Believe it or not, there have been 10 Sherlock Holmes games created by Frogwares. Their newest adventure, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter, makes it a clean 11. The series has picked up steam recently and The Devil’s Daughter was poised to be one of its most popular releases yet. Despite its gain in attention, the series has contained some noticeable technical issues, as well as problems establishing an overarching narrative from case to case. Alongside some proposed fixes to these issues, The Devil’s Daughter brings about an altered character profiling system and five new cases in hopes of propelling the series forward.
While its investigation system has always been at the forefront of the series, there has been a severe lack in action from scene to scene. While this has never felt like a glaring omission, it seems to be something Frogwares focused on heavily in Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter. From the beginning of the game you are thrust into a cutscene involving Mr. Holmes sprinting away from people as bullets whiz by his head. You later take part in this sequence personally, having to dart in between cover and do your best to keep Sherlock from being brutally shot.
This sort of action sequence is prevalent throughout Devil’s Daughter, and its clumsy execution rivals the equally annoying movement you are forced to partake in. When you are sleuthing around different environments, examining items and such, the slow movement feels appropriate. But when that is jammed into a sequence that is supposed to be tense, it’s purely frustrating. These instances go beyond simply sprinting away and ducking between cover, they are also found in portions of the game that require you to follow people as well as complete a sequence of events in the right order, choosing between two options as the cutscene goes forward.
There’s a situation in the third case that has you in a bar fight where you must go step by step, making the exact decision the game wants of you. While the final result is satisfying, it feels like the definition of trial and error. It’s not like there is no room for interactions other than simple conversation and investigation in the Sherlock Holmes series; this is just not what the franchise needs going forward.
The new character observation system feels a bit like trial and error at times as well. In previous games, you would navigate your eyesight up and down the person you are conversing with in hopes of picking up different cues about their personality or backstory. You still do that, but instead of just finding everything, you will occasionally be given a choice between two options, the earliest example of this is someone with red eyes. You must observe her and determine if it is from conjunctivitis or if she has recently been weeping. It’s fairly tough to lock down these observations, but the actual negative of having an imprecise character portrait seems minimal.
Despite its stumbling new feature, the character observation remains a unique element in the game’s impressive deduction feature. It’s a ton of fun scanning one’s appearance and forming opinions about their backstory and placement in the case you are investigating, then using that same information in conversation. It’s a bit hard to fail, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.
Forming conclusions remains the same as it has in the past as you parse clues and combine them to form deductions. A lot of the time you will be given two choices, one implicating a certain suspect and one alluding to their innocence. It’s times like these when The Devil’s Daughter is the most enjoyable. Using your own opinion and observation skills to make the right choice of who to implicate. It creates this important feeling that no other game –sans LA Noire– has crafted, and delivers it to you throughout every separate story. At the end of the case, you are allowed to go back to your final deduction and change who you implicate in order to see the different reactions.
There are a couple of insignificant side cases along the way, but the majority of The Devil’s Daughter’s storytelling takes place within six main cases. While one falls flat, the rest are consistently enjoyable, lacing in some twists and turns along the way all the while leaving the player with enough control to feel important to the ending. The Devil’s Daughter begins with a showstopper as your first case concludes in a rather intense way, one that seems out of left field, but also satisfying once you finally figure out what the hell is happening. Frogwares has been crafting enjoyable Sherlock Holmes cases for years, and they continue to do so this time around.
Although the Sherlock Holmes series has never been a financial powerhouse, you would expect it to iron out consistent technical issues, but that is not the case. While there have been improvements made –less crashing being one– I still ran into visual hitches and save game problems. One situation had me completing a case, locking in my choice, and quitting out of the game about one hour into the next story situation. After reloading, I found that I had lost all content from just before the previous case’s conclusion. These really weird, minute mishaps (coupled with painfully slow loading times) really hurt the momentum in a game all about burning from one clue to another.
Despite their annoying issues, the Sherlock Holmes series continues to be one of my favorite ongoing franchises. While the gameplay direction can take some positively infuriating turns, the core mechanics remain a ton of fun. There is some real gold within the Sherlock Holmes franchise , but Frogwares has yet to find it. Until then, the bronze can be damn sweet as well, while also a tad disheartening.