Spoiler Warning: There may be minor spoilers present for some of the entries on this list.
I confess that I was excited for Hogwarts Legacy when it was announced a couple of years ago. I wasn’t aware, at that time, of J.K. Rowling’s harmful and hurtful transphobic stance, and when the game was announced I felt that it had potential. Fast-forward a couple of years and a recent gameplay reveal video has got a lot of fans excited. I would probably have been among them a few years ago; while I was never really “in” the Harry Potter fandom, I enjoyed the books and films generally speaking. But I can’t support Hogwarts Legacy – nor anything else in the Harry Potter series any longer.
J.K. Rowling doesn’t have anything besides Harry Potter. She’s had limited success with the other titles she’s tried her hand at, so it’s the Harry Potter series that keeps her relevant – and it continues to be a major revenue stream for someone who’s already a billionaire. Any time the Harry Potter series gets attention, it amplifies J.K. Rowling, increasing her platform, her reach, and ensuring her harmful transphobic views are amplified, spread worldwide, and discussed at length. Moreover, it brings in money for her, some of which she donates to anti-trans activists and groups. I don’t know exactly what cut of the proceeds she’d get for Hogwarts Legacy – but it’ll be significant. If the game sells millions of copies she could easily rake in several million pounds from it.
For some folks, Harry Potter is their biggest fandom and a huge part of their life. If you’re in that category, I hope you won’t consider this a personal attack. I know that J.K. Rowling’s statements have upset a lot of people, many of whom continue to consider themselves fans of the series. If Harry Potter meant a lot to you and you can’t abandon it, that’s your decision and I’m not interested in trying to change your mind.
I’m not going to re-hash all of the arguments surrounding J.K. Rowling and her transphobia here. I don’t have the time nor am I in the right emotional headspace for that. You already know what she’s said, why people like me find it incomprehensible and harmful, and reiterating all of those points would just lead to all of us getting upset all over again. Instead what I want to do today is offer up a few alternative games, titles that are just as interesting and exciting as Hogwarts Legacy but with hopefully less bigotry.
So without further ado, here are a few games you could substitute Hogwarts Legacy with if you’re looking for something fun to play but feel unable to support J.K. Rowling. Let’s jump into the list, shall we?
Game #1: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
A game set in an established fictional world, but taking place hundreds of years prior to the events we know and love? That sounds an awful lot like Knights of the Old Republic! I can never fully put into words how much this game blew me away when it was released in 2003. After feeling disappointed with The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, Knights of the Old Republic went a long way to restoring my faith in Star Wars in general – and one of its story twists is perhaps the greatest that I’ve ever played through in any video game.
Knights of the Old Republic sent me off on my very own Star Wars adventure, and included all of the elements that a story needs to feel truly authentic. Whether it was Jedi Knights, beeping droids, or visiting familiar worlds like Tatooine or Kashyyyk, it was an incredible ride from beginning to end.
It took me a while to get around to trying Red Dead Redemption II, but when I played through it last year I finally understood why everyone considers it to be a masterpiece. It’s a dark, bleak, yet incredibly beautiful experience, one which recreates late 19th Century America in a way that feels incredibly real. Characters feel like actual people with thoughts, desires, and motivations, and the narrative contains some incredibly emotional sequences that left me in tears.
Red Dead Redemption II is also one of the most visually stunning games I’ve ever played. Its open world has been crafted to perfection, and is packed full of minor details that make the experience an incredibly immersive one. I literally had dreams about Red Dead Redemption II while I was in the middle of the story, and there were times last year where I would want to just drop everything I was doing to get back to playing it!
Game #3: Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Kena: Bridge of Spirits is another visually beautiful game, so much so that at one point I had to put down the control pad and just stare at the amazing scenery! It’s also an incredibly fun adventure game that I felt recaptured the feel of older 3D platformers. It wasn’t always an easy experience, as there was relatively little hand-holding, but it was incredibly fun and incredibly rewarding.
Considering that Kena: Bridge of Spirits was the debut game from brand-new developer Ember Lab, I’m even more impressed! I crowned it my “game of the year” for 2021, and with good reason. It was one of the best gaming experiences that I had last year, and even though I have a growing list of unplayed games… I’m sorely tempted to go back and revisit it!
Game #4: Control
If a supernatural adventure is what you’re after, look no further than Control. I found the game to be incredibly atmospheric as protagonist Jesse explores a hauntingly bleak world. I definitely got sucked into the spooky world of Control, and this could make for a really fun game to play around the Halloween season thanks to the supernatural tone and some spectacular level design.
Control is also an incredibly accessible game, with lots of different options to customise and tweak the experience. One of my favourite parts of Control were the full-motion video sequences, presented in-game as recordings and clips to collect as Jesse explores deeper into the heart of the ancient and deeply unsettling building. These little snippets of lore, presented in a fun way, added so much to the experience.
Game #5: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
It’s been a few years since I played Dragon’s Dogma, but if I recall correctly the game has a surprisingly deep and rich magic system – something you might be looking for in an alternative to Hogwarts Legacy. Dragon’s Dogma always felt like a second-tier game; the kind of title that didn’t quite break into the uppermost echelons of gaming. But it was a fun time nevertheless, and a fun adventure to play through.
The Dark Arisen version – which is available for PC, Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 – combined the base game and all of its DLC into a single package, and as a slightly older game (Dragon’s Dogma was originally released in 2012) it can be picked up quite inexpensively either second-hand or during Steam sales.
Game #6: Elden Ring
Elden Ring is categorically not “my thing.” These kinds of difficult-for-the-sake-of-it games are simply unenjoyable for me, and as a result I have skipped Elden Ring. But I’d be remiss not to include one of the biggest releases of the year on a list like this, and many fans of the Souls-like genre have hailed it as an instant classic and the new benchmark for future titles to live up to.
Elden Ring uses an open world, it has magic, fantasy elements, and monsters to fight. It was originally billed as a game with input from A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin, though he appears to have made a limited impact on what seems to me to be another Dark Souls-inspired title. If you’re into games with punishing levels of difficulty, Elden Ring could be the one for you.
Game #7: The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim
So you want to enrol in a special school to learn how to wield magic while at the same time exploring the world and going on adventures? Then why not join the Mage’s Guild in Skyrim? Or, come to that, why not do the same in Oblivion or join House Telvanni Morrowind as well? The entire Elder Scrolls series is set up perfectly for players who want to create mages, witches, necromancers, and all other kinds of magic-using characters!
Skyrim is certainly showing its age by now, even if you pick up one of the special enhanced deluxe anniversary editions that have been released endlessly over the past decade. But it’s still a beautiful game that’s fun to play, and many of its questlines and stories have a magical side that might just make up for skipping over Hogwarts Legacy.
Game #8: Jade Empire
Jade Empire is a fun BioWare adventure game that I feel doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Released in between Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, it tends to be overlooked. Its Chinese-inspired setting is really interesting, though, and the game is populated with fun characters. There are magical elements to the game, too, although there’s a pretty big focus on martial arts-inspired combat.
Jade Empire tells a fun story, and I found it easy to get lost in its world when I first picked up the game on the original Xbox. If you’ve played other BioWare titles before then the format will be familiar – but the setting and the story are unique. I’ve always hoped that BioWare would revisit the world of Jade Empire… maybe one day!
Game #9: GreedFall
GreedFall is another game that can feel overlooked, perhaps a game that didn’t quite break into the top tier when it was released a couple of years ago. It can feel like a title with some heavy-handed themes as it looks at the issue of colonialism – not always perfectly, I should say – but laying atop some of those deeper themes is a fun adventure in a well-constructed, lived-in world.
There are magic spells in GreedFall, with an entire character class built around the use of magic. The game’s character creator is pretty basic, but if you can look past that limitation the actual customisation options are quite extensive. It’s a fun game, and well worth a play especially considering that it doesn’t ask full price.
Game #10: The Last Of Us Part II
I honestly didn’t expect to be putting The Last Of Us Part II on any list… ever! I didn’t enjoy the game’s story at all, as I felt it tried to be too smug, too clever, and the way in which it hacked away at some of the most basic fundamentals of storytelling – the need to have a clear protagonist and antagonist – meant the whole narrative collapsed. But if you’re really looking for a game to throw up a middle finger to a transphobe, The Last Of Us Part II could be right for you!
Despite my story complaints, the gameplay in The Last Of Us Part II is excellent. Its third-person stealth/action style is an iterative improvement over its predecessor, but it’s well-executed and feels very smooth to play. There’s also a sense of scarcity, with ammunition and supplies being hard to come by. This makes for an experience that requires a lot of thoughtful planning; rushing in guns-blazing usually doesn’t work.
As one of the few games I can recall to feature a transgender character in a major role (voiced by Star Trek: Discovery’s Ian Alexander) I felt it was worth including The Last Of Us Part II on this list.
So that’s it!
Those are ten games that I think could be worth playing if, like me, you plan to skip Hogwarts Legacy when it’s released later this year. I tried to look at titles that are in the third-person action or action/adventure space, as well as titles with magic or supernatural elements. There were plenty of other games that I could’ve included if we broadened those criteria, though, so this is by no means an exhaustive list!
I had a conversation with a friend recently, and they expressed the opinion that they would play Hogwarts Legacy as there aren’t a lot of games that would give them a similar experience. While it’s true that Harry Potter and the Wizarding World are somewhat unique, there are plenty of games – as well as novels, films, television shows, and other entertainment experiences – that draw on many of the same themes and use the same kinds of storytelling elements. Hogwarts Legacy, just like the rest of the fictional setting that J.K. Rowling created, is not irreplaceable.
That being said, I’m not here to try to force anyone to play or not play a particular game. I just wanted to contribute something positive to the overall conversation surrounding Hogwarts Legacy, and perhaps show off a few titles in a similar genre or similar space that players who are weighing up their options could consider as alternatives. If that applies to you, I hope you at least found my suggestions interesting! And if you still plan to go ahead and play Hogwarts Legacy, I genuinely hope you have a good time with the game.
Hogwarts Legacy is the copyright of Portkey Games and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Harry Potter and the Wizarding World are trademarks of Warner Bros. Entertainment. All titles on the list above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers present for the following games: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Knights of the Old Republic I & II, Mass Effect 3, and Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.
After taking a year off in 2020, the Electronic Entertainment Expo – better known as E3 – is returning later this month. In fact, many large games companies have events or announcements scheduled for June, meaning we could be in for practically an entire month of previews, trailers, teasers, and demos for a number of great upcoming titles. This time I thought it could be fun to look ahead to E3 – and other June events – and maybe make a few predictions about what we might see! There might also be a few wishes or fantasies thrown in as well!
From Microsoft and Electronic Arts to Nintendo and Ubisoft, practically all of the big names in the games industry will have something to say over the next few weeks. Much of the attention will be focused on this year’s digital E3 event, which officially takes place from the 12th to the 15th of June, but I think we can expect other big announcements outside of those dates as well.
My usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” Today’s list is nothing more than guesswork and speculation, with a fair amount of hoping and fantasising thrown in for good measure! With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of my predictions (and wishes) for what we might see at this year’s E3!
Number 1: Starfield
Bethesda’s next game has been common knowledge for years, and even while they’ve been working on Fallout 76 and porting Skyrim to smart fridges, development on this sci-fi role-playing game has continued. Rumour has it that Starfield is now edging closer to being complete, and it’s possible we could even see a release date announced at E3 – maybe even for later this year or the first half of next year.
Other than a sci-fi setting that may include some degree of space travel, actual information about Starfield has been hard to come by. The disappointment of Fallout 76, and Bethesda’s refusal to consider developing or licensing a new game engine to replace the outdated Gamebryo/Creation Engine that they’ve used for more than two decades, leaves me at least a little anxious about Starfield’s prospects, with any hype or excitement I might’ve felt at the latest big Bethesda release replaced by cautious interest. However, there’s potential in Starfield, and I hope that we’ll get a fantastic game.
If Bethesda hadn’t learned their lesson following the calamitous launch of Fallout 76, December’s Cyberpunk 2077 catastrophe should serve as another reminder that players simply will not tolerate a broken, unfinished, “release now, fix later” mess. So as interested as I am to see Starfield, I’d very much rather that it was delayed if needs be. It would be great to see it at E3 and begin to get excited for its release, but only if it’s ready!
Bethesda has recently been acquired by Microsoft in a multi-billion dollar deal, so Starfield will almost certainly be announced as an Xbox and PC exclusive. Sorry PlayStation fans!
Number 2: Mario Kart 9
I’ve talked about the possibility of a new Mario Kart game several times over the past few months here on the website, and the reason is simple: next year will be the Mario Kart series’ 30th anniversary. Nintendo loves to make a big deal of anniversaries, as we saw just a few months ago with the 35th anniversary of Super Mario. Although nothing is confirmed and I should point out that we don’t even know for sure that Mario Kart 9 is in development, putting the pieces together makes this one seem at least plausible!
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been the best-selling game on Nintendo Switch since it arrived on the platform, but it’s only a port of a Wii U game from 2014. After more than seven years, this is the longest dry spell the Mario Kart series has ever endured, and it seems like the perfect time to give the Switch its own original Mario Kart title.
As a celebration of all things Mario Kart, it would be great to see racetracks from past iterations return, as well as drivers from across Nintendo titles and even from other games altogether. If Mario Kart 9 is to be released in time for the anniversary next year, announcing it at E3 makes a lot of sense – building up the hype and giving fans plenty of time to get excited!
I’m not sure whether to classify this one as a wish or a prediction, because I feel certain that Nintendo will be doing something to mark the Mario Kart series’ anniversary – but will they announce it this month? We’ll have to see!
Number 3: Anything Star Trek
The Star Trek franchise has not done well in the gaming realm. In recent years, Star Trek Online has been the only game in town – literally – and as someone who isn’t big on massively multiplayer online games, it just isn’t “my thing.” I’d love to see ViacomCBS take advantage of Star Trek’s return to the small screen and commission a video game adaptation. Whether that would be something connected to a classic show or something based on modern Star Trek wouldn’t matter to me – though I could see the advantages of a game based on Discovery or Picard from the company’s perspective.
This is definitely a pure wish, because I’ve heard no rumours nor seen any indication that ViacomCBS has any plans to license out Star Trek in a big way. There are mobile games, the online game, and there was even a browser game earlier this year, but when it comes to putting together the kind of single-player title that I’d really love to see, the Star Trek franchise hasn’t shown any interest since the disastrous 2013 Kelvin timeline game.
It’s possible that that buggy, poorly-received title has harmed Star Trek’s brand from a gaming point of view, which is such a shame. There should be a pretty big overlap between Trekkies and gamers, but the franchise has consistently failed to capitalise on that, with Star Trek games going all the way back to the ’80s being of little interest to most folks.
If ViacomCBS could contract a big studio to put out the equivalent of a Jedi: Fallen Order or Mass Effect I’d be beyond thrilled. Will it happen at E3 – or ever? I have no idea. Probably not, but there’s always hope!
Number 4: Fall Guys coming to Switch and Xbox
Though Fall Guys promised earlier in the year that a release on both Switch and Xbox is on the cards, there’s currently no release date on the schedule. Announcing one at E3 would be a big boost for the fun little obstacle course-battle royale game, and as I’ve said on a few occasions now, Nintendo Switch in particular feels like a perfect fit for Fall Guys.
There have been some improvements made to Fall Guys recently, like the addition of cross-platform play, the introduction of new rounds and round variants, and additional challenges that make logging in and playing more frequently feel rewarding. But there’s still a ways to go for Fall Guys if new owners Epic Games hope to break into the upper echelons of multiplayer gaming.
Fall Guys had “a moment” in August last year, in the days immediately following its release. But issues with cheating soured a lot of players on the game, and there’s work to do to rebuild both its reputation and playerbase. The announcement of Switch and Xbox versions of the game would bring renewed attention to Fall Guys, perhaps convincing lapsed players to pick it up again.
Though developers Mediatonic have stated that there are no current plans to make Fall Guys free-to-play, the delay in getting the Switch and Xbox versions ready makes me wonder if a bigger overhaul is on the cards. Announcing it at E3, with the eyes of players around the world on the games industry, would make a lot of sense and drum up plenty of hype.
Number 5: Knights of the Old Republic III/Knights of the High Republic
Rumours swirled earlier in the year of a new entry in the Knights of the Old Republic series of Star Wars role-playing games. Originally developed by BioWare, with a sequel created by Oblivion, the Knights of the Old Republic games are among my favourite games of all-time, and a sequel just sounds fantastic!
The Star Wars franchise is seemingly stepping away from its exclusive deal with Electronic Arts, so perhaps a studio like Oblivion could come back to pick up the mantle. Or we could learn that BioWare is coming back to the series that laid the groundwork for titles like Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
It’s been 17 years since Knights of the Old Republic II was released, so that could mean a new entry in the series won’t be a direct sequel and will instead focus on new characters. The so-called “High Republic” era is currently a big deal in Star Wars spin-off media, focusing on a time period about 300 years prior to the film series – and several millennia after Knights of the Old Republic. I can’t help but wonder if a new game could be Knights of the High Republic instead!
However, Knights of the Old Republic II definitely teased a sequel, and the stories of both Revan and the Jedi Exile are arguably incomplete (despite some mentions or appearances in the online multiplayer game The Old Republic). The Star Wars franchise has recently been in the habit of announcing games shortly before their launch – like last year’s Squadrons. If that happens again, maybe we’ll get a new Star Wars game later this year!
Number 6: Jedi: Fallen Order II
Sticking with Star Wars, we know that Respawn Entertainment is currently working on a sequel to 2019’s Jedi: Fallen Order. Though development may have only begun in earnest when the success of the first game became apparent, it’s not inconceivable that there’ll be something concrete to show off at this year’s E3, even if the game isn’t coming any time soon.
Cal Kestis’ story could take a different direction in the sequel, as the end of the first game left things open-ended and with no clear destination. Jedi: Fallen Order introduced us to some amazing characters, and it’s going to be wonderful to find out what comes next for all of them. I doubt Jedi: Fallen Order II will be released this year – it may not even be released next year – but a little tease to keep fans interested is no bad thing at an event like this!
Jedi: Fallen Order definitively proved to companies that have been moving away from single-player titles that there’s still a lot of room for success and profit in the medium. That’s an incredibly positive legacy for any game, and after fans had been vocal about wanting a single-player, story-focused Star Wars game, the fact that it succeeded and sold millions of copies showed Electronic Arts and other big companies that it’s worth investing in this kind of title.
I’m happy to wait for Jedi: Fallen Order II. The original game was released without major bugs or glitches, something which should be expected but which won it a lot of praise in an industry where “release now, fix later” has almost become the norm. Rather than rush the sequel, I hope Respawn and EA take their time to give it the polish it deserves.
Number 7: Mass Effect 4
It would make a lot of sense for BioWare and Electronic Arts to capitalise on the successful release of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition to at least tease or hint at what’s coming next for the franchise. We know, thanks to an earlier announcement, that Mass Effect 4 is in early development, but aside from a cinematic teaser we know nothing about the next entry in the series.
One of the reasons Mass Effect: Andromeda didn’t succeed (aside from its bugs and launch issues) was that it ignored the ending of the third game and tried to do its own thing off to one side. The end of the Reaper War was a significant moment for the Mass Effect galaxy and its races, and piecing together what happens next is something many fans are interested in, despite the disappointment many felt at the three ending options for Mass Effect 3.
Mass Effect 4 has a difficult task. It has to follow on from an epic “war to end all wars” type of story in a way that doesn’t feel anticlimactic and small. That’s not going to be easy, and I can understand why BioWare instead chose to tell a side-story in Andromeda instead of trying to confront this challenge head-on. With the game in development, though, I assume they’ve figured something out!
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition can be seen as a test or a dry run for a new game, and judging by the success it’s seen over the last couple of weeks, I have no doubt that a new entry in the series will be highly anticipated by fans.
Number 8: Grand Theft Auto 6
For too long Rockstar have been milking Grand Theft Auto V’s online mode, and it’s time for a change. After the longest gap between games in the history of the franchise, a new title in the open-world crime saga is long overdue, and it would be great to get some kind of news – even just the tiniest tease – at E3.
Rockstar has already committed to porting Grand Theft Auto V to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X, diverting time, money, and development resources away from making a new game. I’ve said before that Grand Theft Auto V has run its course by now, and the disappointed reaction from fans to news of a port to new consoles backs that up. It’s high time for a new title.
Will it happen, though? I mean it will eventually happen, of course; there’s too much money in the brand to let it end with Grand Theft Auto V. But despite the fact that some players have been vocal about wanting a new title, Rockstar has thus far shown no signs of working on a sequel. In some ways, perhaps the success of Grand Theft Auto V has become a problem for the franchise; the more time passes, the harder it will be for any sequel to live up to its illustrious predecessor.
Finding a way for Grand Theft Auto 6 to differentiate itself from the current iteration of the series is also a challenge. Another sunlit coastal city in the present day probably won’t cut it – so where should Rockstar take the series? Maybe we’ll see the first indications soon!
Number 9: Civilization VII
It’s been almost five years since the release of Civilization VI, so it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that a new entry in the series is in development. The most recent expansion pack for Civilization VI – titled the New Frontier pass – may be the game’s last, with no further announcements of DLC coming since last year. Perhaps Firaxis has already begun to shift development to a new game?
I was pleasantly surprised by Civilization VI when I picked it up in 2016. Having not been a big fan of previous turn-based strategy games I was initially sceptical, but I’m glad I took the plunge! I ended up sinking hundreds of hours into Civilization VI as the last decade drew to a close, and there’s a lot to be said for the series.
A new game would shake up the formula without reinventing the wheel, introducing different ways to play or bringing back successful features from past entries in the series. There would also be the potential to introduce brand-new factions and leaders – a subject I took a look at a few weeks ago.
Series like Civilization, which don’t see annual releases, can sometimes cause controversy if a new entry is regarded as being released “too soon” after the previous one. But the Civilization franchise has usually put out a new game roughly every four to five years on average, so the time could be coming for a new entry.
Number 10: Hogwarts Legacy
Hogwarts Legacy – a single-player action/role-playing game set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – was announced last year with a short trailer. It’s since been delayed, with a release now scheduled for 2022 instead of later this year. But developers Avalanche Software and publisher Warner Bros. might take the opportunity provided by E3 to update fans on the game’s progress.
It’s been a long time since anything set in the Wizarding World was of much interest to me, but Hogwarts Legacy feels like it has potential. The trailer hinted at a morality system as well as different styles of magic and player choices having an impact on the game, all of which are things I find thoroughly enjoyable in a single-player title. I got a kind of Knights of the Old Republic vibe from the way the game was described!
I’m a big supporter of games being delayed. I’d very much rather a developer take the necessary time to polish their title rather than releasing it too soon to meet an arbitrary deadline. In the wake of the disastrous launch of Cyberpunk 2077 last year – as well as other titles that failed as a result of their “release now, fix later” model – I’m glad to see Warner Bros. and Avalanche are prepared to take their time. But it would still be nice to see some more of the game if there’s something ready to see!
One of the aspects of the game I’m most interested to learn more about is how it’ll handle school lessons within the overall storyline. Games set in schools have not always managed to strike the right balance, and mini-games supposedly mimicking “classwork” have often fallen rather flat. If the player character is a student, surely they will need to spend at least some of their time in class – and figuring out that aspect of the game could be key to its success!
Number 11: Xbox Game Pass
Game Pass has taken off over the last few months, and is one of the most compelling arguments in favour of buying an Xbox right now, as well as offering a relatively inexpensive way into gaming in general. Microsoft will be making a big appearance at E3, and I can’t help but wonder what news they’ll have regarding Game Pass.
Some have suggested that a deal might be on the table to bring Xbox Game Pass to Nintendo Switch or even PlayStation; I’m not sure that’s practical considering the divide between Microsoft and Sony in particular, but you never know! After Bethesda and EA Play have both brought significant libraries of games to the service in recent months, I’m beginning to wonder what’s left for Microsoft to possibly add!
Regardless, I’m sure that any titles Microsoft show off, including big Bethesda titles like Starfield or even The Elder Scrolls VI, will be coming to Game Pass, so that’s a good start. But using the opportunity of E3 to really push the service and show how it’s continuing to expand would be great from Microsoft’s perspective.
PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles are still sold out everywhere, but there seem to be more Xbox Series S consoles available at the moment. Game Pass also makes picking up a pre-owned Xbox One a pretty good proposition in the short term, so Microsoft has a lot of scope this month to hook in and convert players to their platform – and Game Pass is the way to do it.
Number 12: Halo Infinite
Speaking of Microsoft and Xbox, following a disappointing reveal last year, Halo Infinite was postponed. Originally the game was supposed to be the Xbox Series S/X’s flagship launch title, but as I predicted at the time, its absence ultimately didn’t prove a huge hurdle for the new console’s launch.
Since original developer Bungie abandoned the Halo series to pursue Destiny in 2010, the series has struggled to hit the highs of earlier titles. Halo 4 and Halo 5 were both well-received by some fans but disliked by others, and there’s a sense that the Halo series really needs a win with its next iteration. As above with Hogwarts Legacy I fully support developers 343 Industries delaying the project and taking the necessary time to bash it into shape. Maybe we’ll see what they’ve been working on at E3!
With a Halo television series also in the works, it should be a good time to be a fan of the sci-fi shooter series. Hopefully the issues with Infinite have been ironed out, and even if there’s still no definite word on when it’ll be released, there will be something to show off to tide fans over and restore hope in the series’ future.
I enjoyed playing Halo and Halo 2 back on the original Xbox, and I’ve recently had fun with The Master Chief Collection on PC, which included a couple of titles I hadn’t played. I’m interested to see what Infinite will bring to the table.
Number 13: Elden Ring
I have to be honest: I’m not sure if Elden Ring is going to be “my kind of thing.” Don’t get me wrong, I like George R R Martin – who’s working with developer FromSoftware on the project – but the teaser trailer gave off a kind of horror vibe that just rubbed me the wrong way, I guess.
I’m also not a fan of FromSoftware’s “extreme difficulty for the sake of it” style of gameplay. There’s no indication that Elden Ring will be as horribly difficult as the likes of Dark Souls, but the developer’s reputation precedes them, and their unwillingness to add difficulty options in their games is not something I appreciate. For those reasons and more it may end up being a game I skip!
Despite that, I like the idea of a new dark fantasy role-playing game. The involvement of George R R Martin has a lot of fans understandably excited, as he’s one of the best authors working in the genre today. Other than that, and a short cinematic teaser, we don’t know very much at all about Elden Ring – so this could be the moment for Bandai Namco to finally show off some gameplay!
If I were being hopeful, I guess I’d say that I’d like to see a darker, more polished looking version of The Elder Scrolls, with plenty of side-missions, lots of factions to join or fight against, and a main story that can be played through right away or sidelined in favour of doing other things. Whether Elden Ring will be anything like that, or whether it’ll be closer to Dark Souls is anyone’s guess at the moment!
Number 14: Super Mario 64 remake
This is a game that I truly felt was a possibility last year, when Nintendo was marking the 35th anniversary of the Super Mario series. Ultimately the company opted to include a pretty crappy version of Super Mario 64 – with a weird screen resolution that left black bars on all four sides of the screen – as part of the underwhelming Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection.
But maybe the rumours of a reimagining of this classic 3D platformer from 1996 weren’t just made up! Maybe Super Mario 64 is being remade using the engine from Super Mario Odyssey, and maybe it’ll be announced this month! Maybe.
There are relatively few games that I’d be really excited to see remade, because in a lot of cases – especially when dealing with relatively recent games – the original versions still hold up pretty well. But after 25 years, there’s definitely scope to remake Super Mario 64, bringing it up-to-date for a new generation of players.
With the game’s 25th anniversary happening this year, perhaps Nintendo’s love of anniversary events will have convinced them it’s worth putting together a remake! Either way, if you can find a copy the original game is well worth playing if you missed it first time around.
Number 15: Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
The third Star Wars title on this list is a fun one! Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was originally due for release last year, before being delayed. The game will be a follow-up to the very successful 2007 game Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, which if you haven’t played I can’t recommend highly enough!
The chance to revisit the Star Wars world with a fun Lego twist – in high definition, this time – has been appealing since The Skywalker Saga was announced a couple of years ago, and this is one game I’m definitely looking forward to. When it was delayed there was mention of a 2021 release, but no date or even release window has yet been elaborated on. Maybe E3 could be the right moment!
Though they arguably overdid it and burned out somewhere in the late 2000s or early 2010s, Lego adaptations of popular franchises have been a lot of fun. Lego Star Wars was one of the first to really go mainstream and see big success, but other titles which adapted properties like Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean were good fun as well.
It would be great to get a solid release date and see a little more of the game. Adapting all nine films in the Star Wars series into a single game is no mean feat, but it’s a challenge that developer Traveller’s Tales has never shied away from. I’m sure that The Skywalker Saga will prove to be a worthy successor to previous Lego Star Wars titles.
So that’s it! A few of my predictions – and wishes – for this month’s E3.
Could you tell which were predictions and which were wishes? I’m not sure I could tell you which were which in every case, so don’t worry! After a rough year, which hasn’t been helped by myriad delays and shortages, it’ll be nice to see players getting genuinely excited about upcoming titles once again. Whatever is ultimately announced or revealed, I’m sure there’ll be something of interest to me, something I can put on my wishlist for later in the year!
Though I’ve never been to E3, I did attend two iterations of GamesCom – Europe’s biggest games fair – in the past when I used to work for a large games company. As I said last year, these digital events are arguably the future of games marketing. Not only are they substantially cheaper than paying to rent a convention centre in California, but it gives the companies greater control over their own messaging. Though the headline this year is “E3 is back!” I would argue that it isn’t – not really. E3 was an in-person event, an overblown trade fair that started allowing members of the public to attend. What we’re going to see this month will be all-digital and quite different.
I hope this was a bit of fun as we look ahead to E3. There are plenty of upcoming games to get excited about, and I shall be watching the various presentations with interest!
All titles mentioned above are the trademark or copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of press kits on IGDB. E3 2021 takes place digitally from the 12th to the 15th of June, with additional events taking place throughout the month of June. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Happy New Year! As we put the calamitous 2020 behind us, let’s look ahead to some of the entertainment experiences we might enjoy between now and Christmas. There’s only 51 weeks till the big day, you know. Better start your Christmas shopping!
The effects of 2020’s disruption are still being felt, and while we should hopefully see a return to normalcy slowly building over the next few months, there will undoubtedly be changes to come. From my point of view as a Trekkie, the big question is this: how much Star Trek will we get this year? After 2020 saw the release of three different Star Trek projects, it’s not inconceivable that the only episode we’ll see in 2021 will be next week’s finale of Star Trek: Discovery Season 3!
We do know, at least, that some big projects still intend to release this year. Let’s look at a few – in no particular order.
The pandemic has not magically gone away with the arrival of the new year, and many cinemas look set to remain closed in the weeks ahead. The distribution of vaccines will be key to their re-opening, and thus to the release of at least some big films. However, there have been plans announced to bring some of 2021’s big releases to streaming platforms – either instead of or in addition to a theatrical release. How well this will work, and whether many of these plans go ahead if the pandemic is brought under control is up in the air right now – but it remains a possibility.
Number 1: Dune
The latest adaptation of Dune is the first part of a duology, and was originally supposed to be released in 2020. Of course that couldn’t happen, and Dune is now set for a December release, and will supposedly come to HBO Max at the same time. Though the story has been notoriously difficult to adapt, this version has a huge budget, a stellar cast, and what look like wonderful visual effects based on the trailer. It feels like a film with great potential, and I’m eagerly awaiting its release.
Number 2: No Time To Die
The latest Bond film – which is set to be Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 – has been delayed by over a year. It was originally scheduled for an April 2020 release, but that has been pushed back to April 2021. There are no current plans to bring the film to streaming, and as it’s supposedly the most expensive Bond film of all time, perhaps that makes sense. April feels optimistic, but we’ll see how things go! Regardless, I’ve always enjoyed the Bond franchise, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens as this chapter of the 007 cinematic saga draws to a close.
Number 3: Jungle Cruise
I love Disney World and the other Disney theme parks! When I heard that the House of Mouse was planning to make a film based on their Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the early 2000s I thought it sounded like a terrible idea – yet Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was an incredibly fun film with heart. Jungle Cruise is likewise based on a Disney World/Disneyland ride, one which, if memory serves, is cute and action-packed! The film adaptation will have to try hard to retain at least some elements of what makes the ride enjoyable, but if it can succeed it could grow to become an ongoing series like Pirates of the Caribbean.
Number 4: The Matrix 4
As I said last time, I really don’t know where The Matrix 4 could possibly take the story of the series. However, I’m still fascinated to find out! This will be our first time back in this setting since 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions, and I’m sure a lot of fans are excited and nervous in equal measure. The idea of the world being artificial was somewhat of a novelty for the big screen when The Matrix did it in 1999, but we’ve since seen other takes on the concept. Will it stick to the late-90s/early-00s aesthetic for scenes set in the simulated world? Will there even be a simulated world if humanity broke free? We’ll soon find out.
Number 5: Raya and the Last Dragon
After Disney saw success with the Polynesian-themed Moana, they have turned to Southeast Asia for inspiration for Raya and the Last Dragon. Kelly Marie Tran will voice the titular Raya, and Disney animated films have always been worth watching so I’m expecting an enjoyable film. Disney appears to be going through somewhat of a second renaissance in the aftermath of Frozen’s huge success in 2013, and hopefully this will be a continuation of that. I’m also rooting for Kelly Marie Tran after the awful treatment she had to endure at the hands of some so-called “fans” of Star Wars. Raya and the Last Dragon will take the approach pioneered by Mulan and be released on Disney+ for a fee.
Number 6: The Suicide Squad
2016’s Suicide Squad won an Academy Award. Just in case you forgot! Was it an outstanding cinematic triumph that I’m happy to rewatch time and again? Not exactly, but it was a decent action-packed blockbuster that was an okay way to kill a couple of hours. And that’s what I expect from this direct sequel – nothing groundbreaking, but a solid film with some cute comic book elements.
Number 7: The King’s Man
Kingsman was a surprisingly fun film when it was released in 2014, and the third entry in the series is a prequel. The King’s Man looks set to examine the outlandish spy organisation’s past and possibly its origins, as well as throw together another action-comedy that takes inspiration from the likes of James Bond. I think that sounds like fun! The King’s Man will feature some pretty big names, including Ralph Finnes, Charles Dance, and Rhys Ifans.
Number 8: Uncharted
Films based on video games have not often performed well. Though some have become cult classics in their own right, most films adapted from video games have not been successful. Will Uncharted be any different? The project has been in development for a long time and seen many behind-the-scenes changes, but having settled on a script and director, Tom Holland was cast in the role of Nathan Drake. At the very least there’s potential for a summer popcorn flick; a blockbuster adventure film. Whether it will succeed at becoming “the new Indiana Jones” is up for debate – but maybe!
Number 9: Death on the Nile
2017’s Murder on the Orient Express was great fun, and Death on the Nile is a sequel of sorts. Adapted from a 1937 novel by famed murder-mystery author Agatha Christie, Kenneth Branagh both directs and stars in the picture as detective Hercule Poirot. The cast list reads like a who’s who of British and international stars, including Jennifer Saunders, Rose Leslie, Russell Brand, and Gal Gadot. If you’re familiar with the book or one of the two earlier adaptations the ending will no doubt be known – but that doesn’t mean the journey there won’t be mysterious and thrilling!
Number 10: Free Guy
Free Guy is about a non-player character in an open world video game who becomes sentient and tries to escape the game. And he’s played by Ryan Reynolds. Are you sold yet? Because that premise (and casting choice) was all it took to hook me in and decide that Free Guy would be worth a look! It sounds like fun, and Reynolds has great comedic timing as we’ve seen with titles like Deadpool. At the very least it’s a unique premise for a film, and one that seems like it could be really funny.
With two new consoles barely a month old, both Sony and Microsoft will surely make moves to shore up their player bases this year. There are some titles on the schedule that look absolutely fantastic, and while the release of many of these on what is now last generation’s hardware will mean we won’t see the full power of the next-gen machines just yet, we should begin to see some improvements in what games are capable of. I better get on with upgrading my PC!
Number 1: Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
Rumours swirled for much of last year of an impending Mass Effect trilogy remaster, and the project was finally announced a few weeks ago. Despite its controversial ending, the three games tell a deep and engaging story in a unique sci-fi setting, and were great fun during the Xbox 360 era. Has enough time passed to make updating the trilogy worthwhile? Mass Effect 3 was only released eight years ago, after all. And will the remaster do everything needed to bring these games up-to-date? With Mass Effect 4 on the distant horizon, it will have to! I’m cautiously interested in this one – it could be wonderful to replay these games, but as we’ve seen with some recent remasters, not every company manages to hit a home run when it comes to updating a beloved title.
Number 2: Hogwarts Legacy
I wrote about this game when it was first announced, but suffice to say I’m truly interested to see what Hogwarts Legacy delivers. It promises to be an “action role-playing game set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the 1800s,” meaning it’s set decades before any of the Harry Potter books. That basic premise worked well for games like Knights of the Old Republic over in the Star Wars franchise, and should allow Hogwarts Legacy to tell a standalone story. The only games set in Harry Potter’s world so far have been straight adaptations of the films, so this is something genuinely different. Hopefully it can tell a fun story!
Number 3: Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
Though I didn’t have time to review it before Christmas, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special was great fun over on Disney+. I had hoped to see Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga last year, but it got pushed back and is currently due for release in “early 2021” – whatever that may mean! The first couple of Lego Star Wars games, which were released in the mid-2000s, were really great fun, and I’ve been looking forward to the latest bricky reimagining of the Star Wars saga since it was announced. Lego games have never tried to take themselves seriously, and the end result has always been titles which are just a lot of fun.
Number 4: The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
What could a game starring Gollum possibly bring to the table? I have absolutely no idea! But games – and stories in general – focusing on an antihero can be wonderful, so I’m very curious to find out. It’s also great to see another big single-player title given the glut of live services and always-online multiplayer games. I’m a fan of Middle-earth and the world Tolkien built, so hopefully this game will be a fun return to that setting. Taking on the role of Gollum will offer a different look at Middle-earth, and whether it focuses on the main story from the books or not, has the potential to be fascinating.
Number 5: Skull & Bones
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag demonstrated that there’s still a lot of appeal in pirate-themed titles. Skull & Bones wasn’t something I was especially interested in at first, but upon learning it will feature a single-player campaign I was happy to add it to the list. It seems to be a game that will deal with the naval combat side of things, and as long as it can really nail ship-to-ship combat within its game engine it should at least be a solid title. Naval games are relatively rare in the combat/strategy/action genres, so perhaps Skull & Bones will offer something a little different.
Number 6: Outriders
Outriders was one of the first next-gen games that reviewers really had a chance to get to grips with before the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The consensus was that it seems like a fun third-person shooter, even if it wasn’t quite as “next-gen feeling” as some had hoped. Regardless, Outriders has continued its development and will be released this year. The basic premise feels like a mix of sci-fi and superhero comics, and at the very least it’s a brand-new setting at a time when a lot of studios are focused on sequels and franchises.
Number 7: GhostWire: Tokyo
I honestly don’t know what to expect from GhostWire: Tokyo. It’s a game shrouded in mystery! One thing we know for sure is that it will feature a supernatural storyline, and that alone sounds like it has potential. A teaser trailer released last year didn’t show much, but we know that the game will draw on Japanese mythology and will be a first-person action-adventure game with some supernatural horror elements. It might be wonderful… or it might not be my thing! We’ll have to wait and see.
Number 8: Diablo IV
After disappointing fans with Diablo Immortal, and then messing up with the controversy around their decision to censor a professional player who supported the protests in Hong Kong, it’s not unfair to say that there’s a lot riding on Diablo IV for Blizzard’s reputation. Early indications are that the dungeon-crawler looks good, and could be a return to form. Diablo III had issues at launch, so this is very much one to take a “wait-and-see” approach with, but if the studio can recreate the magic of older titles then Diablo IV should offer a fun experience.
Number 9: Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
My most recent foray into Mario’s 3D adventures was underwhelming, as Super Mario 3D All-Stars was not actually all that great. However, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury might be! The base game was released on the Wii U, but Bowser’s Fury is something altogether new. How substantial it will be remains to be seen, but taken as a whole the package seems to offer good value. I love the cat suits introduced in Super Mario 3D World, they’re cute and add a different element to Mario and the gang’s 3D adventures.
Number 10: Humankind
Humankind initially attracted me because of how similar it looks to Civilization VI – one of my most-played games of the 2010s. But there’s more to it than that, and the concept of creating a unique civilisation by combining different historical empires and cultures is, at the very least, innovative. I love a good strategy game, and Humankind could be a big time-sink for me this year – if it can deliver on some pretty big ambitions!
After 2020 saw major disruption to cinema, 2021 could be television’s turn. Though shielded from the brunt of the pandemic, a number of television shows planned for 2021 have seen major delays to production. Despite that, there are still plenty of options on the horizon, including some that look absolutely phenomenal.
Number 1: Zack Snyder’s Justice League
I can’t actually remember if Justice League is one of the DC films I’ve seen or not. If you’re a regular around here, you’ll know I’m not a big comic book fan generally speaking. And it’s not unfair to say that DC is the lesser of the two comic book powerhouses right now! I honestly did not expect the so-called “Snyder cut” of Justice League to ever see the light of day, but after a campaign by fans the film will be released – as a four-part miniseries on HBO Max. I’m at least somewhat interested to see what all the fuss is about!
Number 2: Star Trek: Prodigy
After Lower Decks took the Star Trek franchise in a different – and very funny – direction in 2020, I’m curious to see what Prodigy will bring to the table. Some shows made for kids can actually tell very meaningful and interesting stories, and it’s my hope that Prodigy will manage to offer at least something to Trekkies beyond its target audience. The addition of Kate Mulgrew to the cast – reprising her role as Captain/Admiral Janeway – is tantalising too, and although that’s about all we know at this stage, the series aims to have a 2021 release. That could be pushed back, but fingers crossed we’ll see Prodigy some time soon.
Number 3: Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series
Despite not having so much as a title, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series has been targeting a 2021 release. It seems certain that, if this is to happen, it will have to be later in the year; filming is still ongoing at time of writing. However, a return to the land of Middle-earth is truly an exciting prospect, as is a look at the setting away from most of the characters we remember. The series will take place thousands of years before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so there’s the potential to tell some very different fantasy stories in Tolkien’s world.
Number 4: Station Eleven
Based on a 2014 novel of the same name, Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic drama set after the world has been devastated by a pandemic. Timely, right? Though filming began in early 2020 the series is still being worked on, but could finally see the light of day on HBO Max at some point this year. It feels like a project that, simply due to bad timing, may be controversial – but that could simply increase its appeal! Regardless, I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.
Number 5: Foundation
Isaac Asimov is one of the grandfathers of science fiction. Whether his work will translate well from page to screen is an open question… but one I’m very curious to see answered. This adaptation of Asimov’s Foundation series will star Jared Harris, an absolutely incredible actor you might recall from 2019’s Chernobyl. It’s being produced for Apple TV+ as one of their first big-budget productions – or at least, the first one I’ve come to care about. 2021 looks set to be a big year for some of these second-tier streaming services!
Number 6: Star Trek: Lower Decks
Lower Decks has finally secured an international broadcast agreement, more than five months after its first season premiered for viewers in North America. That’s good news, because a second season is already in development and will be able to be shared by fans around the world when it’s ready. Season 1 ended with some surprising twists for an animated comedy, and it remains to be seen what the end result of those storylines will be for our young ensigns aboard the USS Cerritos. Lower Decks took a few episodes to really hit its stride – and there were some missteps along the way – but for my money it’s up there with the best animated comedies of recent years, and I hope that the combination of its international debut and second season will see the show get the admiration it warrants.
Number 7: The Expanse
I haven’t yet sat down to watch Season 5 of The Expanse, which premiered last month on Amazon Prime Video. However, the first four seasons were outstanding, and Season 6 is set to be the show’s last. Hopefully it will go out on a high! The Expanse is a wonderful science fiction series, one which has tried to take a more realistic look at the dangers of space travel and alien life. Many sci-fi stories treat these elements almost as mundane, yet The Expanse approached them with wide-eyed wonder, making things like accelerating a spacecraft integral parts of its story. It’s a wonderful series, and its final season should be explosive, entertaining, and ever so slightly sad as we bid it a fond farewell.
Number 8: The Witcher
I half-expected to see the second season of Netflix’s The Witcher last year, but for whatever reason the streaming powerhouse is taking its time. Henry Cavill was great in the title role in Season 1, and hopefully the second season will keep up the high quality. I always appreciate a new fantasy series, and while the show owes its existence to the popular video games, it’s distinct from them at the same time, drawing more on the original book series for inspiration. Its return to our screens – which may not be until later in the year – is highly anticipated!
Number 9: Star Wars: Andor
I wasn’t exactly wild about the recent announcements of upcoming Star Wars projects. As I wrote at the time: “spin-offs to spin-offs and the increasingly minor characters given starring roles is indicative of a franchise out of ideas.” Part of that criticism was aimed at Andor, the series which will focus on Rogue One’s Cassian Andor. However, on its own merit the show – which bills itself as a “spy thriller” – may very well be decent, and I’m cautiously interested to see what Disney and Lucasfilm bring to the table. Rogue One was certainly one of the better offerings since Disney began producing Star Wars projects, so maybe Andor will surprise me and tell some genuinely different stories in the Star Wars galaxy.
Number 10: Clarice
Alex Kurtzman’s latest project for ViacomCBS will focus on Clarice Starling – the FBI agent introduced in Silence of the Lambs. How well will a show about Clarice work without Hannibal Lecter? Well that’s an open question, quite frankly, because as far as we know, complicated licensing and rights agreements mean Dr Lecter can’t appear. The show is being pitched as horror, though, following Agent Starling as she investigates sexual crimes in the aftermath of the events of Silence of the Lambs. It certainly has potential!
So that’s it.
You may have noticed some exclusions – notably Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. While all three are in pre-production for their upcoming seasons, none have been confirmed for 2021 at this juncture. Given the state of the world and how badly production has been impacted, while I remain hopeful that at least one live-action Star Trek show will make it to air, it’s entirely plausible that none will. That’s why they didn’t feature on the list.
If all goes well, 2021 should be a good year for entertainment. I see a lot of projects in film, gaming, and television that have the potential to tell wonderful, engaging stories. If lockdowns and quarantines remain in place – where I live in the UK restrictions just got a lot tougher – then we’ll need all the distractions we can get!
The year ahead is unpredictable, and it’s possible that some of the projects I’m excited for won’t make it to release – or will end up being less enjoyable than expected. But on the flip side, there are undoubtedly films, games, and television shows waiting in the wings to surprise me; titles that didn’t make this list that I will come to greatly enjoy as the year rolls on. There were several wonderful surprises in 2020 that, had you asked me in January of last year, were not even on my radar. The same will perhaps happen this year too!
With everything going on in the world, having something to look forward to is important. Even if all you can think of that excites or interests you is a television show or video game, that’s okay. It gives you something to hang on to; light at the end of the tunnel. I wish you a very Happy New Year, and all the best for 2021.
All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective company, studio, developer, publisher, broadcaster, distributor, etc. Some promotional artwork and images courtesy of IGDB. Stock photos courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
When Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published in 2000 I picked up the book on launch day and by about four o’clock the next morning I’d finished it! I did the same for at least two of the subsequent titles (I think Order of the Phoenix was too long to read in one sitting) and though the Wizarding World of Harry Potter isn’t my favourite franchise it’s always been enjoyable. As a Brit there’s also a vague sense of pride over a property like Harry Potter – in an entertainment landscape so dominated by Hollywood and the United States, I’m glad that a British franchise has achieved such acclaim and a worldwide following.
I didn’t plan to cover today’s PlayStation 5 event. They announced their pricing – which is identical to the Xbox Series X at $499/£449 in case you were wondering – but unless that had been a huge surprise in either direction I had no plans to follow the online presentation. However, one announcement changed that: Hogwarts Legacy.
Hogwarts Legacy is due for release in 2021, and despite debuting at PlayStation’s event will also be coming to PC, Xbox Series X, and the two current-gen systems too. It’s an action-adventure game set in an open world based on the famous school introduced in JK Rowling’s books, but in a whole new era: the 1800s.
I absolutely love this premise. Taking an established world but telling a new story with new characters is something every franchise will eventually have to do in order to truly succeed. Though there have been attempts – such as the Fantastic Beasts film – to tell stories in the Wizarding World beyond Harry Potter and Voldemort, the franchise is still very much “Harry Potter.” Moving beyond those familiar characters is a great thing, as it will give fans of the setting an original and wholly different experience. As I wrote recently, this is something that the Star Wars franchise needs to do too!
There’s still a lot that we don’t know about the game, and I don’t like to jump on the hype train too soon, but this will be the first game set in Harry Potter’s world to tell an original story and the first to deliberately exclude the main characters from the books. That’s significant, and I’m really hopeful right now that what results will be a great game.
As I watched the trailer I was struck by a couple of similarities to a favourite game of mine from the early 2000s – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Not only did that game take an established fictional setting and tell a story set generations before the original story, it also featured a light side/dark side system, which – unless I’ve misunderstood the marketing – Hogwarts Legacy may be offering too. We know that within the Wizarding World there exists such a thing as dark magic, and it seems as though the new game will allow players at least some degree of choice regarding whether to stay in the light or to follow a darker path. That worked exceptionally well in Knights of the Old Republic, and I see no reason why it wouldn’t succeed here too!
The Harry Potter books – and the films and games they were adapted to – were the story of a select few characters. Harry Potter himself is arguably a somewhat bland “everyman” type, but even so, playing one of the older Harry Potter games still felt like taking control of this character and living his story. Hogwarts Legacy claims to offer players the chance to “be at the centre of [their] own adventure,” and for fans of the franchise I can hardly think of anything more exciting!
In a way, I can understand why some may feel a little disappointed at the 19th Century setting. One part of the Harry Potter stories is the division between the real world where us muggles reside and the magical world beyond. While for the most part the action was away from the muggle world in all previous stories, part of what made them relatable was the idea that everything could really be happening right now. Taking a big step back in time changes that dynamic at least a little, and while that can be a good thing that opens up many new opportunities, it also denies players the opportunity to take their young wizard into today’s world. I don’t think that has to be a problem – games like Red Dead Redemption II have done great things with an 1800s setting – but it is worth noting.
Attending Hogwarts should be a lot of fun! But one aspect any game set in a school has to get right is making lessons feel enjoyable and natural parts of the story. Spending a lot of time in a classroom or having to follow a schedule could work if those levels offer players enough to do, but there’s always a risk that fictional school classes can end up feeling like a bit of a drag or an obligation, especially if the tasks are mundane. On the basis of the limited marketing material released so far, Hogwarts Legacy is billing itself as a game that offers players a lot of choice and freedom, and hopefully they’ve found a way to make school lessons gel with that. If the player character is a student – as seems to be the case – having total free roam of the school all the time with no obligation to attend lessons wouldn’t work for story reasons, and I think getting this balance right will be crucial to the game’s success.
Familiar elements from the films seem to be returning. Hogwarts itself looks to be very much in line with its film depiction, and toward the end of the trailer there was even the familiar musical sting – Hedwig’s Theme – that accompanied the films. The first film in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in 2001, so it’s not unfair to say after almost twenty years that an entire generation of kids grew up with this portrayal of the Wizarding World. Playing on that nostalgia should win support for Hogwarts Legacy, and the visual style seemed to be very much in line with the films across the board.
It’s been a while since I was so excited for a game that was only just announced, and even longer since I was even vaguely interested in anything set in the Wizarding World (sorry Fantastic Beasts!) This has been a strong start for Hogwarts Legacy – let’s hope it can live up to the hype!
Hogwarts Legacy will be released on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X in 2021. Hogwarts Legacy is the copyright of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Portkey Games. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.