07 . 01 . 2024

Hogwarts Legacy


A wizard is never late, nor is he early – he reviews precisely when he means to.

*Checks notes* 

Whoops, wrong franchise. Despite being known through and through as a Lord of the Rings fan, I did very much enjoy Harry Potter growing up. While it doesn’t have the same level of systemic world-building as Tolkien’s, Rowling (whatever you think of her) did do a fantastic job building the atmosphere of Hogwarts, particularly in its humor. If we set aside the controversies surrounding Rowling (enough ink has been spilled on both sides), you’re left with a world suspended in wry absurdity that’s treated as absolute normalcy. For us muggles peering in from the outside, that is incredibly entertaining. Today, a year and change on, we’re going to dive in to see if Hogwarts Legacy lived up to the best of Rowling’s world, and if there’s any spiritual edification to be had in it.

This is MY chosen one, Alboin Withywindle. Say hi Alboin! Screenshot.

Hogwarts Legacy is set in Scotland in the late 1800’s, a whole century before the events of the first Harry Potter book. Through a handwavey set of circumstances, our character is invited to join Hogwarts as a fifth-year student, which is unprecedented in Hogwarts’ history. Before we even step on the campus grounds, your character is embroiled in a nasty plot involving goblins, dark wizards, and ‘ancient magic’ – which only your character can see. 

From here on out you’ll get to explore Hogwarts and go to class, as well as Hogsmeade and Upper and Lower Hogsfield too. The game seems much more focused on continuing your ancient magic adventure than being a Hogwarts simulator though. I get why, and it’s not a bad adventure on the whole – it’s necessary to give the player some drive. But I would have been content just going to class and preparing for some O.W.L.’s instead of being the most special boy in the world. 

As for the world, there sure is a lot of it! A fair amount of which did not feel necessary, if I’m being honest. Don’t get me wrong, these Scottish highlands were gorgeously rendered, and the content we get is really good. But if the size was scaled back just a smidge, the density of the points of interest would have increased. This would have cut down on repetition and retained the sense of magical discovery felt earlier on. 

Even as just a casual fan, the environmental design in the castle of Hogwarts is top-notch. There are so many immersive touches that it makes up for many of the faults I’ve dinged the game for. This is where the humor of the game really shines. A moving tapestry shows a medieval magician trying (and failing) to teach cave trolls ballet. One set of animated armor gets aggressively annoyed at the other armor’s incessant humming. Peeves the trickster ghost even makes many appearances, to the consternation of all. 

And this is but a taste of his fury! Game capture.

The world is enthralling, beautiful, and genuinely funny. While the overt storytelling is functional and works well in certain beats, the environmental storytelling never misses. It was what kept me most engaged, even when glitches occurred. The music aided this beautifully – it evokes Williams’ iconic score while retaining its own identity. Ambient and orchestral, the music is at its best in the Vivariums of Hogwarts. If the intention of the rest of the music was to settle you into Hogwarts, the music in the vivarium’s cranks the coziness up to 11. 

If there’s one other element competing for my favorite feature, it’s the magic system. Both in and out of combat, spells are used for multiple purposes. (For example, Arresto Momentum can be used to keep a platform in place as well as to stun an enemy for a short time.) By the end of the game, you’ll have 4 customizable sets of 4 spells in your quick list, with approximately 25 spells available overall. To change from one set to another on PS5, you lightly press R2 and a direction on the D-pad. Fully pressing in R2 does your basic attack, and R2 + a face button will use whatever spell you’ve assigned to that slot. It’s a great use of the adaptable triggers on the PS5, and these systems combined make it very conducive to flowing combat like below. 

And this is just wandwork! I didn’t use any potions, plants, or ancient magic. See the bottom right for an example of the shifting spell sets. Game capture.

So Hogwarts has strong marks all around, but how does it fare spiritually? This is a bit anticlimactic, but it does surprisingly well on the spiritual front. Despite what you may have heard, Catholics aren’t against Harry Potter. A guiding principle of Catholic Game Reviews is that media must be judged by its own merits and not just by its reputation or purported actions. Even when games depict sin, it’s important to analyze the context in which that sin is occurring. If there’s a violent action in game but it’s clear narratively that it’s not to be glorified, that can be just as (if not more) illustrative of moral living than a story with only virtuous characters.

Magic in real life ought not to be pursued. As Catholics we believe there is a spiritual dimension to the world, and attempts to influence or control that domain are not within our ken. But this is where media literacy and critical thinking comes into play.  Most people reading these books or playing these games understand that the magic on display is just for entertainment purposes. This specific study of magic is not something that can actually be pursued. So I’m not going to criticize this depiction of magic, as it’s an established storytelling staple in fantasy. 


When it comes down to what spiritual lessons Hogwarts Legacy has to impart, it’s actually pretty Catholic. There is much discussed about the necessity of suffering in the human experience. Suffering is a core part of our identity and crucial to the human experience in a fallen but redeemed world. It’s not that suffering is natural – rather, it’s unnatural, and was an effect of original sin on the nature of the world. But when Christ was incarnated, He entered into suffering and redeemed it on the cross, making it an effective means of bringing ourselves closer to God. Hogwarts doesn’t go quite that far of course, but it does acknowledge how suffering is unavoidable on this earth and a part of what it means to be human. 

Asides from that, it’s your standard fare of morality – stand up for your friends, be brave and considerate, etc. (All good things of course, but the thoughts on suffering are what’s explored most in the main narrative.) You can decide in conversation to be nice or mean, but 90% of the time the mean option is incredibly toothless and sometimes still secretly nice. (Maybe it’s mean in British and I’m just ignorant?) 

There is still some ludonarrative dissonance in the morality of the game. The Unforgivable Curses are supposed to be immediate tickets to Azkaban, and yet you can perform them right in front of a professor; at best you’ll only get a disapproving nod from them. As well, for a fifth-year student at Hogwarts, you sure kill a lot of people, even if you choose not to learn Avada Kedavra. The game justifies this by them being either beast traffickers or general highwaymen, but we all know this is just because the game wanted you to be able to fight other wizards. Is it odd when you think about it? Definitely. Is it morally justifiable? In-universe, I guess, as you’re usually acting out of self-defense. Out of universe, we ignore elements like these all the time in video games. Just because I have fun playing a shooter doesn’t mean I have any proclivity towards gun violence. Just so, it’s more fun to play the game with these enemies than it would be without. As the violence has some grounds for justification, I’ll invoke the rule of cool and move on.


Overall, Hogwarts Legacy gets an E (for Exceeds Expectations.) At least, that’s how I’d grade it if this were the O.W.L.’s. If you’re a fan of the series, it’s a must-play.

Scoring: 91%

Art: 5 / 5

Music: 5 / 5

Story & Writing: 3.5 / 5

Gameplay: 4.5 / 5 

Design: 4.75 / 5

Morality / Parental Warnings

Violence: there is violence depicted, and while ESRB indicates there being blood I have no recollection of that, so it must not have been egregious. It most likely was just “crime-scene” type-blood.

Language: there’s an instance or two where the word “bastard” is used. 

Miscellaneous: There is a transgender character in Hogwarts Legacy, but they feel more like a defense against criticism than a well-drawn character. And based on many trans people’s reactions, it seems to me many trans people agree. Additionally, the witch who introduces you to the Merlin Trials mentions having a wife.

Some lessons from one professor taken out of context could be misconstrued. She says ‘sometimes we shouldn’t destroy darkness with our light’. Clearly wrong in a philosophical sense, but they’re referring to [spoilers] removing the sensation of suffering from one’s soul – and in that case, we’d agree. Suffering is important and ought not be magicked away. Still very poorly worded though, but I guess there wasn’t much time for nuance.

About Matt "PBnJ" Palardy

Video-game lover since I first jumped around in Super Mario 64. Tolkien nerd and music enthusiast to boot. Hope you enjoy long rants about miniscule details!