Hogwarts Legacy is too obsessed with caves and ruins
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Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Hogwarts Legacy is undeniably magical, but not as magical as it could be. The opening 10 to 15 hours of the game are stellar and among some of the most enchanting I’ve played. When I completed the prologue and laid eyes on Hogwarts for the first time, a grin spread across my face. Already, Hogwarts Legacy had achieved what so many of us hoped it would. Across the globe, those in my generation grew up with this franchise. Here in the UK, it was inescapable. As Hogwarts drifted into view, I felt like Harry, ready to embark on my own wizarding adventure.
That’s exactly what I did. I was sorted into my house, explored my dormitory, and finally started attending my classes. I met my classmates, learnt spells from my professors - I flew on a broom for the first time and visited the quaint neighbouring Hogsmeade. I walked everywhere because there wasn’t a single detail I wanted to miss. I curiously gazed at all the interactable elements and puzzles around Hogwarts I didn’t yet understand, excited to see what secrets this majestic castle had in store for me later. Those opening few hours were filled with such wonderment. The problem is, that wonderment eventually ran out.
Take a look at Hogwarts Legacy in action below.
Those secrets I had hoped to uncover in Hogwarts didn’t really exist. Sure, there are a few nooks and crannies hiding hidden loot but that’s not what I had in mind. Hogwarts should’ve undoubtedly been the beating heart of Hogwarts Legacy and yet, at least for me, it didn’t feel that way at all. After the initial spectacle, I quickly discovered that Hogwarts Legacy is a little too obsessed with caves and ruins when the crowning jewel of this franchise, Hogwarts, a destination fans have been dreaming of exploring for years in such detail, was relegated to little more than a base for tutorials.
I was delighted when I was finally tasked with taking a Polyjuice potion to transform into Headmaster Black. It was one of very few main missions that actually required me to stay in the school grounds. It stands to reason that Hogwarts could have hidden secrets and rooms for the plot to utilise. There is, of course, the Map Chamber which is new but it’s a rather simple space. Really, it serves the purpose of allowing the Keepers to send you off to yet another cave or ruin. The Chamber of Secrets goes undiscovered until roughly 200 years later proving that we haven’t yet found all there is to explore. Hogwarts is full of possibilities.
It’s strange because the narrative closely ties in with the castle’s history. I won’t be delving into specific spoilers but the story concerns the actions of Hogwarts’ previous students and professors. It seems at odds then that the main missions are so desperate to send you as far away from Hogwarts as possible, when the narrative is doing the very opposite. I can understand sending you to the odd cave and ruin. To begin with, it is fun to explore Hogwarts’ surrounding areas. After a while though, it can become repetitive and tiresome.
The issue for me is that I felt so detached from the ruins and caves that I was sent to. When Harry stumbles across the Chamber of Secrets, it had significance in the story. That’s not particularly the case here. Most of the caves are just magical assault courses set up by the Keepers, or simple mines set up by goblins. They don’t hide any rich lore. Ruins, according to your main character, “must’ve been quite stately in their time”, but otherwise, they’re just a location for a quick duel with Rookwood, Ranrok or their cronies. They’re certainly not stately now, nor do we find out why that’s the case.
I understand that we need to venture beyond Hogwarts’ walls. Spending the entirety of the game within the castle wouldn’t have been a great idea either, but at least if we’re venturing off to somewhere else, make it somewhere with a bit of depth and interest in terms of the storytelling. If we’re visiting a cave or ruin, give it significance instead of repeating the same experience four times over. Considering the possibilities are endless as this is a magical world, it does make you wonder why the design of Hogwarts Legacy is so limited. The most exciting quest for me was the PlayStation-exclusive ‘The Haunted Hogsmeade Shop’. Every aspect of that experience was carefully considered and told a cohesive story - and it’s something many players can’t even experience. Bizarrely, main quests paled creatively in comparison.
Portkeys could’ve taken us to any number of locations. There’s Diagon Alley or The Ministry of Magic - just something to break up the caves and ruins. It’s not just the main missions that are cave and ruin centric. The vast majority of side missions will have you venturing off to them too. It’s a shame because, as I said, those opening 15 hours set you up perfectly - teasing the magical adventure ahead - but there’s only so much magic to be found when you constantly find yourself in cold, stony locations. It’s as if someone pulled the creative plug partway through the game. Hogwarts Legacy is enjoyable, but its unlocked potential did leave me feeling somewhat frustrated. You could say things got rocky.