game looks quite impressive so the fact that this will happen at launch is quite the endeavor. For the first time in my life, I hope something related to Harry Potter is actually good and does well as a result. If anything, it will hopefully inspire the rest of the industry to stop soft balling in adaptations of movies and books.