Games based on existing IP are always worth a small dose of skepticism, whether for canonical reasons or maybe different actors breaking the continuity, so I was unsure about Hogwarts Legacy when it was first released. I’ve always loved the Harry Potter IP, so while I was excited about the game, it hadn’t been at the top of my list of priorities.
Over the rest of the year, Hogwarts Legacy was in the back of my mind as something I knew I would play, but I also knew about the sheer scale of it and told myself I wouldn’t have time. However, after I missed out on it the last time Hogwarts Legacy went on sale, I told myself that I’d pick it up the next time it did.
I didn’t realize that the game was approaching its anniversary when I chose to buy it, but it’s left me with some different feelings now that I’ve played the game myself. I’ve seen commentary and talks of DLC but didn’t have context until now, and I see what the hype is about. I wish that I had played the game sooner, but I also might have done myself a favor without even realizing it.
Since playing Hogwarts Legacy for the first time, I feel like a changed fan. When I was younger, one of the fondest memories I had was from sitting up late and reading Harry Potter by the light of my lamp after I was supposed to be sleeping. I remember how vividly lost I would get into the books, and all I wanted to do was explore it all myself. The castle, the grounds, the people — it all felt real enough to experience — only it wasn’t.
Being able to explore the castle that I once dreamt about has made me feel like I’ve been missing out on quite the experience for the past year, but I also think that I would have lost interest or reprioritized by the time any DLC came out. Now, by the time I explore the game to my heart’s desire, there will be new content coming right around the corner to keep me locked in a little while longer.
On top of that, it’s more than just a childhood connection to a story that’s gotten my expectations so limitlessly high for Hogwarts Legacy. Long before games journalism, I still made it a point to play every single game that was released for each Harry Potter film. Those games were undeniably hit or miss, meaning the bar wasn’t necessarily high, but I still had certain things I was looking forward to or anticipating.
Seeing the reflection of those games in the blockbuster game that’s now become the big to-do has made the experience all the more rewarding. Moments like in the restricted section of the library felt like a modern, more refined version of an idea that was simply ahead of its time in the Sorcerer’s Stone game. Finally, it feels like we as players can experience the magic of the Wizarding World the way that it was promised to us.
Now, being met with a quick section of dialogue saying “no Quidditch this year” might’ve felt like a major slap in the face, but if you felt that way at launch, imagine feeling that a year after the game’s release. I might be in the minority of people who played everything there was to do in the Quidditch World Cup game, but that sport was a huge reason for my wanting to play Hogwarts Legacy in the first place. Sure you can fly on a broomstick, but I don’t want to have to buy a new game just to play the sport when the mechanics are already so close.
Missing out on the hype train for a game can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s nice because you don’t grow exhausted by all the commentary before you can enjoy the game for yourself, but you feel like you’ve missed out on the moment. There are not as many people talking about the game as there were a week after it came out, so it can sometimes feel like beating a dead horse to add new commentary a year after launch.
There also comes to be an extra level of expectation based on what I had heard about the game before I picked it up. Some people express positive feelings which can make me expect more than what I’m going to get, but if the commentary has been negative, then I might find myself not giving the game a fair shake from my perspective.
Luckily, the fact that I’ve avoided spoilers so far means that I don’t need to be concerned about them at all. I certainly won’t go seeking out details on Reddit, but I don’t have to feel like I’ve got to shut my phone off as soon as I see the title of the game in a post. I get to experience the game from some sort of bubble, but with the understanding and confidence that the game is going to be a good experience based on the overall reception.
Even though I missed out on the experience for a year, I feel like I’ve got a good year’s worth of catching up to do, and I’m by no means mad about that. I’ll be exploring Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and the grounds of the castle until my controller falls apart, but a quick “Reparo” and I’ll be all sorted. Into Ravenclaw, of course.