(Pocket-lint) - Niantic Labs, creator of the hugely-popular Pokemon Go game, is moving into the Wizarding World with Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. The game first launched in the UK and the US, before rolling out to a range of other countries.
There's the potential to get confused, because there's a lot to get involved with.
Here's everything you need to know about Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
What is Harry Potter: Wizards Unite?
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is an augmented reality (AR) mobile game that will see you immersed into the Wizarding World. You will become a witch or wizard, walking among muggles, defending the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy to ensure that the magic world remains a secret.
The Calamity has caused chaos, scattering magic items across the world and risking discovery by non-magical people. These "foundables" are what you'll be hunting out on your mission as part of the Statute of Secrecy Task Force. Trying to stop you collecting the foundables are "confoundables", dark magic or creatures, which you'll need to use spells against.
The game will involve exploration and discovery, collection, battling, team work - and all in the real world, using Niantic's maps. Wizards Unite gives you the opportunity to develop your skills, choose a wizarding career (auror, magizoologist, professor), and interact with characters, artifacts and themes from the Harry Potter universe.
It's designed to fulfil the fan fantasy in letting you become a witch or wizard.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite release date
It was released in a wide-range of other territories on 22 June - you can find the full details here.
Niantic appeared at the launch of EE 5G in the UK to confirm that EE would be a launch partner and offer exclusive content to EE customers. That turns EE stores into inns where you can get spell energy.
Niantic Labs has confirmed that lessons learnt from the launch of Pokemon Go so it should avoid the server problems that plagued Pokemon Go and so far the experience has been smooth in the early days of the game.
How the game works
Like Pokemon Go, the game will see you walking around discovering items. There will be points on the map - inns, greenhouses, fortresses - as well as "traces" scattered around. You can interact with all these things and they make-up the discovery side of the game.
The traces of magic will be places where you can find something magical, called "foundables" in the game. That might be a beast, friend or enemy and once you open them up, you'll move into an AR experience, using the camera on your app to blend the game world with the real world, just like collecting Pokemon in Pokemon Go.
You can turn off the AR if you prefer.
The inns will let you collect spell energy that you'll need to play the game, while the greenhouses will be where you'll get ingredients for creating potions, as well as being able to grow ingredients.
The fortresses are places that have higher-value foundables - likely a collection of beasts to battle - presenting a slightly bigger challenge which in some cases will need collaboration with friends to defeat. It's also here that your career choice matters because an Auror might be better placed to battle a Death Eater than a Professor for example.
Everything you encounter will be collected in your suitcase, with a Registry that's a little like a sticker book where you can keep track of everything. There will also be a vault where you keep your potions, potion ingredients and other items.
Another thing you'll be able to collect and use is a portkey, which will transport you to a different location. This introduces elements of the game not dependent on physical location. We transported to Ollivanders, for example, with more collection challenges once in the (virtual) famous wand shop.
Portkeys need to be unlocked and this is where walking comes into the game - you'll have to walk 2, 5 or 10km to unlock the portkey. However, portkeys mean you can then play some aspects of the game at home or in the garden, for example.
That makes up the basic outline of how the game will work through discovery and collection, but there's a lot more that Harry Potter: Wizards Unite will offer. The best way to discover how the game works is to play it - things are explained as you go along with many first encounters being guided.
Choosing a wizarding career
Aside from exploring and collecting, there's an RPG - role play gaming - side to Wizards Unite. You'll be able to set-up your character, not only choosing your wand, house and creating your official Task Force ID, but also the opportunity to choose a profession.
There are three options:
Each career path has different strengths and the opportunity to develop the skills you'll need. This will see you taking lessons - with on-going progression - and essentially letting you power-up. This is where Wizards Unite goes a little deeper than Pokemon Go, and adding a side of the game that's not reliant just on walking around finding things. For example, if you're an Auror, you'll get greater combat skills, so you'll be able to hex opponents and have more powerful protection against their spells.
Ultimately, as you increase your skills through your profession, you'll get more powerful and better placed to take on the challenges that you'll discover in the real world. Certain professions will be stronger against certain enemies in fortress battles and teaming up with a mixture of players with different professions might be the only way you can win some more advanced battles.
You will be able to change careers penalty free, and any skills you've acquired will stay with you.
How do battles and spells work in Wizards Unite?
When you encounter a magical beast or an enemy you'll have to use a spell, or engage in battle to defeat that opponent. To cast spells you'll need spell energy, which is what you'll get from inns, as we mentioned above.
The battle system is loosely based around turn-based moves, with each side casting spells (or just attacking in the case of animals), but you also have the chance to defend with a swipe. As with other aspects of the game, to cast the spells, you'll have to trace the pattern on the screen and the more accurate the trace, the more powerful it is.
Rather than having to learn the spells in advance, you'll be prompted to cast the appropriate spell. This will involve tracing the pattern on the screen of your phone. The more accurate the trace, the more powerful the spell is and the more likely you'll be successful. It's a bit like throwing the Poke Ball in Pokemon Go.
We've strung together some of the action sequences in the video below.
In battles, both sides have a power bar and to win the fight you have to knock your opponent down to zero.
Aside from spells, you can also access potions, either to heal yourself or to increase the power of your spells. We've gone into a lot more detail about the combat system in Wizards Unite in a separate feature here.
How to add friends in Wizards Unite
Once you've signed up to the game you'll be able to link up with friends, which is pretty easy to do. From the main map screen, tap the button with two witches in it in the bottom left corner. This is a social button, letting you add up to 200 friends.
To add a friend hit the "add friend" button at the top of the page. This will show your unique 12-digit player code, which you can share (through messaging or on social media or wherever you like) so your friends know how to find you in the game.
Below this, you can enter a friend's 12-digit code. Once you put that number in and hit send, you'll send an invitation to your friend. They will have to accept you - you can just be friended by randoms unless you accept them.
It's worth noting that certain things aren't shared - your real details and photos are not shared with anyone.
What beasts are there in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite?
The full list of characters and beasts hasn't been released, but we've encountered a number of characters and fantastic beasts. The characters you meet are not playable - most of the time they will be collectable (an entry in your Registry), or there to provide more information to help you.
The main characters from the Harry Potter films are there, but rather than all being set in one time frame - i.e., present day - you'll meet iconic characters from iconic scenes. For example, Harry and Hermione help guide you through the game through pop-up conversations, but Ron Weasley appears as a foundable in Quidditch gear. Luna Lovegood appears as she did in the movies, not as she would be today. Basically, the game isn't chronologically positioned in the Harry Potter timeline.
Will Harry Potter: Wizards Unite contain in-app purchases?
Yes, micro-transactions will be part of Wizards Unite, which will give people the opportunity to buy particular things using gold. The game is fully playable without buying anything and you didn't need to spend any real-world money to progress.
The in-app store is called Diagon Alley and is divided into several different stores where you can buy various things. Many of these are available for gold coins, which are earned at various places in the game, effectively making these items free.
However there are real cash item bundles and there is the option to buy lots of gold with real money too. Gold starts at 99p and runs up to £99.99.
What about future updates to Wizards Unite?
When we talked to the developers of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite prior to launch it was described to us as a "forever game". Like Pokemon Go, what you get on launch day isn't going to be what you're stuck with, the game will evolve over time. The developers said they still had a lot of ideas that they want to explore and of course - as the Wizarding World continues to expand (through films like Fantastic Beasts), there's a growing resource of magical elements to include.
Niantic spoke about Pokemon Go community days several times when introducing us to the game - saying that they'd had 3 million plus players in recent events. We suspect there will be in-game events to match future Harry Potter film releases and so on.
Is Harry Potter: Wizards Unite suitable for children?
The Harry Potter story spans a wide age range of suitability, with the books and films getting progressively darker; some of the middle films are 12/PG-13 rated, while Fantastic Beasts is too. Drawing from these sources, there are some aspects to Wizards Unite that might not be suitable for younger children.
There is some mild terror and the use of tense music for example when in battles, might be a little too scary. The age rating that it's been awarded on Google Play is PEGI 7, because it contains "mild violence".
Generally speaking, however, everything is safe for children, as long as they can't head into Diagon Alley and start buying gold with real money.
How much mobile data does Wizards Unite use?
It's difficult to put an exact figure on it, but over 2 days of playing fairly extensively, we used about 500MB of data. This figure is likely to be high because it's a new game and we're playing it fairly heavily - so that's several hours of screen time.
Wizards Unite is a big game. There's a lot of data that can be downloaded on the move - but you can lower that demand by downloading all the game assets on Wi-Fi. There's about 3.5GB of total data to download and you can find the option in the settings - it's worth doing this so you don't have to download this on a mobile connection while playing.
What languages will Harry Potter: Wizards Unite be available in?
Niantic has confirmed that the following languages will be supported from launch:
- Brazilian Portuguese
- European Portuguese
- Simplified Chinese
- Traditional Chinese
- Latin American Spanish
How similar is Harry Potter: Wizards Unite to Pokemon Go?
The core maps that Niantic has developed for its real-world AR games are the same, and having looked at the Wizards Unite map in London's St James' Park and Pokemon Go, we could see that many of the landmarks that are Poke Stops will become inns in Wizards Unite, while Gyms become fortresses.
The collection aspect of the games is similar - rather than a Pokedex you have a Registry - and the traces you encounter in Wizards Unite are like the Pokemon you'll discover in the wild. Both games need discovery, exploration and teamwork - and these are the fundamentals of Niantic's games. Both use AR to bring the fantasy world into the real world - although you can switch off AR if you'd rather not use it.
Visually, however, the game is entirely different - it looks different in every way, but naturally, the map layout is similar, because it's based on the real world. The gameplay has similarities, but Harry Potter draws on lots of Potter lore to give other avenues of development. From our first impressions, we think there's a lot more on the character development side of the game.
You also have the opportunity to play without location in Wizards Unite thanks to Portkeys. These will let you transport to a location - like Ollivanders - to complete tasks, and this can be done without walking the map.
Overall, the feel of the game is very different, but any Pokemon Go player is likely to know exactly where to go start finding things in Wizards Unite.
Who is Niantic Labs?
Niantic is a San Francisco-based company best known for developing augmented reality-based mobile games. It was initially formed as an internal startup within Google, but it became an independent firm in 2015. In 2016, through a partnership with Nintendo and The Pokemon Company, Niantic released the popular AR game Pokemon Go, with Niantic serving as the app's developer.
Niantic partnered with WB Games to create Harry Potter: Wizards Unite under the Portkey Games label.