The forever Harry Potter fan living inside me (that ugly girl cried when Sirius Black died) is highly disappointed in the “free-to-play” Hogwarts Mystery RPG mobile game released by Jam City. The game trailers and advertisements seemed to present an opportunity to finally put my own character into Hogwarts while being able to learn spells, potions, and most of all - solve a mystery. Instead, as an audience we have been presented with a lackluster game filled with microtransactions, little to no effort game play, weak storytelling filled with character tropes, and a thin layer of nostalgia meant to lure the audience in. At this time I am currently in year 2 of the game and already have a few gripes with it. Let me elaborate by explaining why these four issues get on my last nerve.
In a gaming landscape filled with backlash against developers for their use of microtransactions (remember the Star Wars Battlefront 2 issues earlier this year) it is puzzling to me why the developers of Hogwarts Mystery would make microtransactions such a core component of the game. I understand that most mobile games have some sort of microtransaction involved whether they are used to unlock areas of progress in the game, purchase in game weaponry and armor, or to simply be able to customize your character. This is understandable because mobile games have to make money somehow. In my opinion Hogwarts Mystery takes microtransactions to a new level. In order to progress in the game you have to use energy to perform tasks. The energy to task ratio when trying to complete one small portion of the game is ridiculous. If you’re like me, and refuse to pay to play, the game will cut you off at the most infuriating time and request that you purchase more energy to complete the tasks you need to. If you choose not to purchase more energy through buying gems (to then trade for energy) in the online store then you have to wait an astronomical amount of time in order for the energy to recharge (4 minutes per 1 recharged energy). The game also does not give you the option to store energy that’s built up over time. Once your energy bar is full you can not obtain more than your limit by letting the game sit for a few hours. The result is if you want to complete a task in one sitting then you have to pay-to-play. On the flip side if you miss a timed deadline to complete a task because you ran out of energy and didn’t rush to check back in once your energy is recharged then you fail at that task and have to start over.
Anyone who plays this game is going to be hard pressed to find anything challenging about the game. To complete tasks using energy (as mentioned above) the player only has to tap the phone screen. Tapping the phone screen will allow you to complete a range of actions including but not limited to studying in class, stirring a potion, or looking at someone across the room. In order to cast spells the player drags their finger over a designated pattern on the screen. The pattern has a neat little light up effect as you complete the action that is meant to mimic flicking your wand, but other than that there isn’t anything difficult about learning how to cast a spell. The wizard dueling presented in this game is basically a choice between three actions aggressive, defensive, and sneaky. You literally just click them and the game runs you through a rock-paper-scissors style duel against your virtual opponent. This gameplay is insanely repetitive! If you’re looking for a challenge, or even just something that requires a bit of thinking, Hogwarts Mystery is not for you!
Throughout your time playing Hogwarts Mystery you’ll be seeing some familiar faces, mainly to Hogwarts professors along with Bill Weasley and Tonks. The rest of your classmates mainly consist of your close friends Rowan, Penny, and Ben. They are just there to give you someone to talk to and all fill very one-dimensional roles. Rowan is your clever sidekick, Ben is the coward you build up who is braver than he knows, and Penny is the popular girl who excels at potions class. You also have a Slytherin enemy Merula who is a huge bully. I had their personalities and uses pegged upon meeting each character. They do not contribute too much to the main story line. The main plot follows you trying to solve the mystery of what happened to your brother who was investigating the cursed vaults at Hogwarts. Your brother was expelled and brought shame to your Hogwarts house, and then disappeared. It’s an interesting premise, but it takes you so long to get to any main story points (due to the energy issue) that you basically lose motivation to solve the mystery. Also – did I mention that you basically just choose your house? There are thousands of sorting hat quizzes online, along with one on Pottermore itself, but no one could take the time to come up with a damn sorting hat quiz for this game?
As I said earlier I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I’ve been to Harry Potter Land several times, own a wand, have a robe, and read each book at least 5 times – I am all in. This game tricked the player into believing we were going on our own 11-year-old fantasy choice based adventure within Hogwarts. The game presented trailers and advertisements showing a character being created, sorted into their own house, and learning spells. In reality it’s a weak attempt at a Hogwarts adventure complete with a grab for funds every few minutes via microtransactions and an insult to the player’s intelligence with little to no actual gameplay, unless you count swiping squiggly lines on your screen. I feel like I was presented a bait and switch. The bait was delicious - the switch though – that was brutal.
Overall I am currently about halfway through year 2 and plan to continue playing – if for no other reason than to prove I can get through the game without buying into their microtransactions. It will be a long road, but I am going to shoulder the burden for all of us who still believe you don’t, and shouldn’t, have to constantly pay-to-play. I will say that that the overall graphics are not horrible for a mobile game, and I have enjoyed seeing the professors pop in at various points in the game.
What was your opinion on Hogwarts Mystery?
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DISCLAIMER: I was in no way compensated for this post. I am just a woman who really enjoys games. All images are property of Jam City.