This was always a franchise I wanted to explore, however I left it until late 2014 before I would actually step into the shoes of the legendary sleuth. Crimes & Punishment was a terrific game full of rich narrative that hooked me from the start, not to mention it was one of my first reviews for Invision, so I feel the man holds a special place in my heart. With that I had huge expectations for its successor, and why with a subtitle of “The Devil’s Daughter” it certainly sounds like an intriguing tale of dark sorcery and murder. This latest dive into the life of London’s most famous detective expands on everything set by its predecessor by making it bigger, darker and ambitious(er) and much like what came before it, I was sucked into the story from beginning to end.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter is the latest game in the highly successful franchise brought to life by BigBen and frogwares. Not directly following the narrative of the previous title, The Devil’s Daughter is another original narrative that flows directly beneath a collection of brand new cases to solve. The game begins with Holmes running through a dark forest with a barrage of shouting and gunshots not too far behind him, which then fades to black once the man himself his shot. We then set the scene a few days earlier as the game’s first case, “Prey Tell” opens, as well as introducing the player to the titles key supporting characters, the mysterious new neighbour Alice and Kate, Sherlock Holmes’ daughter. Once again there are various conclusions to make across each of the 6 cases that will test your ability to deduct evidence and piece it together to make the most conclusive decision, you will be tested too in finding every bit of evidence scattered around each crime scene and during each conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed the last game and I really hoped that this latest entry grabbed me in the same way, well you didn’t need the great man himself to work out exactly what I thought of it as this tale expanded on everything great from before, well for the most part anyway.
Each case you’re tasked with solving is disturbing, highly intricate and packed full of rich storytelling, so if you’re a fan of grisly tales of murder and plotting then you’ll find what you’re after from the words “Start Game”. Each case too is vastly different to each other, and indeed to what you played a few years ago, so the studio has done incredibly well to write a dozen really solid tales of homicide and conspiracy over the past couple of years. As you’d expect, puzzles play a large part in the Sherlock Holmes games and in this particular entry they are difficult, but not enough to hinder your progression or get you in too much of a flap; the handy ‘skip’ option is also available for those that are desperate to get to the conclusion of the story. Some of the puzzles are a little lacking in instruction so you may find yourself staring at the screen for a few minutes before you realise what it is you’ve actually got to do. To add a bit of variety into each story, every case has a number of scenes that step away from the point and click gameplay, which though appreciated with trying something new, almost all of these new elements grind the drama to a halt and are ultimately very boring and tedious. For example, after a strong finish of the first case, the 2nd one opens with a devilishly difficult game of boules and finishes with a set of trials that seem even too ambiguous and tricky for Lara Croft. It’s refreshing to know that a developer is seeking new ways to tell a story opposed to sticking with the same model and trying to convince you why you haven’t played this game before, but sometimes it backfires and in this case seems out of place and ruins the dramatic tension. The most surprising addition to the franchise that does work to some large degree is their recreation of London town by making it relatively open world. Sherlock Holmes vets will just be used to selecting a location from the map and taking a cab, but why do that when you can take in the sights and walk there yourself. Traverse through the dark, narrow streets of the capital to find your next location, which though amazing to see this amount of dedication, it is much easier, and a lot quicker, to just fast travel there yourself. The streets aren’t as lively as you’d hope for and each background character is confined to repeating the same line each time you walk past them. There is perhaps only a dozen or so models filling the space at one time, but nevertheless this is a great progression for the series, so I have nothing but praise for even the inclusion of it.
If game is to feature iconic characters with rich history such as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, as long as the narrative is top notch then who am I to comment on its visuals and presentation. Graphically The Devil’s Daughter is an advancement from Crimes and Punishment, and whereas it’s not pushing the limits of your console or PC, it still looks pretty darn lovely. Each location you visit is rich in colour and packed full of little details, and though it doesn’t look as sharp as I’d expect it to be, given the tenure of this current generation of console, it isn’t half bad; Sherlock Holmes too looks very much like John Hamm in this latest game. The voice cast has changed rather dramatically, particularly Sherlock’s voice which has been re-casted, but each character is wonderfully brought to life by convincing voice work, delivery and overall performance, something which is difficult to do in this genre (you only need to play The ABC Murders to understand my point).
Overall Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter is a dark and disturbing tale nicely concealed by an excellent collection of fresh original cases to really get stuck into. Frogwares has been adventurous by doing all they can to expand on their last entry in the series and in some regards it pays off, the inclusion of an open world for example is a staggering effort, whereas in trying to add something really unusual in each mission causes it to fall flat and hinder the dramatic tension dead. Visually it’s by no means the most impressive looking game, but you can appreciate that it’s the best they can offer, and that shouldn’t even be an issue when their storytelling is incredibly well executed. I only wish that The Devil’s Daughter featured a few more cases as I simply couldn’t get enough of them, so perhaps with this open world they now have we could see DLC packs to expand the story, take us to new locations or failing that, a new game in a year or 2 wouldn’t be all that bad either.