Hello everyone! I’m sure most of you have read the Harry Potter series and/or watched the movies. I grew up with these books, constantly looking forward to the next installment in the series. So it’s only normal that I am excited when a new mobile game about our favourite boy wizard is announced. Last year, I reviewed the Hogwarts Mystery game and let’s just say that wasn’t exactly a five-star game. A few weeks ago, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite was released. Created by the same company that brought us Pokémon Go, I just had to check it out. Here are my thoughts.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite starts with the Ministry of Magic asking for your help. A mysterious event, called the Calamity, has unleashed traces of magic into the muggle world. Now it’s up to wizards like you and me to collect these traces and return them to their original location, before the muggles find out.
These traces spawn on your map, a bit like Pokémon do in Pokémon Go. But unlike PoGo where you can see whether it’s a Bulbasaur or a Charmander, in Wizards Unite you can only see its category. So you have to click on it to find out what the trace is exactly. This gets a bit frustrating when it’s once again a Flobberworm and not the dragon egg you’ve been looking for for days.
These magical items are known as “foundables”. Every foundable consists of a number of fragments: 1, 4, 15, etc. For instance, you have to “catch” the Flobberworm once to complete the item and earn its sticker, but you’ll need 4 pieces of the Erumpent to complete its sticker.
As I mentioned before, these foundables are divided into different categories. For instance, there’s Magizoology (where you collect creatures like nifflers and demiguises), Legends of Hogwarts (where you collect characters like Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasley), Magical Sports and Games (where you collect items like bludgers and gobstones), and so on.
However: every category is again divided into 2 or 3 “pages”, with every page containing 4 to 5 foundables. Once you complete a page (meaning you completed every sticker), you can “prestige” it, which means resetting it. Now you can set out to hunt these foundables again, but you’ll need more of each to complete it. For example: prestiging the page with the Flobberworm increases the number of pieces you need of this creature from 1 to 10. You can prestige every page 3 times, meaning you can complete each page 4 times. This should keep you occupied for a while.
I generally like this system, because it means those common traces aren’t immediately useless. The only frustrating thing is that on one page, you can have both common traces and incredibly rare ones. And while it’s easy to complete the common ones, you’ll have to hunt a long time to find the rarer ones.
Ready your wands
How to “catch” a foundable? Once you click on it on the map, you’ll see the foundable (and often a “confoundable”, an enemy threatening the foundable). Now, instead of simple throwing a ball at its face like you do with Pokémon, you’ll need to use a magic spell. You’ll see the spell’s trace on your screen. Simply follow the trace with your finger. The faster and more accurate you do this, the higher your chance of the spell succeeding. This adds a bit more difficulty compared to PoGo, but it is so much fun to “FLIPENDO” some evil guy, or “ALOHOMORA” the chain off of an Erumpent’s leg.
When you catch a foundable, you get general XP to level up, but you’ll also gain XP specific to that foundables category. When you fill up the category’s bar, you get scrolls and runestones, which you’ll need during combat (more on that later). This is a bit confusing at first, having these two types of XP, but once you figure it out, it makes sense.
I usually play Wizards Unite in our town, and we often meet the same foundables. The baby hippogriff and flobberworm aren’t exactly rare. Moaning Myrtle or Snape, on the other hand… And these rare foundables also seem to have a higher flee rate. So be prepared to get excited upon encountering a hard-to-find foundable, only to have it run away. When you level up, these foundables become easier to catch, but the difference isn’t huge. So even at level 20 or higher, these foundables will still run away frequently. I’m not too bothered by that, because I’m in no hurry to complete my registry. But if you are someone who wants to collect everything as soon as possible, this will probably get frustrating.
You can increase the chance of catching these foundables though. This is where potions come in. There are several different types of potions, ranging from Exstimulo potions to Healing and Invigoration Draughts. Each potion has its own use: reducing a foundable’s flee rate, increasing your chance of “catching” it, increasing the experience you get, and so on.
And the fun thing: in Wizards Unite you can make your own potions. No worries, Snape isn’t involved here! Simply select the potion you want to brew and wait a few hours until it’s ready. You can even queue several potions to brew while you’re doing other stuff (or sleeping).
There’s also a way to speed up the process, by using a set of gestures (shaking your phone, tapping the screen repeatedly, swiping right, swiping up, and so on) in the right order. The first few times, you’ll have to figure out the right sequence by yourself, after 3 times the sequence gets added to the recipe permanently (you could always look up the right order online, but where’s the fun in that?). I love this potions system, it’s fun to figure out the sequences and to be able to create the items you need. It also requires some planning about which potions you need the most and when to brew them.
Ingredients, greenhouses and inns
However, the one problem with potions is the ingredients. These ingredients spawn randomly on the map, where you can pick them up. Or they can be found in greenhouses, where you can harvest a plant every 5 minutes. The problem with these greenhouses, is that the yield is random. So when you need a specific ingredient, you can only keep your fingers crossed you’ll find it. This can be frustrating, since some ingredients seem to be more rare than others. In greenhouses you can also grow your own plants, but then you’ll need to find the right seeds first. And you’ll have to be able to collect your yield when it’s ready, 1, 7 or 24 hours later.
Other than greenhouses, you’ll also see inns on your map. When you’re within range of these, you can click on them to “enter”. A quick swipe across your screen will randomly select one of the 5 plates available. And depending on which plate is selected, you get energy. Pumpkin juice gives only three bolts of energy, while a fancy dinner yields 6, 7 or more energy. There are different colours and models of inns, and it looks like certain foods have a higher chance to appear in certain inns. I adore the looks of these inns and it’s a great way to replenish your energy. But it’s annoying when you don’t have an inn nearby so you can’t fill up your energy regularly throughout the day.
So what do you need the energy for in Wizards Unite, you ask? This is what you use to cast spells. Every spell (when trying to “catch” a foundable, or during combat) requires energy. So you will need to visit these inns regularly or you can’t cast spells anymore. For PoGo players: this energy is a bit like pokéballs that you get from pokéstops and without which you can’t catch Pokémon. Except these inns look cuter than Pokéstops, which are simple spinning disks…
I already mentioned combat earlier, so let’s take a look at the Fortresses. These are the big buildings on your map, not unlike gyms in PoGo. When you have enough energy and a runestone, you can try your luck fighting enemies here. Every Fortress is divided into several levels. You’ll need to win the challenge at level 1 to unlock level 2, and so on. The higher the level you select, the harder the challenge will be. This difficulty level is also affected by the runestone you pick. Every runestone has a number on it, impacting the difficulty. These runestones also come in different colours, for every category of foundables. This will affect the category of the rewards you get. So you’ll need to think ahead about which runestone to use: low or high difficulty, and which family?
Once you have chosen this, you enter the fight. Enemies will spawn, some easy and some pretty hard. You pick an enemy to fight and then you move to the combat screen. First you need to aim your wand at the target to fill up the circle. Once this is filled, you can cast your offensive spell, inflicting damage. The fight is turn-based, so afterwards your enemy gets to attack you and you’ll have to cast Protego to… well, protect yourself. During a fight, you can also use potions to increase the damage you inflict, or to heal up. When you defeat the enemy, you automatically return to the lobby and you can pick your next opponent. If you defeat all your foes within the time limit, you win and receive rewards, which include foundables for your registry.
You can play these challenges on your own, or you can team up with up to 4 friends. I mean, the game is called Wizards Unite, after all. This is where professions come in. Early on in the game, everyone has to pick one of three professions: auror, magizoologist or professor. Every profession has its own strengths and weaknesses. For instance: as a magizoologist, I am extra strong against Beasts (like Acromantulas), but weak against Curiosities (like Werewolves). So when you team up with friends, it’s best to have different professions instead of all being aurors for example. This way, you can divide the enemies in a challenge between the members of your team, matching each player’s strengths.
This mechanic of professions is completely new compared to PoGo (where the colour of your team only matters when it comes to defending gyms and where it’s better to have the same team as your friends). And it gets even more interesting: in Wizards Unite, you also have a profession skill tree, like in RPGs.
I already mentioned the scrolls you get as rewards. You need these scrolls to unlock new skills and traits in the skill tree. This way, you can increase the damage you do, your defense, and so on. Each profession also plays a vital role in the team. The auror can put debuffs on enemies, decreasing their strength; the magizoologist can heal their teammates; and the professor can buff their team. These skills/hexes/charms are part of the skill tree. So before picking a profession, you’ll have to think about what role you want to play during combat and then you’ll have to study your skill tree and choose which abilities you want to unlock first.
It is possible to switch between professions, but it’s important to note that the scrolls you already invested in the magizoology tree won’t be “reimbursed” and therefore won’t be available to unlock skills in the auror tree. In other words: you can be a master of one profession, or a jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none.
As someone who has played a number of RPGs before, this system feels familiar to me. I know about combat roles, skills trees and so on. And I love, love, LOVE that combat in Wizards Unite is a bit more complicated and well-developed than in PoGo, where you mainly have to tap your screen furiously. But I can imagine if you’re not familiar with these things, it can be a bit confusing and overwhelming at first.
Next up, we have portkey portmanteaus. For PoGo players: these are like eggs you can hatch by walking. When you have an open slot in your portkey inventory, you can see these portkeys lying around on the map. Instead of incubators to put your eggs in to start walking them, here you get keys. You get one golden key, which can be used an infinite number of times. And you can collect silver, single-use, keys through playing or you can just buy them. Select a portkey, click on the key you want to use and start walking!
Once you’ve walked the necessary distance (2, 5 or 10 kilometers), you can open up the portkey. As you might know from the books and movies, portkeys transport you to different locations in the wizarding world. When opening a portkey, you can step through a portal that sends you to Hagrid’s Hut or one of the shops in Diagon Alley. Here, you’ll see sparkly wrackspurts hidden throughout the room. You have to click on 5 of them and each wrackspurt yields a reward, from XP to potion ingredients. You’ll also receive a random foundable, so portkeys are a great way of expanding your collection!
Portkeys are very similar to PoGo eggs, so there’s not a lot to say about them. The only problem I have is that you can’t control which distance you get (2, 5 or 10 km) since portkeys all look identical on the map and you can’t delete them once you’ve picked them up. I assume you’ll find more rare foundables in the 10-km portkeys, so you want to have more of those and fewer 2-km ones. But this is the same issue as with the eggs in PoGo, so I wasn’t surprised nor too bothered with it.
As in most free-to-play games, there is a shop, where you can buy useful items and upgrades. Need more energy and there’s no inn nearby? Ran out of potions? Or is your ingredient bag always full? Time to visit the shop, called Diagon Alley of course, and spend some coin. You can earn these coins by playing the game and completing achievements, or you can spend some real-life money to buy in-game coins. It’s harder to earn these coins in-game than it is in PoGo, but on the other hand, upgrades are cheaper. So when you’re patient, it’s possible to buy the upgrades you need without spending real money.
And finally, I want to add that Wizards Unite clearly has room to implement extra features. For instance, the friend system has plenty of untapped potential. You need to add people as friends to be able to fight in a fortress together, but that’s about it. Unlike in PoGo, you can’t “level up” your friendship to get extra bonuses, nor can you send each other items. Wouldn’t it be great if you could trade potion ingredients?!
So to sum things up: Wizards Unite will instantly feel familiar to Pokémon Go players, but it adds some difficulty and more interesting mechanics. This leads to a steeper learning curve for new players and I can imagine people who haven’t played PoGo might feel a bit lost or overwhelmed at first. There is a decent tutorial throughout the first few levels, but PoGo players will have extra “anchor points” because they can link inns to Pokéstops, and so on. But once you figure out these mechanics, Wizards Unite is heaps of fun.
However, I want to add that you shouldn’t approach this game as a PoGo clone. I’ve seen people who think they can complete the registry the same way they rushed to complete their Pokédex and then get burned out after a week or two. Don’t do that, take your time!
And of course it’s wonderful to see all these characters, creatures and objects from the Harry Potter universe! If you’re a big fan of the books and movies, you’ll love this!