featured image hogwarts legacy swimming doesn't matter
Game: Hogwarts Legacy
Content Type: Gaming News
Date: January 25, 2023

The first gameplay previews for Hogwarts Legacy are out, and the internet’s primary takeaway seems to be focused on the fact that you will be able to swim in Hogwarts Legacy. Apparently, this is a excellent news, as it means that the world of Hogwarts Legacy will be fully explorable. It’s evidence that the Avalanche Games have seen to it that traversal options are fully fleshed-out, and demonstrates that they care about the details and world. And to that, I just have to say, “Who cares?”

No, really. Who cares? We’ve come a long way since water in games was an instant death-sentence (or at least a position reset) for all but the most aquatic of characters. Swimming shouldn’t be a lauded feature, it should just be expected in a game with bodies of water. And it isn’t very interesting, as far as swimming goes. There is no diving (which was the feature related to water I was hoping for), no water mounts or vehicles (or other magical traversal options), and in general no special water mechanics, at least as far as we’ve heard or seen so far.

hogwarts legacy ezio auditore swimming
Ezio was able to hide using water in Assassin’s Creed 2, meaning the 13-year old game has Hogwarts Legacy beat in this area

So… It’s just swimming. An animation tied to water traversal, in lieu of having the character die, be repelled, or be otherwise unable to enter it. That’s what we in the biz call “The Bare Minimum.” I’m very happy that Hogwarts Legacy has the feature that should be expected of all modern games, but it’s hardly the most exciting thing about the game. Meanwhile, I’ve seen surprisingly little appreciation for the robust spell system, for example, which was also shown in full as part of the same gameplay previews.

And let’s just go back a bit, to when I mentioned that fans saw swimming as a boon for traversal in Hogwarts Legacy. As though traversal has ever been a concern for this game. If there is one part of the game which we can confidently say already looks great, it’s traversal. You can fly on brooms, ride hippogriffs and thestrals (on the ground or in the air), teleport through the floo network, or just simply walk (not to mention jumping, a feature that came with its own mini-hype parade). All of those systems look great, and the same previews that revealed swimming also mentioned how great broom flight in particular felt.

hogwarts legacy swimming in the sky on a broomstick
Look ma! I can fly! If only I could swim…

So, where was the worry that traversal in Hogwarts Legacy wouldn’t be up to snuff coming from? We already knew it would be. If anything, swimming looks to be the weakest part of that traversal. And of course it would be: in a world where most methods of transportation whimsically zoom through the air — if not instantly teleport you — why would swimming even matter? Of course it looks like the weakest part of traversal: you can just fly over the water.

Which brings me to my final point: swimming in Hogwarts Legacy is going to be pointless except for in very tight quarters. Because you’re a wizard. You can just fly over the water. And it’ll be faster. And give you more options. And (let’s be honest) look a lot cooler. While I have no doubt that swimming will be useful in some dungeons and interiors, where flight is inaccessible or unfeasible, the fact is that without swimming, those areas would simply not require you to swim.

hogwarts legacy swimming character
Are you exhilarated yet?

In other words, the only function swimming mechanically can serve is to complete tasks that are only in the game because the developers put swimming in it. And, unless that addition makes the game richer or more fun, that isn’t exactly the greatest addition. In fact, swimming might even just slow down the game, since the developers now have a free “move slowly” option that they can place in any section of the game where you can’t fly. Yep, that’s right: the only real use for the swimming in Hogwarts Legacy will be to make the game slower.

So, all this in mind, I ask once again: who cares about swimming in Hogwarts Legacy? It is a shallow (ha, get it) mechanic, one which is already the default in nearly all similar games, which is overshadowed by several far superior methods of transportation, and which only can be used practically in the game in order to slow down a player’s movement during specific gameplay sections. So… what’s the point?

I’ll leave you with one of the most unintentionally hilarious videos I’ve ever seen, where a group of developers, community managers, video editors, and more try to generate hype out of something so banal as swimming (titling the video simply “Swim”). No, seriously.

It reminds me of when the Onion made a parody video “advertising” Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 as having “the endless paperwork and routine patrolling a modern day soldier endures in photorealistic detail.” Except, you know, this is an actual piece of marketing put out as a huge feature to an actual game releasing in just about 2 weeks.

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