The Real-World Cost of Hogwarts Legacy Is Unforgivable

Hogwarts Legacy is a final nail in the coffin, solidifying that the magic of the Wizarding World is gone.

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With the utterance of a two-word spell, a green arc shoots out of my wand and instantly takes the life of the goblin in front of me. I feel powerful. I feel the adrenaline rushing through my veins. What does the life of the Goblin matter? Just like the Avada Kedavra curse I just cast, the creature was unforgivable — and anyway, it’s just a game.

Hogwarts Legacy aims to fulfill an incalculable number of fans' greatest wish: to live within the world of Harry Potter in a way that has never been possible before. That power fantasy comes with no consequences, going against the Potterverse’s accepted lore. If you want to be evil and embrace the Unforgivable Curses, there are no repercussions. This willingness to let the player be judge, jury, and executioner feels apt for a game that has become inextricably linked to creator J.K. Rowling’s continued insistence that her incendiary rhetoric against the transgender community ought to be similarly free of consequence.

Even after peeling away the layers of ethical issues that come with playing and supporting Hogwarts Legacy, what is left is an entirely bland, forgettable experience that checks the same boxes of every middling, semi-open world AAA game in existence today — but utterly fails to do anything interesting or innovative with its source material.

Hogwarts Legacy is a final nail in the coffin, solidifying that the magic of the Wizarding World is gone.

New Story, Same Problems

Hogwarts Legacy wastes the potential for player choice in attending the iconic wizarding school.

Warner Bros.

Taking place near the end of the 19th century, Hogwarts Legacy thrusts players into a previously unexplored corner of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. Beginning the game as a Chosen One who is a new Hogwarts student in their fifth year, players find themselves drawn into a conflict against the evil goblin Ranrok.

The player can see and utilize a form of ancient magic that Ranrok greedily wants to steal for himself. The game goes on to explain that wizardkind hoarded this magic from goblins, who wizards regard as lesser beings, even though the goblins had a legitimate right to this magic. But you needn’t have any moral qualms about putting down this rebellion. Goblins are bad. That’s all there is to it. If this seems simplistic and problematic, that’s because it is.

Despite assurances that Rowling had little to no involvement with the development of the game (though she still profits from its success) the new narrative cannot escape the astonishingly reductive views that form the thematic architecture of the Wizarding World. The inclusion of token minority characters, including Sirona Ryan (the series’ first transgender character), does not meaningfully address these shortcomings but only makes them more apparent. Sirona is another Cho Chang or Kingsley Shacklebolt, the East Asian and Black characters whose cringe-worthy names alone tell you all there is to know about them.

This reliance on lazy stereotypes is where Hogwarts Legacy is most successful in adapting the fictional universe upon which it is based.

Hogwarts Legacy aspires to be wish fulfillment, to give players the chance to escape the dull inevitability of math class or a 9-5 in favor of learning magic spells and saving the world in their spare time. Yet the actual school aspect of Hogwarts Legacy is practically non-existent. Even the O.W.L.s (essentially the Wizarding World’s SATs) are glossed over with a bland cutscene. There is a missed opportunity to implement similar systems like those seen in the Persona series and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which utilize a calendar system as well as beefy social interactions to let the player enjoy the fantasy of attending school and choosing their unique path through the year.

Due to the nature of the main questline, Hogwarts Legacy veers into a very linear path early on. While you will go to Defense Against the Dark Arts and learn how to fly a broom, it feels more akin to walking through one of the Universal theme parks for Harry Potter, rather than a world where you can make meaningful choices to shape the story. It’s a missed opportunity because Hogwarts itself is a real joy to walk around – but you can’t attend classes or form meaningful relationships. Instead, most of your time is spent trudging around the environment outside of Hogwarts, which all has a drab grey film over it.

Where Is the Magic?

Combat is devoid of meaningful customization, and the lack of consequences for using Unforgivable Curses is a reinforcement of J.K. Rowling’s harmful anti-trans rhetoric.

Warner Bros.

Gameplay centers on completing numerous quests where you seek out one of many McGuffins, spiced up by a short list of side quest varieties or combat encounters. As this is the Wizarding World, the greatest tool at your disposal is your wand. You can learn 27 spells, all of which are essentially familiar open-world mechanics given a half-hearted coat of paint. Take Alohomora, the lockpicking spell. In the world of the books and movies, this spell quickly unlocks the desired target. In Hogwarts Legacy, you wave your wand and are greeted by a generic lock-picking puzzle. What was the point of the spell again? Just like the rest of Hogwarts Legacy, it feels devoid of imagination.

If you choose to go the darker route and learn the Unforgivable Curses, the game assures you that nobody will care if you use the most taboo and heinous acts of magic in this world against any and all creatures you see fit. There is no moral system in Hogwarts Legacy, nothing akin to the renegade and paragon duality of the Mass Effect trilogy, or even the wanted system in GTA and Red Dead that discourages you from taking the evil path by throwing all kinds of obstacles in your way.

Lead Designer Kelly Murphy told GamesRadar that this decision “comes from a place of non-judgment by the game creators. If you want to be evil, be evil.”

No matter how murderous or cruel you are in this world, you will always still be the dashing, intelligent, and perfect Chosen One. You will be beloved by classmates and professors, all of whom are willing to turn a blind eye to your hobby as a mass murderer wielding the most forbidden magic in this world. In a world that is designed to let you live any life you want, there is no meaningful distinction between a good and bad path.

This renders Hogwarts Legacy utterly bereft of stakes, which also makes it not very fun to play. Worse, it implicitly propagates an extremely selfish, cruel way of navigating the world that couldn’t be further from the childlike wonder and curiosity the Harry Potter series purports to inspire. This lack of moral consequence stands in direct opposition to the core theme of the books and films the game is based on, namely that love is the most powerful form of magic. In Hogwarts Legacy, all magic is equal, meaning hate is as valid a path through the world as anything else.

The Cost

Hogwarts Legacy is a middling AAA open-world game that wants to separate from J.K. Rowling but feeds into a wave of trans-hate across the United States and United Kingdom.

Warner Bros.

Separated from reality, Hogwarts Legacy is a representation of unimaginative game design prevalent in AAA games. But to score Hogwarts Legacyon its own merits” as a piece of software would be to willfully ignore the realities that exist surrounding the game.

At every turn, Hogwarts Legacy tells you that you can do whatever you want. If it’s fun for you, why should you be judged? At this point, Hogwarts Legacy is not just a game. It encourages those who don’t want to engage with the guilt of ignoring pleas from the transgender community (maybe even their trans friends or family) that naysayers have no right to judge you.

This is Hogwarts Legacy’s most lasting and dangerous effect on the world. With real deaths in the transgender community being underplayed and ignored, all as a consequence of a continual normalization of trans hate stoked by people like Rowling, Hogwarts Legacy fits alongside a massive wave of anti-trans legislation and hate across the United States and United Kingdom.

For those who are able to look past all of the ethical issues that come with supporting Hogwarts Legacy, an uninventive, dime-a-dozen open-world RPG will be waiting for them.

The U.S. TransLifeline hotline is available at (877) 656-880.

Hogwarts Legacy is available now for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series consoles, and PC. Inverse played the PC version.

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