If it’s one thing that my history with mobile gaming has taught me, it’s that almost every game with the word ‘Mystery in its title is going to be a disappointment. What little mystery there is in the story or gameplay will almost always be weak and unengaging.
But it hurt even more when this truth befell Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery because this was a series of books and films that meant so much to so many. This was, for many people, how they or their younger kin were introduced to the realms of fantasy storytelling. Sure, it was just a story at the end of the day. But it was a story that held weight. To see that fall victim to the lazy industry mentality of, “push it out the door quickly to make a buck sooner” cuts exceptionally deep.
At this point, you’ve likely seen the tending Twitter posts and Facebook memes surrounding this game. But I want to strip away that protective varnish of humor and expose the raw and acidic sting of buyer’s remorse surrounding this travesty in order to provide a sort of ‘big book of do not’s’ for future app developers. So, where did Hogwarts Mystery go wrong?
Mismanaging the energy mechanic
One of the most consistent complaints I’ve seen from people regarding Hogwarts Mystery. It seems almost inevitable that you’ll be in the middle of a story mission or a class when… “Oops, you don’t have enough energy to finish this task. Oh, you say you’re on ticking clock? and if you wait around for your energy to rebuild, you’ll lose? Guess you better hand us ALL YOUR MONEY and PAY for the privilege to play if you don’t want to be strangled to death by the Devil’s Snare.”
I rarely see money-grubbing behavior on this level. You aren’t given enough resources to complete tasks without paying for it and if the bothered to fix it, the game’s main challenge would disappear. This is one of the most blatantly transparent cash grabs I’ve ever seen in a mobile game. Or rather, it would be if not for…
Mismanaging character customization
Have you noticed how ridiculously expensive most of the character customization options are? Seriously, 4000 coins for a haircut? It’s taken me four chapters just to get half of that. 100 diamonds for a basic pair of glasses? That’s REAL money for a simple, unimpressive cosmetic detail most people will overlook.
Most of these things require, once again, in-game purchases if you want them. This means even MORE transparent cash-grabbing. I really don’t think this was the kind of business model J.K. Rowling had in mind when she wrote the first stories on an old manual typewriter while trying to care for her daughter alone with no job and fighting the clinical depression that would later inspire The Dementors.
Combat is almost purely luck-based
The big thing that could have saved this mess was the dueling mechanic. The fact that many missions teach you spells you can use in duels was actually really exciting; like you were recreating the feel of being a Hogwarts student.
… And then you actually have to duel.
Dueling is nothing more than a rock-paper-scissors game where the victor wins the right to slap the loser in a magical game of Rochambeau. The only “strategy” comes when you get a whole TWO choices for attacks. Even Pokémon let you have four attack options per character and let choose which ones you wanted to an extent.
I know this is going to be a much shorter essay than what I normally give, but I was genuinely caught off guard by the massive amount of NOTHING this game had to offer. It wasn’t engaging, there’s no real mystery as advertised, and every mechanic seems based around parting you from your money first with fun being a tertiary goal at best. And it doesn’t matter that they heard the criticisms of the players and lowered their microtransaction prices; if a restaurant offers you an appetizer of cat s***, you don’t stick around for the main course.
Don’t play this game, don’t give them your money. If the choices are between this game and a Reductor Curse targeting your genitals, I suggest looking the witch or wizard pointing their wand at your junk in the eyes and telling them, “it’s still not as bad as Hogwarts Mystery.”