Raise your wands Wizards and Unite – first impressions

Raise your wands wizards as Niantic has finally launched their magical AR title Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Although South Africa only received the game two days after launch, it’s better late than never right? After a brief few hours with the game myself yesterday I’ve found that although the layout of the over-world may look similar to Pokémon GO (although darker) and a lot that you might do in the game is similar to the pocket monster catcher, it’s got so much more. For instance, the over-world itself has you the wizard in training equipped with your wand. As you stand you’ll notice owls fly by as well as colourful paper aeroplanes. No doubt they’re delivering important messages.

What’s more, is the music in the background is, of course, the iconic melodies from the movies itself. And if you start running you’ll notice your character switch from moving on their feet to flying on a broom. Truly a magical experience for Harry Potter fans. Some may say that it perhaps is a bit too animated and immersive, especially for an AR game, but I loved this.

Then there’s the crux of the game, investigating the calamity that has let magic roam loose and stopping these rogue spells or as known in the game as calamities. These are found on the map as your character travels across the world. Calamities usually pop up as multi-colour medallions and once clicked upon the player will be taken into an AR screen to align three stars and begin the encounter. This is where you’ll be casting spells by tracing across the screen a certain symbol that symbolizes the wave of your wand. If successful you’ll have stopped the magical interference and either saved another Wizard or Witch. Or stopped a magical creature from causing more chaos. Each of these encounters utilises energy though, so make sure you keep an eye on your energy levels. Without energy, you won’t be able to cast any spells or defend yourself.

My favourite bit, however, is the animations during these magical encounters. Niantic and WB have done a marvellous job animating the characters and magical objects in the game. You’ll encounter well-known wizards, magical creatures and even objects that have been affected by magic.

Some structures spread across the world are buildings such as Inns, Greenhouses, and Fortresses. Honestly, I’ve had little experience with each one, but structures like the greenhouse granted items. Whereas the fortress allowed me to battle Death Eaters. This felt like a raid at a Pokémon Gym and also allowed for more than one Wizard to enter the fight. Fights were fast and fluid but very interactive, forcing the player to cast spells, and defend themselves from attacking spells while monitoring your health bar and your enemy’s health bar at the top of the screen. I haven’t been to an Inn as yet but am told that I’ll be able to replenish my energy here to cast spells.

Other cool features that I’ve discovered thus far is the fact that you can customise and create your own wand. You can also create potions for various outcomes such as replenishing health or casting stronger spells. And of course, there are daily tasks to be completed that awards players special items. Portkeys are also available in the game and need to be unlocked. In order to unlock them, players will be given keys. Consider this an incubator to hatch eggs in Pokémon GO. These keys will be inserted into the Portkey and will open upon walking 2, 5, 7 or 10 kilometres. Once a Portkey has opened the player will face an encounter.

The game thus far has been entertaining and immersive. From the music to the animated scenes through every encounter it is definitely a must check out for all Harry Potter fans out there.

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