Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter represents developer, Frogwares eighth venture into the somewhat dark and seedy underworld of Victorian London with the world’s most revered Detective and his trusty associate Watson. Since the introduction of Mystery of the Mummy some fourteen years ago, Frogwares Sherlock Holmes series has steadily evolved, progressing with each installment, more often than not besting its predecessor. With newly introduced features and gameplay mechanics to toy with, the series has become as enjoyable and compelling as the very investigations that line its foundations. The Devil’s Daughter is further proof of progression with the series.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4 [Reviewed]
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Release Date: 10 June 2016
Price: £44.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer]
Baker Street’s often charming and mildly charismatic sleuth’s latest outing opens with a notion TV Show fans across the globe have become largely accustomed to of late. The opening moments, filled with drama and suspense instantly have me on the hook, eager to know more before said scene abruptly ends with the game reverting back to the hours and minutes leading up to the event in question, it might be slightly cliche but it works incredibly well. It’s setting, the beautifully snow covered forests of Epping, Essex with Holmes in grave danger, sidestepping the bullets of a lone gunman. Of the five cases open to players throughout The Devil’s Daughter the first one is simple yet well delivered.
As with Crime and Punishment before it, the option to take control of not only Holmes but of other fellow characters makes a return. The opening case, one in which the eagle-eyed Detective must delve deep to uncover the truth behind a young boy’s missing Father showcases that very feature well. From sneaking through the cobblestone streets and up a rather tight chimney as Holmes regular dogs body, Wiggins to Toby, the faithful mutt with a keen sense of smell who can also be controlled as he follows the trail of freshly soaked oil from the distraught boys apartment out into the streets in search of a priceless clue. The option to take over and switch between each characters, although often a forced feature is certainly an interesting one and helps to make The Devil’s Daughter a more well-rounded experience.
As a character, Sherlock has been revamped with a younger and more refreshing look, a perfect combination of Elementary’s Johnny Lee Miller combined with the humour and wit of Robert Downey Jr. A fresh-faced Holmes is a much welcome sight as is the addition of a wardrobe change. Different cases call for a change of clothes, the chance to blend in with his surroundings without drawing attention or alerting criminals to his presence. A priest’s outfit used to outmanoeuvre and outwit an unforthcoming woman of faith then there is sports attire, fitting clothing for a grass bowls tournament at a swanky private club. With makeup and a costume change, this feels more like a Sherlock Holmes game, changing one’s appearance to gain entry into parts of the game the young Detective wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
There are five cases in total to work through, each one pushing the game forward with perfectly drawn out investigations with multiple avenues which lead Holmes all over the historic City from Scotland Yard to leery Tavern’s full of drunkards and gamblers. Each case presented to the famed Detective, of course, requires the utmost attention, a keen eye for connecting the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together to reach the right conclusion. A single case could be completed in less than half an hour, however, rushing to throw the first lowly miscreant you happen to come across in jail will more often than not leave you fingering the wrong perp. Cases are unique and intricately designed, perfectly weighted to lead Holmes to pull a number of different suspects to his deduction board.
Each clue discovered can only be combined with another clue that fits, this then presents players with a choice of which path to go with, the option to change opinion any time up until the cases conclusion exists and can be used when necessary. Once enough evidence is gathered players can decide, with all the right resources at their disposal, who to pin the blame on. Moral choices offer players the chance between scorning a criminal, punishing them to the very maximum or taking pity upon them before merely carting them off to the comfort of a sanitarium, oh the joy.
As for its location, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate showcased an open world set in Victorian era London. Walking through its soaked, murky street’s, learning of its history were a major selling point, Syndicate possessed a certain air of panache about it a real charm. I would have dearly loved to have seen Frogwares take that very same line with The Devil’s Daughter but traversing throughout London sadly feels far too linear. The atmosphere is right, the at times dreary tone fits the setting well. This was a time where different classes could be spotted a mile off. The poor – desperate and rummaging the miserable streets and alleyways, often stealing from others to earn a few coins to buy bread or drugs, this is all portrayed well but the lack of free roam continues to hold what remains an undeniably wonderful series back. Remove the shackles that pull us in the right direction, allow us to walk freely around London, at least a small part of it without feeling as if we’re a mere puppet dangling from a string.
Of the new features introduced into The Devil’s Daughter, the ability to visualise select sequences in order to determine how an event took place are a real great addition. These opportunities only appear once in a case but they require patience and a lot of correcting to master. Concocting a way to get the sequence to play out in the correct order takes a certain amount of reassessing before all the pieces can eventually fall into place. A fine example of this would be Holmes need to move a bouncer away from a guarded door he require entry into. Causing a diversion, a distraction by disturbing a busy poker game, pushing and pulling the cogs to perfect the sequence to then move forward and on with the story. More of these moments would have made the game more enjoyable but they are few and far between.
Another element to feature heavily throughout The Devil’s Daughter are its action sequences, not entirely a new feature to the series but a far more prominent one here. For the small part, they serve as enjoyable distractions, however, some can feel dragged out and slow the pace of the game down. The action sequences do however prove that investigative games can offer more than simply drifting between locations collecting evidence before selecting a guilty party. Stealthily shifting between the rubble and broken brick walls around the outskirts of a large building to avoid patrolling heavies had its appeal as did other moments. A fight breaks out in a bar full of motley individuals leading Holmes to use quick thinking to avoid a bullet to the chest, a particular favourite of mine in part down to the use of various objects scattered around the speakeasy. Kicking a bar stool onto its side to trip a drunken oncoming criminal before pushing an enemy into another before tossing a bowler hat in the direction of a barman who happens to be pointing a rifle directly at the protagonist, another pleasing moment.
In my opinion the best title in the series to date, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter is a nice step in the right direction for Frogwares and the popular investigative series in general. Its graphics fit nicely with the current generation console even if its action sequences sometimes flatter to deceive. I still feel as if there is potential yet to be unlocked with the series and would yearn for an open world game where I could immerse myself further in such an interesting time and place. With each foray into the life of the world-renowned sleuth, the progression is clear to see. New features introduced all add a little something to what is always a perfectly balanced game. Each investigation is perfectly executed with enough twists and turns to keep players on their toes. While it’s not a perfect game by any means, it serves as a great addition to the series and my favourite to date.