Harry Potter and Hagrid — even Severus Snape — require your help in Niantic’s new game, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, that’s similar to the wildly popular Pokemon Go. Originally due today but releasing a day early in the US for Android and iPhone,pits you against dark wizards and magical beasts to save beloved characters from the Harry Potter books and movies from the Calamity — an unexplained event scattering magical items across the Muggle, or No-Maj, world — as you walk around your real-world environment to follow the game’s map on your phone.
The new mobile AR game for Android and iPhone is a combined effort from WB Games San Francisco and Niantic under the Portkey Games label, and its pedigree shows. Wizards Unite builds on Pokemon Go and Ingress, also from Niantic, to offer better combat situations and more varied locations — such as Inns, Greenhouses and Fortresses. It also has a better story driving the game — as a member of the Statute of Secrecy Task Force, your task is to contain chaotic magic turning the magical and No-Maj worlds upside down — and it loses some of the more frustrating parts of the Pokemon Go, such as Gym Battles.
But it’s OK if you’ve never played either of those games, because Harry Potter: Wizards Unite really feels like a new game and not a reskinned Pokemon Go or Ingress.
Ready? Here’s how to start playing Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
Set up Wizards Unite on your phone
The game is now is available in the US and UK and is coming to other regions soon.
To get started, enter your date of birth and sign in using your Facebook or Google credentials. Grant the game permission to use your GPS and access your device’s location.
Then, fill out the volunteer registration form andpick a code name. Finally, make your way through the tutorial, which offers a bit of the story behind the Calamity and walks you through how to deal with a foundable, a wizarding world person or item that displaced the chaotic magic from its location to yours.
Note: The game comes with assets, and depending on your connection, they may take some time to download. If you have a restrictive data plan, download everything over Wi-Fi.
By tapping the wizard icon in the bottom left of your screen you can view your Ministry ID, change your name and select your Hogwarts house and wand (by registering it). Don’t fret too much about your house and wand choices — you can change those later and your choice doesn’t impact gameplay. (And if you don’t want to choose, you can get sorted into a house instead of choosing one.) You can also create your portrait and customize your look.
What’s on the map
The game’s map will feel familiar if you’ve played Pokemon Go or Ingress: It displays your real-life geographic location using your phone’s GPS and is littered with items and structures you interact with from the phone screen.
Items include Ingredients you can use to create potions. Some are common and others are rare, so if you’re a gatherer, you’ll need to manage your inventory so it doesn’t fill up. Items you find can vary depending on the weather and time of day. You can check current conditions by tapping the weather icon near the top on the right.
Structures include Inns, where you collect food to restore your spell energy; Greenhouses, where you can collect potion ingredients and accumulate energy to cast spells; and Fortresses, which require a Runestone to enter and where you work with up to four other players to dispel magical creatures and Death Eaters.
You can set up Dark Detectors in Inns, which act like lures in Pokemon Go to attract foundables.
The map also displays magical traces of the Calamity. These traces, which look a bit like a floating medallion, point to displaced items from elsewhere in the wizarding world and come in pairs: a Foundable — Harry Potter, say — and a Confoundable — a Dementor attacking Harry. (Part of your job is to dismiss the confoundable to return the foundable back to its proper time and location.)
To dismiss a Confoundable, align the two sets of stars on the screen to focus on your target and then cast a spell.
What about spells?
Spells play a large role in the game. You’ll spend a lot of time casting spells to overpower or dismiss the confounding magic you encounter and return the found object back to its proper place. You’ll also cast spells to gather food in an Inn, when you battle an enemy in a Fortress and when you come across dark wizards on the map.
To cast one, trace the hint that appears on your screen with your finger. The onscreen motions are not unlike the glyphs you trace in Ingress and can be a little tricky to learn and master because you are rewarded for your tracing speed and accuracy. The game can be a little judgy, and if your trace is not accurate enough, the game will tell you your spell is incomplete and you need to recast. You can cast both offensive and defensive spells.
How to make and use potions
As you walk around, you’ll come across potion-making ingredients on the map. Some ingredients just appear in distinct biomes, and others only spawn during different weather conditions. You can also find potion materials in Greenhouses.
Potions provide various benefits, such as healing you during a battle. Once you’ve gathered up enough ingredients, you can start brewing potions. Tap Potions in your Suitcase — it’s at the bottom of the screen where the game stores items you collect — to get to your Potions Bench and start brewing.
What you need to know about Portkeys
With a Portkey, you can travel to another location. To get a Portkey, look on the map for a triangular box — it’s call a Portkey Portmanteau — and collect it. These act like eggs in Pokemon Go, which in that game hatch into monster critters. Walk a specified distance — 2, 5 or 10 kilometers — to unlock the Portkey, which lets you travel to a different AR environment within the game to complete a task to earn magical items. Once completed, you’ll return back to where you started.
How to advance and gain a profession?
You level up by dismissing confoundables, doing challenges and completing tasks. When you hit level 6, you can choose a profession and train to become an Auror, Magizoologist or Professor, professions introduced in the Harry Potter books.
Each profession has its own role in the game and skill tree. You progress through your chosen profession and unlock abilities by earning tokens from encounters and completing challenges.
Aurors are focused on combat and excel at defending against the dark arts. Magizoologists handle magical beasts and assist teammates. Professors strike a balance between Auror and Magizoololgist professions and are solid at combat and teammate support.
What about currency?
Much like with Niantic’s Ingress and Pokemon Go, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is designed to play without paying or hitting microtransaction walls. You can, however, buy supplies by spending the gold you either earn from playing or by paying real cash.
Originally published June 20.
Update, June 21: Edited for clarity.