Frogwares brings back their successful line of Sherlock Holmes games as an open world adventure. Many familiar gameplay elements are combined into an enjoyable and immersive adventure. Cases abound, from the very small, helping the inept local police with some crime scene reconstructions – to the very large: how did Violet Holmes die?
Holmes arrives on the small island of Cordona seeking closure as he visits his mother’s grave. This is as early as we’ve ever seen Holmes in an adventure, coming well before Holmes meets Watson. But, Sherlock’s childhood friend Jon is there to fill the void. Mystery never follows far behind, and Holmes finds that closure is not so simple.
Jon will put his own comments about your performance into his diary for you to peruse. Acting like a dullard or behaving in unsavory ways is sure to evoke something pithy. But, he is equally generous with his praise when you dazzle as Holmes is known to.
Your mind palace will still allow you to combine clues to form deductions and find new avenues of investigation. As with the previous incarnation of the mind palace, some deductions can have multiple implications, and choosing the wrong one will lead to the wrong conclusion.
I am fond of a map function that requires you to actually read the map and the clues. While most games hold your hand and give you modern conveniences such as mini-maps, pathfinding and immediate knowledge of all locations, this game will have you read the clues and scour the map for the correct location. We see the same sort of map function in The Sinking City as well, also by Frogwares. I think it helps add to the immersiveness.
Your casebook is very well-organized. Holmes is nothing if not methodical, and you will find all the evidence laid out neatly, with icons suggesting the necessary actions to be taken. Actions include: crime scene reconstructions, asking people about specific evidence, disguising yourself, following footprints and other traces. While the game guides you toward new clues, there is still plenty of opportunity to use your brain and come to satifying conclusions worth of Holmes himself.
Holmes needs to learn how to defend himself in this episode. While armed with a revolver and a box of pepper snuff, Holmes still has a revulsion for murder, and combat is geared toward arresting and subduing your opponents, not simply killing them. Frogwares helpfully provides you with a number of bandit lairs to hone your combat skills. I probably spent 2-3 hours in one of these lairs alone (and did not complete it, alas). My combat skills improved significantly though by pursuing this side activity.
Overall, this episode presents very well as an open world adventure, giving a lot of freedom to pursue your own agenda, but having a number of cases and adventures to pursue at your leisure. The stories of Holmes’ early life are enjoyable, and a plausible picture of Holmes’ youth emerges. If you’ve enjoyed Frogwares’ previous episodes, you will love this one. It boasts excellent writing, thoughtful puzzles and a beautiful world to explore through the eyes of the ever-curious Sherlock Holmes.