Everything I Learned From Obsessively Playing ‘Harry Potter: Wizards Unite’ For One Day

Is this your new Pokemon Go?

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Review

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In extremely good news for people who love Harry Potter and nearly walking into traffic, the latest augmented reality game from the makers of Pokemon Go is here. It’s called Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.

Much like Pokemon Go, the game involves walking around and staring at your phone and really increasing your thumb strength.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite invites users to join the Statute of Secrecy Task Force, whose job it is to protect the wizarding world from discovery by Muggles.

With the aid of Harry Potter himself, players collect enchanted artefacts and fight fantastic beasts, which appear in the real world just like Pokemon do in Pokemon Go. You can also make magic potions, uncover Portkeys, and fuck around like a real wizard.

A beta version of the game is currently available in the App Store and through Google PlayIn a blog post, the game’s creators warned that as it was still in beta, the game might be “buggy and unstable at times”.

Naturally, I immediately downloaded it, and obsessively played it all day. Here’s what happened:

Accio Eye Strain

So, the layout of Wizards Unite will be almost immediately recognisable for Pokemon Go players, with a little avatar (wearing a wizards hat!) representing you standing in an animated overlay of real life locations.

Notable locations include inns, which function as Pokestops,  where you charge up on “spell power”, fortresses, which we’ll get to later, and greenhouses where you can cultivate some ingredients and shit. There’s also sections where specific types of traces can be found. What are traces? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. There’s a lot of moving pieces in this game.

First impressions are that the game just LOOKS cool — there’s owls and magical paper airplanes flying around, and the music is suitably wizardy. The sight of tall fortresses surrounded by a penumbra of swirling magical energy looming in the distance makes you feel full of possibility.

First you’ll do a quick tutorial which explains the basic mechanics of the game, where you free Hagrid from a spell of some kind. The nuts and bolts of how this works is you’ll find various “confoundables” which you have to banish using spellcraft.

They’ll often be doing something weird, like a fire spell might be attacking a weird slug. You also collect the things you rescue for like a sticker book? Anyway.

Instead of throwing pokeballs, you trace spell runes for various effects — if you manage a “great” or “good” casting of ebulio, you might trap a troll in a bubble, which floats away. It’s kinda fun, but doesn’t feel as rewarding as a good poke-ball throw.

Likewise, the drive to collect things is just not as interesting. My weird scrapbook of random wizarding detritus is much less compelling than a Pokedex.

This game could do with a mantra like “Gotta catch ’em all”. At the moment it’s a bit more like “I am accidentally filling my scrapbook up with ’em all?”

The Ministry Of Fan-Fiction

There’s a LOT of Harry Potter in this — it’s not just a convenient skin.

You get to do lots of fun stuff like choose your house and create a customised wand. All the spells and potion ingredients and random critters are pulled from all the various Harry Potter franchises, including a LOT of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, because in a way, you are finding some fantastic beasts.

There’s also a narrative behind the game, which is interesting. As you progress through the world, you might find clues as to how this weird magical calamity happened, all focused on a missing wizard named Grim Fawley. I found a Daily Prophet article, which I have to admit totally peaked my interest. A mystery!

But, along with the big stewpot of cool wizardly things for Harry Potter fans comes just some weird shit? Like, why is Harry Potter literally messaging me? And why did I have to free Snape from a bottle? Isn’t he dead?

Like, why did I free Professor Sprout from three different magic traps on my walk home? I couldn’t help but wonder why Hogwarts faculty were hanging out in Redfern? I know I’m overthinking it, but the game feels less real because of it — with Pokemon, the entire conceit is that there are different pocket monsters all over the goddamn place.

Also — am I an evil wizard? I am currently ranking highest in The Dark Arts (mostly because the Junkee office amusingly sits within a Dark Arts foundables zone), and I keep sending Hands of Glory and Flesh Eating Slugs back to Borgin & Burkes.

That seems not good, ethically — if there’s a story, I kinda need it to be consistent.

Walk On The Mild Side

While I spent a lot of time standing entirely still and annoying my co-workers by playing in the office, I got a much better idea of how the game works when I did a long walk home.

The number of confoundables increased seven-fold, and I valiantly attempted to fight all of them. I was basically successful all the time, with only a couple resisting my spells a few times. I never had any disappear.

I also quickly levelled up, which gives you a bunch of rewards and potions and junk. It also unlocks new things — at level four you can brew potions, at level six you can join a “profession”. I’m not level 6 yet, so I don’t know what that means! It probably adds another layer of much-needed urgency.

I had a good time — there was no trace of anyone else playing, which is a shame. I remember playing Pokemon Go and my entire (previously very unfriendly) neighbourhood congregating at the park, all red-faced and sociable, chasing after a Tentacool like sugar-filled children.

Probably my favourite moment in Wizards Unite though was when I thought I was dispelling yet another weird-ass spell, and then suddenly found myself in a fight with a vampire! It was a whole different spell mechanic, which I gotta admit I did not pick up in time to forestall the vampire killing me. It was a cool surprise!

Gimme that mystery!

Flesh Eating Bugs

As it’s a beta version, there were quite a few moments where things just pooped themselves.

Making potions just didn’t work half the time, and sometimes foundables would just disappear when I clicked on them. But the worst is that I could NEVER actually get into a fortress, it would shit itself and time out with every attempt. I think Fortresses are meant to be a huge part of the game, so I look forward to actually entering them and fighting my way up them. It might give me a bit of a reason to actually wander the world — at the moment there’s really no impetus to move too far, as things just seem to pop up as I wait.

From what I understand anecdotally, you duel different monsters and shit in various dungeons, using runestones you get from levelling up and stuff. It most likely uses the same mechanic from my surprise vampire encounter. It’s probably cool, and will probably be a big part of the “team” dynamic that I’ll unlock soon.

So, Should You Play Harry Potter: Wizards Unite?

Look, I had a LOT of fun! I’m not as insanely obsessed as I was with Pokemon Go, but it’s also early days.

I also had a stupidly anxious dog who needed walking a lot back with Pokemon Go, and now I just have anxious me, and I don’t need to be walked as much!

I really feel like a bigger community and less buggy features could unlock a lot more enthusiasm in me.

I also really like the mystery underpinning the whole thing — it’s a great addition that feels very on theme, and actually makes me want to continue, much more than collecting dumb shit does.

So — I reckon this is a must play for Harry Potter fans who love walking and who own phones. Just watch out! I literally did walk into traffic, because I was playing the game while listening to a podcast on noise-cancelling headphone. Very dangerous!

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is currently available in the App Store and through Google Play.

Patrick Lenton is the Entertainment Editor at Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.