WARNING: This post may contain minor gameplot spoilers, rants and eyerolling.
As I’m sure anybody vaguely interested in the Harry Potter franchise is aware, a new mobile device game was officially released this week – Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery. As somebody who is really far too fond of all things Potter, the release date just couldn’t come round fast enough – this game promised great things.
The question is, now that I have been playing it for a few days – does it live up to the hype?
The game was released on Thursday and it is now Sunday afternoon, my character (a witch called Layla Bell) is at level 6 (all attributes level 5) and and I’m currently on chapter 5. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you all about the game!
The game lets you become a student at Hogwarts, and promises that you can lead your own path through the school and create your own story.
Here’s the first hitch – everybody has exactly the same story with exactly the same characters, no matter which option you choose everybody is playing an identical game. I’m part of a Facebook group for this game, and have been a since a few weeks before the launch, and I just can’t quite wrap my head around why people are still asking questions like “is everybody friends with Rowan?” and “does everybody’s game have Merula?” – yes we do. Everybody is exactly the same, just that the game has been coded so the characters robes are different colours depending on your house. The only house-dependent difference to the storyline, that I can see so far anyway, is which common room you’re allowed access too. From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t even affect the House Cup (SPOILER ALERT) your going to win at the end of the year anyway, regardless of which house you choose.
Speaking of house – the all important sorting. You sit through all the story about the 4 houses to then be put under the Sorting Hat…and asked to pick your house. This works well for people like me who don’t relate to the house allocated to them by the Pottermore algorithm (it thinks I should be in Gryffindor, ew) because then you can choose which traits you want to be affiliated with (I chose Slytherin) but a lot of people feel quite strongly about getting to choose your house rather than having it chosen for you. As I said above, it doesn’t appear to make any difference which one you choose anyway.
FUN FACT: In Hogwarts Mystery Snape hates you as much if you’re in Slytherin as he does if you are in any other house.
So the storyline is that He Who Must Not Be Named has just been defeated by the teeny tiny baby Harry Potter, and the wizarding world once again feels safe. This just coincidentally happens to be the same year that your character, whoever that may be, turns 11 and gets their Hogwarts letter. Before heading off you get to visit Diagon Alley to buy your essentials where you meet your new BFF Rowan. You make it to the school to find that everybody has a vendetta against you because of how your brother was just a few years previously when he attended the school before mysteriously going missing – never a dull moment at Hogwarts! Your mission is to try and make it through the first year of a new school whilst also trying to work out what happened to the brother you miss so dearly.
You get to take part in various classes but your interactions are very limited to your BFF, the class bully, some Longbottom-esque character called Ben and teaching staff. I know a lot of players, myself included, are a bit disappointed about how little interaction and control you get over the game. You can’t even really explore the school, as most of it is inaccessible and at best you can scroll along a corridor but your character won’t follow. You have no control over their movements except choosing which room or area of the grounds, from the very limited selection, they go to.
Now here is the BIG RANT – let’s talk e n e r g y.
In an attempt to pace players, or to compensate for making it a free app, the creators have made it one of the SLOWEST GAMES EVER. People have spent ridiculous amounts of money (like $50 in a day or two, I kid you not) buying extra energy just so that they can play the game for more than two minutes at a time.
Let me take a step back (and a deep breath – I feel very passionately about this) and explain. When completing classes and challenges everything you do requires a certain amount of energy, which seems fair enough, however it takes 4 minutes to replenish one energy and you can go through your limited stock of energy pretty darn quickly – much faster than it takes to replenish.
Us players who can’t afford to pay for energy have many questions – like why does my character need four energies (almost 20% of your energy limit early on in the game) to turn the page of their textbook? Why do I have to waste so much energy wondering and daydreaming? Why does it take so damn long to replenish?
Of course, there are secret locations around the castle that you can pick up extra energy ONCE A DAY, but that’s not much use when you’re in the middle of a challenge. Some challenges reward you by topping up up your energy again or upping your limit.
Basically what we are saying is that we’re fine with having an energy limit, but we need it to replenish just a little bit faster. One energy per minute would be pretty cool. It would just be really nice if when I had time to play the game if I could actually play it, rather than playing for a minute and a half (how long it takes in a challenge to run out of energy if I’m lucky) and then having to wait for hours before I can play again.
Memes about the game’s energy situation have been popping up all over the internet, and every single one is spot on.
Here’s another thing – why do I have to pay to take part in some challenges when they are literally the only thing I can do in the game? If I don’t pay my game money (galleons or gems, not actually pennies from my pocket) then there is actually nothing else I could do and the game would be pointless.
Speaking of hard earned game monies – if you want to pimp your character you need to use game money, which would be fine if they weren’t charging extortionate amounts of money for basics like glasses or curly hair. People with glasses and/or curly hair who wanted to make their characters a game version of themselves are (understably) MAD.
So when the game is so terribly disappointing, why do we all keep playing it? Firstly, because it’s Harry Freaking Potter and secondly…because it’s Harry Freaking Potter, so surely it must get better right?! I think the whole fandom has major FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) about not playing this game – what if something amazing happens in the Potterverse and you were not a part of it? It’s as unforgivable as Imperio.
In summary…the game is not as good as we thought it would be, but if they could sort out the waiting time thing then we would like it a whole lot more because the storyline is pretty interesting. I’m looking forward to playing some more and seeing how the second half of my first year at Hogwarts goes.
Have you been playing the game? What do you think? Are you reading this while waiting for your energies to refill? Let me know in the comments below!