There’s a belief among millennials that the first few weeks after Pokemon GO’s release was the closest we’ve ever been to achieving world peace – and they’re not necessarily wrong. The launch of the viral game, now known to be one of the most popular mobile games of all time, sparked a childlike sense of adventure and camaraderie among people of all ages. The game forced people to go outside, explore their surroundings, and work with other members of the community to “catch em all.” It was as if the entire technology-using world was in a trance for weeks, even months, reliving their childhood dreams of becoming a Pokemon Master.
Now, nearly three years later, the creators behind Pokemon GO have aimed to launch another location-based mobile game. This time, targeting wizards, witches, and die-hard Harry Potter fans alike. Enter Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the latest attempt at a viral sensation.
While we’ve been patiently awaiting the release of Wizards Unite, we were skeptical as to whether or not Niantic would be able to recreate the same magic found in Pokemon GO’s original design. And although it’s only been two weeks since the game’s release, we’re sorry to say that we don’t believe Wizards Unite will amass to such worldwide success as Pokemon GO – at least not overnight.
What is Harry Potter: Wizards Unite?
For those of you who haven’t played the game yet, here’s our breakdown of Wizards Unite and what you need to know before you get started.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is a location-based augmented reality game for Android and iOS. In order to play, all you need to do is download the app on your phone and make sure you have either cellular data or Wi-Fi connection. Created by the same developers as Pokemon GO, Wizards Unite has many similarities to the previous game, and will feel familiar to those who played it. Only this time, instead of catching your favorite Pokemon for battle, you’ll be protecting the Wizarding World from villains trying to expose its existence to the muggle population. This storyline is what ultimately sets Wizards Unite apart from Pokemon GO, and gives players motivation to complete tasks and advance in the main quest.
How to Play Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
As we mentioned above, the premise of Wizards Unite is quite simple: protect the Wizarding World from being discovered by muggles. In order to do this, you’ll start off by selecting your Hogwarts House, designing your wand, and creating a profile. While there are no personality-style sorting quizzes within the game, you can visit Pottermore for a more in-depth sorting experience before you start. From there, you’ll begin interacting with the location-based map and augmented reality features, collecting items, capturing confoundables, and defeating villains. Each item or location you interact with in the game will generate a unique experience, designed to reignite your utmost love for the Harry Potter series. Along the way, you’ll collect Wizarding Achievements and meet with familiar characters, like Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, who are there to aid you in your quest. While this isn’t a game based on skill, the exclusivity of location-based interactions and items drives players to discover more aspects of Wizards Unite by exploring new areas and partaking in multiplayer features. The option to either play solo or team-up is unique to this game, and we hope to see the multiplayer features become more popular over time.
The Best Parts of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
The best parts of Wizards Unite are improvements on Pokemon GO’s original model. The colorful, storybook-like aesthetic is appealing and the user interface (UI) is comprehensive and easy to use. Pokestops have been converted into Inns and Greenhouses, and collectable monsters have been replaced with relics and recognizable items from the Harry Potter series. You’re able to collect items at various locations, as well as from the ground while you walk. This is an improvement from Pokemon GO, where resources were limited and only available at Pokestops. In addition to collecting items, you’re also able to gather ingredients for brewing potions and use augmented reality to create your very own Portkeys, which is a neat feature for those looking to experience the Wizarding World in their own space. The ability to interact with characters from the series is also a welcomed feature, giving players a personal connection to the quest. Taking all of this into consideration, the design of the game itself is well-done, but there are quite a few downsides that stop Wizards Unite from being the better mobile game.
The Worst Parts of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
The main downside of Wizards Unite is one that we’ve experienced with most location-based games: access. For those living in rural or less-populated areas, location-based games become incredibly limited. Some rural areas may have little-to-no involvement with the game or too scarce of a population to interact with. While this might not be entirely the fault of Wizards Unite, excluding rural areas from the game leads to less players and limits multiplayer functionality. Another issue with limiting the game within rural regions means that those players will also have less access to items and ingredients needed to level up or complete achievements. Currently, even those living in densely-populated areas are struggling to find other players to interact with, due to the game’s low popularity at this time. This certainly wasn’t an issue with Pokemon GO.
In addition to being limited by location and players around you, the Wizards Unite game playability has proven to be limited in itself. At least for those who aren’t keen on in-game purchases. Like Pokemon GO, Wizards Unite utilizes in-game purchases to expand inventory, collect items, and “pay to win.” The main difference between the two is that Wizards Unite feels even more limited by in-game purchases and can make the game difficult to play without them. For example, a low inventory capacity can prevent you from collecting ingredients, but you aren’t able to use ingredients in your inventory until you’ve gathered the other pieces. This locks the player into a lose-lose situation, forcing them to pay to expand their inventory or abilities, or discard their items. With such a strong focus on in-game purchases, Wizards Unite alienates those who either can’t or won’t spend real money on a free game.
Our last issue with Wizards Unite is the lack of meaningful customization. Other than selecting your Hogwarts House and wand, you aren’t able to customize your character. This was a feature we were seriously missing from Pokemon GO’s avatar creation, and a small touch that we believe would have gone a long way. Without customization, the game is missing that personal touch we all crave.
Which Game is Better: Wizards Unite or Pokemon GO?
Based on our experience and player reviews over the past two weeks, we’re going to give Pokemon GO the win. Even though they’re made by the same developers, no two games are created equal, and Pokemon GO still has a serious leg-up on Wizards Unite. Maybe instead of trying to recreate the magic they captured perfectly the first time, Niantic could take a sidestep and create something truly unique.
If you want to read more about Pokemon GO or Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, let us know in the comments!