Harry Potter has had a very interesting history over the years when it comes to video games. On one hand, most of the original games were actually pretty decent. You had some fun gameplay and a good assortment of levels. On the other hand, we then got the Goblet of Fire which was a very weak game. How does this one stack up? Well, I wouldn’t say it stacks up super well. My main issue here is that at times it feels less like a game and more like you’re watching a bunch of cutscenes. The final boss is effectively just about moving your wand a bit to try and psych out the opponent. That doesn’t feel like a real boss battle.
The plot of the game is a little crazy when you think about it because of how random everything is. So everyone knows that Voldemort is coming but the school doesn’t allow people to practice their magic spells anymore. Harry decides to start teaching people subtlety but to do that he will have to recruit everyone into the army. Over half of the game is about assembling the team as you complete a lot of missions and get used to the place. Let me tell you, I did not expect this to be such a big focus in the game. It’s a unique development choice I suppose.
This is a 3D adventure kind of game as far as the gameplay is concerned. There is a pretty big hub world to explore but I’m not sure you’ll really be planning to do a whole lot of that anyway. Most of the time you was wondering from place to place. Fortunately you do have a map to help you locate students and locations, however it doesn’t help for a few missions like where you have to find a bunch of stone gargoyles on the premises. That was easily the toughest mission in the game because of how big the hub world is. In a sense you have to hope you get lucky and you can probably see straight up why this would not be a good idea.
To break up the monotony you can engage in some minigames though. Honestly they are probably better than the main game. One of these games is one of those memory match titles where you have to recall what cards were flipped over and then select them. I always tended to enjoy these back in the day. There are other minigames like Chess and such here that I didn’t really try out but look pretty fun from what I’ve seen. The issue is that the main gameplay style isn’t great. If I had to make a comparison, it’s like a second rate Telltale Game but those have the fun gimmick of making choices during the game. This one has none of that.
The graphics definitely aren’t great. It doesn’t quite look PS3 level that’s for sure. You can tell that any effort that was put into the game was not put into the graphics department. Those guys were really left by their lonesome. The soundtrack is good though. It’s still got that very regal style to it which works very well. It’s memorable which is good and can at least make you feel like you’re about to play something hype…for a little while anyway.
The game isn’t too long. I beat it in around 5 hours. You can definitely bump that up a bit if you do the side missions and knock out the minigames too though. I don’t think you would bump up the playtime a ton though since it’s not like there were a lot of bonus missions. When I beat the game there were only 3-4 left and I can tell you that I did not go out of my way to do any of them.
In a sense I would say Order of the Phoenix feels like a very unfinished game. It’s almost like an extended demo in some ways. After playing Half Blood Prince you’ll see what the completed version is like. I would say this game had a great setup going but it just didn’t. The wand mechanics for moving things around and firing off energy blasts wasn’t even close to being streamlined. Additionally, the walking around took forever. Occasionally the kids would ask you to climb up somewhere to grab something so you’d have to very slowly climb up to the top and then back down.
At the end of the day, what this game is missing are qualify of life upgrades. Something to make the game more fun. Faster run speeds, a smaller hub world, things of that nature. All of those would result in a significantly better game that would run well and would also just be fun. That is the absolute best case scenario. So while the game isn’t as bad as the last one and I wouldn’t even call it a bad game upfront, it’s just not a lot of fun to play. There isn’t any compelling reason to play this game while other, better options exist. It’s for those reasons that I would say it is best to just skip this one entirely.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix had potential but the game just didn’t live up to it. It’s impressive how big they made the castle here but they should have added more shortcuts or something. Not having any Quidditch was pretty bad too since that used to be a lot of fun. You get the idea that they just phoned this game in. Honestly it’s not really all that uncommon for movie based games which is a shame. They deserve a better reputation but instances like this absolutely don’t help their case. I already beat the next game though so I’ll have a review for that one pretty soon. Good news is that it’s a lot better and starts to get us back to how this game series should be.