Hogwarts Legacy and Prohibited are the two most talked about games of 2023 — for completely different reasons. Despite the heap of controversy surrounding it, Hogwarts Legacy saw a successful launch based on positive initial reviews, strong interest from streamers and record sales for Warner Bros. The Harry Potter game has also garnered a significant wave of critics, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a phenomenon among a large number of mainstream gamers.
ProhibitedIts launch, on the other hand, didn’t go so well. Hampered by questionable marketing, Square Enix’s open-world game was ridiculed before it was even released. It quickly became a laughing stock on social media as several “creepy-worthy” dialogue sequences went viral on Twitter. Mediocre reviews and lackluster sales seemed to seal its fate as a big budget disappointment, while developer Luminous Productions has since been absorbed into Square Enix.
The narrative behind these two releases couldn’t be more dissimilar, but the games themselves aren’t really all that different. Both are story-heavy open-world fantasy games built around magic-based combat and exploration. Each has different strengths and weaknesses, but the more I’ve had time to think about them, the more troubled I am by the huge gap in public reception. Despite all the dialogue and scattered design decisions, ProhibitedThe creative approach to magic is miles ahead Hogwarts Legacy. If the Harry Potter game is to be hailed as a genre-defining work, then it is Prohibited it deserves a review without cynicism.
Are you a magician?
When I was playing Hogwarts Legacy, I wasn’t going into it as a Harry Potter fan. I’ve never read the books or the movies, but that shouldn’t have affected my thoughts on it too much. Whether I’m personally connected to an IP or not, I come to every video game looking for a mechanically compelling experience. I was curious to see how developer Avalanche Software could reinvent the open world genre by replacing guns and swords with spells. Coming strictly from that perspective, I was left cold.
Magic inside Hogwarts Legacy offers a bit of a mixed bag. The core combat system, for example, revolves around a magic tap with a button that essentially fires like a Peashooter pistol. Early on, battles just had me pressing my right trigger over and over without strategy or nuance. The battle expands as players learn new spells, some of which help cover that thin core. Depulso pushes enemies back to help keep players from getting overrun, while a transformation spell can turn smaller enemies into explosive barrels. Such abilities can make for some exciting moments, though several of the game’s more fun spells have no effect on larger enemies and bosses – which makes the game’s back third drop significantly. He is a shooter with a gun.
While I had fun levitating enemies in the air and slamming them into the ground, I was surprised by how non-magical a lot of the magic is. Many spells act as stand-ins for standard video game tropes, painting over basic mechanics with an extra flash of color. There’s a spell that allows players to instantly kill an enemy when sneaking up on them, a la backstabs in Wolfenstein, while Crucio can also be your standard poison attack. Each adheres more closely to the rules of action games than Wizarding World.
Magic outside of combat is even more disappointing. Revelio ends up being a cover for a lot of generic tropes – I laughed out loud when I used it for a generic “follow the footstep trail” mission as established spell logic seemingly went out the window. Alohomora is the worst offender though, as it’s just a way to trigger a lock minigame. Why I have to physically pick a lock after casting a spell that magically unlocks doors is still beyond me.
Small decisions like this pile up by the end of my playthrough. It usually felt like I was going through the motions of a video game instead of experimenting with an arsenal of spells. Hogwarts wasn’t going to train me to feel like a powerful wizard like I had hoped. For that, I would have to visit Athia’s world.
Although much of the surrounding discourse Prohibited he’s magnified the Marvel-like dialogue, it’s excellent The combat and traversal systems haven’t gotten as much attention. In Square Enix’s action epic, Frey battles waves of ravaged creatures using a wide variety of offensive and defensive spells. Like Hogwarts Legacy, the game opens on its weakest leg. The first spell set revolves around Earth magic and largely involves Frey peppering enemies from afar with pebbles.
However, this starting ability pack has more flexibility than we see at the end of Hogwarts Legacy. In this set alone, Frey can raise a shield of rocks to defend herself from attacks before blasting it at enemies, first a chargeable stone burst and a rapid-fire spray that culminates in a final explosion. Each has specific advantages, both in terms of the enemies it is effective against and at what range it works best.
That’s only a small piece of the puzzle, though. Frey gets several other magic sets by the end of the game, each of which is completely separate from the other. Red Magic turns the battle upside down by giving Frey the power to slay enemies with a flaming sword. This is cracked further with blue water based spells and green air magic. By the end of the game, I could throw a flaming spear at an enemy, shoot frozen arrows over a wide area, and throw an electric arrow that ping-ponged between enemies.
All of this is before looking into Frey’s much wider range of defensive skills, where Prohibited he really excels at making her feel like a powerful witch. The creativity of the developers is on full display here as I get to play with a huge collection of inventive abilities. Bind binds enemies to weeds, Oubliette traps enemies in a floating ball of water, and Tempest summons a storm of lightning.
Like Hogwarts Legacy, some of these spells also tend to bring back core tropes with magic. Distortion, for example, works in the same way as Imperio, tricking an enemy into fighting their allies. The difference is that Prohibited generally does a much better job of making these powers feel like the product of magic. Each spell is associated with an element, which brings a visual identity to each. When I fire my stone shield I can see it split into individual rocks that hit my enemies. Similarly, activating the Surge ability triggers a detailed animation of Frey smashing her fist into the ground and sharp rocks being launched in front of her. With each attack, I get the feeling that she is connected to the Earth in some way and is invoking some inexplicable connection to bend it to her will.
This level of interaction with the world also connects Prohibitedthe transit approach. A major part of Frey’s skill set is her magical parkour, which allows her to bounce around Athia at lightning speed. Transit is one of ProhibitedIts best features as the open world transforms into a jungle gym to test Frey’s powers. I can lift mountains in an instant, smoothly jump over any obstacle in my path and finally slide into water. Even outside of battle, I can feel the full extent of Frey’s magic in every move. she is able to dominate Athia because it flows through her veins. The source of her magic is clear and I never question her logic.
Spells at odds
All of this is in stark contrast to Hogwarts Legacy. The magic there is more mechanical. I push a button and something happens. It doesn’t matter what the world’s internal logic is, and it certainly doesn’t matter whether the results of any given spell are consistent. They do what they have to do at any given time to move the plot or solve a puzzle
His logical fallacies HogwartsThe magic is most evident in his Unforgivable Curses, which completely discard any established rules in pre-existing lore to simply add a few more attacks to the mix. In the source material, Unforgivable Curses are not simply castable spells. It requires the caster to feel an immense hatred for the target, truly wanting to suffer. In Hogwarts Legacy, I just learn spells like Crucio on the fly and cast it on a friend to open a door. Later, I go out into the open world and blast random wolves with these spells. Unless my character is meant to be a sociopath, the Unforgivable Curses never feel like the bad thing they get killed in the story. It’s just another thing in my wheel that I can use without consequence.
The more I compare the two, the more I appreciate the little details they do Prohibitedhis magic system stands out. It doesn’t just use magic as a thin veil to cover up typical video game gimmicks. It also looks at where Frey’s powers come from, what they look like, and how they allow players to interact with an open world in special ways. ONE Hogwarts Legacy The sequel could learn a thing or two from this.
ProhibitedHis ridicule is not unfair. In all honesty, I like it about as much Hogwarts Legacy, which means I feel they are both boring and messy overall. The stilted dialogue and terrible pacing constantly get in the way ProhibitedIts flashy gameplay, which makes it hard to fully connect unless you buy into its story. The lows are much lower mids Prohibited, but the highs have been ignored in some of the more superficial social media discussions about it. Give it a try and you’ll find that it has a genuinely creative approach to magic-based gameplay that makes it stand out as an open-world game, even if it’s mediocre overall. Perhaps, if he had a beloved IP and a lot of childhood nostalgia, he would have accepted with the same generosity Hogwarts Legacy has been granted.