The only true moral stance Hogwarts Legacy takes is that animal abuse is bad. One of the main enemy types you face are poachers, a quest takes you to a dragon fighting pit that will horrify, and Poppy Sweeting (bless her) is a Hufflepuff student determined to free every animal on the hillside with your help. The bevy of cute animals, available for you to coo and dote over at various locations in the sprawling world, doubles down on the game’s one sincere take: animals are good, guys.
Read More: The RPG Elements In Hogwarts Legacy Undermine Its Magic
But Hogwarts Legacy manages to undermine even this lukewarm stance with bizarre mechanics baked into the game that are antithetical to the core tenets of animal rescue (like adopting animals instead of buying them from breeders or pet stores). There are so many weird things this game asks you to do with animals that I can’t help but feel icky. Why does it feel like I’m kidnapping them? Why am I using their byproducts after rescuing them? Why the fuck do I need to breed thestrals?
Care of magical Harry Potter creatures?
The Hogwarts Legacy marketing materials dangled the carrot of animal companionship before the game released, and naturally people ate that shit up (though the creator of the Can You Pet the Dog Twitter account said being “absorbed into the marketing machine benefitting an abominable TERF” was a “new low”). Magical animals you can feed, brush, and visit in your own personal sanctuary are certainly appealing, and I was quietly excited to get a chance to have my own Puffskein because I have the mind of a toddler and am the kind of person who speaks in a horrid baby voice to every animal I meet on the sidewalk.
But the manner in which you rescue these animals is bizarre, to say the least. After attending Beasts Class and doing a few key quests (including the one that gets you access to your own Room of Requirement), you’ll get a side quest centered around the house-elf Deek where the diminutive slave will teach you how to use something called a Nab-Sack to catch magical creatures.
Then, you’re let loose into the world to menace magical creatures by unleashing the Nab-Sack on them, which sort of acts like the Ghostbuster ghost vacuum in that it sucks unwilling creatures (they run away from you) into the sack as your character promises them they’re just trying to help. Seriously, you have to hit quick-time events to keep the Nab-Sack keyed in on the creature, and if they’re especially swift (it’s tough to catch a fucking hippogriff) you can cast freezing spells on them to make things easier.
Does any of this sound like an ethical way to capture an animal? Chase it around its natural habitat, cordon it off from its group, then suck it into a bag while it audibly protests? Sure, you can then take them back to the Vivarium in your Room of Requirement and let them roam the magical fields, but you essentially just kidnapped the critter and are collecting the very same materials the poachers were killing them for—and if you don’t immediately go back to your Vivarium is the poor thing just getting shook up in your Nab-Sack while you do other quests?
If you capture too many animals to fit in your Vivarium (every biome can hold 12 beasts at a time, but there can only be three different species in each), you can just, ya know, sell them. Yes, there’s a woman at Brood and Peck who will buy your excess beasts for 120 Galleons, which means you ostensibly turn into a poacher yourself, nabbing animals around the world, fast-traveling back to Hogsmeade, and offloading them on this woman, who will sell you back their feathers and fur without batting an eyelash.
Though I never sell my animals to Brood and Peck, I do head in there to see where they’d end up if I did. It’s a small space, with no discernible yard or pen outside. I can’t help but wonder, as I stare at the sole Diricawl and lonely Jabbernoll flitting their eyes about Brood and Peck, where the fuck all the animals she’s buying went.
Real animal rescue vs Hogwarts Legacy
Before I continue discussing Hogwarts Legacy’s backwards take on animal rescue, it’s important to note my background.
I’m a volunteer animal rescuer, a cat mom of three, and certified in a New York City cat colony management practice called trap-neuter-return or TNR. TNR involves humanely trapping feral cats, fixing them so that they can’t make more feral cats, vaccinating them against common feline diseases, and, if they are unable to be socialized and adopted out, returning them to their colony’s location. While it’s not ideal (we’d love every cat to get a home) it’s the only way to successfully reduce the amount of feral cats in NYC, a place that is particularly hostile for them.
I’ve volunteered at several bully breed specific dog rescues, as well, taking dogs out for walks, home stays, and helping them get forever homes. I’ve advocated for the abolishment of breed-specific legislation on Long Island. I have a tattoo of my late Staffordshire Terrier, Lucy.
TL;DR: I know a lot about animal rescue. Which is why Legacy’s animal stuff hits so weird. Sure, it’s just a game, but it also makes capturing creatures a central mechanic, so it’s hard to ignore how Hogwarts Legacy depicts what it makes you do.
Prized pedigree Puffskeins
At a certain point in my playthrough, Deek gets my attention while I’m faffing about the Room of Requirement because he has an idea he wants to share with me. I’m thinking he’s suggesting I swap around the layout a bit, maybe incorporate more mounted house-elf heads on the wall as a stark reminder of his place in this fucked up universe, but no, it’s much weirder than that.
“Deek thought you might want to learn how to build a breeding pen so that you can breed beasts,” he says. I gasp and look around the room for my three cats, all of whom were rescues found wandering the streets. We don’t breed in this house. “Rescuing and breeding beasts go hand-in-hand. Young beasts are particularly vulnerable to poachers,” Deek continues, clearly stoked on this idea. He then instructs me that I have to go capture a male and a female thestral and get the blueprint for a breeding pen.
I am, to say the least, disgusted. Not only does it feel incredibly weird to be kidnapping these animals and then breeding them like those people in more rural areas of the country who keep bloodline charts of their Golden Retrievers and sell their dogs for thousands of dollars, but Deek’s logic is shaky at best. Young beasts are particularly vulnerable to poachers—okay, so why am I not just rescuing existing young beasts? Why am I making more of them? This goes against everything I know, everything I’ve been taught as a rescuer. We don’t want more animals, we want to secure and protect the ones that exist.
Perhaps if Legacy sold some of this animal stuff as being akin more to a zoo for endangered species, I’d be less apt to find the entire thing icky. Perhaps if the game didn’t incorporate unicorn hair and puffskein fur into clothing upgrades, or make capturing these animals feel somewhat violent, or suggest that breeding them is the best way to save them, I’d have less of an issue with my Vivarium full of bong-eyed Mooncalves. But as someone who has been doing this for ten years, I can say that Hogwarts Legacy doesn’t know shit about animal rescue.
If you want to help animals in real life, consider volunteering at your local animal shelter, adopting when you’re ready for a pet, and/or donating to the Humane Society of the United States.