Review: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Looks Great... Behind That Paywall

By Jasmin on Apr 28, 2018

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is a free-to-play mobile RPG made by Jam City in partnership with Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter game-dedicated subsidiary Portkey Games. It promises every Potterhead their dream of experiencing seven years in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and for the most part, it does.

You star in an original storyline set years before the events of the main Harry Potter story so don’t expect to bump into Harry, Ron, Hermione or any of the students from their year, really. But fret not, you will definitely see familiar faces like Dumbledore, McGonagall and even Madame Hooch amongst notable characters like Nymphadora Tonks and Bill Weasley. Though for them to boast that the original actors returned to voice their characters, there really is a lack of voice lines for them. There are also a new set of characters that are completely yours to discover, one being your best friend Rowan (who, depending on what gender you play, will be the same as you) and your rival, Merula (who will always be female?).

The game begins with you being an excited eleven-year old who comes from a wizarding family. You finally get your Hogwarts letter but unfortunately, your family name has been tarnished by your older brother who got expelled from Hogwarts and had run away from home right after. So not only do you have to push through regular school-related hijinks, you also have to struggle through suspicion from professors and fellow students due to your brother’s actions. As a lot of Potterheads like to point out: this takes place three years after the start of the Great War so some of these kids are children of known Death Eaters (in fact, one student actually has parents currently locked-up in Azkaban).

You’re brought into the magical world of Harry Potter immediately by gathering school supplies on Diagon Alley. My heart skipped a beat as I got my books from Flourish & Blotts and had the experience of my wand choosing me (albeit vicariously). The excitement continues throughout my house-sorting ceremony (I’m a Slytherin, even via Pottermore) but the excitement ends about ten minutes in when you go through your first monetary-block: running out of energy. I got stuck in Devil’s Snare. In an actual real-life situation, I would have died. So as soon as that hit, immersion dissipated and the magic of finally experiencing life as a Hogwarts student disappeared.

One bar of energy takes about 4-5 minutes to replenish and you start off with 24 bars which increases with every level. The Devil’s Snare task alone will take you 26 bars. There isn’t a warning beforehand, there’s no indication as to how much energy you will need to proceed but there is a time limit. Some tasks take between one to eight hours, but most lessons fall within the hour limit and that is a whole different problem in itself. Want your problems to go away? Spend money. But even then, it won’t be long before you hit the next block.

Also… I’ve paid plenty of mobile games with microtransactions but not to this extent. I have to pay coin to be friends with someone? What if I don’t have the coin? Talk about money-grabbing to the extreme, Jam City/Portkey Games. Have you been living under a rock? WE DO NOT WANT THESE MICROTRANSACTIONS. This is dissuading me from playing further, which sucks because I can tell I would enjoy the story loads.

While it is possible to play completely free, it horribly ruins the experience every time you hit those blocks and then having to wait anywhere between 15 minutes to 3 hours to move onto the next bit. I’m prevented from diving into the story, from being amazed at my Potions skills, from the overall wizarding world experience because of this monetisation barrier. If I was hit with a “Sorry you don’t have enough energy to complete this task/lesson” or if there was an option to get rid of that mechanic altogether, I would jump on it so quick. Though with that said, I wouldn’t have minded paying for this game in the first place and I’m sure other disappointed Harry Potter fans will agree.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is available now on Android and iOS for free in their respective stores but has in-game transactions.

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Paywalls hurt games
I really do understand the need for microtransactions in a free mobile game, but it shouldn't have been done this way.
The Good
  • Great Looking Story
The Bad
  • Paywall
  • Loss Of Immersion Due To Said Paywall
  • Immediate Loss Of Interest
About the Author
Writer, photographer, music lover, friend of the animals, adventurer and PC gamer by circumstance (no, really). RPGs and fighters are my favs, I'll beat you at MK or MvC anyday. Judging all the cups of coffee, even the ones made by myself.
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