I couldn’t be more excited to start Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter and dive into the mystery. Because, come on, with a riveting title as such, I had my expectations soaring. But I also had to maintain my best to keep it leveled until I completed the game. Developed by Frogwares, this adventure mystery video game might seem to be a good starting point for those new to the Sherlock series, placing them into the shoes of our beloved and suave British detective, Holmes.
When a mysterious visiting woman, Alice De’Bouvier, shows up as your new neighbour, you find yourself in a dilemma to confront dark family secrets, both in your cases and personal life—particularly in regards with your adopted daughter, Katelyn. Things take a disconcerting turn with the passive threats from your dear neighbour as you slowly uncover her true intentions in doting on Kate, and discover who she really is behind her façade, in many ways you wish you hadn’t.
Gameplay and Mechanics
There aren’t many controls to make the game complicated. You get the gist of them real quick in the first case. Just like a consulting detective would, you move about and poke around a series of environments for clues. The game also experiments on your perceptions and reflexes through its mini-games present in the cases. One minute you are going on stealth mode stalking a suspect as an errand boy, and the next you are exorcising demons in the name of investigation. Aside from those fun bits, once you have gathered substantial evidence, you can leap inside Holmes’s mind and piece what you know to form a possible deduction.
I want to point out that it’s highly possible to form wrong conclusions based on poor judgment of character observation and misconstrued reasonings. Wrong interpretation leads to the wrong analysis, making it harder for you to find the right conclusion to the investigation. You may find yourself pointing your finger at an innocent party if you have not found all the clues. For other instances, you will have to interrupt witnesses and suspects during interrogations in order to compare their version of the facts with the clues that you have gathered. Badly-conducted interrogations cuts off your access to some clues once and for all.
I found this to be particularly interesting while playing the game difficulty at Hard mode because this creates a lot of pressure to trust my intuitions in making the right choice. The reason I had to mention the game difficulty I was playing in, we’re going to get into that now. The game gives you two modes of difficulty: Normal and Hard. I’ve learned from forums that the Normal mode was easier for new players to feel their way around in Holmes’s mind. In some ways, I wished I had started off with Normal mode to better compare the difficulty. But it still worked out well after I replayed the cases in Normal after my first walkthrough completion. There are a lot of differences between the two modes, but I’ll only mention the ones significant in the cases.
 True Conclusion Check Availability
- Normal – It is available; you can check if you have made the right conclusion at the case finish.
- Hard – Not available; you are in the dark about your conclusion.
- Normal – Usual deduction space and you are free to deduct with what seems logical.
- Hard – There is a distortion effect upon combining wrong clues and it becomes detrimental.
 Icons on Evidence in the Casebook
- Normal – Icons on evidence such as the Dialogue, Perform analysis, Search archives, Search the Map, etc. are shown.
- Hard – Icons on evidence aren’t shown and you are left to sort out tricks on your own.
 Observation of Characters in Dialogues
- Normal – You have an unlimited time to complete a Character Portrait.
- Hard – You only have a minute to study the character and complete the Character Portrait. However, you would have an Imprecise Character Portrait or Poor Character Portrait should one active zone wasn’t chosen or is chosen incorrectly, and you have failed the timer. It’s important to note that even after you choose the right choices, you have to press the Validation button to confirm your decision.
At first, the idea of mini-games that test your reflexes may seem like a waste of time and effort, but I found them to be rather enjoyable and helped to add dimension in an otherwise ‘just-investigate-and-find-clues’ game.
I suppose you can’t just rest on one thing in this game because we all know that a detective’s job is never easy or safe, so I feel that the developers were trying to experiment and push more action into proceedings. The idea of QTE too takes on a sense of urgency when you realize you have to make life-and-death decisions. And since you are brainy and have the capability of finding the truth (or perceived truth), you will have to make ethical choices to condemn or absolve the criminal. In most cases, those ethical dilemmas still confound me.
What’s relieving is knowing that while I had the power to choose my own ending and somehow unsatisfied with it, there’s a chance of me to change my mind and replay a scene before I finalize my decision in closing the case. Summons up the sheer wonder of each person’s moral compass.
Design and Visual
It’s clear massive effort has gone into its environment capturing London’s beauty (and danger in the city). The view of the realistic crime scenes and a touch of “someone’s been there” at homes gives off an immersive feeling in-game.
Character animation and natural movement have been made possible by using motion capture with actors, including for their dialogue and emotions—while most characters were detailed, I found Alice and Kate’s design a little insufferable for how rigid they looked during cutscenes and dialogue exchanges. Thankfully, they weren’t distractingly bad to put me off a good story. But on a whole? Gorgeous landscapes.
Occasionally, I found myself not wanting to progress in the game because I just wanted to admire the visuals. And I’m not complaining how much of an eye candy Holmes is and how Watson resembled so much of Jude Law in The Devil’s Daughter.
A fantastic work by Sergey Sedliar and Vitalii Stepchenko. From the sound of light electric guitars, bass guitar, keyboard for synths and other sampled instruments, it rekindled a poignant memory and forebode of playing This War Of Mine and Silent Hill.
It’s certainly not the classical music one would expect from Sherlock Holmes games, but composed hauntingly beautiful nonetheless.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter promises to be its own kind of mystery and adventure. Most of the standalone cases were enjoyable, if not all. While it’s not going to blow your mind with anything revolutionary, I would say take the game and play it for its story and get some good laugh (at a certain exorcism scene). Despite minor flaws in some of the writing where the truth felt abrupt and a couple of red herrings thrown about, it’s still a well crafted game that keeps you on your toes as you make decisions in moments of life and death. I think this would be a good start for a broad audience to try their hands on a Sherlock series for logic and action.
That being said, the game isn’t meant to be rushed and it’s best enjoyed slow like a glass of good wine. It’s akin to a slow burn horror film where you wouldn’t expect jump-scares but be unsettled either way. I truly believed I was Sherlock through most of the game, and appreciated the developers’ effort in giving the gameplay some variety. It’s a lot of mixed reviews for that one but alright, not everyone likes a chase sequence or stealth mission. Personally, I found them fun—play to your strengths, I guess. I was the Sherlock Holmes so it was second nature of me to keep my eyes and ears open for every possibility.
The end deal? The gameplay is not for everyone. I’d say if you like shooting and explosions in your games, then this might not be your cup of tea. If you’re a Sherlock Holmes traditionalist that just wants to click and solve riddles and puzzles, the action sequences might come as a shock to you. But if you find yourself drawn to being challenged intellectually and wanting some action at the same time, this one’s for you. With such a varied gameplay experience in one setting, good characters, and astounding visuals, it’s one of those few games that manages to accomplish them decently—and that is no small feat.