- 18 July 2019
JK Rowling’s world of wizardry and magic, aka Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, is the Augmented Reality game of the moment and, arguably, the best one available right now, and it’s looking great on Power VR-based phones.
In Harry Potter: Wizards Unite you take the role of a witch or wizard newly recruited by the Statute of Secrecy Task Force, tasked with finding magical artefacts, creatures and people that have appeared, mysteriously, in the Muggle world.
To find these all-important ‘Foundables’, you’ll need to step outside your house with your trusty smartphone, searching for the traces of magic on a map that’s overlaid on the real-world streets, parks and public buildings of your town (or anywhere else that you happen to be visiting). Tap on a nearby Foundable and, in classic AR-style, you’ll see it – and any creatures stealing or harassing it – appear as if by magic on the real-world scene in front of you. Tap the item then trace a shape to cast the spell, and the Foundable is yours, added to a collection of iconic locations from the Harry Potter movies or the wider wizarding world.
Okay, so Harry Potter: Wizards Unite sounds a little like Harry Potter and the Big-Budget Clone of Pokémon Go, (it comes from the same developer – Niantic) but there’s a little bit more to it than that. Take a look at your map and you’ll also find Inns, where you can take in food and drink to replenish your magical energy. Greenhouses contain ingredients that can be used to brew potions to boost your magical powers. Portkeys can be discovered through Portmanteaus, which are charged by walking, enabling you to step into immersive, 360-degree versions of favourite Harry Potter locations.
Most importantly, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite has its own spin on real-time magical combat, where the foreboding Fortresses found on the map house dark wizards, monsters and other foes to battle. Having carefully steered a targeting circle into place, you can trace a spell to attack your enemy before casting a quick Protego! to shield yourself from harm. These challenge sequences are fun and frequently spectacular, as you and your virtual enemy trade magical blows, and you can team up with nearby wizards to work together to defeat them – seamless co-op play is built into the action.
And while you’re doing all this you’re levelling up and building your collections, earning new titles and honours to prove that you’re not just any tinpot thaumaturge but a master of magic. You can create your own wizarding profile, complete with magic-enhanced selfie, and even specialise as a would-be Mad-Eye Mooney, Newt Scamander or Albus Dumbledore. As with most AR games, the minute-by-minute gameplay in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite isn’t particularly tactical or complex, but there’s a lot here to keep you coming back for more.
The only problem with such an advanced AR game is that it’s picky about the devices it’ll run on. It needs all the sensors for motion control, direction-sensing and accurate GPS positioning, but also the graphical grunt to overlay real-world pictures with fully-animated pixies, werewolves, dark wizards and more. And all those sumptuous-looking spell effects don’t come easy. Many more affordable Android phones don’t have the specs to do a decent job. Some simply aren’t compatible with the game. Yet we’ve been playing it – and loving it – on the Nokia 3.1 Plus; a 6-inch Android phone you can pick up for around £150.
Its secret is its MediaTek Helio P22 processor, which combines eight CPU cores with a PowerVR GE8320 GPU. No, that GPU isn’t going to take on the high-end, near-console performance GPUs we’re seeing on some modern flagship smartphones, but it delivers an astonishing amount of power for more modest handsets at affordable prices, and never falters with the sorcerous spectacle of Wizard’s Unite. The creatures, spells and magical objects all look incredible, creating a magical blend of the make-believe and real, and there’s enough detail for you to see how hard the team has worked to bring Harry Potter’s world to life. Check it out on the Nokia 3.1 Plus and you’ll be amazed at what a budget phone can do with the right GPU.
And if Harry Potter: Wizards Unite leaves you wanting more AR? We’ll be rounding up some of the other AR titles around in an upcoming blog post.