So we should begin this review with a bit of a disclaimer: while we’d love to provide a definitive critical opinion of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, we find ourselves unable to, as we can’t get the game to play nicely for longer than a few minutes at a time.
We’ve experienced crashes, freezes, connection issues, and a general lack of responsiveness for pretty much the entirety of our first 24 hours with Niantic’s latest. That’s without mentioning the myriad of features that are locked out and reportedly “coming soon”.
But despite these pretty serious issues that would cause even Bethesda to raise an eyebrow, we’re still having a ton of fun with it, and can see the sheer potential that this magical experience holds – provided the myriad of kinks can be worked out.
At first glance, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite looks like a reskin of Pokémon GO – and in many ways it is. This is both a positive and a negative. If it isn’t broken, why fix it? Pokémon GO is excellent at what it does and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel in Niantic’s latest adventure.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Sticks Closely to the Pokémon GO Formula to Mixed Results
However, the Harry Potter universe doesn’t prove a perfect fit. While casting all of us as a special Ministry of Magic task force that has to protect the Muggle world from magical mishaps hits the bullseye, the collectibles are a genuine miss.
While Pokémon GO featured hundreds of Pokémon to catch and collect as you wandered around the real world, Harry Potter features Foundables. These are basically a variety of magical happenings that don’t belong in the real world, and it’s up to you to put a stop to them.
So far, these have largely involved rescuing Harry Potter characters that have been frozen in ice or entangled in hungry plants, and fighting off magical enemies. All of these play out the same way though, with you casting a variety of spells by swiping out a particular pattern to cast them.
Much like in Pokémon GO, your chances of successfully catch- er, casting the spells is determined by how accurate your swipes are. However, there is a bit more variety here as you’re not just performing the same old flick over and over again. Spells require a variety of different swipes, which add least adds a bit of variety to proceedings.
Casting Spells and Uncovering Magic With the Power of AR is Fun, But the Stamp Collection Pales in Comparison to Collecting Pokémon
If your spell is successful, you’ll receive a stamp for completing that particular Foundable, and you can place it in your stamp book collection to remind you how much of a nice wizard you are.
This is the bit that’s, quite frankly, a lot less satisfying than Pokémon GO. Filling out a Pokédex has proven incredibly addictive, as the series’ longevity can attest to, but the stamp collection thing falls quite short of the mark.
It’s not that it’s a particularly bad idea – who doesn’t love a stamp collection?! – it just doesn’t really make any sense. Who’s giving people a stamp of themselves for rescuing them from frozen ice? Nobody, that’s who.
The Pokéstop equivalent, Inns, fortunately do come off a bit more favourably. There’s a lot less items in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, so they largely serve to recharge the energy you expend casting spells. It’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to think that grabbing a pint in a pub will give your batteries a quick boost.
We Seriously Enjoyed Filling Out Our Ministry ID Though
Another aspect of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite was filling out your Ministry ID. You can take a photo, complete with AR-fueled lighting scars, circular glasses, and Gryffindor scarves, build your own wand, and select your favourite house.
We were a bit disappointed that the latter didn’t include some sort of quiz or sorting process though. After all, literally everyone is going to pick Gryffindor, aren’t they? So we picked Hufflepuff just to spite them.
We’re still very early days in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, but we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the little of it we’ve seen so far. It’s captured our imaginations in a similar manner to the books and movies, and makes good use of the Pokémon GO mechanics for the most part.
We’ll give a firmer opinion of the experience once those bugs have been squished though, as that’s hampered our play time considerably so far. We’re confident that Niantic will fix them though, and Wizards Unite will likely stand alongside Pokémon GO as a permanently installed game on your phone.