Hogwarts Legacy’s magical duels are simple in principle. Smack enemy wizards with spells until their health bar hits zero, and repeat until there are no wizards left standing. Basic as that may be, that doesn’t stop me from getting roundly trounced in my first battle, or my second, or third. I even struggle to string combos together against the training dummy.
In Hogwarts Legacy, the open-world Harry Potter RPG, you join the school as a fifth-year student. My wizened tutor, Professor Fig, tells me no other student has had such a late admission to the school of witchcraft and wizardry, though he doesn’t say why I get preferential treatment, nor do I see my first days in the school and how other students react to my introduction. Going off how hard they come at me in the dueling arena, I’d say they’re not great fans.
Training duels in Hogwarts Legacy take place in a tucked-away tower, out of earshot of any professors. Students gather around, waiting their turn to paste each other with powerful spells. Quite a few are waiting to battle me.
As you may expect, your enemies don’t stand idle, begging for you to hit them with a bolt from your wand. They’ll often be encased in a colorful bubble shield, which protects them from all damage except a specific spell type. If a wizard is in a yellow bubble, I need to send them skyward with Wingardium Leviosa, which I can do easily by holding down the right trigger and pressing the square button on my PS5 controller. Purple shields need Accio on the cross button, red shields need Expelliarmus on the circle button. Once a shield is disarmed, your enemy will stand staggered (or levitate in a daze), and you can hit them with generic attacks, cast with a tap of R1.
When you’re battling well, you’ll be clocking the shield type of your enemies, stunning them, piling on the damage, and keeping aware of incoming attacks – telegraphed to you by a spidey-sense-like symbol above your head. Tap triangle at the right time, and you activate your own bubble shield, and send incoming spells back at their casters.
I wasn’t often battling well, and it’s not entirely because I’m a klutz of a wizard.
Many times I send the wrong colored spell type against my opponents’ shields, doing them no damage and looking blundering to all the onlooking AI Hogwarts students. And, getting caught up in the action, I forget to look out for the telltale sign I’m about to be shot at. So, rather than block, counter, or even just dodge an enemy attack, I take a spell bolt straight to the face. This, I console myself, will come with practice. Hopefully, in time for my exams.
My fumbling isn’t helped by Hogwarts Legacy’s targeting, however. As I sweep the camera over my enemies, a circle icon appears on the chest of the student in my direct view, telling me every attack I fire will be directed at their smug face – when fighting children, I find it’s necessary to justify being quite so violent. While a solid system in principle, my enemies often cluster together in the dueling arena. Numerous times, I’m all set to send Wingardium Leviosa at a yellow-bubbled nerd when their red-bubbled poindexter of a pal steps in the way, and the autotargeting switches to them, and I waste my spell on the wrong shield.
Wasted spells don’t have a steep cost, you just have to wait for the short cooldown to expire before you can use it again, but, when I’m in a later battle, facing a large group of magical creature poachers, every missed attack drags the fight out and increases the chance of me getting charred to a cinder.
That later battle presents another challenge for a klutz wizard, such as myself: multiple spell wheels. While you have your standard spell attack mapped to R1, you can swap between groups of spells that you have mapped to the face buttons by holding R2 and pressing a direction on the D-pad. For each direction on the D-pad, you can access a different group of spells mapped to the face buttons. It means that, at any time, you can have readily access more than 20 spells – R1, four basic utility spells on the face buttons, and four groups of four spells you access through R2 and the D-pad.
If that sounds confusing, it’s because I find it a massive hurdle myself. In the heat of battle, I make an absolute hash of using the spell wheel. Forgetting what spells are mapped to which submenu, I run in circles while trying to find the right color to disable my enemies’ shields. Again, I look like a dunce to onlooking wizards – and a very judgy centaur.
This later battle, against poachers in the dark Forbidden Forest that encircles surrounds Hogwarts, comes further into the game than my duels against students. Presumably, the extra spells and spell wheels I’ve unlocked would have been handed to me gradually, and I hope in the course of playing Hogwarts Legacy normally, rather than skipping between sections, I will be a competent wizard when the combat demands it. However, all I can say of my experience so far, is that I won, not with grace, but by running round in circles, throwing chairs and pots at my enemies, and generally looking like a chump.
My place in Hufflepuff’s storied annals is practically assured.
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Julian's been writing about video games for more than a decade. In that time, he's always been drawn to the strange intersections between gaming and the real world, like when he interviewed a NASA scientist who had become a Space Pope in EVE Online, or when he traveled to Ukraine to interview game developers involved in the 2014 revolution, or that time he tore his trousers while playing Just Dance with a developer.