Hogwarts Legacy is carrying an almost unbearable weight of anticipation on its shoulders. This upcoming release has been positioned as an open-world, action-RPG that will let you carve your own path through the hallowed halls of Hogwarts to settle a place in the annals of its history. That's been a dream so many have entertained ever since Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone first pierced the veil of our imaginations back in 1997 and the subsequent film made the realm of magic and mystery a little closer to reality.
Avalanche Software will have to navigate this expectation as it works to draw up this interactive world of witchcraft and wizardry. It's a challenge the developer is eagerly embracing. "It's such an honor to work on such an amazing franchise and the team is dedicated to delivering an authentic Wizarding World experience that both Harry Potter and RPG fans will enjoy," said John Blackburn, studio general manager of Avalanche. "Hogwarts Legacy is so special because it allows players to immerse themselves in a new narrative that is filled with complex characters and, of course, magic."
Choose your own conjurer
Game Hogwarts Legacy
Developer Avalanche Software
Publisher WB. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Set in the late 1800s, Hogwarts Legacy is entirely divorced from the influence of author J.K. Rowling and the cast of characters she detailed in the series of Harry Potter novels. Instead, Avalanche Software (the studio perhaps best known for bringing Disney Infinity to life) has been granted the space and authority to engineer its own story – rooted firmly in the Harry Potter universe, and anchored to the lore of the wizarding world, but its own all the same.
With a century of distance between the events of Hogwarts Legacy and the birth of the boy who lived (and decades apart from the Fantastic Beasts films, which can be found taking place around 1927), Avalanche is able to build an experience that doesn't run the risk of crashing into any established events or familiar faces. That means we'll take on the role of a new character – one we'll be able to tailor to our own image, should the alleged leaked footage be accurate – who is granted a late acceptance to Hogwarts.
Other leaks have indicated that Hogwarts Legacy will place us in our fifth year at the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – around the age of 16, and two years before graduation. While the notion of exchange students has come up in the lore on occasion, the idea of student transfers is rather new. In fact, it was introduced in 2018's Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery and given a passing mention in 2019's Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Those two games that just so happen to have been released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment's label Portkey Games, the current custodians of Harry Potter's interactive adventures.
Avalanche Software has already confirmed that you'll be able to "choose your Hogwarts house at the start of Hogwarts Legacy", so it's likely that the game will pick up in the Great Hall as you await judgement from a belligerent sorting hat and avoid the gaze of 1,000 students seated between the four houses. The reason you have been granted a late admission? That's something of a mystery right now, but it probably has something to do with your ability to perceive and master Ancient Magic.
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The ability to understand (let alone wield) Ancient Magic is something few in the wizarding world possess. It is tied to a long-forgotten past, and that knowledge is usually possessed only by those that somehow reside within it. It's this narrative frame that sets the stage for Hogwarts Legacy to become one of 2021's most interesting role-playing games. The studio is promising that you'll be able to choose whether to protect the secrets associated with Ancient Magic for the good of the world, or succumb to the temptations of more sinister incarnations.
If what Avalanche is promising comes to fruition, you'll be able to hold the fate of the wizarding world in your hands. Of course, it's with the RPG aspect to Hogwarts Legacy where the spectre of expectation begins to set in. The way Warner Bros. Interactive is teasing Hogwarts Legacy, it's beginning to sound as if we'll be able to role-play as a student of magic like never before; living and learning in Hogwarts, and exploring the iconic locations that surround it, from Hogsmeade Village and the Forbidden Forest, to Diagon Alley and beyond.
There will be new friends to make and companions to be brought along on your journey, aids to help you face off against deadly enemies and Dark wizards. There's the promise of honing combat skills and upgrading talents, and of growing your character's abilities by mastering new spells and spell-crafting techniques. If Herbology is more your speed, you'll be able to craft and brew potions, or get out in the open and tame a few fantastic beasts. The studio has even teased broad choice and consequence, explaining that "players will also encounter missions and scenarios that will pose difficult choices and determine what they stand for."
All of this hints towards the type of deep and malleable RPG experience that we seldom see with these kinds of big licensed properties. Many fans have spent a considerable amount of time wishing they could walk the hallowed halls of Hogwarts as a witch or wizard; if Avalanche Software is truly able to deliver an expansive and expressive open-world RPG, one that gives us the space and scope to build a character and define its place in the established world, then Hogwarts Legacy could easily become one of the definitive releases of 2021. And I don't know about you, but I'll be immediately sold should the game open up with the following dialogue: "You're a wizard, [press X to insert character name here]."
Since the publication of this feature, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has announced a Hogwarts Legacy delay that pushes the game's release into 2022.