Set at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the late 1800s, Hogwarts Legacy seeks to let players experience their own wizard journey while not encroaching on the established canon of the books.
Developed by Avalanche Software, previously of Disney Infinity fame, the game is being released under Warner Bros’ PortkeyGames label, which also plays home to Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, a magical Pokemon Go developed by Niantic (at least until it shuts down in late January).
After all this time, there’s still very little known about the game itself. In 2018 footage of an early build of the game leaked, showing off the player learning spells, exploring iconic areas of the wizarding world and interacting with beasts, but it’s not clear how much of that early prototype still exists in the game we’re supposed to be getting in 2022.
It’s rumoured that the game will begin with the player being transferred to Hogwarts in their 5th year, two years before students typically graduate from the school. Leaks appeared to show players customising a character that looks significantly older than a first-year Hogwarts student.
Hogwarts Legacy guides:
A trailer shown in 2020 begins with what looks to be an older student arriving at the school, seemingly confirming this, though with the sorting hat and the process of being sorted into Hogwarts’ four houses so prevalent in the original books and subsequent media, it seems strange that this element would be omitted.
Although not part of the trailer, a screenshot released also showed an older student in a wand shop testing out their new wand, something that’s traditionally done when a student joins Hogwarts at age 11, so there’s potential that the story could surround a wizard not uncovering their powers until slightly later in life. The appearance of the unnamed wand shop implies that players will be able to visit the magic world’s High Street: Diagon Alley.
What’s also made clear by the trailer is that the world around Hogwarts is also a large part of the game. Hogsmeade village, the Forbidden Forest, and other locations from around the school grounds will be explorable. One part of the trailer even shows the player flying what looks to be a Hippogriff over a seaside setting, suggesting the open world may be much larger than expected.
Dementors, Inferi and Dragons all make an appearance in the trailer, as well as several of the creatures introduced in the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them spin-off films. Due to the game being set in the late 1800s, there are few other established characters or events that could appear in the game. While ghosts such as Nearly-Headless Nick could appear due to having died in the 1400s, teachers, students and other notable figures are likely to be entirely the creation of Avalanche.
One of the biggest questions so far surrounds the appearance of mysterious skull-faced figures at the end of the video. These appear to be the main threat to the player, although their motives and origins are unknown. After all, since the story is set more than 100 years before the rise of Voldemort and his death eaters, there has to be a new threat for the player, further divorcing this game from the canon established by creator J.K. Rowling.
Rowling’s involvement has also been the source of much speculation due the ongoing controversy surrounding her and the fact that over the past 18 months she’s been criticised for continually making comments and supporting views perceived to be transphobic on her Twitter account.
This has caused many Harry Potter movie actors, including leads Emma Watson and Eddie Redmayne, to publicly voice their support for the transgender community, and reports this year have suggested that the game’s development team are following suit by fighting to include transgender characters to the game to ensure representation.
Warner even addressed the concerns about the author’s involvement in the game in an FAQ posted online. “J.K. Rowling is not directly involved in the creation of the game,” they wrote, “however, her extraordinary body of writing is the foundation of all projects in the Wizarding World.”
Regardless of the author’s creative involvement, she is certain to receive profits from the game as she still oversees all of the projects related to the Harry Potter IP, but it’s going to be interesting to see how her recent behaviour will affect the fanbase’s appetite for the game.
“Regardless of the author’s creative involvement, she is certain to receive profits from the game as she still oversees all of the projects related to the Harry Potter IP, but it’s going to be interesting to see how her recent behaviour will affect the fanbase’s appetite for the game.”
The upcoming 20th anniversary reunion special due to stream on HBO Max on January 1 doesn’t appear to have any sign of Rowling at all, and Niantic’s game – which on paper seemed like it would be another surefire success given Pokémon Go’s popularity – will be killed off next month, causing some to wonder if the series’ spell is beginning to wane, and whether Rowling’s actions have catalysed this is any way.
It’s also going to be interesting to see what the state of public perception of the series will be by the time Hogwarts Legacy is released – according to an interview with a Warner Bros manager in November, it’s likely to be the second half of the year.
In the Wizarding World canon, September 1 is the day that students return to Hogwarts after the summer holidays, a day which would certainly fit thematically for a release. It remains to be seen if that’s when new players will be enrolling, and how many of them will actually show up for term.