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The mobile Harry Potter RPG could be a Hogwarts dream or a free-to-play nightmare

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Somehow, in the roughly two decades that the Harry Potter franchise has been around, there has never been a role-playing game that lets fans put themselves in the shoes of their own Hogwarts characters. That’s changing this year when Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery comes out for Android and iOS, and today, we’re getting the first look at what gameplay will actually look like for the upcoming title.

It’s still far too early to tell if Hogwarts Mystery will actually live up to the fantasy of getting your own Hogwarts letter, but at this point in time, I’m a little skeptical based on what I’ve seen so far.

As a concept, a Harry Potter role-playing game seems like a no-brainer. A game where you can create your own character, go to Hogwarts, learn magic and spells, and go on your own adventures seems like it would be every Harry Potter fan’s dream. (A similar idea has been around for a while in the definitely-not-Harry-Potter-licensed Wizard101 MMORPG.) Can you imagine something on the scale of, say, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but one that allowed players to roam and explore the world of Harry Potter instead?

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is being developed by mobile developer Jam City, a company best known for developing themed Candy Crush and Snood clones, along with a couple of free-to-play, in-app purchase-filled tie-in titles like Marvel Avengers Academy, Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow, and a pair of Family Guy games. It’s not exactly an encouraging resume to start with.

The first gameplay trailer showcases all the Harry Potter series staples: like iconic characters, spells, and potions, and getting to choose your own house. There also seems to be a gesture-based spellcasting system that looks like a really interesting way to translate the wand-based spells of the books and films into a game.

However, I’ve counted what appear to be three different in-game currency systems and at least one timer, which certainly doesn’t shake the feeling that this will be more of a micro-transaction-filled grindfest than a magical adventure.

The game actually looks pretty similar to the free-to-play RPG Star Wars: Uprising that came out a few years ago, which looked like a promising place for fans to build their own character and enjoy their own adventures in the Star Wars universe, but it got bogged down with microtransactions and was ultimately shut down.

Still, it’s possible I’m just getting worked up about nothing. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery could be a fantastic new way to experience the magical world that J.K. Rowling has created. But based on what I’ve seen so far, I wouldn’t get your hopes up just yet. There’s no final release date, but fans can pre-register now on Google Play to be notified as soon as the game launches.