Welcome back to the wizarding world of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, one of the most innovative and addicting augmented reality mobile games since Pokémon Go – a game which it relies on heavily while still adding new dynamics, fun elements, and that special dash of Potter magic. Two years after the mobile AR game’s first release, we thought it was time to check back in and produce a Wizards Unite review.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Storyline and Core Gameplay
From memories to places, all of the things once held dear in the wizarding world have been displaced in the Calamity. The Statute of Secrecy depends on these “Foundables” being returned to where they belong. As a volunteer for the Task Force, it is your mission to locate and return them.
As a player, that involves navigating your surroundings to find Traces, using your camera to lock onto them, and then casting glyphs (spells conducted with your finger) to help return the magical beings to where they belong thus restoring the muggle world to muggledom. There is a huge variety of Confoundables and Foundables to deal with, and the amusing animations will keep you engaged for a long time.
Players will spend their time completing whimsical tasks like freeing Hagrid from webs, defeating flobberworms and erumpets, rescuing runaway bludgers, charming baby mooncalves, returning blast-ended screwts to Hogwarts, and saving grogsplochers from angry newtchids. Alright I made the last one up, but you get the picture. There are also more dangerous feeling Confoundables and foes, like saving Sirius Black from Dementors or battling vampires and three-headed dogs. Battles are fun but, like casting glyphs, grow repetitive – especially when you realize that the effect of skill is minimal compared to stats. Progressing to harder foes requires spending cash or grinding.
Other Wizards Unite Features and Modes
Before doing any of that though, players make a custom Ministry ID where they choose their wizarding name, sort themselves into their preferred house, use fun filters to make a custom image, and, of course, design their wand. My character “MagicalMrWizard” opted for a 14-inch, Dogwood “Surprisingly Swishy” wand using Phoenix Feather as its core.
All of this is great fun, even for a part-time Potter fan. Thinking back to JK Rowling’s books, those first wand-shopping moments in Diagon Alley were some of the most exciting and magical. Though we think that the game designers were missing a trick by not integrating one of the many popular “Which Harry Potter House Are You?” quizzes to represent the Sorting Hat. Also worth noting is that this author had not clocked the Diagon Alley / Diagonally pun until now…nice work JK.
As well as Traces, plenty of other fun things can be found on your map. The most common of which are Taverns which utilise real life pictures of your city and transform them into a magical place of solace where you can restore your spell energy. I soon discovered that my local pub had been chosen as one of these Taverns, which as well as being fitting provided a genuine “That’s so cool!” moment. I’ve also found out about a few interesting nearby locations in my city that I wasn’t aware of through these Taverns and Fortresses, which is neat.
Outside of the map, players can at any time complete SOS and Combat Training, board the battle bus, go shopping, or brew potions using the ingredients they’ve found. While brewing potions in your cauldron, you can try different stirring techniques to make superior brews. It’s a nice mechanic, but unless you’re a real cauldron-freak, you’ll likely get bored of this too before long.
The level-up and mission-complete animations, while also repetitive, are stunning. With Harry’s Patronus stag bounding down the screen as your myriad rewards explode in colour and satisfying sounds. Also worthy of praise is the inclusion not only of core Harry Potter characters but of fan favourites like Argus Filch and Minerva McGonagall. The majority of whom are well-scripted and well-acted.
There are plenty of daily challenges and assignments to get your hands on extra loot, although as in most games these feel pretty hollow after a few days. Wizards Unite takes some effort to integrate these with their storyline to give them a little more depth and character.
Monetization, Data and In-App Purchases
Compared to other big franchise mobile games I’ve recently reviewed *cough cough*, I was at first impressed by how little prompting there was to buy in-game items in order to progress. It was refreshing to see that a franchise with a younger fanbase wasn’t just using beloved stories to raid kids’ pocket money. As I progressed further, I realized that those nagging purchases are still there, they are simply better hidden. For example, your ingredient satchel, energy capacity, and portmanteau key inventory space fill up very quickly until you are prompted to buy more.
“Make progress towards opening Portkeys, even when Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is closed! Allow Harry Potter: Wizards Unite to count your steps while the game is closed, in order to help unlock Portkey Portmanteaus faster and meet your Daily Achievements.” – Perhaps I’m too cynical and this is just Niantic trying to encourage their players to exercise more. But this so-called “Adventure Syncing” rang quite a few data-collection worry bells. This is a shame because Portmanteaus are one of the most fun additions to the game – transporting players into iconic locations from the movies.
Closing Thoughts on Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is undoubtedly an excellently made game. No corner has been cut and great attention to detail has been paid in order to give the title that sense of enchantment. As long as they don’t mind a little commercialization of their beloved memories, then any Harry Potter fan should enjoy the game. That said, at times quantity overtakes quality, and knowing what to prioritise is for lack of a better word, confounding.
While fun, Wizards Unite does begin to feel grindy after the first week. As addictively satisfying as it is to piece together fragments for the various classes and as extraordinary as the beasts are, it doesn’t quite muster that gotta catch’em all feeling. While we can’t quite give Harry Potter: Wizard’s Unite the 5/5 score that we’d give to Pokémon Go, it remains a fabulous title that is bound to please the little witches and wizards in most of us.