I, like many other fans, had been looking forward to playing Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. I was even willing to excuse it for just being a mobile game if it was able to offer me something enjoyable. However, after ending Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Year 1, my current opinion about the game isn’t great.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery was advertised as a game that allowed you to attend Hogwarts, the wish of millions of fans around the world. In HP: HM you get to create your own character. I liked how you can choose whether you want to be a witch or a wizard, instead of selecting from the traditional male or female gender options. But the moment you begin creating your character, you get a whiff of the inevitable ‘pay-to-win’ title this game will soon become. A lot of the character customization is locked and costs in-game currency.
Anyway, you visit Diagon Alley where you meet Rowan Khanna. Rowan has no set gender and is programmed to present the same gender as your main character. At Diagon Alley, you’ll get to experience some of the gameplay. I was expecting to be able to roam around familiar environments from Harry Potter. Nope. You are unable to move your character at all. They will stand in one spot, while you tap on different options on the screen to fill a progress bar above.
Think of it as the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to move your finger over a specific design that’s meant to cast spells or do a certain action. There are also instances where you have to answer some multiple choice questions. In short, it’s boring.
Do not expect to play the entire game in one sitting. Tapping on the screen to fill up the progress bar also uses up your character’s already limited energy stores. And what are you to do when you run out of energy? Buy more with real money, of course!
You can also wait for your energy bar to recover or tap certain things around Hogwarts for a couple of free energy orbs if you don’t want to spend actual cash.
What’s even more annoying is that you have to wait for certain missions to unlock after their timer runs out. Want to start playing the next mission? Either spend some real money or wait for eight hours for it to unlock on its own. Sigh!
As for the learning experience, in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Year 1, you are taught three subjects. Professor Snape teaches Potions. Attending his classes will improve your ‘Knowledge’ levels as well as unlock different potions. Professor Flitwick teaches Charms. Attending his classes improves your ‘Empathy’ levels and unlocks different spells such as Flipendo, Alohomora, etc. Madam Hooch teaches Flying which improves your ‘Courage’ attribute and also increases the amount of energy you can store.
Your character’s attributes determine the kind of options you can select when interacting with different characters. For example, you can make use of your ‘Courage’ attribute when interacting with someone who is scared, etc.
You also get to duel using a mechanism that follows the rock-paper-scissors system. A Sneaky stance is able to beat a Defensive stance but it loses to an Aggressive stance. Being Defensive can beat an Aggressive stance. Both characters selecting the same stance leads to a draw. The person who is able to deplete their opponent’s health bar first wins the duel.
The plot revolves around your main character being the younger brother of a Hogwarts student who was obsessed with Cursed Vaults. Your character will experience visions that somehow link to the Cursed Vaults. During Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Year 1, you will befriend a couple of characters (Penny from Hufflepuff and Ben from Gyriffindor) and work together to uncover the mystery of the vaults in hopes to find your missing brother. Interacting with your friends also levels them up and unlocks rewards (experience points and gems) for you.
There’s also Merula, a Slytherin who is just bad because she’s a Slytherin? I don’t know. Her character is very poorly written.
In short, the entire plot comes across as a weirdly written self-insert fanfic. But then again, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was a poorly written fanfic, too, and it recently got nominated for 10 Tony awards. So, maybe there are people out there who also love HP: HM.
Anyway, I’m a very patient person, especially when it comes to games asking me to spend hard earned money to progress. I was able to complete Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Year 1 without spending a single cent. It took me some days, but I finally finished it. Let’s see if I can do the same for the upcoming years.
Also, I’m waiting to see if this game allows queer relationships or not.
Have you completed Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Year 1? What did you think? Let us know.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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