I get sorted into Hufflepuff because of course I do. I’m 28 years old and playing a Minecraft mod based on a series of children’s books that I loved way too much when I was an actual child so I guess I just exude Hufflepuff energy.
The sorting hat agrees, after peppering me with magazine-style personality quiz questions like « what do you most value?” (community) and « which would you rather be?” (trusted). « Hufflepuff! » the grouchy sorting hat yells. The grey scarf tucked into the school wizarding robes I bought in Diagon Alley magically turns yellow. Now that I’m sorted, I’m free to roam the unfathomably intricate rendition of Hogwarts. I immediately get just as lost in the wizarding school’s blocky corridors as I typically do in a standard Minecraft mine shaft.
Witchcraft & Wizardry is a genuine RPG through and through. There are containers full of junk like spare parchment and vials, quests of varying importance, and NPCs that are happy to vomit lore at your feet. Before I even get to Hogwarts, one of my first available sidequests is to help Neville Longbottom find his toad Trevor somewhere on platform 9 & 3/4. There’s just a bit of Minecraft parkour involved in fetching the wayward amphibian from the top of the Hogwarts Express.
Later on, I help Draco Malfoy collect some potentially ‘embarrassing’ (read: illegal) items around his family’s house, before which he’s happy to give me his opinions on the Weasly family, and Arthur Weasly and the Ministry Of Magic’s home inspections that could have led to the discovery of the Malfoy Manor’s cryptic scrolls and cursed skulls. That’s dealt with now. You’re welcome, Draco.
After all that dallying about, it’s time to attend a class or two. Mercifully, Witchcraft & Wizardry does include a helpful quest compass that points you towards your current objective. Without it, I’d undoubtedly be stuck wandering the dungeons forever. My Maurader’s Map can let me fast travel to any location I’ve visited before, but that doesn’t help me arrive at Charms class the first time around, so I wander the castle chasing my yellow compass, trekking up the familiar grand staircase, winding down tight castle corridors, and picking up quests from my many fellow students who are loitering about the lively school.
I jump through a set of spooky, cavernous rooms, hitting targets that open passageways and reveal platforms that I have to jump on before they retract. Other targets I have to hit in sequences. At the end I’m faced with a room of Boggarts to fight. In wizarding lore, they transform into your greatest fear. In this Minecrafted world they appear as skeletons and spiders mostly.
When I finally arrive, Professor Flitwick teaches me the Lumos spell and sends me off into a dark maze to hunt down an array of collectible stars. It’s an easy first task, finding my way with the help of maps drawn on chalkboards around the maze of bookshelves. My Defence Against The Dark Arts class about an hour later turns out to be more complex, with an obstacle and combat course that teaches me the Stupefy spell for attacking enemies.
(Image credit: Minecraft Middle-earth)
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The combat is constrained by Minecraft’s own simple slash and dash system. I can left click with my wand out to smack things with it or double-tap right click to use my equipped spell. I fire off a few Stupefy spells every couple seconds as I backpedal away from spiders and armoured skeletons. I sprint past a well of magic rejuvenation at the centre of the room to refill my magic meter after a few too many Stupefys. It’s a repetitive dance, but Minecraft has never had particularly deft combat. I die several times before the room is cleared, but quickly respawn each time back in the action. No wonder Hogwarts doesn’t have a physical education course if I’m doing all this jumping and sprinting in my lecture classes.
Eventually I’m off to Hogsmeade as a favour for Hermione Granger who, wouldn’t you know it, is willing to teach me another Charm spell. Hanging up her House Elf activism posters all over the village quickly becomes priority number one. Like any good RPG, Witchcraft and Wizardry has thus far taunted me with the occasional locked door and a prompt telling me that the Alohamora spell can unlock it.
I suspect I’ll find a chest full of items that I may or may not have a use for. But it could be a collectible wizard card or some other treat. So off I jaunt away from my main student duties in search of unexplored corridors and the siren song of loot and more.
If it weren’t evident enough, the Witchcraft and Wizardry map is a triumph just to look at. Hogwarts’ towers soar above my render distance. Hogsmeade is a winter village tundra. Every room is meticulously decorated and cluttered with barrels and paintings and other odds and ends thanks to the custom texture pack that the map uses.
As if the map itself weren’t impressive enough, the experience requires no actual mods at all. You download the map and resource packs either manually or with a handy installer, and you’re done. It’s a feat of Minecraft engineering.
Witchcraft and Wizardry is unabashed nostalgia. Everything from familiar names and faces to the soundtrack that’s authentic enough to have been ripped from the movies are designed to make me feel ten years old again. It’s executed with such precision that, heck, do we really need a real Harry Potter RPG? I’m just as happy in Minecraft.