Posted on 05 Jul 2016 by L Coulsen

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter

The Defence

Developer: Frogwares
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Genre: Adventure
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 10 Jun 2016

The Prosecution

Minimum
Recommended
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i3 3.6 GHz
AMD FX 4.2 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 460
AMD Radeon HD 7790
RAM: 6 GB
HDD: 20 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 3.1 GHz
AMD A8 3.1 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 760
AMD Radeon R9 270X
RAM: 8 GB
HDD: 20 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

Widely accepted as the greatest detective, literary or otherwise, that ever lived. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes has won the hearts of every generation since his first appearance in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887. Reinvented and reimagined a multitude of times, the continuing video game series has become one of the most loved incarnations, with each game evolving and expanding on the last. And now Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter has a lot to live up to. Following on from the fully 3D environments of Crimes and Punishments. A task Frogwares set themselves to with relish.

The Trial

Daughter takes everything that made Crimes great and makes it even better. One of the largest, and most welcome additions was even larger environments, where its predecessor gave you a series of beautiful, but generally quite small, digital playgrounds. This time we have significant chunks of Victorian London to explore. The area around 221B Baker Street is large enough that one could easily become lost, if the layout was not so painstakingly constructed to ensure all paths lead back home. Even if it does take several minutes.

Other sections are generally far smaller, specifically crime scenes, which are about comparable with its predecessor. But there are several occasions when, rather than taking a cab straight to your destination, Holmes is dropped in the general vicinity and it falls to the player to find the correct address. Sometimes by following directions from the local populace, and others by looking for specific landmarks. Such as the third case, which has you finding the correct address by comparing the doors you come across to a photograph. It really helps add to the overall feeling of being a true detective. Relying on your own observations. Though there remains a skip option, for those who are more interested in experiencing the narrative. Something that isn’t generally needed. The game isn’t especially difficult. Though the puzzles and conclusions to be drawn do require one pay close attention.

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

The most welcome addition I found came in Holmes’ character portrait ability. Where Crimes simply tasked you to find the appropriate number of points of interest about one’s person. A letter in the pocket, bruises on the hand, that kind of thing, Daughter throws in a degree of uncertainty, with each character having visible traits that can be interpreted in more ways than one. Leaving the player to draw the final conclusion as to what each means. Generally it’s only two things per person, but it still, again, adds to the feeling of deducing the world as opposed to having it handed to you.

Better yet, even drawing an incorrect conclusion, wither during a character portrait or during conversation, does not lock you out at any point. After all, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” So far from punishing you, or requiring you to do it over like the last game, you carry on with new information that drives you toward the correct answers. And it works extremely well. Leaving the player thinking. Well, that wasn’t right then, so it must have been this other thing. There’s also a difficulty setting that limits your time available to build a character portrait. It counts down from 5, but actually lasts around ten seconds, which is not a small amount of time, but certainly helps keep you on your toes.

But there are yet more improvements. Whilst the basic gameplay remains practically unchanged, even including things like the boxing and arm wrestling mini-games from the first game (now playable at any time by finding the correct person in the streets around 221B) Holmes disguises have also had something of an overhaul. Whilst certain costumes are required at certain times, such as the Doctor’s outfit when posing as a Doctor, or the Pastor’s garb when performing an “exorcism” (yeah, seriously) everything else can be worn pretty much whenever you want. You can even head out in your nightgown, with a massive salt and pepper beard, and a porkpie hat if you so choose.

There's something going on around here.

Meanwhile, there are a few sections, scattered throughout, which will see you playing as Watson, to solve a moving block puzzle allowing Holmes to reach a balcony. A brief stint as Toby, during the first case, to follow a scent and lead you to some new evidence. Both of which have been present before and don’t bring anything especially new. But there’s a section with young Wiggins, also in the first case, which has him tailing a man through the streets, ducking to cover and finding alternate paths. The former mechanic persists in later cases too, which sees Holmes having to stealth his way past bandits and sneak into a stately manner. Though his larger frame means he can’t snap to cover points like Wiggins, which again, makes things more skill based.

Holmes’ imagination again returns, as do his instincts, or Holmes vision, as I like to call it. Neither has seen any significant changes, though the former is used more often and on a larger scale. Most notably during the final case, when a massive street accident requires finding the correct chain of events for a total of thirteen points of interest. The end result plays out not too dissimilar to a Rube Goldberg machine. It’s really cool actually, and makes it feel a lot more useful, rather than just a gimmick.

If it isn’t obvious yet, everything has been improved on. The scale, the gameplay and, though less obviously, the visuals. It can be more difficult to see, without a direct comparison. Especially facial animations, which are superb in both this and Crimes, but there are certainly advancements made which really bring the environments and characters to life. Eyes, in particular, are especially well done. Ascertaining the truth of one’s statement can be drawn from logical deduction as well as observation of tiny movements in facial features.

Alright love, do you come here often?

If there’s any complaint to be made, it would be in the number of cases. Where the former had six, Daughter has four, with a fifth section that revolves exclusively around the titular daughter. A young lady who seems to have come right out of nowhere, but has apparently Holmes child. Within the game, her absence from previous titles has been explained by her being away at boarding school. Which feels a little…convenient, but at least works within the setting. Children of well to do individuals were often sent away for schooling during the late 1800s/early 1900s.

However, the final game still clocks in at a highly respectable 10-12 hours, making each case both physically and narratively larger. All of them are original too, which is far from a bad thing. As good as the original stories are, they are all rather short, and can only be expanding on so much before morphing into something else. It also removes the ability to breeze through to a conclusion because you already know where everything is. Well, at least on the first time…and assuming you don’t use the skip option for all of the puzzles.

The Verdict

It’s a great game, well optimised, extremely pretty and very well written. There were no moments where anything felt like it was starting to drag, and the final revelations about Katelyn…well, ’tis better to uncover those for yourself. But suffice it to say, the closing moments of the game are tense and suitably dramatic. Even if the game’s ending feels a little abrupt. You resolve the issue and then just…slowly row away with Watson. Which isn’t so terrible really, considering how tense everything is immediately beforehand.

Case Review

  • Deductions: Now, more than ever, everything depends on the player. If you get something wrong, you have to carry on and deal with it.

  • Plot: It feels like a Holmes story, what greater compliment is there?

  • Visuals: The Unreal engine has been put to great use, everything is deliciously detailed, especially faces.

  • Skip: There are certainly some who will be glad of it, and there will be those who will find it insulting.

  • Animations: They’re not terrible, but Holmes runs a bit woodenly.

5 Score: 5/5
I am Sherlock Holmes. Pleased to meet you.

Evidence

  • Graphics: Standard fare really, nothing particularly advanced, but all the important options are there and do what they are supposed to. The engine is also very well optimised, facilitating a visually impressive experience for less advanced hardware.
  • Audio: All the important options are present and can be customised, to your liking, individually. Though the default sound balance is absolutely fine, with music, sound effects and dialogue never vying for your attention.
  • Controls: The game offers full controller or keyboard and mouse support which seamlessly changes on the fly. Whichever input you make will respond equally. The default Steam controller config had a touch to turn option for the trackpad, which some (myself included) will not be fond of, but that can easily be changed. The only disappointment is that keyboard controls cannot be rebound.
  • Gameplay: Like a lot of games these days, difficulty settings (though only two) can be changed at any point, making mini-games easier and, in the case of character profiles, turning off and on the time limit, as well as enabling an automatic option. There's also an option to disguise most loading screens as a cab ride, which is a great time to make use of checking over evidenced and making deduction links inside Sherlock's noggin.

Comments (1)


Posts: 340
L Coulsen
Posted 08 Jul 2016, 07:09
Prolly worth pointing out I ended up buying a copy for myself