Pokémon Go was revolutionary in the gaming world. It redefined what video games could be both as engaging experiences and the way players interacted with them. By tapping into the potential of Augmented Reality, it got gamers to leave the confines of their gaming dens and venture about. As the world debated the nuances of people in the quest for virtual creatures, Go opened up a plethora of avenues for augmented reality.
Wizards Unite is the latest AR game as Niantic hopes to repeat a successful formula for the third time. With Ingress, a cult classic, and Pokémon Go making AR games a distinct genre, Niantic tries to expand with the Harry Potter franchise. The game’s start screen has a tawny owl carrying a letter that welcomes you to the wizarding world as you see a cloaked avatar corresponding to your geo-location. The start is rousing as you listen to the iconic Harry Potter theme and dive into the experience.
For those who have played Pokémon Go and Ingress, there is not much difference here. The game uses the same landmarks, as Pokestops have become inns and gyms fortresses. Instead of Pokémon, you search for magical artefacts that are called unfoundables which need to be rescued and returned. With a distinct Harry Potter feel, you hurl spells of various kinds by tracing specific shapes accurately. There is a spell energy system in place and you may quickly run out of it; the game aggressively pushes in-app purchases.
There is a good mix of wizarding memorabilia to find. I fought an acromantula, rescued a niffler, stunned a death eater and rescued the vanishing cabinet all on day one. There are career options to choose from as you level up and detailed progression trees thereafter. Niantic has managed to avoid most challenges that it faced during Pokémon Go’s launch, but it has failed to innovate on Ingress and Go. The format of walking around and interacting seems stale a third time, this seems to be a missed opportunity on several fronts. A hard sell for people not fans of the Harry Potter world.