I never want to leave this place! PETER HOSKIN reviews Hogwarts

I never want to leave Hogwarts… and I’m not even a Potter fan! PETER HOSKIN reviews Hogwarts

Hogwarts Legacy (PlayStation, Xbox, PC, £64.99)

Verdict: Thoroughly enchanting

Rating: ***** 

Hogwarts never held much appeal for me. The whole Harry Potter boom took place as I was leaving school — and I had little inclination to go back, either literally or in fiction. Uni came, then a career, and I never could quite fathom all those Pottermaniacs, let alone join them. Until now.

Thanks to the new game Hogwarts Legacy, I never want to leave this school of witchcraft and wizardry. Thanks to the new game Hogwarts Legacy, I never have to. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this might be the best and most joy-stuffed location that I’ve ever encountered in gaming.

What Hogwarts Legacy gives you is, well, Hogwarts and its environs: an immense, many-towered, multi-roomed fortress of learning in the Scottish highlands.

As a new arrival to the school — though you’re an older fifth-year — you can basically wander wherever you want. Into classrooms and dorms, through libraries and courtyards, on to the haunted loos. Barely an inch lacks care or imagination.

You’ll suddenly hear a voice in a hallway and realise that a statue is talking to you. You’ll yomp over a hill and see kids magicking kites in the air. Even the swirls in the marble floors are deeply beautiful. Just for its wow-factor, this feels like one of the first, properly next-generation games.

And it does it all without Harry or Hermione or Spock or whatever. Hogwarts Legacy is set decades before the main books and films, in the late 19th Century, and tells its own, compelling story of old secrets and fresh betrayals.

This meant that I, someone who isn’t well-versed in all this stuff, could keep up easily. As for those who are well-versed, I imagine they’ll lose their minds over some of the references and foreshadowings — unless, of course, they’ve joined the (so far, ineffectual) online boycott of Hogwarts Legacy in protest at J.K. Rowling’s views on transgenderism and all that.

When it comes to its actual gameplay, Hogwarts Legacy isn’t exactly revolutionary — but it draws from good places. The expansive and characterful world has a touch of The Witcher 3 about it. The big, cinematic set-pieces are pure Uncharted. Even its enjoyable spell-learning mechanic, which has you weaving shapes on your controller, is reminiscent of Ghostwire: Tokyo.

It’s also relatively easy — at least on the ‘normal’ difficulty setting that I used. After an hour or two of upgrading my character’s abilities and natty wizarding attire, I felt as though he was constantly more powerful than the game required. Most of the battles against trolls and goblins and stovepipe-hatted ne’er-do-wells were pretty straightforward.

But presumably this is a concession to all the children who’ll want to play. And they will want to play…in their millions. When I return to Hogwarts Legacy — and I will return — I’ll simply crank up the difficulty. Until then, I can luxuriate in my memories of herbology classes and butterbeers at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. Pass me my Ravenclaw house scarf. I’m a schoolkid all over again.

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