Okay, maybe you’re mind went to a bad place with that title, but it’s not what you’re thinking. Pottermore, the interactive Harry Potter website is finally up and running, waiting for all us Potter-philes to register. I’m not sure how long it’s been active (less than a month, I remember checking around April first and it was still not ready), but it was originally suppose to go live waaaay back in October. So now that I’ve registered and completed Chapter One, was it worth the wait?
Eh, maybe. It’s still a little buggy and there are times the window freezes and I have to refresh to get going again. It’s also fairly predicable to complete each chapter and find the “hidden” goodies. The real treat, what makes it worthwhile to register, is the promised new content. This is the reason I was so anxious, for more of a glimpse into one of my favorite realms. But let’s not get too far ahead. Let’s start at the beginning, Chapter One – Privet Drive.
This is where you begin. Once you’ve registered and been assigned a name (that’s right you can’t choose your own, you have to pick from a list) the “experience” begins at Number 4 Privet Drive. The picture doesn’t really do it justice. There’s nice music and animations like the cat wagging its tail and the wiper flipping on the car’s windshield. You’ll notice on the side that there’s a “Read More” icon. Clicking that opens a separate window which gives you info about a particular event, object, character, etc. There are unique icons for each category to help you explore what you’re interested in more easily. The feather symbol represents exclusive content that must be unlocked by performing a certain interaction – usually clicking something special.
This is a little peek at what the entries look like. I edited out the text to avoid any unintentional spoilers for people who may be interested in reading it themselves. Not every entry is as in depth as the one above, but Minerva’s story has become one of my favorites so far. You even have the option of saving your favorites so you have easy access to them at any time.
Once you’ve completed the first few chapters, things get more interesting. This is Diagon Alley – the place you can buy goodies with the galleons you uncover throughout the game. And, more importantly, this is where you get your wand. After completing the numbing task of buying your school supplies, you can head to Ollivander’s Shop where you answer a series of questions to find a wand. Or rather, have one find you.
This is my wand, copied from my profile page. As you can see, it’s Cedar, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy with a unicorn hair core. There are notes you’ll uncover in that same chapter that give explanations on the Core, Length & Flexibility, and Wood based on your personality. Quite interesting, though it’s got broad, vague characteristics like a zodiac chart so it applies to most anyone despite your answers. Now that you have a wand, you can start performing magic. There are two ways to do this: Spells and Potions.
Potions are the first thing you’ll learn. It can be a bit of a chore getting things right within the time limit, but with practice – and the right ingredients – it’s rather fun. Casting spells, to me, are less so. These are primarily used to duel other members to gain House Points but are a RPITA to perform. Rather than wave the wand, you have to type out letters of the spell within certain time limits to cast it. For example:
To cast Pretrificus Totalus, you hit “P.” While the Circle is blinking hit the key again and a trail appears leading to the next letter – “T.” You have to time the letter hitting exactly so that your path to letters looks like the shape next to the spell. Easier maybe for someone a little more PC gamer savvy, but for someone like me, less so.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself, though. Before you start learning magic, you first need to be sorted into your house. This is done, again, by answering a few different questions. Given your honesty (and not purposefully choosing answers to sway the Sorting Hat) you’ll be placed in a house that fits your personality. Most everyone is going to want Gryffindor or Slytherin, but I was curious where my answers would lead me. Can you guess?
Yep, Hufflepuff. And despite, what most of you are thinking, I’m actually quite happy with the Sorting Hat’s choice. I was hoping for them or Ravenclaw as my house, if for nothing more than to be different. The welcome message and notes from JK about Hufflepuff and their house are all new info to me. There’s very little in the books about them, and Harry never visits there like he does the other three houses. The description of their common room reminds me a bit of the Hobbit’s village with round doors and such.
So now that you have a house, you can start accruing House Points. Dueling, making potions, even something small like finding galleons and Chocolate Frog cards earn them. You can check out how you and your house are fairing against the others in the Great Hall whenever you like.
As you can see, Hufflepuff is currently in last place, but we have the second highest points earner on our side, so that could change.
So final thoughts… I’m not as impressed as I had hoped, but I’ve only finished one book so far. I’m enjoying the new, exclusive content the most – it’s really expanding on some of the second and third tier characters as well as deepening the history and universe of Harry Potter. I recommend signing up for an account, even it’s just to read the never-released stuff. Hardcore fans will love it, but the not-so-hardcore may be a little bored after a while. Exploration of the pages is a bit one-note, but the art of every page is gorgeous.
In fact, I’ll leave you with a few of those images while you mull over your decision to join or not. Enjoy!