Sherlock Holmes The Devil’s Daughter Review – The Curious Incident of Mediocre Design
Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes returns. Cue half-enthusiastic fanfare.
I had heard quite a bit about Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes titles, aided by the above average critical acclaim for Crimes and Punishments in 2014. A Holmes game done right? Was such a task even possible? Then again, if a TV show could be done properly, that too in the modern era, it seemed plausible. It also helped that Frogwares’ series was seeing an upwards trajectory once BBC’s show began to flounder. Again though, I was coming into the series with a clean slate with Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter. What delightfully devious plots did it have to offer?
"To Frogwares’ credit, solving each puzzle and gathering clues is what makes the game the most fun. If a particular puzzle is too difficult, you’re afforded the option of skipping it."
First it’s important to note exactly how the story plays out. Rather than a large over-arching story, Holmes explores several different cases – which all feed into each other en route to the climax – and discovers suspects. Baker Street and London in general is crafted with eloquent detail and it’s easy to find Holmes and Watson as endearing characters. You’ll still see much of the same eagle-eyed observation and logical deduction that made Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective a massive hit combined with a healthy bit of swagger and arrogance. It’s kind of fun when you first start out.
Another positive about The Devil’s Daughter is how much emphasis is placed on actual detective work. Having not played the previous game, it was interesting to roam about, collecting evidence and linking clues together. One particularly interesting mechanic was the ability to observe minute details on characters during conversations, allowing even more clues to be unearthed. The logical connection of all these clues within Holmes’ mind presents its fair share of suspects.
And like Crimes and Punishments, there are a number of different conclusions you can come to. Some might be correct while others could very well lead you to the wrong suspect. There’s a fair amount of fact-checking that has to be done to ensure justice is done.
To Frogwares’ credit, solving each puzzle and gathering clues is what makes the game the most fun. If a particular puzzle is too difficult, you’re afforded the option of skipping it. You can also explore London for the first time in the series but there wasn’t really much on offer gameplay-wise aside from taking in the overall ambience of the Victorian era. That being said, the locations where your cases take place look very good and highlight the game’s attention to detail. Scouring these areas for clues is fun, especially as the puzzles begin to ramp up in difficulty.
"It’s odd and mixed with the rest of the game, it feels unnecessary. Of course these action sequences can be skipped but that’s not a solution for bad design."
And that’s pretty much where the positives end with Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter.
For the life of me, I’ll never understand how a game that’s all about puzzle solving, adventure and morally complex dilemmas would ever need to imbue so much action into its proceedings. Sure, you could throw something unique in every once in a while as long as it makes sense and doesn’t prove too janky for the player. Unfortunately, a majority of Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter concentrates on QTE sequences, a tailing mission, running through the woods and hiding, and other such odd sequences that feel so out of place with the rest of the game.
For instance, the tailing mission sees you playing as Wiggins, a street urchin under the employ of Holmes who is charged with following a suspect, taking caution and avoiding notice. The entire ordeal takes place from the third person perspective and movement is anything but fluid. Problems with movement further manifest when you’re running through a temple and switching between Holmes and Watson to solve puzzles. It’s odd and mixed with the rest of the game, it feels unnecessary. Of course these action sequences can be skipped but that’s not a solution for bad design.
I had heard that Crimes and Punishments implemented a good number of these sequences but ultimately let the cases do the talking. The cases in The Devil’s Daughter are…alright. When your biggest exposure to Sherlock Holmes has been through the originally published stories, they aren’t exactly the crème of the crop. They’re especially lackluster compared to the best that the adventuring genre has to offer. For the life of me, I can’t understand why Frogwares wouldn’t play to its strengths and open up these cases to be something so much more rather than padding them out with ridiculous sequences and QTEs. The overall story itself is only let down further by the boring ending.
"This isn’t Holmes’ greatest adventure till date and hopefully like season 3 of the BBC’s modern reboot, it’s only a minor setback in the grand scheme of things."
If that weren’t enough, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter looks good but nothing here that should really weigh on your system. Weigh it does though with some frame rate hiccups and some annoying screen-tearing. It also doesn’t help that you’ll be doing most of your travelling from location to location with fast travel and the loading times can be annoyingly long at times. Major glitches are absent but you’d expect better performance than this, especially given the number of Sherlock Holmes titles that Frogwares has already developed.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter has its plus points. It puts you in the mind, quite literally, of the greatest detective of all time and invites you to experience his world without filters. It wants you, the player, to gather and connect all these clues. Missing out on anything vital could hamper your overall investigation and at the end, what you choose may not necessarily be the best possible decision for your conscious.
London looks great and despite some imminently limited side character depictions, Holmes and Watson are least at compelling leads. It’s just mind-boggling that such a formula would be hampered by all these annoying “action” pieces in an attempt to inject variety when the writing behind the cases and overall story is so ham-fisted as a whole. This isn’t Holmes’ greatest adventure till date and hopefully like season 3 of the BBC’s modern reboot, it’s only a minor setback in the grand scheme of things.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
London is captured in great detail. Investigating cases, solving puzzles and piecing together clues can be fun. Intriguing investigative skills during conversations provides some freshness. Holmes and Watson are still fun characters.
Half-hearted at best, terrible at worst set pieces and sequences with wonky controls that occupy much of the game. Annoying detraction away from investigating ruins pacing. Case design and stories aren't all that great and conclusion is unsatisfying as a whole. Screen-tearing and frame rate issues.
This is far from Frogwares' worst effort till date but Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter is far from the detective's greatest adventure yet.
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