Details have finally been revealed about Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the next location-based AR game from Niantic, the same developer behind Pokemon Go and Ingress. In Wizards Unite players get to immerse themselves inside J.K. Rowling’s iconic Wizarding World universe. Even though she isn’t directly involved in this game’s creation, Niantic’s attention to detail seems evident so far.
You can read a bit more about the intended experiences over on the official website here but basically if you’re familiar with mobile AR games like Pokemon Go, Walking Dead: Our World, or Ghostbusters World, then you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect this time around as well.
It’s not much to go off of, but we do have some actual gameplay clips (minus audio) to look at:
Based on the new details on the website and in hands-on reports from the likes of IGN and TechCrunch, we can glean some interesting details about how the game plays. For starters, the overworld map certainly sounds and looks a lot like the one in Pokemon Go. Players will walk around in real life and then have their avatar match their movement on a GPS-enabled device such as a smartphone.
In Pokemon Go it made sense because you were looking for the little critters so you could capture them. But in the case of Wizards Unite the reasoning is a bit different. After the events of the original book series (and films) there is a big cataclysmic-style event that causes objects, characters, and places from the Wizarding World to suddenly start appearing in the real world. As a member of the SOS (Statue of Secrecy) you have to track the items down and make sure no muggles find out.
Here’s how the website explains it:
A calamity has befallen the wizarding world, causing artefacts, creatures, people, and even memories to mysteriously appear in the Muggle world. Witches and wizards from across the globe must come together to solve the mystery of The Calamity, overcome the confounding chaotic magic that surrounds these “Foundables,” and return them to their rightful place, keeping them safe from Muggle eyes.
Just like in Pokemon Go most of the key activities are going to happen near real world landmarks and points of interest that can naturally attract players to the same location. Instead of Pokestops you’ve got inns and greenhouses for loot. Instead of lures, there are dark sectors that have an increased frequency of events appearing.
And yes, you can pick which Hogwarts house you’re part of, but there’s no information on what that actually affects yet. I can’t wait to customize my character in some swanky blue Ravenclaw robes.
Encounters replace the pokeball-throwing capture mini games from Pokemon Go. When hostile creatures like werewolves attack or you need to save a character from a dementor, for example, an outline appears on-screen that you need to quickly trace with your finger to case the spell. The quicker and more accurate you are, the better the spell. It’s too bad the Codename Neon tech demo doesn’t seem integrated, unless those features are being saved for PvP support later down the line.
Niantic also plans on taking the location-based mechanics to new height by leveraging data about the area you’re in so that certain plants only grow during specific weather conditions or so that werewolves only appear during full moons.
As a VR/AR enthusiast though, for me, the most exciting part about these new details is how much Wizards Unite appears to take advantage of your phone’s AR capabilities. In addition to the obvious background setting for encounters, like shown above, you can place portkeys on the ground and actually physically step through portals to see a 3D representation of iconic areas from the Wizarding World on your phone with motion tracking to look around. It truly turns your phone into a magical window. You’ve got to charge up the portkeys by walking around, just like the eggs in Pokemon Go.
When you make a character you can choose to be either an auror, magical zoologist, or professor which determines your skill tree. That’s right — actual stats and abilities. Wizards Unite is basically a fully-fledged RPG crammed inside a location-based AR game.
Finally, there are fortresses, which are like the Wizards Unite version of gyms from Pokemon Go. You and other players can team up in battle against a bunch of enemies to earn even better rewards. All of this is happening in real-time so it makes sense to group up with players that have skills to complement your own.
Designating one person as a healer or to cast debuffs on enemies versus assigning the combat-focused players to deal with enemies they are more skilled to handle. It evokes a lot of team-dynamics that are lifted from MMOs and other related genres.
Until we know more, that’s about all there is to know about how Harry Potter: Wizards Unite works. You can pre-register for the game now on Google Play with details on the iOS version coming later. The game is set to release sometime this year.
Let us know what you think down in the comments below!