Perhaps I’m speaking about myself when I say this, but I feel like we often overlook games that aren’t triple-A titles when we’re on the lookout for our next great adventure or story. There’s a lot of buzz around the next Battlefield or Mass Effect, but never any word about lesser-known games. For this reason I was interested in trying my hand at what I discovered was the eighth instalment in the Sherlock Holmes video game franchise, in the hopes of stumbling across my newest gaming gem.
Having gone through the ten-hour campaign, I think I’ve found what I’m after.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter, as its title suggests, puts you into the shoes of the great detective as you work through to solve five main mysteries. The first four revolve around whodunit murder cases while the fifth surrounds the arrival of your adopted daughter Kate and your new neighbour Alice. Avoiding spoilers, the outcome of each case do not affect your progression throughout the game, though your decisions do impact your dialogue options in the final act.
When it comes to the actual gameplay in Sherlock Holmes, the similarities between this title and L.A. Noire are uncanny. Except for the fact there’s no driving (mostly because cars didn’t exist yet), no gunplay and — most importantly — no bottle turning. Similarities ensure when visiting multiple locations, speaking with witnesses and key contacts and finding evidence to hopefully come to the right conclusion as to who’s responsible. Where in L.A. Noire had you paying attention to facial expressions to determine the truth or lies, Sherlock Holmes allows you to perform character profiles and use previously found clues to question when people are potentially lying. Doing so correctly allows you to potentially find more clues that assist with your case analysis.
Further to the above, the game also combines an intuition-like feature that highlights smaller or hidden details that are otherwise overlooked, and an imagination-esque ability where you recreate past or future scenarios and then watch them unfold in the crime-scene around you. It’s these elements here that the game comes into its own and the crime-solving becomes most enjoyable. It’s simple but never to the point that it feels unrewarding or satisfying, all while being narrated by Sherlock Holmes himself so you feel like you’re in the story.
Where Sherlock Holmes unfortunately falls a little flat is with every other aspect of the game. As I mentioned above, there is no driving mechanic and no combat in The Devil’s Daughter, so in its place developers Frogwares grants you the ability to perform every other aspect of crime-solving, sadly, in the most mundane of ways. You’ve intercepted a letter that gives you further information into the case? Spend some time putting a kettle on a Bunsen burner so the steam softens the adhesive. Collected a blood sample for analysis? Spend some time literally placing dots of solution before checking the sample under a microscope. Oh, and don’t be fooled – these actions aren’t even performed in an innovative way. You just move the cursor over the item, click a button and repeat. Sherlock Holmes becomes a point-and-click adventure half of the time. There is one time where you’ll need to save citizens involved in a major accident and it boils down to a ‘press the right button at the right time’ quick-time event. Joy.
While none of this is ever an experience-ruining problem, it does detract from a feature of the game that The Devil’s Daughter does otherwise well. Fortunately you can skip a lot of these sequences, as you can almost every puzzle or challenge in the game. It feels a little cheap, but at least you’re not forced to pull your hair or remain stuck on a section of the game so you can’t progress forward. Then again, with only a ten-hour campaign perhaps it’s best to fail a few times and use trial-and-error to get your money’s worth.
Sherlock Holmes The Devil’s Daughter isn’t genre-defining, but is it fun? Absolutely. The game isn’t without its issues, the load times are borderline ridiculous at times and there’s no tutorial so you’ll spend most of the first act scratching your head in confusion. All non-crime solving elements are mind-numbingly boring, but the game overall fills a niche in the gaming world that we don’t see done nearly enough in most games. When you’re bored doing laps on a circuit or shooting foes on the battlefield, take some time out and pick up The Devil’s Daughter. As a crime-solver, it does alright.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter was reviewed using a promotional copy of the game on Xbox One, as provided by the publisher.
Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter