Some of you have waited for the new Harry Potter mobile game for a long time and after the mediocre impact of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, the new title has finally been launched. It’s called Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and it’s a free-to-play mobile game that supports location-based gameplay.
Niantic, who you might recall as the developer of Ingress and Pokémon GO, has teamed up with Portkey Games, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, to give you Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. It’s based on the key aspects of Ingress and Pokémon GO but has been moved into the Harry Potter franchise world, inspired by the books of J.K. Rowling.
Let’s jump into the story a bit
What’s going on in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite? Well, the plot isn’t that much of a driver and you might find yourself just skipping through lengthy dialogue passages at some point. The story feels reverse-engineered just so the game has a reason to exist. The gameplay existed before there was a story and you feel it. The plot is more of a filler and it would have not done much harm if they would have just let people play.
And yet, I will share a little of the story with you before we move on. The wizarding world is in danger because for some reason, magical artifacts, mystical creatures, and wizarding wizards, and witches, have appeared in the muggle world. Of course, the common folks must not witness such, hence, why you, the player, have to find these and send them back to the wizarding world by making use of spells.
It’s not an AR game
Even though many gameplay mechanics have been adopted, some aspects are new and add a bit freshness into the experience. The game contains the classic augmented reality (AR, AR+) features but similar to the processors, the player would often just disable them, sacrificing immersion for better gaming efficiency and results. The technology might have been useful for more than just filter-selfies and gameplay background.
What’s it like to play?
When comparing Harry Potter: Wizards Unite to Pokémon GO one of the main differences to me is that it consumes a lot more time. When trying the game out, I found myself sometimes standing for 15 minutes at a single location, trying to farm, battle, and collect, everything and anything that might help me progress. I found that you would not just walk around and throw a Pokéball here and there to catch monsters, without even stopping.
Beyond that, another aspect for me is the missing emotional investment into what’s happening in the game. You are not collecting monsters, giving them names, training them to evolve, or anything like that. There is no aspect of collecting at all. You discover anomalies in the world and send anything unusual back to the wizarding world. And you keep doing that as the primary activity of the game.
The game only just got released to the public and the client is not perfect. It crashes here and there. The server has a slow response time now and then. Unexpected things happen. All of that is okay and will certainly improve throughout the normal development lifecycle that only just started. Let’s give them some time to work it all out.
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What I don’t fully understand is that they should have learned some lessons through the lifecycle of their previous games. For instance, the milestone function update in Pokémon GO, which allowed players to synchronize their traveled distance through a third party fitness app such as Google Fit, was immensely useful to make game progress without having it open and active for the whole time. Why was this not also enabled for Harry Potter: Wizards Unite as soon as it was published? It’s not that much fun to travel a distance of 10 miles just to unlock something, while you must have the game open and active the whole time you walk. Hopefully, this will change very soon.
The game drains my battery a lot faster than playing Pokémon GO too. This might be because the graphics used are somewhat more complex and are likely to require more computing power from CPU and GPU. This is not terrible, but I also hope for some energy efficiency improvements over time. In the last 24 hours, I played the game outside for about 4 hours, which led to a total data consumption of 360 megabytes. This as well is not pretty and should urgently be improved to better accomodate people on low-data plans in my opinion.
You can pick a house of Hogwarts but it does not seem to have any effect. If you like, you can add friends to your friend-list but you can’t really do much with them. You can’t even create your own character. You are just a generic wizard. All these are things to work on for future updates and content releases in my opinion.
Should you even try it?
Why, yes, of course. Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not, you should certainly try to download the game and play it a while. The great aspect of location-based gaming is that they usually give you some motivation to go out there and visit places, you know, being a little active. That’s always a good thing nowadays. Just be careful to pay attention to your surroundings at all times and be safe.
The game is only just out now and while it might not be perfect, it has great potential, and hopefully the development team will invest further to make it an even better game over time. You can download it for free for your iPhone or your Android smartphone, so what would possibly hold you back to give it a try? I’ll see you on the other side, muggles.
YouTube: Harry Potter – Wizards Unite | Launch Trailer
YouTube: Harry Potter – Wizards Unite | Gameplay Trailer
Photo credit: The feature image, as well as the screenshots, are owned by Portkey Games and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Editorial notice: The author has played the game for about 6 hours in a timeframe of 24 hours since it had been released.