Hogwarts Legacy: Hands-on Preview

It is both inappropriate and insensitive to not put this out there immediately. J K Rowling is a horrid person who has used her position of power to make the lives of the Trans community hell. Her constant attacks on a group that already has it tougher than most are inexcusable. So with that in mind there are two things that must be considered when covering anything that comes from her intellectual property. The first is that buying this game will undoubtedly be supporting her financially. She will get a percentage of every sale. Secondly, this game has the very real power to cause further hurt to the Trans community. 

Sadly there is also a talented group of people behind this game, a group that is hamstrung by greedy and spineless executives who won’t call out J K for fear of killing the golden goose and the fact that should they speak out themselves, they would likely become targets for a very powerful and very litigious woman. It is for this reason, and this reason alone Player 2 is covering Hogwarts Legacy. We will not be promoting this preview on socials but we are posting it to both call out J K and to recognise the developer’s work and the tough spot they are in.

 If you would like to support the Trans community in any way, through donations or assistance, both Minus18 and ACON are great places to start with a range of information and programs aimed at assisting the Australian LGBTQIA+ community.

Hogwarts Legacy: Hands-on Preview

To say there is a bit hanging over this game is an understatement. A rabid fanbase, a franchise creator making waves for all the wrong reasons, numerous leaks and finally more than one delay. Hogwarts Legacy has had a rough ride without a doubt. But despite the hardships, the game is a mere few weeks from release. During a preview event hosted by WB Interactive, I was lucky enough to speak with Technical Game Designer on the game, Stephen Dona and I asked him just how it feels to be this close to release.

“To finally get to a place where you’ve put so much effort and time into something you really, really care about and guide it to launch and finally see people playing it is so energizing for me,” said Stephen “Seeing it in players hands is just great and the feedback has just been so positive. So at the end of the day, that is all we want to do as a team you know? Let people have fun.”

The thing is, he is right, the game is, undeniably fun. My short time with the game showcased that this is going to be a very fleshed out version of a world a lot of people already know and it is going to great lengths to make sure that it is as engaging as possible. The first thing that was  impossible to escape was just how good the game looks. We were playing a PS5 pre-release version and frankly, it was stunning, so much so I worry about the last-gen systems and how their versions are going to turn out. If the team can get a smooth and playable version of what I saw during my time with the game running on an old Xbox One or PS4 then they deserve hearty congratulations for their technical wizardry.  

The story starts in an odd place, with the player taking control of a new student at Hogwarts, entering the school in his 5th year, making him 16ish. If you are comparing to the books, the same age that Harry was in the Order of the Phoenix. I asked Stephen about this, about why they decided to start so late in terms of school years. 

We wanted to add something that fans hadn’t seen before,” said Stephen. ” In a mystery of ancient magic, coming in as a fifth-year student is wrapped up in the story” He also went on to say “We also wanted to add a little more maturity to the game, concepts that were perhaps a bit beyond a first-year level. We wanted to produce a genuine world and that world is quite dark in places and this age bracket allows us to interact with that darkness.”

I can certainly attest to that. In my time with the game, there were some instances of story beats that took quite the dark turn, death featured prominently and even from my small taste, I can tell the game is dealing with some reasonably mature themes. I feel this may cause a marketing problem because this is seemingly not a game for all ages and while it is a far cry from GTA, it will still require some maturity from its audience. I can imagine this leading to a few returns or angered discussions at the local EB Games when parents realise what exactly is in the game. 

The other thing that may scare off the young ones is that it is quite complex. This was made a little bit harder for me during my playtime as I was very much thrown into the deep end as far as knowing what to do was concerned. Without the gentle lead-up to new skills, I found myself struggling to juggle a multitude of skills and spells. There are a lot of systems in play here and learning them all in a short press demo was quite the challenge. Between duelling, combat, mini-games, flying and exploration there are a lot of different activities to balance and keep constantly entertaining. 

Seeing as how Stephen is a Technical Designer on the game I thought he was the perfect person to ask about this very problem. “Basically the problem with balance is that we have got all these options. So after 20, 30 or 40 hours there are players playing the game in drastically different ways. So it becomes extremely difficult to playtest all these different playstyles and make the feel validated and fulfilling. I feel that getting all that balanced has been one of the biggest challenges of the whole development, but we are at a point where everyone will feel like they’ve expressed themselves in the game”

Stephen was confident, but I can’t say I am 100% sold yet. It is just too hard to say based on my limited playtime how it will all turn out. There are a lot of things here to learn and how well it all mixes and merges together will only come about after experiencing them in the context of the entire game. Anything else is just a guess. Let’s just say I feel positive about the direction it is heading, but have slight worries. 

As a game, I like the direction Hogwarts Legacy is heading. This feels like a title put together by a highly talented team of developers who have set out to make a massively ambitious experience. All signs are positive so far, with my time with the game showcasing that there is a lot of potential here. How it all comes together is the biggest question. Will it be too much? Will the game run too long? Will the many different gameplay elements end up clashing? Only time will tell and while this game has some hurdles to overcome and will likely be justifiably passed over by a large group of people thanks to the franchise creator’s stance on the Trans community, I can say that the development team has really given it their all. This is no rushed cash-in game, it is a game that has been made with care and talent and the team should be applauded for that. 

Time Until Launch (February 10, 2023)


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