Can a lightning strike twice? Niantic is counting on it to work with its latest augmented reality game based on the bestselling multimedia franchise, Harry Potter.
If the name of the developer is unfamiliar, then maybe Ingress, the company's first mobile game that's not only cult status. If you're not familiar with Ingress, then you've probably heard of Pokémon GO, the mega-hit game In 2016, the world by storm conquered and is still the synonym of the mainstream media for augmented reality. Although the public visibility of the game has waned since then, it remains one of the highest-revenue mobile games on the App Store and on Google Play.
The success of Pokémon GO has surprisingly spawned legions of generic impersonators, Failure. The game has also faced three legitimate competitors from the Jurassic Park, Walking Dead and Ghostbuster franchises. Despite recognizable brand names and the help of former Niantic parent company and later Google investor via the Maps API, no member of the triad has succeeded in recreating the success of Pokémon GO.
Enter Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Now available for free on the App Store and on Google Play for in-app purchases from $ 0.99 to $ 99.99. The long-awaited, location-based augmented reality game not only has the Pokémon GO developer at its head (with three more years and insights from the launch of Pokémon GO), but also the equivalent intellectual property of the wizarding world in the background. And the game is just in time for the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and the perfect date for a game that requires playing outdoors.
How does the spiritual successor of Pokémon GO build? I spent most of an afternoon casting spells, hunting demons, and fighting wizards to find out.
Shortly after installing the game, I made my way to a nearby park to try it out. After a parade of logos of the producers of the game, the logo of the game appears over a cloudy sky. An owl appears in sight and then dives towards the earth. The camera follows and zooms into the world map. It's a very cinematic way to get players into this fused world.
If you look at the map, the parallels to Pokémon GO and almost any other location-based AR game immediately become clear. Instead of pocket monsters scattered across the map, there are icons for different categories of magical treasures that players can collect. Instead of Pokestops there are small buildings, from which the players learn that they are inns and greenhouses. Gymnasiums are replaced by larger castles called chambers.
The game goes through a tutorial mode for the first time guide the players through the elements of the game and make some explanations. In short, the premise of the game is that a break between the Muggle and Wizarding world has allowed mystical monsters, materials and magicians to enter the real world. As a sorcerer, you must collect them and bring them back to their rightful kingdom.
From then on, the gameplay Pokémon GO reflects in every phase with a few twists.
Augmented Reality first comes into play when collecting Foundables, which are represented by the colored symbols near the player. Tapping the icon will launch an augmented reality encounter with confoundables, which are enemies that guard or harass the foundables.
The encounters in AR + mode for Wizard's Unite are a mix of the original AR mode and the more insistent AR + mode in Pokémon GO with a few tweaks. (The AR mode can also be disabled.)
Players first scan their environment for "traces of magic" or, in practical and technical terms, for recognizable surfaces via ARKit or ARCore. Once a surface is found to be magical, the game instructs players to look up their smartphones, where a random pairing of confoundable and found (s) is found. Players then target a star trio controlled by their device to another star trio in front of the 3D content to launch the second level of encounter low to high. During the calibration of the meter, the camera view freezes the real world, similar to the original AR mode in Pokémon GO. Once the ad goes away, players are confronted with their opponent, who is still moving across the real world. Each spell costs one energy point (the equivalent of a poke ball).
Then players conjure a spell to defeat their enemy. The spell is performed by tracing a foregrounded pattern. I found this easier than wiping the screen to throw a pokeball, but the mechanism is still a challenge as the game assesses the accuracy of the players in tracking the pattern and requires players to start at a precise point and begin. With the spell, the enemy either succumbs to the magical energy, resists the spell, allowing the player to cast it again, or escapes with the base spell.
Once the sorcerer succeeds, he can collect the base spell. or at least a fragment of a whole that can be found. The found file is registered in the corresponding category of the register (the equivalent of a Pokedex), increasing its rank in that particular category. Foundables also contribute to challenges and allow players to earn experience points for their overall rankings.
The AR experience in this game is both clever and disappointing. In AR + mode in Pokémon GO you get a more realistic experience, but under the limitations of ARKit and ARCore, which means that content in the environment may still seem unnatural. However, when freezing the real image, the AR content seems to move more realistically around the player's environment. The attitude of Niantic to Harry Potter works in the same way.
However, as Niantic prepares its platform for the real world that enables the occlusion that removes the shortcomings of ARKit and ARCore, I can not help but feel changed.
By the way, there is a way to catch foundables without casting spells. That's with port manteaus and port keys (the equivalent of eggs and incubators). After the specified distance has been covered, the players earn a fundable for their collection. However, with incremental counting in the background, this is not such an effective means of collecting.
In the agricultural part of the game, not much augmented reality takes place, but it's worth noting how the game works handles the collection of items. Players collect items as rewards for rankings or from inns and greenhouses.
Inns provide food to players, which is converted into Energy Points for spells, and players can also use Dark Detectors (equivalent to Bait Modules) to trigger more disturbing encounters. After a cooldown, players can visit the inn again to get more food and energy.
Greenhouses provide players with ingredients for potions, and they can also house seeds to grow ingredients that any visitor to the greenhouse can harvest after a period of time. Players can also collect ingredients for potions that are loose in the field. Once the right ingredients are collected, players can brew potions from the potion menu, which boost spells in combat.
All of this gathering has put me in a warlike mood of chambers for a wizarding fight or two. (Random encounters also take place on the field.)
Battle encounters begin in the same way as the disturbing encounters, with the game anchoring the opponent in the same way in the scene. The difference is in spell casting, which consists of offensive and defensive spells.
To attack, players align a single star symbol with one in front of their opponent and hold on to launch the attack. Then the players follow a pattern to cast the spell. Players can also defend if they strike in the specified direction on time. Hit points are exchanged with each attack volley until a winner emerges. Players receive magic items for their registration for their victories.
In addition, Pokémon GO offers field research to players to achieve goals. Wizards Unite gives players daily tasks that involve activities ranging from returning finds and completing tasks to brewing potions to visiting inns.
Wizards Unite provides another augmented reality feature that sets it apart from its predecessor.  In Pokémon GO personalization consists of an avatar that players can exchange for currency. Personally, I do not look like any of the options.
In Wizards Unite, players can view their profile photo through their smartphone camera set and alluding to Snapchat virtual accessories, masks and stickers add their portrait. Players can also save these photos to share with others.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite ultimately enhances the gameplay that Niantic has built into Pokémon GO. However, the Potterverse tradition is somewhat lengthy for Muggles like me – I watched movies and recognized some vocabulary, but I do not exactly speak the Hogwarts jargon. As a result, the game feels more complex than it probably is.
Nevertheless, I've found that the main features of the gameplay (Wizarding Fights) are worth the price (ie free for in-app purchases). Fans of the Harry Potter Universe will experience more than enough new, magical adventures with this game, even though they are augmented reality novices who need a bit of training to deal with all virtual content entering the real world ,