, 'Harry Potter: Wizards Unite' is a poor wizard's 'Pokémon Go', WorldNews | Travel Wire News

'Harry Potter: Wizards Unite' is a poor wizard's 'Pokémon Go'

Let’s fight the Calamity! Whatever that is.

Image: wizards unite

Try not to get your wand in a knot, but Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is far from the magical experience we had been hoping for.

Due out to U.K. and U.S. players on Friday, June 21 for Android and iOS, this augmented reality experience from the developers behind Pokémon Go aims to drop the universe of Harry Potter into the center of our Muggle lives via mobile gaming. 

Per marketing, fans awaiting those long-overdue Hogwarts letters will finally be able to inhabit the Wizarding World as Wizards Unite overlays unseen gameplay onto users’ geographical locations and “puts magic in the hands of players worldwide.” Whether you’re brewing potions or going wand-to-wand with a Death Eater, this next step in the unceasingly lucrative Potter franchise should be the most immersive yet. 

‘Wizards Unite’ strangles all the magic out of a slam-dunk idea. 

Unfortunately, as revealed at a pre-release demo event on Tuesday, the game’s contrived premise, clumsy mechanics, and very 2016 execution strangle all the magic out of this slam-dunk idea. 

Announced initially in 2017, Wizards Unite feels alarmingly earthbound in its 2019 debut iteration — and not in the pro-fitness, explore-your-neighborhood way its creators may have hoped. 

When players first fire up the app, they are bombarded with a multi-step tutorial process that force fits an exceedingly “Gotta catch ’em all”-like narrative to the game’s setup, and introduces as much new vocabulary as any given chapter from the books. 

From “confoundables” to “foundables,” the game’s original narrative is chock-full of Potter-like concepts as well as straight-from-the-screen references — including, in the first minutes of play, a Deathly Hallows: Part 2 middle-aged Harry and a shockingly same-age Hagrid — but lacks any of that fluid world-building.

Players are flatly informed by a Ministry of Magic official that they will be acting as a member of the Statute of Secrecy Task Force, charged with finding and returning magical items that have been scattered across the Muggle world by a mysterious (and presumably evil) force known as “the Calamity.” 

Return these items to the Wizarding World via Harry Potter scrapbook The Registry and you will be rewarded with experience points, which you can use to pursue a profession as an Auror, Magizoologist, or Professor. (The RPG aspect of Wizards Unite is notably its most exciting, but was difficult to experience in as limited a time as press members were given.)

, 'Harry Potter: Wizards Unite' is a poor wizard's 'Pokémon Go', WorldNews | Travel Wire News

Oooooh, a *sticker.*

Image: wizards unite / mashable

In addition to playing Pokémon Go-Get-The-Magic-Stuff, wannabe wizards can duel evil forces solo or with a team (of up to five players), gather ingredients to make potions with ability-improving powers, discover Portkeys linked to “an immersive VR-like experience,” and undertake daily challenges. 

Yes, there’s tons to do. But at the center of Wizards Unite‘s many features are the simple mechanics of magic, which fail to even scratch the surface of witchcraft (or wizardry). 

By simply tracing a line along your phone’s screen, you’ll cast a charm or spell. You don’t get to pick which one or what kind. It’ll work. Or, it won’t. Then, you’ll do whatever next thing you’re bluntly instructed to try. 

Eventually, the direction will stop. And you’ll move on.

Of course, the throwing of Pokéballs was similarly unsophisticated, but the bar for gratification was lower there as successfully mimicking tossing was far easier that recreating the otherworldly action of spell-casting. For a game that prides itself on unlocking players’ “wizarding potential,” Wizards Unite executes a gameplay feel more akin to clearing out your inbox than taking down the Dark Lord.


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On some level, all that could be forgiven, but it’s Wizards Unite‘s horrifically outdated execution that makes it a true flop. The amazing visual style and tense tone established in the game’s official trailer is a far cry from the delivered gameplay — and the app’s confusing user interface makes the player’s journey feel markedly directionless.

Sure, I delighted in seeing a cartoonish Death Eater stumble around in front of a Starbucks. But that was a novel experience for me, not an action I’d want to repeat ad infinitum. What’s worse? When it was over, I didn’t know what to do next.

And tragically, I didn’t much care to find out.

, 'Harry Potter: Wizards Unite' is a poor wizard's 'Pokémon Go', WorldNews | Travel Wire News

“Yeah, can I get a scalding hot cup of He Who Shall Not Be Named?”

Image: wizards unite / mashable

Now, that being said, not all hope is lost.

Just as with Pokémon Go, the real test for Wizards Unite will not come with its Friday release in the U.K. and the U.S., nor with its ongoing beta-testing in New Zealand and Australia. Instead, its final chance to achieve maximum magic will come months from now, as users across the globe provide feedback, make demands, and explore the limits of this new space. 

That’s a reality of the AR mobile gaming arena that Wizards Unite producer Alex Moffit and director of worldwide marketing Archit Bhargava are ready for — and counting on. 

“With Pokémon Go, when we launched, there were lots of comments about, ‘Wait, where’s Trade? Where’s Battle?'” Bharvaga recalls for Mashable. 

“We look at these games as multi-decade long experiences, and that’s how the team is built to invest in these games.” 

“We obviously launched with the [version of Pokémon Go] that we thought was ready, but we knew always that there were all these other features that we wanted to add. We look at these games as multi-decade long experiences, and that’s how the team is built to invest in these games.” 

“It would be brash and arrogant if we said the game isn’t going to change, and it’s perfect in its current iteration,” adds Moffit. “We know that it’s going to evolve, and we’re going to learn a ton from our players as time goes on.”

“There’s so much more to come,” continues Bharvaga. “We’ve already brainstormed a bunch of features that we know we want to add to the game that will change game dynamics in many interesting ways.”

Bhargava says many of these features will be tied to seasonal Potterhead events, like Dark Arts Month and Back to Hogwarts, but whether that will be enough to save the game remains to be seen.

On the one hand, and in the words of Dumbledore, “It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” Wizards Unite may evolve to become the biggest, best, and most spectacular AR game we Muggles have ever seen. 

But on the other hand, there are more problems to be tackled here than the Whomping Willow has branches, some of them more daunting than others. 

Of course, as lifelong Potter fans and lovers of a good mobile experience, we want this game to be good. But as it stands now, it just isn’t. Again, in the words of Dumbledore, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” 

We’re rooting for you, Wizards Unite. We really, really are. But you’ve got work some to do.

, 'Harry Potter: Wizards Unite' is a poor wizard's 'Pokémon Go', WorldNews | Travel Wire News