Back in May of this year, I somewhat savaged the release of the mobile game Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. I wasn’t alone in my criticism of the game, which opted to limit how much fun, magic, and mystery players could enjoy before running into a paywall or a time-limited energy-generation mechanism. But I have a confession to make … despite my early irritation with the game, I’ve been playing it ever since, almost daily. The game still suffers from leaning on the microtransaction crutch too heavily, the character animations remain pretty stiff, and the few recycled vocal performances get repetitive, but the developers are giving fans plenty of reasons to keep coming back to tap on their screens incessantly. Surprisingly, one effect of this fresh rollout of content is that Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is delivering story material that J.K. Rowling‘s books mentioned, but 10 feature films have yet to touch.
In the last few months, the mobile game has introduced wild new outfits, some fantastic beasts you can claim as your pets, and event-specific rewards like the aforementioned outfits, pets, and unique spells. This is all well and good for delivering fun visual flair to further customize a player’s character, but most of these could be purchased through various in-game currency, either directly or indirectly by buying more energy to keep the game going longer. But it’s the introduction of new and diverse characters, unique storylines plucked from the pages of Harry Potter, and the compelling mystery surrounding the player’s protagonist that make you want to keep playing.
If you haven’t given Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery a try, I’d suggest you do so, especially if you remotely consider yourself a Harry Potter fan. The story, which starts not long after an infant Harry Potter defeated the Dark Lord (we do not speak his name), sees your character attending Hogwarts to learn all sorts of witchcraft and wizardry while making friends (and frenemies) along the way. The central mystery concerns your missing brother, an older student who disappeared without many clues left behind to explain what happened. Your job, dear player, is to find what clues do exist and track your brother down.
This mystery is honestly good enough on its own to keep me playing. I want to know what happened to Jacob and how the Cursed Vaults factor into everything. But beyond that, Hogwarts Mystery has featured favorite characters like Snape, Dumbledore, McGonagal, Hagrid, just about all the Weasleys (including Scabbers), and even Filch and Mrs. Norris, alongside lesser-knowns like famed (and frightening) curse-breaker Patricia Rakepick and Care of Magical Creatures professor Silvanus Kettleburn. The game also explores areas the movies haven’t really had time to venture into, like spending time in the kitchens to get to know the house elves (a vastly underrepresented part of the books where the movies are concerned) and speaking to the ghosts and paintings of Hogwarts; every character here is fleshed out, so to speak, far beyond what the movies have done.
Just this past month, the game embraced a werewolf storyline that not only introduced a new, lycanthropy-stricken student for players to befriend but also folded the villainous Fenrir Greyback into the mix. And it’s only just started to scratch the surface on storylines involving fellow Hogwarts students like Merula Snyde, Rowan Khanna, Penny Haywood, and the more recently introduced Badeea Ali, Jae Kim, Liz Tuttle, and Diego Caplan. This latter group of characters adds more diversity and representation to Hogwarts than the original books ever did, something that retcons and recent movies had taken a swing at rectifying. It’s these little touches, along with the flexibility of shaping your own path through Hogwarts, that makes the game worthwhile.
Right now, you can attend classes to increase your rank, practice your dueling to earn unique rewards (including a frustrating new form of currency used for rare items…), spend some time with your friends by having a meal, playing a game, or going out for butterbeers in order to better your standing with them, and roam around the castle, its grounds, and Hogsmeade at will, gathering free energy scattered about. You can show off your house pride by competing against either one or all three other houses during newly introduced special events, all of which come with unique bonuses should your house rack up the most points. Now, of course, these points come at the cost of expending energy, and the houses whose members want to dump real-world currency into the game will certainly win out. But for the casual player, there are ways around the energy limits and microtransactions the core of the game is still based on. And now that there’s enough content to make it worth your time again, you might just want to give Hogwarts Mystery another shot as we head into the last weeks of the year. You never know what kind of magical surprises they might have up their sleeves.