Hogwarts Legacy’s long-awaited gameplay reveal came courtesy of a Sony State of Play on May 17th. Not only did the State of Play show off a lot of in-game footage, but it also offered plenty of info on Hogwarts Legacy’s open world. We now have a much better of just how the open world will look like – what players will be able to do, see, and how they’ll get around.
One of the most noteworthy clues about the game’s open-world comes from a very brief glimpse of a map. It doesn’t look quite like an in-game map, but instead resembles a 3D model that could be used as the base for the map the player uses.
There are numbered regions on the map that suggest a large quantity of explorable areas. Despite appearing to be a fairly expansive region – with multiple hamlets and points of interest – the map we saw in the State of Play likely accounts for, at most, 17% of the total world map. (This figure was reached assuming that the numbering system for regions goes from 1-1 through 6-6, for a total of 36 points of interest. The map segment shown above holds 6 regions, or ~17% of 36.
While it’s clear there will be plenty to do outside of the castle, it doesn’t matter how much there is to do unless it’s interesting stuff. So what do we know about the activities available to players outside of Hogwarts?
For starters, it’s been confirmed that there are numerous wizarding hamlets dotting the countryside around the school. These hamlets will have vendors (whether or not they will sell unique items is still unknown), and other NPCs that have stories to tell and quests to offer. It seems safe to assume that some of these quests will take you further afield, but others take the form of mini-games in town; we got to see what appeared to be a carnival game during the voice-over discussing the NPC quests.
While it would have been cool, there was no suggestion of a reputation system, so it doesn’t seem like choosing to help or ignore these NPCs will have any bearing on the overall story. It’s not just humans out there in the wilds beyond Hogwarts’ walls, however – there are also magical creatures aplenty. Some have been corrupted by dark magic, while others are in danger of being poached. These latter creatures can be saved by sucking them into something that resembles a leather version of the Ghostbusters vacuum.
After schlorping up these creatures, you can take them to your vivarium in the Room of Requirement to “restore them to health” – one wonders if they need restoration after being violently sucked into a magic bag. Hopefully, these creatures will be more than modern Tomagochis, and will provide some kind of tangible in-game benefit like offering rare potion materials (griffin milk, anyone?).
As any Harry Potter fan knows, it’s not just living things that will be magical in Hogwarts Legacy; the countryside will contain numerous magical puzzles for players to solve. In the State of Play, we see the player character scatter some leaves over a stone circle, causing a vine-covered structure to emerge from the ground. Unfortunately, the footage doesn’t give any clues as to how this puzzle actually works.
Puzzles are tricky to design; too easy, and they’re unsatisfying to complete, while difficult puzzles can leave players frustrated instead of challenged. Given the magical setting of the game, there’s definitely a danger of all the puzzles requiring a specific spell, rather than creative thinking. Still, puzzle design has come a long way since the era of Sierra adventure games and their incredibly opaque solutions, and I’m holding out hope that Avalanche Software nails the balance on the puzzles.
Dungeons and vaults, like the hamlets, will be scattered throughout the explorable area. They seem like fairly standard fantasy fare, featuring skeletons to kill and loot to find.
In the section regarding dungeons, the State of Play featured an ominous warning, suggesting that players could end up on a dark path by exploring in the wrong place. This warning was followed by a scene in which the player character casts one of the unforgivable curses, Avada Kedavra. It’s hard to say whether this was simply done for a smooth narrative transition in the voice-over, or if there really will be dungeons that can affect the path the player takes.
It won’t be all questing and collecting in the open world of Hogwarts Legacy. You’ll also be able to make new allies as you meet characters outside of the castle – what benefits these allies provide was not explained, but could range from new quests to possibly even new companions.
Hogsmeade seems a likely place to meet these allies – as well as enemies. The iconic town will be the game’s primary hub for vendors, and is also home to dark wizards who hang around the outskirts of town; players will have to avoid or battle these n’er-do-wells if they want to explore the edges of Hogsmeade.
In addition to all of the things to do and see outside the castle, there’s Hogwarts itself, which promises hours of adventuring within its ancient walls. Judging by the gameplay review, Hogwarts is absolutely massive, and the game’s narrative director mentioned sometimes wandering the halls for 45 minutes just to soak it all in.
It’s kind of hard to believe that this is all supposed to go on top of the game’s story, which is sounding like an expansive — albeit linear — adventure. We know that players will be able to explore the castle in between attending classes, but it isn’t yet clear when they’ll be able to go outside the walls of Hogwarts and explore the larger world.
Perhaps it will function like other RPGs, where you’ll have to go to a specific location or speak with a certain NPC in order to begin story segments, but otherwise have free rein to explore as you please. That wouldn’t make much sense narratively, however – a Hogwarts student is expected to be in class, after all. What could also work is letting the holiday periods – or even just the evening – serve as the time in which players can explore the world, and have the players limited to Hogwarts while school is in session.
As always, previews answer plenty of questions, and raise just as many. We’ll have to wait for the next gameplay preview to learn more; with any luck, it won’t be quite as long a wait as last time!
Hogwarts Legacy is trying to do a lot – if it succeeds, it might end up as one of the best open-world adventure games thus far. It could also suffer from bloat, and end up as a jack of all trades, master of none. Let us know in the comments what you think of Hogwarts Legacy’s open world!
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Unabashed FromSoftware fanboy still learning to take his time with games (and everything else, really). The time he doesn't spend on games is spent on music, books, or occasionally going outside.