Literature has given the world a gift of many characters who have become seminal: one of them is Sherlock Holmes, the brilliant London detective born from the pen of Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle. Soon, the character went beyond the sheets of paper of Doyle’s works and reached multiple mediums, most recently the videogame world.
Nowadays, talking about video games and Sherlock Holmes indirectly means naming “Frogwares”, the Ukrainian company that gave birth to works such as Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments and Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughters (just to mention the most recent). After a brief digression into the horror (but always investigative) atmospheres of The Sinking City, the team is ready to take us back into the mind of the English detective with Sherlock Holmes Chapter One.
However, this new game does not put aside the ideas of The Sinking City and, on the contrary, evolves and changes them to fit the character of Sherlock, who appears in a new format. But let’s go straight to the point and talk about what we got to try in the Sherlock Holmes Chapter One demo.
Two in Cordona
It’s 1880 and Sherlock Holmes Chapter One takes us to Cordona, a Mediterranean island that was Sherlock’s home for part of his childhood. In this adventure we will not have the control of a seasoned detective: Sherlock Holmes is a young man of 21 who has not yet met Watson and is not famous all over the world.
Holmes has returned to Cordona to deal once and for all with the loss of his mother, which occurred ten years earlier. As you might expect, however, Sherlock discovers inconsistencies between the story he was told and the real one: his mother’s death then becomes a mystery to solve, a common thread that will take us around Cordona on a long journey (the longest to date, according to the developers, with about 40 hours of content).
We won’t be alone though: Sherlock’s childhood friend, Jonathan, accompanies our protagonist to Cordona. Jonathan will have a variety of roles throughout the adventure. Not only, from a narrative point of view, it will support Sherlock, offering a second opinion and allowing the narration to be more dynamic, but it will also be a guide by offering suggestions on the work of our protagonist, making us understand for example – through recorded dialogues. even in a notebook – that we are not asking the right questions in order to advance in the adventure. The relationship between the two will evolve based on our actions, so we are very curious to see how it will be exploited in the course of the complete work.
The demo that we tried, however, was not designed to discover the whole adventure that awaits us, but was mostly dedicated to the first case that we will have to solve, shortly after arriving in Cordona.
The dead always escape us
As soon as we arrive on the island, after a long sea crossing, our people will retire for a well-deserved rest in the hotel. Sherlock, however, will not have time to go to bed as he will first have to find the owner of a forgotten walking stick on the dining room table, then solve the theft of a diamond and finally a murder case. And all before dessert. In the midst of these events, we will have the opportunity to learn the basics of the game system of Sherlock Holmes Chapter One.
There will be a waiting for us mix of mechanics of the previous Sherlock Holmes, inserted in the structure of The Sinking City, with some small additional touches to vary the cards on the table. Specifically, we will be able to analyze the environments in search of evidence, handling some objects to find useful details for the advancement of the case.
We’ll have to talk to the suspects e draw a profile of their person by observing their physical characteristics and clothes (mechanical, we recall, absent in The Sinking City). In this regard, to our pleasure, Frogwares has decided not to make these sections timed, unlike what happens in The Devil’s Daughter. To make things more complex, though, the character profile creation will be slightly more ambiguous this time around. The game, once all the clues have been found, will create two equally credible profiles and it will be up to us to guess the correct one. There will then be a way to present the right evidence to the suspects, to ask them for explanations and thus obtain additional clues.
There are some minigames, such as the ability to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations and – competing against a countdown timer – distinguish between general chatter and that relevant to the case. Furthermore, we will also be able to perform chemical reactions by adding and subtracting different reagents characterized by a color and a number (rather complex operation at maximum difficulty but optional). Finally, there will also be a way to dress up to be able to interrogate various types of people more effectively. The clothes can be purchased with the money we earn during the game, rented or obtained through the missions.
The Mental Palace, in which to connect all the information in our possession and thus generate a series of key points of the case which, also based on our interpretation, will determine a conclusion: we can not only accuse one of the suspects, but decide whether to bring him to justice or to pardon him . Since this is an open world adventure, even if you make a mistake and accuse the wrong person, the game will not blame it, at least not immediately as far as we have seen: unfortunately it has not been possible to see for now. the long-term repercussions of our choices, but we have seen that Cordona will react, for example, by publishing our verdict in the newspaper (we can also buy newspapers, as collectibles that testify our path).
To this is added a new mechanic: we can, literally at a glance, analyze people around us to define the fundamental features (nationality, occupation, mood …). This will allow us to understand who can be useful to us during the case and to whom to ask certain questions. It will not be enough, however, to look at the crowd at random, but you will have to have first selected the right clue: otherwise, Sherlock will not know what he is looking for.
This mechanic can be considered an expansion of what is seen in The Sinking City, where the protagonist must regularly exploit the archives of the Police, the Town Hall and other city institutions, but first selecting the right clue to analyze (the archives also return in Sherlock Holmes Chapter One). In other words, even when we go in search of information, we must always be clear about our goal and the way to achieve it. This is a welcome addition that makes progress less automatic. The Sinking City, in fact, did not require too much attention as the only people with whom you could speak were those necessary for the advancement of the case.
What we have not seen
Those described so far are only part of the game mechanics that await us in Sherlock Holmes Chapter One. In fact, in the demo we did not have the opportunity to see, for example, the system of combat. However, we know that once again there will be a dedicated level of difficulty, for anyone who prefers to simplify their life from an action point of view, while maintaining the maximum difficulty during the investigations. The Sinking City, in this sense, had not particularly impressed, so we will have to see if with this new attempt Frogwares will have been able to renew its open-world adventure in the best way.
We also know that there will be many secondary activities to complete, as well as collectibles to find. There will also be the Holmes family mansion, which will be a sort of hub where you can unlock new content.
We cannot therefore express ourselves, for the moment, onexploration of Cordona and on the possible activities that we will find inside it, as well as we cannot express any judgment on the technical side, since the version we tested is not representative of the final quality.
From fog to sun
However, we can briefly comment on the stylistic potential and artistic settings. Cordona, as mentioned, is an imaginary island in the Mediterranean, an English protectorate and a cauldron of cultures from Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The city will offer five different districts that promise much more stylistic and chromatic variety than the pleasantly dreary but too homogeneous Oakmont.
We will be able to visit areas reminiscent of towns in Southern Italy or coastal Spain, as well as Byzantine-style neighborhoods, large streets with resplendent Christian churches and aristocratic villas, or small labyrinths in the midst of wooden shacks. Let’s just hope the interiors are more varied than seen in The Sinking City which often repeated placement of rooms and objects.
Sherlock Holmes Chapter One seems already now, after only a couple of hours of rehearsal, a reasoned evolution of the open world and investigative formula proposed by Frogwares with The Sinking City. The coolest mechanics return, finding support from new ideas that could make solving cases and exploring game environments more satisfying. Cordona is also a fascinating setting that sets aside sooty London and misty Oakmont in favor of a more heterogeneous map. However, many doubts still remain: will the more action side be able to convince? Will the secondary activities be satisfactory? We hope to be able to reply as soon as possible.