Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One (2021) Review

Based on the character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is the latest Sherlock Holmes videogame, it was developed and published by Frogswares for the PC, PS5 and Xbox Series S/X with versions for last gen consoles coming soon.

This is an origin story for our favourite detective so you wont be seeing Dr Watson in the game. The Plot actually sees a younger Sherlock Holmes returning to the Island of Cordona to revisit his family home and try to find out why his mother died.

He is joined by his imaginary friend Jon who acts as his conscience but at times seems to have a mind of his own.

While figuring out the answers to one of his biggest family secrets word of his unique detective skills gets around and young sherlock finds himself solving various different mysteries before he can finally get some answers.

The game is an open world Action/Mystery videogame based in the early 1800’s. It differs from a lot of other open world games as their is very little action segments and those that do exist can be skipped with very little effect to the player.

The Main Quest is very short and in order to get the most out of the game you really need to be focussing on the side cases and collectables.

The Gameplay is all very similar throughout the experience, you are a detective putting clues together to solve crimes, there are various ways to do this but some of the most frequent ways to solve a case are by examining a crime scene, you can view certain objects to gather information and you can even check for much smaller details such as blood spots on the carpets or scratches in woodwork etc.

Some people wont speak to Sherlock in his expensive suit so putting on different disguises is absolutely necessary, these can be purchased from various street sellers, you can also purchase furniture for your home from sellers across the island.

There are three archives you can visit, Police (Crimes), Cordona Chronicle (News) and Cordona City Hall (Official/Legal Documents). Depending on your clue you need to decide which will be the most useful to visit, you first need to select your clue from your case file then you can choose three key words to try and match some further information. For example if I was looking for a news article about an escaped monkey in Scaladio 100 years ago I would visit Cordona Chronicle and would search 1700’s – Front Page – Scaladio and that would then match the correct information.

Once you have enough of an idea of how a crime was committed you will be able to enter Sherlocks imagination where he can individually choose positions and actions to determine the most likely possibility of a crime before making his final decision in his mind palace.

Some items you collect during investigations can be chemically analysed to find out what certain stains or substances are. This process requires players to complete a small math puzzle where they need to find clever ways to match the required outcome by either dividing, adding, subtracting or doubling numbers.

The mind palace is where sherlock is able to connect all of his clues and make his final judgement of who is the culprit and how they should be punished, this normally results in whether he lets them go or reports them to the authorities but in more serious cases he can even suggest the death sentence.

The cases are almost perfect from a gameplay perspective you really do feel like a detective but if there is one issue I would say that Jon should have been a developed a little differently, throughout the game he constantly complains when you make mistakes but the game isn’t very clear on what direction you should be heading in, the clues are very complex in areas and I think that Jon maybe should have been used more as a hint system or a way to help players with trickier clues. I used a walkthrough more than once and I am not ashamed to admit that because this game can be really hard at times due to its lack of direction.

While the detective and mystery elements of the game really shine I feel its combat is a little lackluster, thankfully as I have already stated you can skip these but in case you want to do them, the idea is to shoot off armour and use the environment to stun enemies so you can arrest them, you can kill people but you will be penalised for this.

The problem with the combat is that its really slow paced and because of the lack of ways to interact and stun enemies it gets repetitive very quickly, towards the end of the game I found myself really enjoying the fact that I didn’t have to do these parts.

While your running around the island, eves dropping on locals and solving side cases there are actually 24 hidden treasures you can find by using photographic clues given to you by the treasure master.

These are actually quite cryptic and really challenging to find, they are a great way to have a break from the rest of the game which all follows a very similar gameplay pattern and there are some trophies to unlock if you collect these.

The game is lacking in its visuals, graphically its not really up to scratch with the modern hardware its been released on however that is not to say that it isn’t impressive. This is not a triple A game and it had a much smaller budget than some other games on modern systems, It doesn’t even have a physical release which says a lot in how much money was able to be pumped into it, what is really impressive is how the developers managed to make the world so realistic and immersive. The 1800 style really works in the games favour for being pretty cool to explore especially for fans of history. The load times are really fast and there is no issue with background items loading in too late. The developers were really clever with how they managed to hide invisible barriers, by putting Sherlock on an Island they are able to allow him to explore almost anywhere that he can walk too, he cant jump so he is restricted to the ground and since he cant swim the only barrier is the ocean which drowns him when entered. Smart game design like this allows players to remain immersed in the gameplay without obvious blocks taking away from the experience.

The soundtrack isn’t too special but I don’t think it needed to be, the small music tracks it uses are very simple and mellow, I does pick up during combat for the most part you are so focused on solving cases you forget the music is even there, so unfortunately I don’t have much to say about the OST here apart from its neither good nor bad.

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One was a lot better than I expected, I really enjoyed the freedom that came with the open world, I spent a lot of time focussing on the side content and really going after all the trophies which I did manage to pull off, they are quite easy to get and a good chunk are rewarded for making certain moral decisions and doing Jon’s various challenges.

The main quest line is fine enough but its very short especially on a second playthrough so again you really will want to do everything to get your moneys worth with this one, especially since you will be paying a fair bit on money as the game is not cheap for digital only.

Overall I really enjoyed this game but even with all of impressive features its got some pretty serious issues in its gameplay, the combat is creative but badly pulled off, again you can skip these but that’s still no excuse, the main puzzle solving and the mystery parts are really cool but a little bit too cryptic at times which can effect peoples enjoyment as just little hints would have been useful to help get us in the right direction without having to use the internet.

However I did get excited to play this game whenever I got the chance, even though I did use a walkthrough a couple of times I was still really invested in the story and cases I was solving, I thought the world was really well animated, it felt how I would imagine the 1800’s to be and the characters were all really interesting. I think it was a great choice to do an origin story as well before Sherlock becomes famous, who knows maybe one day we will get another game in this style, perhaps with Dr Watson?

6/10

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