From start to finish: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a much more difficult game than I had previously anticipated, compared with the relative ease of the previous games to complete. Also by comparison, this is the only game in the franchise that is not set within Hogwarts. (The Goblet of Fire video game did not offer free exploration of the castle, but it was still set within the Hogwarts castle and grounds.)
However, Deathly Hallows Part 1 is not set within Hogwarts by necessity, not by choice, because the story does not take place at Hogwarts at all. Instead, this story involves Harry, Ron, and Hermione searching for Horcruxes, meaning that the setting for this game is any number of places, including the Ministry of Magic, as the trio, according to the story, sneak in, then later break out. It is entertaining in its own right to play through a game based on a movie, to see for yourself whether you can make it through the same obstacles that the trio made it through in the film. However, if that is the case, I would expect the obstacles to be the same.
There are many challenges (more details in the challenges section below) that are completely fabricated so as to add length and difficulty to the game. Challenges involving saving abducted Muggle-borns by apparating from place to place (in very non-linear fashion) and dueling with Death-Eaters to set them free. Challenges involving scoping out new places by donning Harry’s Invisibility Cloak and checking to see whether they are safe. Some challenges involving both at the same time. None of which are canon. None of which are acceptable to me.
From the start of this game, it appears to be pretty awesome; dueling death eaters while sitting alongside Hagrid on his motorbike is incredible indeed. But the finish? I couldn’t tell you, because I didn’t even make it as far as Nagini’s attack in Godric’s Hollow before I gave up in frustration.
Length and difficulty: As mentioned above, non-canon levels were added to the game in order to add length and difficulty, I assume. Because Deathly Hallows Part 1 is essentially only a journey story, there isn’t a lot of combat inherent in the game. Just a lot of traveling from one place to another.
The story involves dueling with Death Eaters on the way to the Burrow, at the wedding before leaving the Burrow (though the trio technically leave before they fight with anyone), the coffee shop in London where the two Death Eaters show up, at the Ministry of Magic (but only for a short time while leaving), at Godric’s Hollow while fighting Nagini, in the forest when the snatchers catch them, then, finally, at Malfoy Manor as they escape.
There really shouldn’t be any duels apart from these if you’re going to truly stick with canon, and in my mind, I think this list is quite long enough for a full-length game. I understand that walking or apparating in a game is boring and you can’t really base a game on traveling alone. But I really don’t care for the way they made up for it. Too many “challenge” levels were added, and in the end, I found this game to be too long and too difficult. I also wrote above that I gave up, because I got frustrated and tired of all the extra levels.
Spell Casting: Unlike Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, which involve “gestures” to cast spells, a system that I very much like and think is very intuitive, Deathly Hallows Part 1 traded this in for a more button-centered approach. Using a Wii Remote, which is really made for gestures, I found it awkward at first to change (and difficult to change quickly) between spells using the “Spell Wheel”, then use different corresponding buttons to cast them.
There were a few spells that I liked and thought were an improvement over the previous game: one is Stupefy, which I think makes perfect sense to assign to B, the “trigger” button, because that is what that spell acts as, a sort of short-range gun; another is Four-Points, which I think is more intuitive to follow than Nearly-Headless Nick from the previous game, who would have been unavailable for this game anyway, since he is a ghost who does not leave Hogwarts.
Because of the nature of this game, the spells tend to be geared more towards dueling and combat, rather than exploration. Each spell seems to resemble a different style of gun, e.g. short-range, long-range, sniper, etc. This change makes sense, and although a button approach is not as intuitive to me as a gesture approach, I concede that this new approach is much faster (after you’ve gotten the hang of it) and therefore necessary in this type of game.
- Stupefy stuns, dazes or temporarily incapacitates its target, depending on the strength of the cast.
- Expelliarmus forcibly disarms other wizards by knocking them to the ground (again not how Expelliarmus is supposed to work).
- Petrificus Totalus temporarily body-binds its target.
- Confundo induces a temporary state of confusion in its target.
- Confringo causes objects to explode dramatically, affecting the surrounding area.
- Impedimenta causes targets to stop in their tracks for a brief time. Targets hit repeatedly are rendered unconscious.
- Expulso release short, sharp blasts from the wand tip, which blasts the victim off their feet.
- Protego creates a magical barrier that protects the caster from attack.
- Expecto Patronum repels Dementors.
- Four-Points is a path-finding spell that Harry can use to discover the direction of his current objective.
- Wingardium Leviosa levitates objects, allowing the caster to move them around in the air.
Collecting Rewards: I don’t know about rewards, but several other items are available to pick up throughout the game. There are throwing potions, drinking potions, and other collectibles.
Throwing potions include Garroting Gas, which creates a cloud of gas that renders bystanders unconscious; Doxycide, which clears out Doxy infestations; Exploding Potion, which is a highly unstable potion that is liable to explode if dropped, shaken, or thrown; and Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, which plunges an area into darkness so that no one can see to cast accurately.
Drinking potions include Felix Felicis, which temporarily enables perfect casting and increases the drinker’s ability to avoid incoming spells; Strengthening Solution, which temporarily increases the drinker’s ability to absorb enemies’ casts without being harmed; Murtlap Essense, which heals minor injuries; Blood Replenishing Potion, which heals major injuries; Elixir of Life, which immediately heals all wounds; and Polyjuice Potion, which temporarily transforms the drinker’s appearance.
Collectibles include Potterwatch: Harry can collect passwords to unlock Fred and George’s “Potterwatch” programs and listen to their exclusive broadcasts; Periodicals: Collecting copies of The Quibbler and the Daily Prophet keeps Harry up-to-date with events occurring in the wizarding world; Deathly Hallows Symbols: Harry must try to find all the Deathly Hallows symbols hidden around the world.
All of these things are fine and good and well. I suppose changing the style of the game from an action/adventure game to a first-person shooter game involves including more things that I would rather not have. I find collecting and using all of these additional items a nuisance. I would much rather use spells for everything that I do throughout the game. There is no argument that there are potions within Harry Potter canon that serve the purpose of healing. (Some of the names for the healing potions in this game, however, are not canon.) However, there is also a spell, Episky, that serves the same purpose, but is not used. Additionally, I would much rather use spells to cause damage than to throw potions at my target.
As for the other “collectibles”? I personally didn’t find many of these items throughout the game when I played it, and when I did find one or two, I really didn’t see the purpose of them. I like the “making-of” videos or tracks from the soundtrack more than made up articles or broadcasts.
Challenges: As mentioned above, to add length and difficulty, what I deem to be “extra”, “non-canon” challenges were added to the game. For a while, you play the game in a linear fashion, following the storyline of the movie. However, after a few of those scenes, specifically after the trio leaves the Ministry of Magic, they arrive in the forest, and it is from the various camps starting in the forest and continuing across the countryside that these challenges begin. At each new location, another screen appears with three new challenge options. Each challenge is essentially the same: apparate to that location (which Harry did not do in canon), defeat Death Eaters (or in some cases magical creatures), free Muggle-borns (or in some cases merely pick up supplies).
Even before this, when the trio first arrive in London after leaving the Burrow, Harry is sent on an errand using his Invisibility Cloak, to check and see whether the “coast is clear”. Not only is this not canon, it’s exceedingly annoying. Some of my least favorite levels from all of the games involve the usage of the Invisibility Cloak, merely because I hate sneaking around and risking the chance of getting caught. I much prefer standing up and fighting, so that, even if I “lose the level” and start over, I will still have put up a fight first. If I lose the level by accidentally revealing myself under the Cloak, it’s because I wasn’t sneaky enough, and being sneaky is not one of my strong points. It wouldn’t annoy me so much if it was canon, but it’s not, so it does.
Even worse, one of the challenges involving rescuing Muggle-borns requires the use of the Invisibility Cloak, because the Death Eaters and Dementors are too many to defeat out in the open: the challenge in Godric’s Hollow before the battle with Nagini–I assume, because I never made it past this challenge. This is the point where the frustration got the best of me and I quit the game.
Stamina/Health: The stamina bar returns in this game. In the previous two games, you don’t have to worry about stamina unless you are dueling, as it is unlikely for you to lose health while simply exploring and moving about in the castle. However, in this style of game, you are always faced with situations in which dueling may be necessary, so the stamina bar is always there. Not only does your health decrease when you are hit by spells or other objects, your health also decreases when casting certain spells. Some spells take more energy to cast than others, so more recovery time is then required before the next spell can be cast. All of this makes it hard to maintain stamina in the face of dueling several Death Eaters at once. You have to hide behind objects often to take the time to recover.
Hiding Behind Objects: Speaking of hiding behind objects, this feature is pervasive in this game. Using this feature would be fine and good except that it doesn’t work very well. While hiding behind objects, you are supposed to be able to look around them to cast at your attackers. But the game camera, the one that follows Harry around, gets stuck in certain places when in hiding, making it difficult to see the attackers well enough to aim and cast spells at them around objects. The idea is great in concept, giving you an option for protection other than Protego, but it is abysmal in execution.
The Score/Music: Once again, James Hannigan provided his talents of composition for this game, which are immense. However, I do not have a soundtrack for this game, nor have I listened to any of the music on its own apart from the inside the game. Some parts of the game recycle old themes from Jeremy Soule, as the previous two games composed by James Hannigan also did, which I enjoyed, as I am also a big fan of Soule’s.
The Entire Experience: As I play this Harry Potter video game, which is so vastly different in style from the previous Harry Potter games (though for good reason as the story itself is vastly different from the previous games), I have to ask myself, which group of fans are the game producers trying to please? The Harry Potter fans–those who read the books and watch the movies–or the video game fans–the avid players who like a challenge.
I believe that this game strays far enough away from canon to displease the Harry Potter fans. I personally did not care for this game. In my list of favorites in the EA franchise (which does not include the Lego Harry Potter games), I would place this game firmly in the eighth spot, right above Goblet of Fire and right below Quidditch World Cup.
However, it is similar in style to other video games out there–games I’ve only seen but not played–that an avid gamer might enjoy it. Then again, it is unlikely that an avid gamer would buy a Harry Potter game when there are far more popular games from which to choose. So, what is EA trying to prove? They need to make games that will cater to their target audience–Harry Potter fans. Order of the Phoenix received poor reviews on the major video game websites because of its simplicity and lack of difficulty, but was it a fan favorite? I certainly think so! Merely to “be” Harry and explore Hogwarts in the most realistic and authentic way possible is enough for a lot of us. It is enough for me, at least, which is why I will always prefer Phoenix and Prince to Hallows.