Much to many Potterhead’s delight, Avalanche Software and Portkey Games have given us a thorough look at Hogwarts Legacy in an extended gameplay showcase covering character creation, combat and a guided tour through the halls of Hogwarts castle. Without further ado, here’s everything we learned from over 30 minutes of gameplay footage.
The showcase was led by host Chandler Wood and understandably enthusiastic community manager James Whitehead from XpectoGo, alongside game director Alan Tew and senior environment artist Boston Madsen who gave insight on the inner workings and inspiration behind game development.
Kicking off, Whitehead was handed the controller to partake and create his very own unique character, and options are aplenty, to say the least. There are multiple presets each with richly detailed skin colours, hair textures and styles with in-depth touches such as changing your face shape, eye colour, voice sliders, to minute details such as adding moles and freckles or even scars and markings.
In terms of clothing, they all are befitting of the Victorian period, seeing as the game is set in the 1800s. We spotted bespoke round glasses akin to Harry’s, with Tew adding that more items such as these will be made available through quests, challenges or purchased through stores found in Hogsmeade. Tew noted that changing your physical appearance later in the game is limited to hairstyle and hair colour that can be changed by a wizarding barber. Neat!
Tour of Hogwarts
Avalanche chose not to reveal how exactly your character gets sorted into a house, deciding to keep the Great Hall and age-old Sorting Hat out of sight so that the unique experience will be that much more special when starting the game ourselves. We did, however, get a guided tour of the Hufflepuff common room, which seems to be taken directly off the page of J.K Rowlings writings and it looks amazing. Gold hues imbue the scene filled with plants and warm light spewing from lamps and various windows indicating a mid-summer’s day, filled with students taking a break in comfortable furniture. It truly feels warm and inviting.
Complimenting the visuals is the amazing soundstage and magical music score, which Tew noted was unique to each common house and areas situated in the game. The pitter-patter of footsteps change according to whether your walking on cobble stone or carpets, massive hallways echo with the hustle and bustle of students, the creaking of doors or magically moving grand staircase can be heard as it groans toward your destination and magic spells wiz, pop and splatter, with the sound of objects breaking giving a satisfying crunch.
Without spoiling too much, we did get to see students hang around the house hourglasses just outside the Great Hall, and a massive skeletal dragon hanging above in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, with various books, clutter and mysteriously magical eye ornaments following your every move.
Outside, the castle grounds showcase the beautiful Scottish backdrop, with lush hills and rocky mountains on the horizon. Madsen and Tew reckon every area peppered across the landscape can be visited. It’s also quite busy with students traversing via broomstick, and a distant look at the iconic Owlery shows owls in various shapes and sizes soaring amidst a summer skyline. Avalanche most definitely nailed the setting and aesthetics here adding that, “no two hallways look the same,” encouraging player exploration and traversal.
Side Quests and Combat
Speaking of exploration, frolicking about the great castle gives players the opportunity to meet various characters, who seek some form of aid through various tasks. For example, a young student named Zenobia wants us to find her Gobstones, while another named Nellie tasks you to find Daedalian Keys to unlock cabinets that might lead to valuable loot. As our student started late as a fifth year at Hogwarts, a series of field guide challenges are unlocked via solving puzzles, interacting with various points of interest in the world using Revelio to reveal its lore and history, and magically enchanted collectable pages can be retrieved with Accio. The latter undoubtedly fanfare harkening back to the early PlayStation era.
Finally, the guided tour ends at the infamous Clock Tower and segues into an in-depth look at combat via a not-so-secret duelling club called Crossed Wands. Combat differs vastly from the paint-a-spell to cast days from EA, instead, we now have a chain combo system in place. As gameplay was showcased on a PlayStation 5 dev kit, using R2 casts quick-attack spells, while holding R2 reveals advanced spells such as Accio and Stupefy in the form of four-cornered, diamond shaped UI.
Up to 16 additional spells can be learned and levelled up with XP that can be juggled via the D-pad and combined to fit your combat style, then casted via the respective face buttons. Oh, and much like Spider-man or the Batman: Arkham series, incoming spells can be sensed and deflected by a perfectly timed Triangle button press, with a halo surrounding the players head as an indication, while a long, correctly timed button press serves as a counter using Stupefy. My Spidey-sense is tingling. Tew also added that duelling animations re inspired by the movies where it mimics fencing but, “like from a really great distance.”
The 37-minute mark ends gameplay footage with host Chandler Wood alluding to a possible next episode showcasing outside traversal of the castle grounds and areas such as Hogsmeade. So far so good, Hogwarts Legacy is set to launch February 10, 2023 on all major platforms including PC. My anticipation is bursting at the seams.