Harry Potter: Wizards Unite launched last Thursday and I’ve been living out my childhood fantasy of casting spells, brewing potions, and generally saving the world from evil. Wizards Unite is the latest game from Niantic, the company that dropped Pokémon Go in 2016. I’ve read a lot of reviews online this past week, both good and bad, but I wanted to write about my experience with the game.
I was a big fan of Pokémon Go when it came out, so I was expecting to love Wizards Unite. And spoiler alert…I do!
Wizards Unite is a lot like Pokémon Go. In fact, I’ve read reviews that drag on it for being a ‘re-skin’ of Pokémon Go and yeah, it essentially is. That isn’t a bad thing though, especially when you consider that Pokémon Go was a re-skin of Niantic’s first AR game, Ingress, and it still turned out to be wildly successful. All three of these games are great, and while they all share similarities in design and play style, there are quirks that make each unique.
I do agree that the location-based, collectible AR game style is better suited for the Pokémon franchise. Running around, catching critters is what Pokémon is all about, so I can see how the whole “foundables” aspect of Wizards Unite feels a little forced to some.
Wizards Unite does give us something that Pokémon Go is missing, though: a story. Yes, it’s a little convoluted…we’re on a mission as part of the Statute of Secrecy task force to collect foundables, which are magical items, people, and creatures. The Calamity has scattered these foundables across the world and we need to return them to their rightful places, but there are “confoundables,” evil wizards and creatures, trying to stop us from doing this. And that’s just the beginning, I don’t even know what’s going on with that Grim guy and his wife…but you know what? I’m excited to find out.
Another cool difference is the addition of professions and skill trees. Each profession comes has their own strengths and weaknesses, which is important for the tougher wizarding challenges where a varied team has to work together to overcome the bad guys. You boost your profession skills using scrolls and spell books that you collect as rewards from tasks and challenges, and I love getting to choose my own path on the skill tree. Not going to lie, I’ve missed skill trees ever since World of Warcraft did away with them, so I’ve been enjoying this part of the game quite a bit.
The game itself is beautiful. The map (left photo) is bright and colorful, and if you live near a big city, your map is probably bubbling over with inns, greenhouses, fortresses, and plenty of foundables (right photo) and curiosity encounters. I love the gorgeous animations that I get to watch whenever I click on something, from the gnome confoundables trying to steal a Giant’s Helm to the simple act of collecting a finished potion. Everything is so polished and, dare I say it, magical, which is what makes the game so difficult for me to put down.
There are several things that set Wizards Unite apart from Pokémon Go, which I think makes for more exciting gameplay. Where Pokémon Go has pokéstops, Wizards Unite has both inns and greenhouses. At the inns (left photo), you collect food to replenish your spell energy (used to cast spells against confoundables and curiosities) as well as use dark detectors (which work like lure modules) to spawn rare foundables. At greenhouses, you collect potion ingredients and grow plants, which are a community feature that anyone nearby can contribute to and collect once it’s finished growing.
Another difference is the ability to brew potions (right photo). You pick up potions as rewards for completing tasks or leveling up, but brewing potions is an easy way to stock up on the most useful ones. You can also use the ‘Master Notes’ system to reduce the brewing time, which is a nice little perk. Potions probably aren’t something that casual players will need to invest much time in, but if you like completing wizarding challenges in the fortresses, potions are a must.
My absolute favorite part of the game is the portkey component. You collect portkeys from map spawns and unlock them by walking (like eggs in Pokémon Go). Once they’re unlocked, you place the portkey on the ground to create a portal (left photo) that transports you to a famous location in the wizarding world, like Hagrid’s hut or Ollivander’s wand shop.
While there, you collect wrackspurts (little balls of light) to gain rewards and unlock rare foundables. Although it’s a simple mini-game, I think portkeys are the coolest part of Wizards Unite purely because the AR technology behind them is so dang cool.
One aspect that I haven’t spent much time on is the fortresses. I have completed a few wizarding challenges on my own, but I love the idea of taking on the big baddies with a team of witches and wizards since I always enjoyed the group action of EX raids in Pokémon Go. At some point, I’ll have to join a local Facebook community to coordinate meetups, but I’m not quite that serious about the game yet. As of right now, the different runes and levels to the fortresses kind of confuse me, but I’ve still had fun fighting werewolves and dark wizards despite not really knowing what I’m doing.
Overall, I think Wizards Unite is a must-play for Harry Potter fans. Sure, if people were expecting a minimalistic game like Pokémon Go, they’re going to be disappointed. Wizards Unite is a little complicated and there’s way too much reading at first, but once you get past the basics, it’s a lot of fun.
There’s so much to explore in Wizards Unite and I see something new every day. Plus, I haven’t felt compelled to spend any money yet, which is a huge step-up from Pokémon Go for me since I was constantly running out of pokéballs and buying more. So far, Wizards Unite has been a great way to enjoy the wizarding world, and I can’t wait to see where this game goes!
Over to you!
Have you played Wizards Unite yet? I’d love to hear what you think about it in the comments below!