Tobold's Blog
Sunday, January 15, 2023
Is that really the legacy?

One of the major game releases of 2023 will happen in 4 weeks, when Hogwart's Legacy is released on February 10. So I looked through the various information available about the game. And I can't get a solid grip on what the game is really about.

Hogwart's Legacy is to the Harry Potter books/films what Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is to the Lord of the Rings books/films: You get to play in an open world that depicts the world you know from the original, but in a different age; thus you don't play as the main character you know, and don't encounter the other characters from the original. So in Hogwart's Legacy you interact with the school of Hogwart's, including surrounding areas, and including the school system with attending classes etc.

While it is easy to see how that will attract a lot of Harry Potter fans, it is a lot less obvious how it will allow them to have a similar experience than the books/films. We know how open world games play; there are usually a myriad of points of interest on a map to explore and things to interact with. That is necessary, because an open world which you can only fly over and look at would become boring pretty quickly. And thus there will be something like collectibles or "side quests" which make the player visit all the nooks and crannies of Hogwart's and surroundings.

At first glance that corresponds to Harry Potter and his friends exploring the school. But the story in the original is a lot tighter and linear. Harry Potter doesn't go on side quests. Nor does he get into a series of wand fights to level up. The use of combat magic in the books is pretty rare. Grinding through combat encounters and open world points of interest to gain levels doesn't really *feel* like Harry Potter.

My prediction for Hogwart's Legacy is that it will follow a trend we have seen a lot for major film and game releases in 2022: Well-paid critics giving really high review scores, and the user reviews having an average score that is a lot lower. While the numbers don't really tell you anything, reading what users complain about is usually a better indication of the quality of a game than the paid reviews. So that, and streamed playthroughs is what I am going to look for to decide whether this is the game for me.

I've no interest in the franchise but from what I can see there is some plot involving evil wizards and goblins. I think it's probably going to be a bit like an Elder Scrolls game except that the player will be part of the magic academy. It looks very pretty and advance sales are high. [I am too old for action adventures, and I have a bunch I could install if I felt like one, e.g. Greedfall from last month's Humble Choice. Wasteland 3 from that is my new favorite game, though!]

With Hogwart's Legacy we might see a different pattern of inconsistent reviews than we're used to, for reasons that have even less to do with the game than usual. Though if it's actually good, the reviews may acknowledge it, and leave the grumbling to opinion pieces in the same organs.

I'm looking forward to it as well. I read the books to my kids and watched the movies with them. I enjoyed the world that J. K. Rowling created and would like to explore it in an open world format. I've already watched the game play reveals but I need to see real "regular" people playing it first to know if it's something that I should try. Too many game companies have gotten so good at smoke and mirrors that it's impossible to trust the industry. That's why watching ten or so minutes of a real person play can give me a much better "feel" for a game then watching a studio demo for an hour.

I spend too much time on the internet, but my guess is that the majority of the user reviews / comments will have very little to do with [what I think of] the game.

E.g., I just saw a tweet "It’s simple. By buying Hogwarts Legacy, J.K. Rowling, a known transphobe, receives a portion of the money. Therefore, you should not buy it."

I find online reviews and numeric score aggregators considerably less useful than a decade ago.
1) J.K. Rowling is a known feminist, who spoke out against a new Scottish law which would have given biological men access to shelters for battered women, without even a medical diagnosis of being “trans”. Describing her as transphobic, when she is only insisting that gender dysphoria is a medical condition and not a lifestyle choice, is misleading. Also, the UK government just stopped that law, which I guess makes the whole government transphobic.

2) If you spend $60 on Hogwart’s Legacy, J.K. Rowling will probably not receive more than a few cents.

3) 99% of world literature has been produced by authors who by 2023 standards are “transphobic”.
I don't really want to wade into the whole JK Rowling being a TERF debate but it's not like she is personally involved in this Harry Potter game. Sure she'll get some money from it but realistically unless you boycott all Harry Potter stuff she will anyways.

It's akin to not playing current day Minecraft because Notch turned out to be a far right conservative even though he has 0 to do with the game now.
I agree with all three of your points.

However, I don't think being "wrong" will reduce the quantity or intensity of the reviews on this issue. Ergo, my assumption that the review scores may not be that dispositive regarding whether I would like the game.

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