Back in March Niantic opened up pre-registration for its upcoming augmented reality game Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Overnight Niantic has launched beta access to the game in New Zealand. This way the developer can receive some constructive feedback as a small compact region puts the beta release of Wizards Unite through its paces.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite beta gameplay
If you don't happen to live in New Zealand, you're not going to be able to check out this beta through normal means. The APK has been leaked, and it is not region locked, which means you can sideload and boot the game just fine. Sadly once you make your way through the tutorial, no points of interest show up on the world map. So for anyone not in New Zealand, yes, the APK works, but only as a sneak peek of what to expect in the official release. I've recorded a gameplay video of what's currently available in the game for US residents who sideload the APK, which you can view above. My impression so far is that it looks and plays very similarly to Pokémon GO and Ingress, and of course you can expect a heavy use of the Harry Potter theme.
As you can see, there are no points of interest on the map in the US
The gameplay appears to revolve around collecting pictures of Harry Potter characters and items. Apparently, some type of calamity is infecting both the Muggle and Wizarding World, and it's up to you to search out magic on your local map to discover items called Foundables. The tutorial asks you to save a Foundable that appears as Hagrid trapped in a spider web. By lining up a pattern on the screen and then tapping, you can save Hagrid and add his picture to your Registry. The primary goal is to fill each Registry with the Foundables you've unlocked.
Hagrid and some of the other Registry items you'll need to collect
If you're eager to get your hands on this game and don't happen to live in New Zealand, you can pre-register for a release announcement on Niantic's website as well as on the Play Store. On top of this, if you happen to play Ingress or Pokémon GO, you can reserve your name so that you can use it in Wizards Unite.
Of course, I'm sure many are wondering how Wizards Unite is monetized, and sadly it's clear that there is a premium currency that you can purchase in the in-game store with real money. This means in-app purchases are indeed present, and they range up to $99.99 per item. Besides the numerous coin packs in the in-game store, you can also purchase what appears to be a bunch of potions and other tools that should ideally make the collection-based gameplay much easier for those that are willing to pay. A familiar formula for sure, though one I'm not very fond of since money takes precedence over skill.
There are four tabs in the in-game store, and most items have to be purchased with premium currency
Some may say Niantic is a one-trick pony, which seems to be a fair assessment with how similar all of its games are. I suppose it makes sense to slap yet another popular property on top of the successful augmented reality gameplay, though it sure would be nice if these experiences felt more tailored to their themes, instead of copies of one another with different skins. I have no doubt Niantic will find success with the eventual worldwide release of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, but I still can't shake the feeling that I've been there and done that when I played through the short demo. I genuinely hope there is much more to discover once more regions gain access, but really, it's difficult to feel enthused about yet another AR collection game filled with in-app purchases.
- Niantic Labs
The beta is now live in Australia and New Zealand
Niantic has announced that the Harry Potter: Wizards Unite beta is now available in Australia as well as New Zealand. Back in mid-April Niantic opened beta access to its New Zealand fans in order to receive constructive feedback from its player base, all so the studio can better balance the game before its official release. Well, it would appear that the small testing region of New Zealand has been expanded to all of Australia, so if you happen to live in the land down under, you can now grab the download of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite directly from the Play Store.
- Niantic Labs