Ever since the earlier Harry Potter games were released for Playstation, Xbox and PC, fans were already tired of asking for an RPG of the Wizarding World. They wanted it so much that it didn’t take long until unofficial versions surfaced on the internet. The games weren’t very elaborate, with great graphics or good gameplay, but they were the only option available to those who wanted to be Hogwarts’ students. Over a decade later, Warner Bros. decided to make the fans’ wishes come true. Hogwarts Mystery, for iOS and Android, is the first official Harry Potter RPG, but it has all the elements of a forgettable trend. Read the review here
After creating an avatar with few customization options, the players start their journey at the Diagon Alley, where they buy their wands and Hogwarts’ school items. Soon enough the first disappointment comes: the scenarios aren’t 3D, but more like a 2D with a light depth added which restricts the possibilities of exploring. The user can only swipe the scenarios to the sides, and the avatar, despite being shown on the screen, can’t walk around; it only serves the purpose of an illustration of their presence at the place. That being so, for those who always wanted to wander around the castle – which is a vital part of studying at Hogwarts – the game is frustrating. The scenarios, above all the common rooms and the Great Hall, are quite charming, but if the players can’t interact with it, what are they for? Moreover, it lacks creativity: the hallways are identical to one another and there are geographical mistakes in the castle plans – since when is the Hufflepuff common room next to Slytherin’s?
The gameplay is dull, because its challenges are ridiculously easy to complete. Preparing potions and casting spells don’t demand any skills: you just have to press buttons as the game suggests and have enough energy. Thus, getting away from an attack by Devil’s Snare is as easy as falling asleep during Professor Binns’ class.
The energy system is off-putting, since most of the challenges are just ways of getting the players to spend all their energy. It ends so fast that it’s hard to keep playing for more than five minutes without having to buy energy with actual money. There are some secondary tasks which do not require energy, but they’re irrelevant and even more tedious than the main tasks. After a few minutes playing, there’s nothing left to do. This gameplay logic, when added to the limited possibilities of exploring, discourages the users from moving forward in their journey.
Hogwarts Mystery isn’t interactive either. The system doesn’t offer the possibility of adding other players as friends, which makes the experience quite lonely. In a time when we’re more and more connected to our friends through the internet, choosing a RPG that doesn’t offer integration between players doesn’t seem to be a good choice. Interactivity is left in the hands of the characters that, despite being fun and making the experience sounds familiar, aren’t enough.
The biggest bet – and the biggest win – in Hogwarts Mystery is the narrative. Right from the start, in Diagon Alley, the users find out their brother has been expelled from Hogwarts and, soon after that, disappeared. The players know their sibling did something bad, but have no idea what it was; at every turn, professors and schoolmates mention the case, even suggesting a relation to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. That triggers the player’s curiosity not only to advance levels, but also to move forward in the story.
Hogwarts Mystery is not made for binge gaming. It’s hard to reach a verdict after having played it for just a few hours, but it’s possible to say that, due to the discouraging gameplay, Hogwarts Mystery isn’t, by far, the RPG Harry Potter fans have always wanted. If an update with significant changes in structure doesn’t come – which is very unlikely, – the app has all the elements to be forgotten within a few weeks.