Highlights Hogwarts Legacy does a great job of exploring the complex lore of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including occult details and character motivations. However, the game undermines the severity of the Dark Arts, a forbidden form of magic that is portrayed as heinous in books and movies. While it feels powerful to use Dark Arts spells in the game, the lack of consequences for using them breaks down the immersive atmosphere that Hogwarts Legacy tries to create.
Despite being a relatively new franchise in the grand scheme of pop culture, the Harry Potter Wizarding World has a deceptively complex lore behind it. From hidden details about iconic locations from the series, to the characters’ secret motivations, to the extensive lore behind every spell in the universe, the Wizarding World is dense and complicated. While it certainly couldn’t cover everything, Hogwarts Legacy does a surprisingly good job of diving into everything and pulling out the things that really matter.
It’s not all perfect. With such a vast universe to work with, it’s only natural that Hogwarts Legacy got some things wrong, but one of those parts of the lore was badly damaged during the game. Repeatedly described in books and films as some of the most heinous acts a witch or wizard could commit, the severity of the Dark Arts is greatly downplayed in the Hogwarts Legacy. While it all sounds great at first, it only serves to detract from the game’s narrative in the long run.Hogwarts Legacy Uses the Dark Arts a Little Irreverently
The initial treatment of Hogwarts’ Legacy of the Dark Arts starts off pretty well. Upon meeting and befriending Sebastian Sallow, the Hogwarts Legacy slowly begins to introduce the concept of the Dark Arts, a forbidden form of magic that is rarely used by the Wizarding World at large and is demonized by society. Although Sebastian understands the gravity of using the Dark Arts, he believes they can help him heal his sister and goes in search of Salazar Slytherin’s Scriptorium, which can apparently be found in the dungeons of Hogwarts Castle.
This introduction to the Dark Arts of Harry Potter is nearly perfect. Even players who have never seen or read a Harry Potter story before will immediately get the feeling that they probably shouldn’t embark on this quest, and that notion is cemented in the Dark Arts opening quest itself. After finding the entrance to the Slytherin Scriptorium, the player and Sebastian must navigate a sinister catacomb, and at the end of it, the player must decide whether to use the Cruciatus curse on Sebastian or let him use it on them. There’s a real foreboding in this moment that captures the severity of the Dark Arts very well.
However, things start to get a little more trivial from there. Sebastian’s next quest sees the player learning Empire, but there aren’t really any consequences to this action. While Sebastian’s uncle condemns him for using it on a goblin, the player receives no punishment, and this continues until Sebastian’s final mission in the game. In this mission, Sebastian kills his uncle with Avada Kedavra and starts to teach the spell to the player, in a lighthearted way. Again, while this action lands Sebastian in hot water with the Ministry and Hogwarts, the player can now use Avada Kedavra – and the rest of the Dark Arts spells – with absolutely no consequences.
On the one hand, the ability to use all three Unforgivable Curses during combat gives players a well-deserved power trip in the latter half of the game. On the other hand, it really breaks down the immersive atmosphere that the rest of Hogwarts Legacy built on. At the end of the day, Unforgivable Curses are named that for a reason, and the lack of consequences for using them just doesn’t make narrative sense. This really makes Hogwarts Legacy feel more like a sandbox video game than the immersive fan experience it was looking for.
Hogwarts Legacy is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, with a launch on Switch scheduled for November 14, 2023.