E3 2011: Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 hands-on
With the final Harry Potter movie set for release, the sun is setting on J.K. Rowling’s masterpiece. The franchise has netted billions of dollars, but one of the most respected entries out of all of the spinoffs and tie-ins was LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. Garnering positive critical feedback and selling very strongly, Travelers Tales did an excellent job building an immersive game world that allowed players to live out their Harry Potter fantasies. The story continues in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7, which I had the chance to sit down and try out with the game’s director, Authur Parsons.
The LEGO franchise has been so ensnaring for fans due to its level of detail and authenticity. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 more accurately presented the first four novels than any of the bastardized movies. The focus on small details continues. The demo opened in the grave yard scene from the seventh book with Harry and Hermione on the trail of the horcruxes they’re seeking. We wandered around the graveyard, trying out the spells in their arsenal as we solved simple puzzles. For one, we had to use the aguamenti spell to put out some fires. Another required we levitate some objects around. The demo closed with the players taking on Nagini in a small boss fight through Bathilda Bagshot’s house.
One thing that was apparent from my demo was the team’s dedication to the Harry Potter franchise. Parsons’ knowledge of the universe was incredible and he casually rattled off locations and scenes that players will get to experience. Players will visit the Lovegood house and hear about the Deathly Hallows from Xenophilius Lovegood. During that segment, Parsons’ revealed that the team is going to employ a Limbo style look to tell the story of the Tale of the Three Brothers (and yes, you’ll control the Peverell brothers for this segment). I was promised that the final, grand battle will have players wading through Death Eaters, giants and working alongside all of Harry’s allies as they attempt to take down Lord Voldemort once and for all.
Over the course of the final three books, several extremely important characters are killed, and I was curious how the game would handle that. Parsons elaborated a little on the death of one particular character and said that Harry will attempt to put him back together using an instruction manual he finds. The subject matter for the final game is certainly darker than anything else the series has done before, but it sounds like the designers have managed to maintain the franchise’s style despite the darker tone. One particular design choice that I found very clever was elaborated during my demo. When players start the game, they’ll be stripped of all of the spells Harry might have learned previously. While this might be annoying, it’s nicely justified by the promotion of Delores Umbridge to Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Returning players will be forced to build up their spell arsenal, but it’s so grounded in the universe that it seems less punishing.
The game will be broken into four segments, following the timelines of the films. Much of the gameplay remains the same from past LEGO releases so fans should feel right at home (and haters shouldn’t expect to be swayed). LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 drops this fall on all major consoles. Fans can’t afford to miss this.