I've been waiting for a good Harry Potter game for what seems like an eternity. So when I woke to leaked footage and rumors that Rocksteady was working on a game based on J.K. Rowling's famous wizarding world, I got... a little excited.
The footage has since been taken down, but it can still be found elsewhere. Subsequent rumors have pointed to Avalanche rather than Rocksteady developing the new Harry Potter game, but these reports have done little to dampen my enthusiasm for a new Harry Potter game. I'll take what I can get.
After all, the current history of Harry Potter video games is uneven to say the least. Most of the games to date have been based on the movies, and with a handful of exceptions (Chamber of Secrets, maybe Order of the Phoenix), most have been pretty bad. My favorite Harry Potter game is still probably Lego Harry Potter, which did a wonderful job of stitching all the movies into one big world, but was still ultimately a Lego game. That is to say that it was a fun but extremely light collect-a-thon with very little in the way of depth or story.
Whatever this new Harry Potter game might be, it seems to have designs on being a major triple-A release. It appears to have character customization, some interesting combat, and a wide variety of environments. So as an annoyingly hardcore Harry Potter fan (I know, I know), I have a few pressing questions.
Is This Harry Potter Game Set in the Fantastic Beasts Period?
Harry Potter is currently in the midst of exploring the period from the 1920s to the 1940s, focusing in particular on the rise of Dumbledore's old flame Gellert Grindewald. It's an interesting part of wizarding history, but reactions to the story have been mixed so far. From the questionable history of American magic to Johnny Depp being cast as Grindelwald, Harry Potter fans haven't been especially happy with the newest run of movies.
If the new game strikes off in a new and more interesting direction, there are a few other areas to explore. It could pick up with the Marauders and the first war against Voldemort. It could run concurrently with the original stories. Or it could move into the same period as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, in which all of the original characters are adults.
My hunch is that it will slide into the Fantasy Beasts period, mostly because we have a half-dozen or more movies left to go, and that's where Warner Bros. wants to focus its energies right now. A closer look at the clothing in the leak, which is appropriate for the period, appears to confirm as much. And that probably means a cameo from Johnny Depp. Now I'm sad.
How Will Sorting Work in a Harry Potter Game?
Chararacter customization raises an interesting question: How will sorting work? Without a fixed character, it adds a lot of variables.
Presumably you'll pick from one of four options and the Sorting Hat will proclaim you as being part of that house. Caty jokingly suggested that the sorting process be randomized, if only to troll all the kids who ended up in Hufflepuff (Source: I am a proud Hufflepuff). More likely, there will be some sort of sorting test like the one at Pottermore, which will make for good business for all the sites who will immediately post how to get into the proper house.
But after that, things get more complicated. Will there be a consistent set of characters who follow you to whichever house you choose? If so, wouldn't it be a bit strange to, say, have a basically good and heroic kid in Slytherin? Would certain areas only be open to certain houses?
It would be difficult to nail sorting in a way that's more than cosmetic, but it could be secretly critical to a potential Harry Potter game's success. So much of the appeal of Harry Potter is bound up in throwing your lot in with a particular house. With that element, at least some of the magic would be lost.
One way or another, it's a factor that this Harry Potter game has to get right. And it's a bigger challenge than it might seem.
Why is the Hero Murdering Magical Creatures?
The leaked footage provides several glimpses of the gameplay. We see environmental puzzles; collapsing ceilings, and a duel with an opposing wizard. We also see our hero murdering magical creatures by the dozens. One even gets a sword right through the belly (ouch).
Granted, Harry Potter has never been shy about going some dark and violent places, and the conflict between humanity and, for instance, goblins, is well-established. But yikes, the protagonist sure doesn't seem to like magical creatures very much. Somebody get Hermione on the line so she can start a new version of Stop the Outrageous Abuse of Our Fellow Magical Creatures and Campaign for a Change in Their Legal Status.
Is J.K. Rowling Involved in Writing the Story?
J.K. Rowling has retained quite a bit of control over Harry Potter since the conclusion of the books. She's penned both the play, now on Broadway, as well as both of the movies. She's also had a habit of tweeting.
OK, here it is. Please don't start flame wars over it, but this year I'd like to apologise for killing (whispers)... Snape. *runs for cover*— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) May 2, 2017
Thanks to Rowling, Harry Potter has suffered from an acute case of lore creep. Wince along with me, for instance, as you read about Mahoutokoro, the Japanese wizarding school. Rowling has also elaborated on everything from Professor's McGonagall's sad childhood to the origin of Floo Powder.
At a minimum, Rowling will be consulting and approving whatever goes into this Harry Potter game, so fans should hold on tight, because more lore is apt to be on the way. But remember, it could always be worse: Disney could buy the series and hand it off to JJ Abrams.
Will Dumbeldore Actually Get to be Gay in this One?
We've known that Dumbeldore is gay for at least a decade now, but we've yet to see him in an actual relationship (Grindelwald was described as a friend in Deathly Hallows). Earlier this year, Jude Law said that his portrayal of Dumbledore wouldn't be "explicitly gay." So will Harry Potter ever pay more than lip service to Dumbledore being queer?
Ah, he'll have "sensual gay sex." Good, I'm glad that's settled.
Harry Potter has been in an odd place since Deathly Hallows concluded the series back in 2007. It remains beloved among kids and adults alike, but most would argue that the stories that have followed haven't lived up to the original material. Between questionable lore, some mediocre movies, and a divisive play, a lot of fans secretly wish that Rowling and WB would leave well enough alone. Not since midichlorians has a franchise been more victimized by over-explanation as Harry Potter.
Still, it's a rich world, and there's a lot of material for this future Harry Potter to mine. What's there is encouraging: A walk through what is presumably the Forbidden Forest to encounter a magical beast; environmental combat, and transfiguration. In one scene, we see kids practicing spells, which suggests there will be classes of the sort like in Rockstar's Bully (remember Bully?)
Based on reports from Eurogamer and elsewhere, this leaked footage is very real, which means that a Harry Potter game is indeed on the way from Avalanche. It's also reportedly a long way off. However it turns out, I hope that it manages to live up to the legacy of the original books, which remain a delight to this day. In the meantime, I'll look forward to Witchbrook.