9th of September 2021, something magical happened in the Chinese iOS market, as NetEase launched a title. A new game based on Harry Potter IP called Harry Potter: Magic Awakened (哈利波特：魔法觉醒) hit the ranks.
The game made a home in the top 1 grossing and download lists straight away and did not leave their top position for several days, challenging Tencent’s 王者荣耀 (Honor of Kings) for a moment. The game ran a powerful “onboarding” approach with the possibility of downloading the game two days prior to the official launch and trying it off, with a social element of encouraging players to share their experiences so far. It is currently holding a top 7 position in the grossing and download ranks, and the hype is still there. It is hard for a new game to keep the top position, as these top games are usually the older titles with a wide, devoted player-base, but it is very likely that we will not see a total dip for this title, and it will keep at least a high position in the future.
About the brand in China
While Harry Potter’s popularity in China may come as a surprise to some, it is a very popular IP in the country. The first book was published in China in 2000, three years after the first book was published in several other markets. All of the eight movies have also been published in China. There has been some speculation that Harry Potter appeals to Chinese students as it shows problems in the British education system, which resonate with the Chinese audience and their education system.
In general, fantasy is a popular genre in China, as we can notice from the several fantasy-related games in the top-grossing. It is possibly because of the escapism it offers to the players in a highly competitive society.
Overview of the game
Harry Potter: Magic Awakened tells a story ten years after the Battle of Hogwarts. The player receives a letter to enter the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to start a journey in the world of magic. The game combines RPG elements with a card-based Tactical Battler core gameplay plus includes several other game modes with separate gameplay mechanics, such as a rhythm game mode and a racing mode for playing Hogwarts’ own sport, quidditch. The gameplay loop revolves around progressing in the main story by playing different PvP and PvE modes and collecting different character and spell cards. Production values of this game are extremely high: the art style, voice acting, and storytelling are top-notch. It is also worth noting that the voice acting is fully in English, which is not very common in Chinese mobile games.
Let’s now dive a bit deeper into what the game contains.
The core gameplay of the Harry Potter: Magic Awakened
The core gameplay is based on a tactical battler with a twist. There are two elements in the tactical battler: the movable main character and the different cards. The main character is able to move freely on the board as long as they stay behind the invisible wall between the main character and the opposite side player. There are two types of moving cards, step and whirl cards, which player has a certain amount, and these are consumed when the character moves on the board. Character and spell cards work as they normally do in tactical battlers. There is a timer below the cards, and all of the cards have a number which indicates how long the player has to wait to consume a character or a spell card. In the PvP modes, the cards are aimed at either the opposite side main character/characters or the character card characters. In the PvE modes they are aimed at the NPCs. This then consumes the card, the amount in the timer reduces, and the player has to wait for it to fill out again to use more cards.
Character and spell cards
A player collects character and spell cards throughout the gameplay. The cards are collected from various places, such as from a gacha, gift boxes, rewards et cetera. In addition to saving their own assemblies of decks, the player can check recommendations for possible decks. These options can be refreshed, and there are options for different game modes, such as for the main story or the PvP mode.
The cards have four rarity classes: legendary, epic, rare, and common. When the player gets a legendary card from the gacha, there is a cool, short cutscene for introducing the legendary card. Legendary cards include, for example, Voldemort (oops, sorry, the name slipped!).
There are also equipable and upgradable, well-known characters who give an additional boost to the gameplay when they are equipped. These characters don’t show in the battle itself, as they only give passive boosts to you, but it adds yet another collectable aspect/power progression vector to the game.
Main storyline and art style
As mentioned before, Harry Potter: Magic Awakened tells a story ten years after the Battle of Hogwarts. After the player receives a letter to enter the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they start a journey through the main story. The main storyline combines progressing in the story (cutscenes) and gameplay, which can be either the tactical battler core gameplay or some other tasks, such as picking up books on the bookshelf or moving the character from one place to another.
The player collects gift boxes by playing through different PvP and PvE game modes. These gift boxes contain gold and cards, and the player needs to open them to progress in the main storyline. Gift boxes appear after a certain amount of time, and the timer for getting them can also be reduced with a consumable boost. After the player has collected enough gift boxes, the main storyline chapter is unlocked.
The story itself is very immersive with high-level storytelling. There are twists and turns as well as a drama between the main characters. The teachers are familiar ones from the books and movies, but all of the main characters are new ones, not familiar from the Harry Potter universe. The art style deserves praise as it is something unique. The art style could be described as resembling gothic art style and children’s storybooks, as it reminds of, for example, Tim Burton’s movies. Somewhat similar art style can be found from another NetEase title, Identity V.
PvP and PvE modes
There are three different PvP modes for players to fight against other players in the tactical battler setting, varying from 1v1 to 2v2 modes, with two modes that are always open and one recurring event mode.
In addition to tactical battler PvP mode, a racing mode is implemented as Quidditch, the peculiar sport known from the Harry Potter universe. Quidditch mode is open multiple times per day. The player races against six other players in the quidditch arena. The player completes rounds and throws balls through a hoop, collecting points and trying to beat other players.
Forbidden Forest is a PvE mode that can be played alone or with other players. The levels generate different things, such as bosses, rewards, or mysterious question marks, which can conceal, for example, boosts. After completing the whole level, the next level gets harder. There are rewards to the player from each difficulty level. In the internet discussion, the mode is often called “roguelike.” Still, the only roguelike thing in this mode is the generating options on the levels, as there is no permadeath mechanic if the player fails in the battle.
Harry Potter: Magic Awakened also has another interesting PvE mode called “Ball.” The Ball is a rhythm game mode meant to play together with other players. The Ball is open multiple times per day, and while it’s open, the player can go in and ask for other players to dance with them. Whoever is faster will pick a song to dance to, varying from tango to waltzes.
The Ball is the only mode with an energy mechanic. Every time the player asks another player to dance with them, they lose one energy point. When the player runs out of their 3/3 energy, they can purchase drinks to retrieve it.
There are several classrooms to attend classes at, and all of these classrooms have a different game mode inside them. There are storylines and enemies to fight, quizzes related to the Harry Potter universe, and a draw and guess kind of PvE mode in astronomy classes.
Gacha for collecting cards
The library room contains a gacha, allowing players to get a new spell and character cards by purchasing rolls with gacha tickets. There is a “pity mechanic” in the gacha: every 40 rolls, the player obtains a legendary character. There have been some complaints about players needing to spend a lot of money to obtain higher-level cards. After completing ⅔ of the first study year in the main story (there are two study years currently), the undersigned has several legendary cards, which are also obtained, for example, from the gift boxes. As the focus is probably later on the PvP, especially duel, where people fight with cards, the importance of the variety of cards and the variety of legendary cards might be more crucial for success in the PvP modes than for completing the main story.
There are several different limited-time offers running at the same time, such as the ones with special live-event rewards, like limited-time outfits and emotes. Below are some examples of these.
Decorative and equipment items
The game contains many outfits and decorative items, broomsticks, pet owls, wands, and other items to purchase and decorate the gaming experience more individually and show off the looks to other players. There are several social ways to show off the looks, such as in the PvP and PvE modes or social hangout places. There is a seasonal cycle for decorative items and outfits so that players can obtain certain items during a limited time period and gain other items in the next season.
Battle Pass Plan
The game also has a traditional Battle Pass Plan with a task system and two-part reward layers, which grants rewards for the players such as coins, the premium currency, and cards and special rewards for those who subscribe to the Battle Pass season, such as special skins.
Social elements in the Harry Potter: Magic Awakened
There are several social elements in the game. The player can play together with others in several game modes, like the Ball or Forbidden Forest. In addition to the gameplay modes, there are other ways to engage players in social interaction with each other.
As mentioned, before the game officially launched, there was already a social element in the onboarding, as sharing content for others was a crucial part of the gaming experience. This idea of sharing is seen in the game by offering several options to share stuff with other players. In every game mode, there is also a wall where players can share content regarding the game mode. This can be fanart, videos, or some thoughts. The game’s distinctive art style encourages players to draw and paint different fanart.
There is also another interesting social trait in this game. Every player has their own dorm inside different houses. There are four beds in these dorms, and the player may invite other players to be their roommates in their dormitory.
The game has several social hangout places where players can run to other players, see their outfits, ask them to be friends, or chat with them.
In addition to these social elements, the game also has guilds. In guilds, players can, for example, participate in game modes together with their guildmates, such as quizzes and the Ball, or beat enemies in a synchronous manner.
Harry Potter: Magic Awakened is a game with a distinct cartoon art style and high production values, with an interesting main storyline and characters. An unusual mix of several gameplay mechanics such as tactical battler, rhythm, and racing brings something new to the table. The gameplay emphasizes social elements as many of its game modes have social interaction through PvP and co-operational PvE modes. It also includes many other ways for players to interact with each other, such as sharing content in-game, showing off outfits to other players, or inviting players to be their dormitory roommates. Monetization-wise, players will be collecting different types of character and spell cards from gacha and rewards to succeed, especially in the PvP, and decorating their main character with different decorative elements to show off to other players.
NetEase Games plans to publish the game in other markets as well, starting from other Asian markets in Winter 2021 and expanding to other international markets later. Regarding the in-game content, there will be new gameplay elements and new locations for the players to explore. Will the game become a wider phenomenon in China or even elsewhere? That we will have to wait and see.
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