Sherlock Holmes is back on the case to solve another collection of capers
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter is the follow-up to Frogwares’ 2014 release, Crimes and Punishments. The game puts players in the cap and overcoat of Arthur Conan Doyle’s renowned pipe-puffing gumshoe as you unravel four gripping whodunits filled with colorful characters, ulterior motives, and, of course, murder. Set in the heart of Victorian London, each of these capers will have Holmes shedding shoe leather in locales such as seedy bars frequented by trigger-happy bandits, posh estates of Lords with questionable motives in Whitechapel, dank sewers harboring shadowy secrets, and other haunts where crime is afoot.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about The Devil’s Daughter is the way the developer has managed to keep things interesting by turning essentially what could have been a pretty by the numbers mystery into a thoroughly entertaining tale that strikes a fine balance between cerebral sleuthing and engaging action sequences. One minute you’re scouring the grounds of a palatial residence to uncover some insidious secret, the next you’re barreling through a park as you’re pursued by an unrelenting gunman. Another case will have you charting the best way to stealthily sneak around a den in inequity, only to throw you into some good old fashioned fisticuffs with the pub’s rowdy patrons in a QTE melee that would feel right at home with Telltale’s best adventures. The variety of tasks you’ll perform is really quite impressive, and it goes a long way towards keeping each investigation feeling fresh and exciting.
While the way the game steadily introduces new mechanics is nice, this is a Sherlock Holmes game we’re talking about. And as such, you can expect to spend the majority of your time flexing your investigative muscle. To do so you’ll need to make make use of a number of tools at your office at 221B Baker Street. Whether you’re steaming an envelope on a gas burner to sneakily peer at a letter’s contents, or poring over a yellowed photograph, using chemicals to reveal a hidden figure, you’ll undoubtedly feel like a master detective as you make use of the bag of tricks at your disposal. Holmes said it best when he observed,“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” That sentiment rings true here, as you’ll find plenty of red herrings to throw you off track in your investigation. There’s a real sense of satisfaction that hits you when you finally uncover a dusty newspaper entry or some other clue in your archives that holds the key to cracking a case.
That’s not to say that every facet of The Devil’s Daughter is executed without a hitch. Occasionally things go off the rails when you’re abruptly forced to take control of the detective’s trusty bloodhound to sniff out suspect’s trail, or clumsily scurry up a chimney as Holmes’s hired hand Wiggins, tediously scrubbing away at clumps of soot as you try to reach the summit before suffocating. Moments like this don’t exactly derail the experience, but they feel shoehorned into the package all the same, feeling more like padding than any meaningful addition to the core gameplay. Especially offensive are the moments when you’ll find Holmes balancing on pipes or other thing protrusions in a mini-game that forces you to keep both analog sticks trained in tight circles as they shift erratically. It’s tedious. And you’ll quickly tire of hearing your character make the same two or three panicked sounds as he thrashes about to regain his balance.
Though annoying, these minor quibbles do very little to impact the overall experience, which I’m happy to say is quite enjoyable. Each of the four cases you’ll undertake features a developed cast of characters, each with their own motives. To move the story forward you’ll need to analyze the evidence you’ve collected then piece together corroborating pieces of evidence in the game’s Deduction Mode to formulate a theory on each case’s suspects. Watching the synapses fuse together and open up new avenues of exploration as you uncover the fine details of each case is immensely satisfying, and the fact that you can actually get a case wrong and choose to condemn the wrong suspect makes these decisions all the more intense and meaningful. Speaking of these capers, each of the game’s four vignettes is several hours long and pinned together with a compelling overarching narrative that’s sure to keep you on the edge of your seat until the story’s conclusion.
While I certainly enjoyed my time in London as the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter isn’t without its share of bumps and bruises. Some of these are technical issues, while others are due to the game’s somewhat ambiguous design choices. There were more than a handful of occasions over the course of the game’s 12-hour story where my investigation ground to a halt. This was usually because I missed examining some minor detail, like the muddy floor of a coach or some other easy to miss object that serves no real purpose. Additionally, while the Unreal Engine 4 powered visuals are pretty nice, plenty of screen tearing and an inconsistent frame rate will frequently pull you out of the experience. The game’s facial animations are also quite stiff and unconvincing. Thankfully, the solid performances of the game’s voice talent help to bridge the gap where the cast’s unconvincing mugs fail to deliver.
Despite these minor quibbles, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter is an excellent adventure that fans of the genre are sure to enjoy. The story clocks in at about a dozen hours, and the various outcomes of each case encourage multiple playthroughs. There are times the experience is a bit rough around the edges, but developer Frogwares deserves to be commended for crafting a thrilling whodunit that’s filled with solid puzzles, excellent writing, and enough content to keep armchair sleuths busy for hours on end. If you’re a fan of murder mysteries or adventure games in general, The Devil’s Daughter is worth your gaming dollar.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC ; Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment ; Developer: Frogwares ; Players: 1; Released: October 28, 2016 ; MSRP: $49.99
Full Disclosure: This review was based on a PlayStation 4 review copy of Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter provided by the publisher.