When Niantic launched Pokémon Go, it no doubt took the world by storm. Now, three years later and after a lot of the backbone polished out, Niantic finally launched Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. How does the game fare? Is it just another AR game? Well, I decided to take a look for myself.
The Premise of Wizards Unite
Wizards Unite places the player as part of a task force of wizards and witches. Your goal? To contain a number of threats that risk exposing the Wizarding World to non-magic folk (aka muggles). As with any other game, you can set up a profile for yourself. The profile contains details such as your name, Title, Level, House and Wand. If you’re a dedicated Potterhead (like myself), you can use the same House and Wand that you get on Pottermore.
You can also add friends to the game. This is almost the same as Pokémon Go where you can add friends either by entering their friend code or by sharing your code with others. While you can’t send gifts to each other and battle friends like you would in Pokémon Go, friends in Wizards Unite help you in other ways which I will explain in a bit.
Answering the call of the Ministry
Once you have set up your profile and added friends, you’re ready to begin your work as a member of the SOS Task Force. The first thing you notice is the map. Much like Pokémon Go, Wizards Unite also marks places of importance and landmarks as either Fortresses, Inns, or greenhouses. Think of Fortresses as Gyms. Inns and Greenhouses are used to replenish your spell energy and also give you ingredients for brewing potions.
While walking around, you will also encounter several shiny circular objects on your map. These are Foundables. They are essentially magical objects scattered throughout the muggle world which you must free and send back to the wizarding world. Foundables range from wizards, creatures, and items.
Freeing a Foundable isn’t exactly easy. They are guarded by a Confoundable. So in order to free said Foundable, you must trace the correct spell that appears on your phone screen. The more accurately you draw the trace, the stronger the spell. Once a Foundable is freed, it will be listed in your registry. If it flees, don’t worry, you’ll find it again.
Akin to the Pokédex in Pokémon Go, the Registry contains details of all Foundables that you have encountered. One aim of Wizards Unite is to complete the collection. The registry is split into a number of categories. Each category corresponds to a different color of Foundables on your map. So the more Foundables you collect, the higher the rank your rank in that particular category will be.
Once you reach Level 6, you can choose one of three professions. They are Professor, Auror and Magizoologist. Each profession has its pros and cons so it’s a good idea to group up with friends with different professions and help each other out.
The suitcase you’re given acts as the central hub for all your items. For example, The Vault contains all your potions, ingredients, runes, seeds and utility items. Potions are used to give you an added edge in combat and when encountering foundables.
The registry contains a list of all Foundables. Professions are where you can level up your skill tree to gain extra bonuses in combat and exploration. Lastly, Portkeys are like eggs from Pokémon Go. Once a Portkey has been given a key, you need to walk a certain distance to unlock that particular Portkey. Unlocking it grants you a bunch of items and XP as well.
Exploring the Muggle World in Wizards Unite
As I said earlier, the map in Wizards Unite has Inns, Greenhouses and Fortresses. Inns are where you can gain spell energy. This is important because casting spells is a key part of Wizards Unite. It can either be to battle a Confoundable or in a Fortress. You should always make sure that you have enough spell energy before heading out.
To get spell energy, just walk up to an Inn, and trace the glyph on the screen. Inns refresh every 5 minutes so you can keep coming back till you fill up your spell energy. You can also use an Inn to plant a dark detector. Akin to Lures in Pokémon Go, these will attract Confoundables to your location for 30 minutes.
Greenhouses give you ingredients to brew your potions. Akin to Inns, these too replenish every 5 minutes. To get ingredients, you simply walk up to a greenhouse, click it and select one of the 3 pots on screen. If you’re lucky, you can also get spell energy as well. You can also use a greenhouse to plant special ingredients. These ingredients can be collected by anyone who passes by the greenhouse so make sure you plant ingredients that are rare so that everyone can benefit.
Fortresses are the gyms of the wizarding world. You can battle creatures and wizards or even Death Eaters either alone or with other players. Defeating creatures in a fortress gives you XP and other rewards. Simply walk up to and enter a fortress in game, select a runestone (that matches the level of the challenge) and you’re ready to battle.
Battles can either take place using AR or without AR. While the former does tend to drain your device’s battery faster, battles are more lifelike where the enemy actually appears in front of you. This gives off the vibe that they’re actually standing there waiting to battle you. Battling an enemy uses a combination of spells. You first cast a spell by tracing its shape on screen and then protect yourself from the enemy’s attack by swiping along an arrow that appears on the screen.
You are also given a list of daily assignments to complete. These have to be carried out within 24 hours whilst others are more long-term. Launching the game every day also gives you additional rewards. Completing assignments gives you spell energy, XP and special items.
My life as a member of the SOS Task Force
I’ve been playing Wizards Unite for about a week now. The game officially launched in Sri Lanka last weekend and it’s been like Pokémon Go all over again. I’ve been walking all over Colombo just to see what I can unlock and what Foundables I can find. One thing that I noticed was the lack of Inns.
While certain areas have a cluster of around 3-4 inns within close proximity to each other, there are no more inns for around a kilometre or so. So if you’re travelling and you need spell energy, it gets really cumbersome to keep looking for inns.
On the other hand, gameplay is more engaging when compared to Pokémon Go. Even though Niantic introduced PvP matches to Pokémon Go, it’s essentially a glorified version of “who can mash the attack button faster”. With Wizards Unite, you have to take into account your character level, potions, professions and even the lineup of your group if you’re taking on a fortress.
For example, while Magizoologists are great at absorbing damage, they are somewhat weak at dishing it out. But they excel against dark creatures. So the easiest thing to do is ensure that you have at least one of each profession in your team before taking on a fortress.
Another problem I see is with devices that don’t support AR. While this can be turned off for combat, AR is needed when unlocking a Portkey. So if your device doesn’t support AR, you won’t be able to use that Portkey. Hopefully Niantic can work on a solution for that (apart from buying a new phone).
Overall, I like what Niantic has done with Wizards Unite. There’s an underlying story about how the Calamity took place which feels like it’s a part of the actual story line. There are cameo appearances by a number of well-known characters such as Harry Potter, Mad Eye Moody, Arthur and Ron Weasely and even Dementors and Death Eaters.