Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One hands-on preview — The Thinking City


Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is not like other Sherlock Holmes games. It is perhaps not surprising. Frogwares has been making games based on the detective wearing a deerstalker cap since the early 2000s, and the nature of these games has changed dramatically over time. We’ve gone from traditional point-and-click think-athons to first-person puzzles. And the latter have been in their own niche of chapter-based detective work. Now with Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, we have moved to an open world. If you have played The sinking city, you will be at home here; it’s pretty much an evolution of that concept and that set of mechanisms.

Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One sees our much, much younger detective heading to the Mediterranean island of Cordona to visit his mother’s grave and request closure. He’s more arrogant, more impetuous and more naive, and Cordona seems to have plenty to sink her deductive teeth into. Although, now I have a horrible mental picture of teeth with a brain, so let’s move on quickly.

Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One: subtitle one

The preview I played contained a primary and secondary box, which was just enough for me to get a taste of how the game works at a fairly basic level. If you have played The sinking city then much of it will be familiar to you. You explore the surroundings in third person, use detective vision to recreate scenes, and piece together clues in your mental palate for plausible explanations. There is always more than one explanation, however; someone being in a bar for a short time may mean they had time to come back and commit a murder, or it may mean that a murderer had the opportunity to commit the crime while they were away. Sort what all ways is your job.

The is fight, but from what I can understand this will be greatly minimized compared to The sinking city. I can’t comment on how it works (there was absolutely none in this preview, implying that it will be a relative rarity), but I can at least say that it appears to be entirely optional. I don’t mean “preventable” either. It looks like you can turn it off in the options altogether. The preview version, however, is subject to change. Still, given that combat was one of the weakest points of Frogwares’ Lovecraftian adventure, it’s a welcome change.

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One - Cordona

Cordona is much prettier than The sinking cityOakmont.

Other bits and bobs from The sinking city are also present, like browsing the police archives, but one of the new features is the disguise system. Cordona has plenty of clothing stores, and Sherlock can shop for new clothes, hats, and pieces of makeup or facial hair, which you can mix and match as you like. In the preview, one case used this system exclusively to disguise Sherlock as a suspect.

Judging by the different counters on the side of the disguise menu, however, it looks like different people may respond to you differently based on your appearance. If you blend in with high society, then a crisp look and a great suit will go beyond tattered clothes and a few fake bruises. There are some fun side elements related to this as well. While you’re supposed to disguise yourself as a suspect, Jon will give you a small secondary objective to disguise yourself as a man in a nearby portrait to see how the store owner reacts.

The Adventure of the Crawling Man

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One - Portrait

Once you have the clues, it’s up to you to figure out what they mean.

The preview begins with a 21-year-old Sherlock and his childhood friend Jon (no, not John Watson) arriving at their hotel in Cordona. After performing a few deductive feats to amuse Jon, Sherlock (or “Sherry” as he’s affectionately known) finds himself in the middle of a robbery during a shoot, which escalates to murder. Being a bored genius, he agrees to help – if only because it’s slightly more interesting than just sitting around doing nothing.

If you wanted to be a bit rude, you could say that the investigation is mostly small mini-games, but all of them are quite engaging. From looking for clues scattered around the crime scene to connecting those in the mind palace to speculating, it’s really interesting to understand the possibilities of how things may have turned out. There’s even the option to listen with its own unique mechanics – and Jon will start pestering you if you regularly poke fun at you, noting your idiocy in his journal, although I’m not sure if that has any ramifications. Hell, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One even gave me the option to skip the eavesdropping and just ask the people involved directly, so usability seems to be at the heart here.

There’s more I can say about it, some interesting suspects to how such a short introductory case goes, but I don’t particularly want to spoil it. Also, I would probably get yelled at. I will say that your own deductions and your moral compass play into things. However, you can identify the wrong person, and even if you find out the real culprit, you can decide to let them go. You can miss the evidence, ruin the investigation, get the wrong man arrested, and the game is over. very good with that. I like it a little. Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is happy to help you investigate, but the fruits of your investigation are upon you, and it is deliciously satisfying to get it right. No wonder Sherlock is so unbearably smug all the time. This is nothing new for Chapter One – the last few games have done the same – but it’s just as fun here as before.

The final problem

Sherlock Holmes costume

Sometimes it makes sense to play dress up.

But in the end what I tasted Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is little more than a drop on the tongue, and there are plenty of areas where it can still go wrong. There are plenty of them that I like. Environments and investigative elements have improved significantly over the course of The sinking city. Cordona is as beautiful as she is decadent, and the ultimate resolution of the game’s story is unlikely to be “it was cultists and / or Cthulhu from the start,” which is pretty much a fatality in a Lovecraftian game. .

Corn! I’ve barely had a taste of the open world and I’m not sure if it will look like a living space or an empty prop set. I have no idea how the fight works. I don’t know how “open” things will be, or if I’ll be stuck on the main quests on a regular basis. I’m not sure how the leveling system works, or if moral choices (and incorrect deductions) matter way beyond personalizing my gaming experience. Then there’s the usual preview stuff. But aside from the expected bugs, I hope that some UI elements will be a little less heavy when the game is launched.

The result

I would probably be happy with that, but for now I expect more.

That said, if it seems like I’m being tough and complaining a lot, I’m really not trying to do it. I enjoyed the two hours I spent with Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One much more than me The sinking city, and it was a perfectly solid game. I just care how much I not know.

If there’s one thing you should take away from this overview, it’s probably this. When the screen went black and I couldn’t continue, I was actually disappointed. If I enjoyed a preview enough that I immediately wanted to play more – especially in these busy weeks just before E3 – that’s a pretty good sign.

Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One should be released later this year.

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