Hogwarts Legacy is a great game. Wholely, when playing this game you feel the amazement and nostalgia of discovering the wizarding world of magic. It has gorgeous visuals and an engaging combat system, both of which prime you for a gripping adventure. However, while I can sing this games praises I also have many, many critiques. These critiques prevent me from recommending this game to fellow capital “G” Gamers.
Let me explain.
If you read a single section of this article, this one would be enough.
Super Smash Bros for the N64 has wonderfully tight movement. Actions, unless the character is under the effect of hit stun or shield break, begin the instant the input is made. Generally, moves have low startup frames as well. If you’re playing Donkey Kong other hard-hitting characters, a long startup cost is offset by damage dealt and is used as an interesting balancing mechanic. Smash 64 feels satisfying to play because of the connection between my brain, fingers, and character. If I can think it, I can do it.
Hogwarts Legacy has many problems, but to me one dwarfs the rest. Movement in a video game about magic is arbitrarily limited.
Hindered movement in games feels like shit and I hate it. What do I mean by hindered movement? If my character can run, I should be allowed to run… ALL the time. In general, if I have a movement option, I should be allowed to use it.
In Hogwarts Legacy, movement is hindered when following an NPC, while inside some buildings, crawling in a tunnel, using the disillusionment charm, etc. A fun factor in games for me comes from engaging with movement systems that don’t exist in real life. So, when movement options are taken away without good explanation, I think about the fun I’m not having.
In no particular order, here are some phrases I want to scream from the mountaintop:
- WHY CAN’T I RUN INDOORS?
- WHY CAN’T I FLY INDOORS? FRED AND GEORGE DID IT AT THE END OF ORDER OF THE PHEONIX!
- WHY CAN’T I FLY ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE?
- OVER THAT MOUNTAIN?
- INTO HOGSMEADE?
I think the thing that is particularly insulting about these limitations is that they are applied without explanation or reason. Why would flying in Hogsmeade break the game? Why would running indoors break the game? In a universe where we can re-grow bones, why can’t I jump off the second story of the library down onto the first?
This lack of reason leads clearly into my following point. Why couldn’t the developers spend this time wasted on programming movement limitations on developing more features? For example, I would have rather had a fully realized curfew and trespassing system, than have a game where all the areas I can only walk perfectly mapped out.
A side effect of these confusing movement rules is that I find myself constantly mashing the left stick praying that I can get to where I’m going just a little bit faster. It baffles me that people tested this game and signed off on how un-fun going from A to B can be. This is bad and annoying and I hate it.
Meaningless dialogue options
My favorite example of unnecessary cutscenes is during the third trial, when facing death with the elder wand. In this section of the game, the player is moving between battle arenas where they face groups of enemies. When arriving at the last arena, death emerges from below the side of the arena to peer over. Instead of the player having full control when this happens, control is taken as a brief fixed camera position focuses on death, shortly to relinquish control and camera angle again to the player.
This removes gravity from the situation. The mere size of death should naturally draw my attention, let alone the fact death appears directly ahead of where the player is coming from. I believe the scene would be more impactful if I as the player had the control to notice the looming threat, and adjust my camera appropriately, or turn and run. Because I don’t have control, as a “video game player” I understand that I can’t take damage or die during a cutscene, therefore the sudden emergence of a giant does not scare me or invoke terror as it could if I has the player had control and responsibility for my own safety.
I appreciate live cutscenes in games, where I have full control to stay and listen to a conversation or turn and run. This is how real life works. A game that does this well is High on Life. In it, almost every interaction can be canceled by simply walking away. And, for those that can’t, the player still has control to position themself in the scene to achieve the camera angle that is most pleasing.