Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Review

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By Ben Wright (@iamzavagno | www.xgeeks.co.uk)

Portkey Games have teamed up with Niantic, makers of the world-wide phenomenon that is Pokemon GO, to bring you a brand new Harry Potter game! But is it any good?

At the time of writing this, I have been playing it for five days straight and so far the experience has been a positive one. Yes, of course it helps that the game is based on Harry Potter and the Wizarding World, something very (unhealthily) dear to me, but I think it also hits the mark in terms of an exciting game in it’s own right. I ran out of steam with Pokemon GO after a year or so, and I am hoping history will not repeat itself here. But all the early signs point to the game having, potentially, more longevity, but time will tell.

So let’s get to the review!

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The Story:

A mysterious magical event has shook the Wizarding World! Known as ‘The Calamity’, magical objects, people and creatures have been transported into the Muggle world, standard. As a newly appointed member of the Statute of Secrecy Task Force, your job is to help track down and return these ‘Foundables’, ensuring the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy remains intact.

Unlike Pokemon GO, Wizards Unite has a story to go along with the ‘collecting’ aspects of the game. You are working alongside your experienced colleague Constance Pickering. She acts in two functions, initially as your introduction and help system and then as part of the wider story arc as your Task Force colleague. You will work closely with her to uncover the main story, were you will also interact with other famous Wizarding World characters. So far these have been Harry and Hermione. As the story develops I expect more twists and turns as well as other familiar faces to be introduced. But so far, so good! I’m happy that some sort of story has been included, as I feel that’s the issue I had with Pokemon GO. But just how strong it’s going to be in both an entertainment and game engagement aspect remains to be seen. Personally? I get my Harry Potter gaming fix through Hogwarts Mystery, so this AR game just expands my Wizarding World adventure time. So I have the best of both worlds right now!

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The Basics:

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is a real-world augmented reality (AR) game in which you are tasked with returning ‘Foundables’. Some objects are found and added to your Registry (Pokedex) immediately, with others being fragments, so you’ll need to cast your magic on them multiple times as they appear during your time playing the game.

If you have played Pokemon GO, you’ll feel very familiar with the game, as it uses the same template. You walk around collect things. You can also visit real-world locations indicated as Inns or Greenhouses (Pokestops). These give you energy in which you need in order to be able to cast spells. The ‘Gym’ aspect of the game comes in the form of Fortresses. In here you can duel dark wizards, withces and other creatures. The dueling fundamentals are pretty good, and Fortresses are much more hands on than simply dropping off a Pokemon and leaving it there.

As for the ‘Eggs’ and the walking factor, you have Portkeys, which once unlocked you can step inside to unlock character experience and items. When you click on a Portkey it appears in your current location and then you have to step through it. You are then transported to another location. As silly as it sounds, it was pretty amazing stepping through the portal for the first few times. In fact the novelty has still not worn off!

On top of the spell casting and dueling, you can also find ingredients in the world and brew your own potions and get your fingers green with Herbology game modes in the Greenhouses dotted around the map. There is a lot of different aspects that go into the game, and while it may be daunting to begin with, after a few days of figuring everything out it is a really rewarding gaming experience.

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Positives:

It’s Harry Potter. That’s the biggest positive. I LOVE Hogwarts Mystery, but it has limited game modes. It’s the story that makes that game. With Wizards Unite you have many different game modes with an additional story to play out. It’s taken the positives of Pokemon GO and expanded on them.

The aesthetic and music is also a major plus point. They’ve taken the characters, creatures and items straight from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movie franchises, so it draws you straight into the world. Again, I love Hogwarts Mystery, but they use a more cartoonish design approach and features original music rather than established compositions.  Hearing the scores from the films may be a little thing, but they make all the difference. Again you are drawn into this magical world and it just helps to emphasise the enjoyment you can get from the game.

The potential longevity of the game is also a big positive. With such an expansive back catalogue to pull from, on top of the different game modes, I just feel that this game is a lot of positives in terms of the playability factor. I lost interest after a year with Pokemon GO, as the introduction of new Pokemon just wasn’t enough. This feels much different, with varying objectives and game types.

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Negatives:

So far, there are very few negatives!

There has only been two issues, one being a potential rather than a reality, that have come up.

When you first start up the game, there is a lot to take in! While I have praised the game for it’s different game modes, the early stages can be a little confusing. The help system does an OK job of breaking you into the game, but I wouldn’t say it’s enough to explain things enough for you. For example, after you cast a spell you are supposed to let the events unfold (I.E. you capture the foundable or not). For the first two days I was tracing the post-spell swirl, thinking that I also had to trace this! This, I had pointed out to me, makes no difference.

The second issue seems to be at bay for now, but I can easily see it becoming an issue in the future. With the increased game modes comes multiple fronts on which to level up. While the game seems very eager to dish out energy from Inns, you soon hit your limit, pushing you towards micro-transactions and expanding your inventory. The same goes for increasing other aspects of your character. While this is not an uncommon feature in mobile games, Niantic have been pretty ruthless in the past, and have been called out on it as a result. Hopefully this is not the case here as well.

Overall, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is a fun and engaging mobile game. The varied game modes makes for a unique gaming experience, much more so than simply ‘walking and capturing’. The aesthetic and feel of the game is ripped straight from the cinematic Wizarding World and if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you easily make that emotive connection with the game. While some of the game aspects have the potential to be limited by the need for micro-transactions, so far they seem to be keeping a handle on it. So it’s only fair to remain positive. If you like Harry Potter and you like Pokemon GO, you’re gonna love this game!

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Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is available now on iOS and Android devices.

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