The more we see of the Harry Potter: Wizards Unite beta, the more excited we become. The posts that we see coming out of the Reddit threads show a game with a huge amount of content, from new types of Points of Interests (POI) to multi-layered raids called Fortresses that allow you to fight more than one boss. The beta is helping to assuage fears of those who were concerned that we might end up with a straight Pokémon Go clone.
The same, but different
You can see from the comparison above that the POI in both Wizards Unite and Pokémon Go are pulling from the same resources. They all come from Niantics original game, Ingress, but different ones can be used depending on how popular they are in the game.
If you look into the distance of those pictures, you will see a Fortress in WU and a Gym in PoGo. Both of them use the same POI, but there is a lot more happening too. Cosmetically, the Inns look different, unlike the uniform shape of the Pokéstops. From what we know, the Inns all do the same thing, they just look a little different.
Even though the Pokéstops and Inns are designed to do the same thing — give you energy/pokéballs to continue playing — the way you use them has evolved in Wizards Unite. Unlike Pokéstops, you don't just swipe the Inn to get your energy. Niantic has taken the magical nature of Wizards Unite to heart, and they get you to cast spells instead! From what I've seen, the only spell you use is Accio — the spell that makes things come to you — but it is a mechanic that shows how much thought Niantic has put into the game, and how hard they are working on making it fit the Harry Potter universe.
Niantic has added an additional layer of complexity to the core game by adding a different style of stops, called Greenhouses. These stops are designed to give you more ingredients to help you with your potion making. You can still find ingredients in the wild, but you get more from greenhouses.
Greenhouses only appear in designated "green" zones. These zones are where parks and grasslands exist in the real world, though I have seen screenshots of them near oceans and lakes too. The portal data from Ingress used to create Inns is the same data used to create Greenhouses. This means that not all Pokéstops in green areas will be greenhouses, only a percentage of them might be.
The other upgrade to the standard POI — maybe upgrade isn't the word, how about evolution? — is the addition of the flags you can see in the image above. The flags have different symbols, each denoting a different type of Foundable. When you enter that flag's zone and tap it, it turns an area on the map that same color. In this colored area, the traces — the things you see on the map that replace Pokémon —will more likely produce the Foundable type shown on the flag. This is a great way to really maximize the potential of the world of around you and shows how far Niantic has come in terms of content.
We haven't even delved into combat yet, and already Niantic has surpassed its other games in what you can do just by going for a walk.
Raids in Pokémon Go are a lot of fun. You get to work together within a group to defeat the big baddie, and all of you benefit from the encounter. With Fortresses, Niantic has turned the Raid mechanic up to 11 by having a multi-tiered fighting chamber for you and four friends to battle in.
The combat is much more strategic as well. Gone are the days of just being able to tap the screen really fast and occasionally swiping left to dodge. Now you will need to cast spells, accurately, and quickly to maximize damage, all the while dodging and keeping an eye out for any buffs you may have that are expiring.
Not only do you get to fight multiple opponents but as a player, you can buff your raid friends to help them in combat using special spells, and of course, they can buff you. Your profession also plays a huge roll in combat in the fortresses — professions are jobs you can choose that give you different skills — so making sure your raid team is diverse is an important step. This kind of combat is extremely similar to how massive online games like World of Warcraft deal with raids and is another way Niantic has pushed this type of real-world game forward.
Even the standard everyday combat is more complex than before. You don't just have to learn to spin a ball and throw it, you have to learn patterns. How quickly and accurately you draw those patterns determines the damage you do to the enemies you fight. It adds a layer of complexity that will make each encounter you do just a little more fun, keeping the game from becoming stale.
And if you want to learn how to cast the spells before the game lands in the US head over to the Spell Trainer our friends over at Wizards Unite World have made — they also helped us with our screenshots so big thanks to them — it's silly, but gives you a good idea what spells you will need to know.
Will it succeed?
There are too many things working for Niantic here for Unite to be a failure. The fact that it is Harry Potter, — something that still inspires kids and adults the world over — the massive success of Pokémon Go, and talent that Niantic has shown in making these kinds of games, means that Wizards Unite is almost guaranteed to rake in the money.
The biggest reason for this to succeed is how much effort Niantic has used to push this game further forward than any other game in its class. It hasn't rested on its laurels — its innovated its butt off.
Apart from Ghostbusters World — which did offer some excellent combat — Niantic is really only innovating against itself, and this can cause stagnation in the game and a sense of hubris from developers. Niantic could have made Wizards Unite just another PokéClone — and probably would have done quite well with it — but it looks like it has done the right thing, and pushed the genre forward.
And we are here for all of it.
Harry Potter themed power bank (opens in new tab) ($15 at Amazon)
This may not be the most powerful power bank ever but it should give your iPhone enough extra juice to get you through a Fortress or two. And it has the Hogwarts symbol on! That's worth the price right there.
Hogwarts house Popsocket (opens in new tab) ($15 at Amazon)
While not everyone likes to use Popsockets, there are advantages to them. If you don't want to use a case you can rep your house, and have a secure way to grip your phone while walking.
I wonder if they care that I root my phone? I skipped Pokemon Go because of that issue.
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