Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Preview – A new AR adventure from the makers of Pokemon GO

The makers of Pokemon Go have unveiled a new mobile game based in the Harry Potter universe. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Release Date – When is it coming out?

Niantic has announced that Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is set for a worldwide release in 2019 with the following languages supported:

  • English
  • French
  • Italian
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Brazilian Portuguese
  • European Portuguese
  • Polish
  • Russian
  • Swedish
  • Norwegian
  • Dutch
  • Danish
  • Turkish
  • Simplified Chinese
  • Traditional Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Latin American Spanish

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Pre-Registration – How can I sign up?

Now the long-awaited reveal is out of the way, Niantic has opened pre-registration for Harry Potter: Wizards Unite on Android via the Google Play Store. iPhone users have been told to keep an eye on the official website for more information.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Trailers – How does it look?

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Preview – What do we think?

I would hate to be in the shoes of the people making a follow up to the unparalleled success that is Pokemon GO. The mobile juggernaut continues to grow, engaging players with intriguing new features while pulling in millions in revenue every week. In a way, Niantic has made captivating the world look easy.

Granted, they hit the jackpot with Pokemon, bringing to life the fantasy of embarking on an epic journey to catch them all. It felt almost magnetic, forcing you to leave the house in search of creatures to catch and gyms to raid alongside friends. It’s an experience that seems impossible to replicate, but that won’t stop Niantic from trying.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite feels like a reimagined vision of Pokemon GO, repurposing the successful formula so it fits J.K Rowling’s wizarding world. After speaking with the developers and waltzing through London with the game in-hand, it’s clear Niantic has another potential worldwide hit on its hands.

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Harry Potter Wizards Unite

Niantic describes Harry Potter: Wizards Unite in the same way it approaches Pokemon GO. This will be a free-to-play mobile experience that aims to engage audiences for decades to come, encouraging them to play, exercise and socialise with other fledgling wizards through the use of advanced AR technology. This title acts as the first entry in Portkey Games, a gaming initiative that hopes to explore the world of Harry Potter in great detail.

We even asked about the open-world title that leaked back in 2018, eliciting little more than a closeted laugh in response. Our guess is that it’s definitely on the way. Moving onto Wizards Unite, it takes the tried-and-true mechanics of Niantic’s previous efforts and expands upon them. You are one of many, many wizards who emerge in the wake of a calamity which sees the Muggle World potentially exposed to denizens of magical creatures, and it’s your job to put a stop to it.

Wizard Unite’s narrative is little more than a contextual foundation to thrust you into the Wizarding World, although it will be expanded upon as you unlock dossiers and engage with characters both new and familiar. Of course, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson haven’t reprised their roles, but convincing soundalikes manage to get the job done.

The bulk of plot will be told through ‘Mysteries,’ a multi-year narrative arc that will see players working together to uncover events and the meaning behind them. It’s a cool premise, and will theoretically see little pockets of information being pieced together amongst the community. Niantic was cagey about whether Wizards Unite will be part of the Harry Potter canon beyond Portkey Games, which is a shame for hardened Potterheads.

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After a brief presentation with Warner Bros. and Niantic, I was handed an iPhone and split into a group before descending on Central London with Wizards Unite. If you’ve played Pokemon GO recently, you’ll immediately feel at home with Niantic’s latest effort. Your personal wizard is displayed on a real-world map populated by a menagerie of structures, symbols and items to uncover.

At first glance, it does give off the impression of an extensive palette swap. PokeStops are replaced by Inns and Greenhouses, both of which provide you with magical energy and ingredients for brewing valuable potions. They’re once again represented by real-world monuments, with images viewable through windows as you jump into either of the aforementioned locales. It’s brilliantly implemented, making your surroundings feel part of the Harry Potter mythos.

Clicking on the endless icons and performing tasks is doable with one-hand on smaller handsets, making it easy to grind resources on your morning commute or on a brief walk to the local shop. I can already see myself using this as an excuse to gain experience and getting ahead of my friends. Magical Traces, Wizard Unite’s way of presenting combat encounters, are a touch more demanding.

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Harry Potter Wizards Unite

Selecting a Magical Trace will pull you into augmented reality as you’re pitted against a magical creature, character or object from the Harry Potter universe. My first encounter was the boy who lived being sucked by an approaching dementor. Watching as he floated in mid-air was comical, but things take a serious turn once you engage them in battle.

Given the extravagance that comes with most spells, Niantic has done a commendable job expressing them in Wizards Unite. Each encounter comes with a threat level. The higher it is, the more complicated spell you must perform. This is represented by patterns you must repeatedly draw on the screen, each successful pattern dealing damage to the enemy. It’s fun, responsive and easy enough to perform on the move.

You’ll also need to defend yourself from strikes by performing a diagonal motion, although in the build I played this wasn’t terribly responsive. It took me a few times to down a werewolf until I grew accustomed to the mechanics, finally realising I could actually use the potions I brewed to gain the upper hand. While not substantial, there’s a level of depth here that made my progression feel meaningful.

Instead of Pokemon Gyms, Wizards Unite will have you and a handful of other players tackling multi-tiered fortresses spread across the map. Represented by towering structures, Fortresses consist of multiple levels where you must complete objectives, many of which involve defeating a certain number of foes. I found the one we ran through rather easy, mowing through Death Eaters and Werewolves with little trouble.

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Harry Potter Wizards Unite

Progression in Wizards Unite is a relayed through regular quests where you complete simplistic tasks such as collecting ingredients, grinding greenhouses and other things you’ll likely stumble across during normal play. In the early moments you’ll be asked to select from three distinct classes: Auror, Professor and Magizoologist. All of these come with their own skill trees and abilities which surface in Fortresses to help buff neighbouring players.  

I only caught a few glimpses at the class system, but it seems surprisingly robust, and having the freedom to switch between the three without any penalty is definitely welcome. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention Port Keys. These wondrous objects are in limited supply, and for good reason. Upon placing them on the floor an augmented reality portal will be spawned, and you’re free to step into it.

Within seconds I was transported to Olivander’s Wand Shop in Hogsmeade. I was free to move my device around to discover shiny objects to pick up. With a tap it was mine, rewarding me with small yet satisfying experience points and items for really taking advantage of the AR technology. I really, really hope this feature is expanded in the final release later this year.

All this aside, you’ll be filling out a Wizard Encyclopaedia of sorts to gain experience and level up. It’s build to last. For example, you’ll need to encounter a dozen werewolves and Harry/Dementor combos to cement their place in your virtual glossary. I imagine this will grow with future updates as Niantic draws upon more and more Harry Potter lore.

If you’re worried that you and your friends will be a generic horde of copy-and-pasted wizards, you needn’t panic. Each player will have their own distinctive ID to showcase their house allegiance. You can even customise your profile picture with filters and accessories powered by AR. Niantic was cagey about whether your chosen house will influence gameplay, though.

First Impressions

Niantic has another worldwide smash hit on its hands with Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. While it operates in a frightfully similar framework to Pokemon GO, it uses the Wizarding World to its advantage with ample features directly inspired by it.

Exploring the real world through the eyes of a fledgeling wizard is delightfully wholesome, transporting you to a different reality from a device in the palm of your hand. Whether it will reach the absurd heights of Pokemon GO remains to be seen, but I’d like to see them try.

 

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