Game Review: Harry Potter and the Curse of Microtransactions

Is the new Harry Potter game worth the hidden costs?


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Potterheads the world over have been waiting for years for a chance to fully immerse themselves int0 the world of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Unfortunately, they’re still waiting.

Released on April 25 by Jam City, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is a ‘free-to-play’ mobile which allows the player to have their very own Hogwarts adventure.

At least, that’s what the advertising said.

Unfortunately, the game doesn’t exceed expectations. It’s barely acceptable.

Not only is the game incredibly limited with regards to accessible areas (which, fair enough, mobile game, you don’t expect a vast sandbox world), but you do generally expect a game to be playable for more than five minutes without having to shell out around $5 regularly for extended play.

Essentially, the mechanics of the game run on ‘energy’ which you spend by performing tasks – one energy bubble takes four minutes to reload, and most missions, from learning spells to crafting potions use up around 25 energy bubbles.

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Arguably, the system is also set up as a false economy

So, unless you’re willing to fork out to boost your energy, you’re waiting for an hour or so mid mission for it to refill – which completely destroys the immersion of the game, especially in one of the earlier challenges.

“Unless you’re willing to fork out to boost your energy, you’re waiting for an hour or so mid mission for it to refill”

The basic concept is engaging enough. Set just after the first fall of Voldemort, you play as a member of a wizarding family, and your brother disappeared after he was expelled from Hogwarts. Finding out what happened to him forms the titular mystery.

There are enough nods to both the film and books to keep fans happy too. The aesthetics are clearly taken from the films, both with regards to the teachers and the general look of Hogwarts. There are also little books references as well – Nymphadora Tonks, who is one of your year mates (though there is no early interaction) has her book-faithful short, spiky, pink hair, and Peeves sadly cut from the films makes an occasional appearance.

But overall, the game is disappointing. It fails to be immersive, the animation, while pretty enough, is basic and repetitive, and the microtrasactions are especially worrying when you consider the number of under 16s likely to be playing the game.

The sad thing is, it wouldn’t take an awful lot to make it more tolerable – offer the choice of watching videos alongside the microtransations, or shorten the amount of time for your energy to refill.

It seems to me that the Warner Brothers and the developers have either opted for a lazy cash grab with the use of the Harry Potter name – I definitely wouldn’t have persevered as long as I have without the kick of seeing a very Rickman looking Snape teaching potions or the tiny joy of being in the Ravenclaw common room – or they’ve completely misunderstood their audience.

Yes, it might be fine for those who are playing for the nostalgia value on their work breaks, but it’s definitely not for anyone who wants any sort of extended game play. You either have to pay an extortionate amount, or spend hours being bored or frustrated.

Ultimately, if I was given the choice between a Hogwarts Mystery, or a sandbox open world game with roughly the same main plot, but that cost me £40, I’d shell out the £40, every time.

Anyone want to set up a kickstarter?

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