Saturday, May 05, 2018

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

An aspect I have wanted to introduce to my blog for a little while now is talking about video games, and I've really wanted to write a post about my all-time favourite game, The Last of Us but I don't even know how to begin to articulate just how much I love that, but today, I thought I'd start off with something a little easier and talk about the new game "Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery".

I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, I always have been. I was THAT GIRL in high school that even changed her education information on Facebook so that it read "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry". It's no secret that I had a pretty tough time growing up, but Harry Potter was the one thing that kind of saved me, it was my own little world that I could escape in. I would read the books and films constantly and I know everyone says that, but I literally would watch at least one of the films each night, without fail, for years. No exaggeration. Time went by and I started living with my boyfriend, at the time, and in the end, he flat out refused to watch the films for a while because we just watched them 
too much. Understandable, really.

Sometime last year, it was announced that an open-world Harry Potter game would be released in 2018. As you can imagine, I was pretty damn excited and literally could not wait for this game and so I quickly signed up for all the updates. Since 2011, when the last Harry Potter film hit cinemas, it felt extremely final, like it was really over. However, five years on from the last Harry Potter game, we were finally getting something new and it almost felt like getting a little bit of my childhood back, something innocent and pure to look forward to again. 

The game is available on Andriod and iPhone and allows you to play a narrative adventure, attending potion and charms classes, as well as flying lessons, but just like Harry, you'll find yourself running into a lot of trouble, along the way...

The year is 1984, the time period after Harry Potter's birth, but before his journey at Hogwarts and your character is just starting the magical school themselves. The premise is that you had a brother who used to also attend the school but he mysteriously vanished. Some say he went crazy, others say he got himself too heavily involved with You Know Who, but it's up to you to uncover all the secrets at Hogwarts and find out the truth, once and for all.

The game looks pretty good, but it's hard to tell how much it matches up to the films because you don't get to walk around freely and explore, which is completely different than they had first claimed. The score is okay and definitely sounds somewhat similar to the films and one of the best additions is that the voices of Prof. McGonagall (Maggie Smith), Prof. Flitwick (Warwick Davis) and Prof. Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) are featured in the game, however, you don't really get to hear them that often. In fact, you don't hear much talking at all, it's mostly sound effects and music.

You start the game in Diagon Alley and it's time to collect all of your school supplies, which includes finding the perfect wand at Ollivanders. It's not long until you find yourself on the Hogwarts Express, on your way to school, where the Sorting Hat will be placed upon your head and you'll finally discover which house you truly belong in. I was hoping that there would be a selection of questions to determine your house or even just a random placing would be more exciting than just being able to choose your house yourself. Such a disappointment. 

It's also important to remember that this game is set in a time period before Harry had even started school, but they keep referencing and nodding to the films, things that hadn't even happened yet. For example, they introduce the Firebolt...but that wasn't even made until 1993. Also, in one of the questions they ask you about teachers, Dolores Umbridge is an option, but she didn't work at the school until 1995. I think if you're going to make a game in an entirely different time period than the franchise, that is totally fine but stick with the rules you established early on or it just becomes sloppy, very quickly.

Another flaw falls down to the story again. When you initially arrive at Hogwarts, you soon meet your arch enemy, Merula Snyde, who is your very own version of Draco Malfoy, who is also in Slytherin. However, even if you choose to be in the Slytherin house yourself, she still tries to make your life hell and is happy to lose house points from her own team. It's the same with Snape, who is the head of Slytherin house and he'll happily take away twenty house points from his own team, seems unlikely.

As you progress through the story, you will earn courage, empathy and knowledge points, which allow you to unlock new dialogue options later on in the game and the options that you do choose will in-turn affect the outcome of the plot. 

The tasks and attending lessons was what I was most excited for and couldn't WAIT to see how immersive potion class was. However, they sadly left a lot to be desired. Each lesson or task has a time limit ranging from one hour to eight hours and to complete the task, you have to tap certain highlighted objects in the game and much like similar games, such as Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, each tap takes one point of energy. On average, it usually takes around 9 bars of energy to collect one star and depending on the task, you need to collect a certain amount of stars to pass, ranging from one to five, which means that you sometimes have to wait around an hour until your energy is completely recharged. Or if you don't want to wait, you can purchase gems via the microtransactions in the app, but do you really want to spend your hard earned money on this? Probably not.

The trouble this game runs into is the energy and how quickly it runs out and then how long it takes to fill up again and this is where everyone is saying "yOu HaVe To PaY tO pLaY" No, you don't, you just have to think about it and be prepared to wait. For example, before you start a task, look at energy bar. Is it full? No? Then you're not going to have enough energy to play a one hour task, are you? It's like going into a shop with no money and wanting to buy something and then being confused when they won't give you the item. This isn't a game where you can just start a task and just wait for the energy to refill because of the time-limit with each task. Obviously, if you have a loong wait time, it's fine, but if you have only a short time to do a task, it will be pretty much impossible because this is a game that even costs you energy to REST. Madness. 

I have to be honest though, overall, this is a pretty dull game. It literally just consists of tapping and swiping, it's like Tinder but without the 3am "are you up?" messages. I had such high hopes for this game and I'm pretty damn disappointed. The Harry Potter games on the PlayStation were some of the first games I ever played and I remember being so transfixed by the incredible world and as I got older, I just wanted a game so badly that gives you the freedom to walk around the beautiful grounds of Hogwarts and just have fun, without being forced to constantly complete tasks and sadly, we still don't have that.

Ultimately, if you're a huge Harry Potter fan and would find a story based game fun, you'll probably still really enjoy this. Even though I know it's not great, I still want to persevere and try and win the House Cup, but I think soon enough I'll just get bored of waiting around for the energy to constantly refill, who has the time for that, really? If anything, this has just made me want to get out my Playstation 2 again and re-play all of the old games and then quickly realise how bad the graphics are. However, let's not forget that another Harry Potter game is set to be released this year that is similar to Pokemon GO and I'm holding out high hopes for that!

Have you played Hogwarts Mystery? Did you like it?

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