The Sense of Adventure in Hogwarts Legacy Enhances Monotonous Open-World Games

The Sense of Adventure in Hogwarts Legacy Enhances Monotonous Open-World Games ...

J.K. Rowling created the Hogwarts Legacy, which is based on the Wizarding World universe. You can read more about Rowling's history of transphobic remarks here, as well as resources to support LGBTQ organizations.

Hogwarts Legacy will be among the most popular, most popular, and controversial games of 2023. Yet, at a time when discourse can emerge from entertainment that barely merits a second thought, it is worthwhile to note that Hogwarts Legacy is actually a very good game. At the very least, there are sections of the title that are quite enjoyable, but also quite surprising.

Despite the game's sense of adventure, none of those surprising aspects caught me off-guard more than the game's own. Although it may seem strange at the time, the ways Hogwarts Legacy captures a classic sense of adventure is significant, even at a time of stagnation for open-world games that more and more Triple-A developers have come to rely on.

Hogwarts Legacy isn't all about offering everything, everywhere, all at the same time.

When we viewed some of the things Hogwarts Legacy does not tell you, I thought about this briefly, but one of Hogwarts Legacy's greatest features is how little it doesn't allow you to do right away.

Many open-world games (though certainly not all) are practically sold on the idea of letting you do pretty much anything you want as soon as you want to do it. They give you access to a massive playground and all the toys you could ever wish for yourself before sending you off to make your own adventure. Some restrictions may apply (gated areas, unlockable abilities, etc.), but many modern open-world games want you to say "look at all of this stuff" as soon as possible in order to justify their increasing spending and increasing

Hogwarts Legacy takes a slightly different approach to that setup. Rather, you may be surprised by how little you seem to be capable of when you first start the game. You can't really leave the castle, you can't use many spells, and you can't even level up your character.

In many situations, you won't be able to do some of these things until you've spent a few (or significantly more) hours with the game. Yet, many of these mechanics will be apparent fairly soon. For instance, you'll immediately notice that you can unlock certain doors, but you'll have to go through much of the game without the ability to do so.

In the wrong hands, that strategy might have easily frustrated the Veruca Salt gamers of the world who want it right now. In Hogwarts Legacy, though, that restraining measure pays out in surprising ways.

When you unlock the World Map in Hogwarts Legacy, your head will sag with excitement and freedom that were unattainable previously. When you finally get to capture beasts and raise them in the Room of Requirement, you begin to reexamine the significance of gameplay you had previously ignored.

The key behind that last reveal is the same thing that makes Hogwarts Legacy work the way it does. It is certainly smaller than many modern open-world games, but it is so much larger because the designers chose to exercise degrees of restraint. There are many other key discoveries in Hogwarts Legacy, all of which make the game seem so much bigger and more alive.

The word “discovery” is used here. An open-world game is only as huge as its effect on you. Modern World of Warcraft expansions may technically be larger than their classic counterparts, but those older titles sometimes seem larger because they make more aspects of your journey more meaningful. Invoking the pleasure of an adventure in Hogwarts Legacy, the game invokes the feeling of an actual adventure better than other modern open-world titles of its size.

Hogwarts Legacy Is Filled With Discoveries and Secrets It Allows You to Miss Everything

I often think of Easter eggs when I think of modern games, especially open-world ones. At a time when many developers seem to be averse to the notion that players are missing something, true secrets are often limited to visual gags or collectibles designed for the 100% crown.

It's a far cry from a time when more developers seemed more willing to conceal fairly substantial parts of an experience from all but the most curious. It's very possible that noticing Reptile in Mortal Kombat would have been beneficial if it had been part of the main game, but it certainly enhanced the experience of the thing.

Hogwarts Legacy certainly includes Easter egg and completionist levels, but I often found myself surprised by how many fairly substantial secrets the game allows you to overlook.

Because I chose Ravenclaw as my starting neighborhood, I encountered one of the game's "Puzzle Doors" earlier than others. I knew I could reach the entrance, but I couldn't seem to figure out how to open it immediately. The problem turns out that these were math puzzles that I could have solved if I had the chance.

Not every puzzle in the game is like that, though. There are numerous Metroidvania-like puzzles in the game that you can't solve until you've acquired certain abilities. That mixture of logical solutions and progression puzzles keeps you on your toes.

The game has this ability of easing you with the presence of such secrets, as mentioned above, without sacrificing the thrill of learning something new.

There are a lot of interesting worldbuilding, gameplay, and storytelling that are hidden in Hogwarts Legacy that you might otherwise overlook if you choose to ignore them. Although I hate that many of them require a lot of use of the Revelio spell from the Arkham games, it's a testament to the game's secrets that I felt compelled to look for them for reasons that went beyond the obvious.

It's refreshing to see more developers trust in the thrill of figuring things out at a time when a game like Elden Ring can become a bonafide blockbuster. Hogwarts Legacy is certainly not on that level, but it at least puts some faith in the idea you will seek out areas of the game that are worthwhile.

Combat, Dungeons, and Other Other Adventures Around the Corner

I was particularly concerned about the game's combat system and world exploration, while the former felt like it could easily be an afterthought versus the enjoyment of wandering around Hogwarts. Yet, both of those things turned out to be two of Hogwarts Legacy's surprising strengths.

I do have to admit that the game's combat system is somewhat underwhelming. Like the Arkham games or Shadow of Mordor, it's often focused on battling several enemies at the same time while avoiding or countering incoming threats. That style of combat is often enjoyable, but it's enhanced here by both the game's heavy lifting and its surprising creativity.

Spells in Hogwarts Legacy are often quite impressive, because they lack the visual detail that character designers associate with them. However, enemies rarely feel like mere bullet sponges, and there's a wonderful one-to-one sensation of striking a spell.

The almost puzzle-like features of this combat system help to boost your feeling of excitement. You usually only have quick access to a few spells at a time, which immediately encourages you to experiment with other spell combinations and approaches. Many are viable, but the notion that there is some other way to do things feels persistent enough to allow you to spice things up even seemingly mundane encounters.

The same applies to the game's dungeons. Yes, Hogwarts Legacy has a few dungeon-like areas, and I can assure you right now that they will not enrage you about The Elder Scrolls or gaming's finest examples of that concept. They're less frequent, not nearly as elaborate, and, like the combat, won't pose too much of a challenge to newcomers.

If I told you that puzzle and secret-filled caverns didn't often evoke the same sensations that video game dungeons are designed to induce, then that's not the case. Those areas might have been nothing more than the enemy camps, watch towers, and other barely-there distractions we see in so many modern open-world games, but the team took the time to implement them in a way that makes you stop, think, and experiment with the larger world they are attempting to create.

I may be blaming my fondness for the game's traditional adventure elements for so many other games for abandoning such concepts, and I couldn't help but think that Hogwarts Legacy does a decent job of breaking new ground in many ways.

That Old Familiar Feeling

In the headline of this article, I intended to compare Hogwarts Legacy to classic Legend of Zelda games, but that didn't seem entirely accurate. Each game ultimately does some things better, while others worse, than the other, and Hogwarts Legacy has a long way to go before it matches the best Zelda dungeons.

When I thought of the greatest moments of my time with Hogwarts Legacy, that comparison stayed relevant. Perhaps it's because the game ultimately relies on that same Zelda-like set of action, puzzles, and intelligent gated exploration at least as much as it relies on certain open-world conventions. Perhaps it's because the game relies equally on music, memorable visual design, and secrets to enhance the scope of its adventure.

In the end, I think that an emotion can most easily be attributed to games like Zelda and Hogwarts Legacy. Games like Zelda and Legacy have this way of making almost every step seem like a part of a larger quest rather than a sometimes pointless and burdensome journey to your destination.

Hogwarts Legacy has some negative things to say, and we'll address some of them shortly. If there is one thing other open-world developers should take from it, it's the realization that we are at a turning point where the scope of such games will be measured by the sense of adventure in even the smallest parts of them, rather than the number of quests, collectibles, or the dimensions of a digital map alone.