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Review: ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ is a brainless disappointment

Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Games

By Hamza Saeed     2/28/23 11:13pm

Rating: ★★

Before beginning this review, I want to acknowledge that I am aware of the controversy surrounding this game. I want to make my position on the trans community explicitly clear. Transgender people have a right to exist and a right to live their life free of harassment from individuals that seek to demean and degrade them. I believe I speak for everyone at the Thresher when I say that I condemn the statements that J.K. Rowling has made. Simply put, you cannot say that you support and love trans women and then tweet out “Merry TERFmas”. 

Let us first discuss the premise of the game. The game takes place in the late 1800s, about a century before the Harry Potter series takes place. The player controls a fifth-year student new to Hogwarts. During the game's events, a goblin revolution is brewing under the leadership of Ranrok, a power-hungry revolutionary seeking this ancient magical power. Essentially, players select a house, explore Hogwarts and the surrounding areas, go on some quests to find this ancient power from Ranrok and then have a final showdown with the goblins. 

I hesitate to say that this game takes a step back, per se, since I struggle to find too many elements that are significantly worse than games before it. But, to be quite blunt, this game is a bore. Now, I do not doubt that an avid fanatic of the Harry Potter franchise would enjoy simply lounging around in Hufflepuff Commons or taking a swig of butterbeer in Diagon Alley, but I found the gameplay to be extremely drab, albeit functional. The novelty of the Avada Kedavra and Imperio spells wore off quickly, and I was also disappointed in the “choice” system presented to you. Most times, it felt as if my choices had little to no effect on the actual storyline of the game. 

As far as the dialogue goes, the writing is half-baked. Each cutscene feels like it drags on entirely too long, and characters will often act as if they are acutely aware of the fact that they are in a video game. The voice acting, quite frankly, nearly put me to sleep. Still, I wouldn’t say that the game is broken or unplayable. As a triple-A game, however, I do hold it to a very high standard mechanically and thematically. Frankly, the game fails to meet expectations.

Now, let’s talk about this game from a social standpoint. Historically, the Harry Potter franchise has made anti-semitic links between the goblins and the Jewish community. The goblins are a hook-nosed, short, greedy community that runs the banks, and in the game, the goblins are accused of kidnapping, running a secret society and trying to control the institutions. The entire goal of the game is to end the goblins’ revolution. While J.K. Rowling apparently had no control over the plot of the game, there are anti-semitic tropes in parts of the franchise that she did have a say in. These portrayals have recently brought into question the moral standing of consumers of the Harry Potter franchise.

If you purchase the game with the intention of endorsing Rowling’s statements with your monetary support, you are, in layman's terms, a loser. If you just wanted to check this game out, I would not consider you transphobic or a bigot for spending money on this game. Ultimately, there is room for nuance here — it is entirely possible to consume media while acknowledging the fundamental moral shortcomings of the story’s creator. However, this entrance into the HP franchise fails to entertain on so many levels — from mediocre storytelling to brainless combat — that this game has proven to be a disappointment.

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