I’m barely an hour into Sherlock Holmes‘ first case in The Devil’s Daughter – “Prey Tell” – in which Holmes is tasked with finding a young boy named Tom’s missing father. I’m starting to wonder whether this is a Sherlock Holmes game or a Victorian-themed Inspector Gadget.
Though Holmes eventually gets all the credit for solving the case, it seemed to me that it was the hard work of a child and a dog that made most of the major breakthroughs, which doesn’t really say much for the greatest detective of all time. First, Holmes sends a street urchin to follow a suspicious character who nearly suffocates in a chimney stack mid-chase, such are the ludicrous presumed perils of Victorian England. Then, Holmes instructs his faithful hound, Toby, to sniff out the last known whereabouts of the missing man rather than just do it himself. After this, he finally put all the pieces together…and completely cocked up the case.
Okay, so maybe “my” version of Sherlock Holmes is more akin to Inspector Gadget. There wasn’t a single time I had to interrogate or profile another character, or make a snap decision, that I didn’t bungle in some way. It hurts to say it, but I am not the world’s greatest detective.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter offers a number of different playstyles, mini games, and different playable characters, as well as a good dose of sleuthing from Sherlock and Watson. Though it could easily have been a disaster, Frogwares have managed to meld all of these disparate parts together to form an engaging and highly enjoyable adventure that retains the feel of Conan Doyle’s classic tales while successfully presenting their own interesting take on the character.
Devil’s Daughter the eleventh Sherlock title in the long-running game series that barely anyone can be convinced to give a crap about, and the eighth installment with Frogwares at the helm. This particular title features a younger and more reckless incarnation of Holmes than seen in previous titles, which we all kind of knew they would do eventually. Early on in the game, we are introduced to Holmes’ daughter Kate (yes, I know) who has come to stay, along with his mysterious new neighbour Alice De Bouvier. As you progress through each of the game’s five cases, you slowly get to learn more about the pair as the mystery of Kate’s true parentage and Alice’s motives for moving to Baker Street are revealed. Each of the game’s five chapters feature wonderfully-macabre tales of murder and foul play with a tinge of the fantastic, featuring corrupt lords, Mayan curses, and even Sherlock’s own celebrity.
The Devil’s Daughter is also home to some of the best writing in the series to date. It creates a Holmes who is curmudgeonly yet likeable, and a Watson that is best described as long-suffering yet incredibly loyal. In between all the murder and intrigue, the game also has some great moments of repose, and Sherlock shares some genuinely touching moments with his “daughter.” Along with Holmes’ rapier wit (and Watson’s, for that matter) there are also some genuinely funny scenes, such as Holmes faking an exorcism to scare an old woman.
In a similar manner to how Arkham Asylum successfully made players feel like Batman, The Devil’s Daughter does a wonderful job of making you feel like the world’s first greatest detective. These versions of the characters sit somewhere between Conan Doyle’s original short stories and recent TV offerings like Sherlock and Elementary.
Each case plays out in much the same way as previous games (and the books for that matter), with clients coming to Baker Street, and with Sherlock profiling them before agreeing to take the case. Profiling plays out in a similar visual manner to the TV series, in which the camera zooms in first person as Sherlock studies every minute detail on their immediate person while making judgements based on what he sees. This isn’t just a case of finding all the things though, as you also have to correctly infer what some of these small details mean. Accurately profiling a character can unlock additional clues which open additional lines of questioning, or support deductions that will help you to solve the case.
Sherlock then follows leads to various locations throughout Victorian London, utilizing his renowned powers of deduction and reasoning to uncover more clues, by interviewing suspects, performing autopsies and forensic experiments, as well as plunging into his archives for some good old fashioned research. As well as being able to interact with object in the environment, Sherlock can also use his powers of intuition by pressing L1 to reveal obscured objects and small details that most would usually miss. He can also use his imagination to infer the locations of certain missing items or piece together and replay a sequences of events with clues found at the scene.
Occasionally the game will toss in a random QTE sequence, like using the left and right sticks to try and balance on a beam to traverse scaffolding precariously placed across a street while following a suspicious character from the roof tops, or eavesdropping on conversations in a pub to help generate a lead. These sections feel like an annoying inconvenience more than anything, but are outweighed by the Devil’s Daughter’s more inventive set-pieces, like Holmes’ using his imagination to plunder a Mayan Tomb.
The end goal of each case is to collect enough evidence and clues to create deductions. However, you can come to several different conclusions based upon the information you have collected throughout the case. This final conclusion, which finally reveals who you believe to be the culprit, in turn leads to a moral choice. This new element is an attempt to create a more branching narrative, but the “echoes” created by your choices just alter the contents of a few text files. That said, your actions do have minor repercussions in subsequent chapters, with characters reacting to your presence in different ways depending on ho you handled previous cases.
The pacing of Devil’s Daughter has improved greatly from previous entries in the series, in particular Crimes and Punishments, which suffered greatly from being too plodding and linear. Though The Devil’s Daughter does still stick to the case-by-case formula of previous instalments, it also successfully weaves an overarching plot line throughout each of the chapters that doesn’t feel surplus to requirements, creating a slowly evolving mystery that hooked me in from beginning to end. I wanted to unravel the mystery surrounding Holmes and his adopted daughter just as much as I wanted to solve each case. Maybe even more so.
Whether tailing a shady character across the rooftops of Whitechapel as Wiggins the street urchin, escaping from an armed maniac in Epping Forest, or circumventing a series of deadly traps in a Mayan Temple, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter doesn’t let up for a moment, gleefully switching up the gameplay at drop of a deerstalker in order to better serve the game’s narrative. Though some sequences are more successful than others, and the moral choice system doesn’t add anything substantial, the tighter writing, superb performances from the principal cast and intriguing larger narrative make the Devil’s Daughter the best game in Frogwares’ series to date.
Sherlock Holmes: the Devil’s Daughter was reviewed on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher
Developer: Frogwares | Publisher: Big Ben Interactive | Genre: Adventure | Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One | PEGI/ESRB: 16+/T | Release Date: June 10, 2016