A couple of things about me:
Well-known fact, Harry Potter fan
Little-known fact, I’ve completed all 40 Pokemon Go levels. It took three years, and the game has recorded me walking 5,091kms (3,163.401 miles).
Other little-known fact: I have very little understanding of the Pokemon story.
Naturally when Niantic announced an official Harry Potter version I was excited. The game play transfers beautifully to the Wizarding World, and the movies looking more to Newt Scamander and the fantastic beasts, making it a magnificent opportunity.
And we always want to learn more about the wizarding world. We love the depth of the story, the Easter eggs hidden (Hagrid delivers Harry on Sirius’ motorbike years before we discover its significance). The world building is brilliant with rules and laws, and notebooks of backstory. Through story we learn discrimination is wrong and if we take the time we see the beautiful person within the werewolf, or the scared boy behind the sneer. It’s why we’re Harry Potter fans.
Unfortunately, Wizards Unite has none of this.
Despite partnering with Wizarding World (the Harry Potter story rights holder), the storytelling is incredibly random and barely related to the books. It’s barely related to the movies, and even those are barely related to the books.
The game’s premise is that an Auror turned Unspeakable has created a virus that’s let magical items (and people and creatures) loose in the Muggle world. It’s “our” job to find these items. A side story is to collect clues for the disappearance of five wizards, one of whom was married to the Auror. The idea is that he was so distraught by her disappearance and the Ministry of Magic scaling back their search that releasing the items was revenge. Then there are ad-hoc daily challenges, and fortress battles, and books to collect.
Except the bits and pieces of story aren’t really cohesive. It lacks an emotional pull or central character to draw you in. I quickly stopped reading the story prompts when I realized how little they were connected to the Harry Potter story. It’s not that it’s a new story, it’s just poorly put together.
The items collected make it worse. They are divided into families. Some make sense: Magical Games and Sports has all the Quidditch and Tri-Wizard Tournament items. Then it turns into what I suspect is the game developers favorite items being thrown in. I’m curious how Flitch is a Legend of Hogwarts, but Professor McGonagall isn’t. Then there’s the weird bias. It’s easy to “save” the Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin students, but you rarely encounter a Gryffindor one. Is that saying Gryffindors are too smart to be caught by the virus? And if the wizard was a Death Eater and died in the Battle of Hogwarts, we get to save their portrait, but the Order of the Phoenix are brought back from the dead. All, except for Professor Dumbledore. Not that he was that nice, but still. Some characters are missing all together. I assume they declined to license their images for it.
It’s the game play that drew me into Pokemon Go for three years. Wizards Unite has most of that same game play (and a few extra things), but this time the novelty is wearing thin early. Without a storyline there’s nothing for Harry Potter fans.
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