Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 27, 2023
Virtual morality

A reader requested that I make a post about moral decisions in Hogwarts Legacy, and I am happy to comply. Hogwarts Legacy doesn't really have a system where your "alignment" would be measured over the course of the game. Although there are different endings, they depend on the decisions you do at the end, and not how you behaved during the course of the game. And in a way, that is an advantage: Hogwarts Legacy gives you many choices over the course of the game, where you can freely decide how nice you want to be, without doing things just to keep an artificial moral score up.

Over the course of the game, you are given the choice whether to learn three unforgivable curses as additional spells. Unlike most other spells, you have the choice of refusing to learn them. You can finish the game without ever using Dark Magic. And part of the story shows the conflicts of another student who choses Dark Magic as a way to help his sister, a way that is rejected by his family and friends.

While that (and your end game choices) is probably the biggest part of the moral decisions you need to make in Hogwarts Legacy, there are numerous smaller ones. There are a lot of quests where other students asks you to gather something for reasons that aren't always noble. And at the end of the quest you are given the option of whether you want to hand over the gathered quest item(s) or not. There are also a lot of dialogue choices where you can choose nicer or not so nice responses. Again, that doesn't change a thing. You get the same quests and quests rewards regardless of your dialogue choices.

My characters moral choices up to now haven't been very consistent. I chose to learn Dark Magic, not out of moral considerations, but simply to see how the spells work. And they are rather powerful. I usually choose the nice options in dialogue, but I didn't return the gobstones to the annoying girl that upset her schoolmates with them. I did however deliver the coward student the "proof of his bravery" to brag with.

In pen & paper roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons I am not a fan of really evil player characters; at least not if they do evil things to other players' characters, as that causes bad blood between the players. I once kicked a player out of my campaign for constantly trying to sabotage the group and the other players because he wanted to play "evil". But I have also had campaigns in which the whole group was "evil", but all evil acts were directed against non-player characters, and that was fine with me.

So in Hogwarts Legacy I don't take the moral decisions very seriously, because there are no other real humans involved. I haven't learned the death curse yet, but I will be happy to sling it around. Who cares whether I use "Dark Magic" to kill poachers or burn them to a crisp? Hogwarts Legacy is full of situations where you are forced to fight and kill, and is a lot more violent than the Harry Potter books. Making a distinction between "good" and "bad" magic, if both are used to kill people, seems a bit pedantic to me.

A game where there are no consequences to your choices might as well not have choices in my opinion.
It's interesting to hear other's perspectives. With or without consequences I always follow my own morale code in game during the first play through. Then I'll typically go back and make different decisions to see how they play out. Whether it's an actual gameplay change or just a narrative change doesn't really matter to me. However, in HL I could tell that if I didn't answer certain ways then I wouldn't learn the dark arts spells and that I feel is an actual gameplay change as we would have less tools at our disposal and combat does change quite a bit if you have avada kedavra and certain talents. So I felt like I "had" to make those dark arts choices against my own morale choice or I'd miss out on a part of the game that I wanted to experience.

I too didn't understand why it was okay to kill with a left click, but not use a single spell to do so. The aversion to the dark arts the characters had would have been better in my opinion if our other spells either knocked the NPCs unconscious or some other non-lethal result. However, like you I thought if I'm killing them anyway why should the spell matter.

Unlike Bigeye, I appreciate the choices with or without consequences because I may or may not want to be a jerk to some characters, even if that's just a dialog choice - it lets me decide the tone of my characters reactions. I feel like I'm given the opportunity to be true to myself if nothing else.
Even in games like DDO where dialogue choices have zero consequences save for slightly changing the dialogue path that leads to quest bestowal I still ponder my choices and try to get some sense of the personality of the character I am playing.

I haven't played HGL, but I have to agree that the choice of whether to murder someone with "morally acceptable magic" or "dark magic" seems pretty odd and artificial.
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