Tech Tuesday: Hogwarts Awaits—On Your Phone, That Is

wizards unite

In case you haven’t heard,  a new augmented reality smartphone game was unveiled June 21, created by the same crew that brought you the über-hit Pokémon Go. This time, though, you’ll be trading Poké balls for magic wands.

What is it?
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is a free iPhone and Android game created by WB Games and Niantic Labs. (Look for a full review of the game soon: This is more of a quick snapshot of what to expect, since some of you are downloading the game even as you read this.) As the title would suggest, it takes place in the Harry Potter universe. Players cast spells, collect potions, encounter magical beasts, and gear up to defeat dark creatures, wizards and witches. And like Pokémon Go, gamers also need to get up and walk around their real world to find virtual-world elements: AR inns, fortresses, greenhouses and other points of interest. It’s all in an effort to complete designated tasks and keep magical things from seeping into our, uh, muggle world.

What’s required to play?
When gamers first load up the free app they have to sign in with either a Google account or Facebook. Players of all ages will need to enter their real name, as well as a wizarding name of their choosing that the world at large can see. Once that initial setup is completed, the game then walks them through a basic tutorial.

What are the story basics?
The game takes place years after the adventures of the Harry Potter book series and Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and others have a new problem to deal with: something called The Calamity. It seems someone has magically ripped a hole in the fabric of things, and magical items (including people and creatures) called “Foundables” are dribbling into our non-magical, muggle world. As a member of the Statue of Secrecy Task Force, it’s the gamer’s job to return these objects, beasties and people to their rightful place and figure out what’s going on. Of course, to do that they have to defeat the spells that are magically protecting those misplaced things and dig into the clues on hand.

The core of Wizards Unite gameplay is to get out and about and fill registry lists with as many Foundables as possible. Graphorns, Gobstone sets, Mad-Eye Moody’s Eye, the Weasley’s clock, Hagrid’s umbrella, crystal balls, Quibbler magazines: the list of findable Foundables—which show up on the player’s in-game map as she wanders around—stretches on and on. They’re one of the main ways to collect experience points and upgrade a player’s character. Some Foundables can only be found in certain weather conditions, time of day, or moon phases in the game.

After finding a Foundable, gamers need to cast a spell (and many times more than once) in order to defeat the “Confoundable” spell that’s protecting it. Those protective spells come in different levels of threat difficulty and may require a strengthening potion or two to defeat. Speaking of which …

Casting Spells?
Casting spells is another constant in the world of Wizards Unite. There are no words or phrases uttered, but bluish-white glyphs appear on the phone screen. The faster and more accurately a player traces the glyph, the stronger the spell’s power. The glyphs also show up when visiting inns, greenhouses and fortresses—where, respectively, players gain energy to cast spells, find ingredients to brew potions and give battle to baddies.

And On the Magicking Goes
Gameplay goes on from there: You choose a wizarding profession. You go on special explorations. Gamers don’t have to worry about the game getting too tawdry or violent. But parents should know that, unlike the adventure-focused Harry Potter books, the major thrust here is spell casting and potion making—magic, in other words—and little else.

Uncomfortable with the kids being immersed in those kinds of ongoing wizardly and witchy pursuits? Then this may be the wrong app to invest in. Oh, and I do mean invest.

Like Pokémon Go, this game is technically “free,” but to really excel and achieve the levels and rewards that gamers long for, in-game purchases almost become essential. Storage for potion ingredients, spell casting energy and other necessities max out pretty quickly and gamers can only expand their inventory space with a bit of real-world gold. (One gamer friend has only been playing a few days and he’s already invested $30 or so.)

The fact that gamemakers have figured out the formula for transferring a favorite movie, book or game franchise into an at-your-fingertips smartphone AR endeavor only means that we’re bound to see more and more of these games. And fans, young and old, will certainly come a-flocking. After all, they’re fun, easily accessible and free.

Well … sorta.

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

charitysplace More than 1 year ago
Is that why they took all the awesome similar stuff off Pottermore? 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy 

Also, why is yesterday’s comment section not working?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh no! Not *gasp* clearly fictional magic! Hid the kids, the world is ending!

Seriously though, people really need to stop freaking out about clearly fantastical stuff like Harry potter and the like. It's old hat and then some by now. (Sorting Hat?)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

My parents never let my siblings and I watch HP. Might check it out once I get it on my own though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My parents were the same way at the start until my mom read the books to see what all the fuss was about. Now she's dandy with them and my sister is a massive fan of the franchise.

The Audiobooks are pretty good, BTW.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wasn't allowed to read Harry Potter until I was older, but I read the Earthsea books which are actually even more intense than that, also the inheritance Cycle. But when I read Harry Potter, I liked it much more, because it has interesting Christian references, as well as being the best fantasy since Tolkien's. (Not knocking Earthsea it is good) 
 You are right. It is very good. And quite fictional. 
 I am Ravenclaw.
-Emma Bibliophile
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funnily enough, I'm a Gryffindor and my Sister's a Slytherin. Make of that what you will.

Yeah, I read the Inheritance Cycle to a bout halfway through book two, but it never quite scratched my itch. Maybe because the books were huge and I was still kind of young when I read them. I liked the Eragon movie though of some reason.

Yeah, I was thinking of reading EarthSea some time as well. (That, and I'm currently working on my own fantasy series as well, though it's more of a sci-fi fantasy hybrid more than anything.)

(Also gotta get back around to reading the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis as well....)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm writing a fantasy series too! And the space trilogy was awesome. 
-Emma Bibliophile