Welcome to Hogwarts (with Microtransactions)

Teased as the mobile RPG of every J.K. Rowling fan's dream, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery promised the chance to finally attend Hogwarts as your own customized character. "This is your Hogwarts story," the game's teaser trailer said. The actual game that was delivered, though, is anything but magical.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is built on a core that’s very familiar if you’ve ever played a free mobile game in the past five years: microtransactions. If you’ve played any lifestyle mobile RPGs like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood or The Sims Mobile, you’re very familiar with how this game works already. You get a set amount of energy points, which you have to use for just about everything you do in the game. Instead of actually getting to learn about then pick ingredients for a potion or play Gobstones with friends, you’re tasked with simply tapping away at available “actions” until you’ve dedicated the required amount of energy to it and received stars toward your overall objective.

While the game’s graphics are pretty much on-par with what you’d expect from a mobile game these days, they also look extremely similar to the first couple Harry Potter games that came out in the early 2000s. That gives the whole thing a bit of a nostalgic feel, reminding fans of the great times when they pulled out their GameCube or hunkered down in front of the computer to roam around Hogwarts with Ron and Hermione.

Unlike those original Harry Potter games, though, Hogwarts Mystery gave off the impression that you could choose your path throughout the game. Four chapters into your first year, however, those impactful choice moments have yet to be seen. Sure, one option might give you a little boost to your skill points or help you not lose some house points, but in the grand scheme of things, the story is set. It’s a shame because, while the backstory of the missing brother who seemingly went crazy is fine, I’m not a huge fan of my character being so focused on finding him. Most of the time, though, you don’t have a choice in what he or she decides to do. As the player, you’re simply along for the ride.

Overall, the game feels like a disappointment. Instead of being a magical step into Hogwarts, the game follows in the path of its mobile game predecessors and gradually becomes less and less entertaining as the wait times become excruciating. If you want to figure out where your missing brother is, be prepared to either put a lot of effort into planning your energy usage or spend some actual money to move things along quicker.

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