Pottermore Beta Review: Early Thoughts on J.K. Rowling’s Interactive Experience

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NOTE: You can listen to an audio narration of an entire Pottermore journey at the end of the article and keep track of current house stats!  Click to jump to house statistics…

The days of the magical quill challenge seem like a century away.  [easyazon-link asin=”0545162076″]Harry Potter[/easyazon-link] fans like myself have finally been provided the opportunity to explore the universe of the books deeper than ever before thanks to a golden ticket – I mean welcome email.  I have to admit that I have postponed this review by a week due to being so submerged in Pottermore.  Does this mean that J.K. Rowling has delivered and given the ultimate encyclopedia of the Potter books?  Has she provided the kind of immersion we only experience in our wildest dreams and intricate imaginations?  The answer to this question is not an easy one I am afraid…so allow me to describe what awaits you once you are past the entrance gates of Pottermore.

For a beta product – Pottermore has an impressive amount of polish to it.  The linear path from Privet Drive and to Harry’s battle with Professor Quirrell is presented on an easy to follow map known as the “Gateway.”  Of course further progress through the series will be opened within the years to come and each of the 7 books will be open to exploration.  Atop each screen or scene there is also a banner that allows you to quickly jump to the following:

  • An owl perched above that notifies you when you receive friend requests or Wizard Duel challenges.
  • A mysterious locked button which cannot be accessed even after completing the story.  Many believe this will be a link to the Pottermore e-book store which will be opened in October.
  • The Diagon Alley mall selling any school supply or magical ingredient you may need.  You also obtain your avatar here by choosing between a cat, owl, or toad.
  • A page dedicated to your Gringotts vault that stores all your galleons.
  • The Great Hall which displays the current number of Hogwarts students along with house membership statistics and leaders.
  • The Common Room which contains links to a description of your house common room and comments from your other house members.
  • Spells you can practice and use in Wizard Duels – I’ll go into details about spell casting later in the review.
  • Your trunk that stores any items you find along your journey such as story items or Chocolate Frog Cards.
  • A friends list that allows you to send gifts or issue Wizard Duel challenges.
  • A tab that contains all your favorited places, people, chapters, etc.
Credit: Pottermore Press Room

Each chapter is made up of three to four scenes in which you progress through that contain tidbits from the stories or entries sharing J.K. Rowling’s personal thoughts.  The scenes can best be described as living paintings.  Each tableau has three layers which one can zoom in and out of to get a better look at the details.  I must say that the art direction of these is immaculate and much more authentic than the [easyazon-link asin=”B004LRPCQK”]Harry Potter movies[/easyazon-link] themselves.  J.K. Rowling’s loving hand can definitely be seen here.

The detail begins to fall short past the gorgeous paintings.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a longwinded entry from the kooky wandmaker Ollivander about wand wood magical properties – apparently I had to win the allegiance of my Acacia wood phoenix feather core wand because of its peculiar temperament.  There are also a couple character bios that provide intriguing insight from Rowling about characters’ past flames, Hogwarts house memberships, and career history.  I definitely recommend taking a peek at the Minerva McGonagall and Professor Quirrell entries.  You will soon speed through these enticing entries and uncover mostly story summaries.

The minigames offered up by the beta are also a little on the shallow side.  Spell casting is a matter of hitting keyboard keys in a certain sequence with the correct timing and once done simply cast the spell offscreen with no animations of the spell at all.  At the moment there are certain spells (I will not disclose which) that are currently the only viable ones to use in Wizard Duel and casting any others prove simply fruitless.  Potion brewing is quite a hit and miss affair too.  I appreciate that they decided against instant gratification and made patience a crucial factor – 1 hour to brew a potion pushes it to the max.  Instructions have a fair amount of difficulty – not too hard and not too easy – but I did not appreciate the lag between selecting certain ingredients.

Credit: Pottermore Press Room

Alright lets back off the beta quirks and focus on what is really working.  The sorting hat is a cool feature of the beta and while I do find it flawed (Update: read our new article Pottermore Sorting Hat Questions Analyzed) – the quiz is unlike any other I have ever seen.  I was sorted in Hufflepuff and it took me quite awhile to look back and possibly infer which answers lead to which house.  Do not assume that trying to press the back button once you get your result will allow you to retake the quiz either.  As Rowling states in the video that rolls before the test “its decision is final” and there is no going back (unless signing up for a new account in October I assume).

Two other well executed features of the beta are the ability to replay previously explored scenes and keeping track of friends.  I am glad that Pottermore decided against a one-shot deal and allows you to return to any chapter of your choosing regardless of where you currently are in the story.  This will promote the longevity of the project and encourage re-reads as the team adds more behind-the-scenes content to older chapters.  The friends list is done nicely too and you can assign nicknames to your Pottermates easily.  User-to-user communication is sorely missed but at least nearly every entry has a comments section in which you can bandy about opinions with other users on the content in front of you.

For now Pottermore comes close to the ultimate experience we are craving but does not exactly hit the mark just yet.  Remember as of this moment its still in beta and more content is surely on the way…

[xrr label=”The Pottermore Beta is rated” rating=3.5/5]

HOGWARTS HOUSE STATISTICS (207,654 members)

House

Students

Popularity*

Gryffindor 51,862 members 3
Ravenclaw 52,231 members 2
Hufflepuff 52,322 members 1
Slytherin 51,239 members 4

* Notes:

  • Statistics taken from Pottermore Great Hall as-is.
  • Chart updated every 2-4 days – everytime the chart is updated we will send a tweet from @dragonbloggers.
  • Popularity on this chart indicates which house is currently in the lead of house members – a rating of 1 indicates the most while a rating of 4 indicates the least.

Listen to our entire Pottermore journey on this article: Pottermore Welcome Email Has ARRIVED: The Full Scoop

Mitra Faridian

Mitra Faridian

Mitra Faridian first joined the site in 2011 under the handle “Persian Poetess.” Her gaming and entertainment taste is very eclectic and she’s always open to a fun new virtual adverture. Email her at the following address: mitra [at] dragonblogger.com
Mitra Faridian
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