Throwback Thursday: Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter Review
Overall, The Devil’s Daughter is well above-average, but it is a step in the wrong direction compared to the progress of the series so far
As of March 22, 2018, this game is available from the JA Store
I am a huge fan of the Sherlock franchise developed by Frogwares. I cannot think of any other series that constantly reinvents itself and offers adventure players innovative gameplay mechanics, top notch production values and engaging stories. That being said, the new game in the series, Sherlock Holmes and The Devil’s Daughter, is the first time I feel as if Frogwares could have done a better job, especially in the story and puzzle departments. Although the game is far above the standard quality of today’s adventure gaming scene, it still pales in comparison to the great Crimes and Punishments we got two years ago.
The structure of The Devil’s Daughter is very similar to Crimes and Punishments. We play Sherlock across five different, seemingly unrelated cases, while a frame story takes place in the background. Unlike Overall, The Devil’s Daughter is well above-average, but it is a step in the wrong direction compared to the progress of the series so far. Unlike Crimes and Punishments, the frame story is given a stronger emphasis here. Actually, the story almost feels like a soft reboot for the series.
In The Devil’s Daughter, we have a much younger Sherlock and Watson, hence we can assume that the events take place prior to any other events we have experienced in the series so far. Sherlock has a daughter who seems to appear out of nowhere, as we are not given any of her background story. The frame story is basically about the exploration of her origins and a mysterious woman who moves next door to Holmes and takes a special interest in the girl.
Initially, I was a bit annoyed with the new, young Sherlock; I really liked the Testament and Crimes and Punishments Sherlock a lot. However, the events in The Devil’s Daughter demand much more stamina and agility from Sherlock compared to previous entries, hence I can understand why Frogwares decided to continue with a younger Sherlock.
Let’s look at the cases, which form the bulk of the game. There are a total of five cases and an endgame sequence, and unfortunately they are inferior to the six cases of Crimes and Punishments in every respect. Without spoiling them too much, I will just say that the culprits are easier to guess, outcomes are more predictable and the choice of punishing or absolving the culprits is really not that ambiguous compared with Crimes and Punishments. Only one case in The Devil’s Daughter held my interest (the case with the moving statue), and even that was ruined by a meaningless surreal puzzle-fest before the end.
Speaking of surreal locations, The Devil’s Daughter features some very peculiar moments where the storytelling transfers from the actual physical world to an imaginary world within Sherlock’s mind. These locations vary from ancient Mayan temples to haunted graveyards, and the gameplay focuses mostly on puzzle-solving rather than typical detective work. These sections are huge hits-and-misses for me.
I usually love puzzle adventures, but the ones described above just represent a series of unconnected puzzles with solutions that rely more on trial-and-error than creative thinking.
The main problem with these puzzles is not that they’re difficult to solve, but that after finding the solution you have to do a lot of work to verify it, which gets tiresome real quick. The logic puzzles of the series have always been flawed, but doubling the amount of mediocre puzzles instead of improving the puzzle quality is not a good design decision.
Quick Time Events and other challenges that require precise keyboard/mouse skills are also not designed well. Whenever there is an action sequence, the game requires you to either press some keys or keep the cursor in a predefined area. This did not bother me too much on Crimes and Punishments, but in The Devil’s Daughter, Frogwares apparently decided to double the amount of action sequences and even add a poorly implemented stealth-stalk sequence. Due to poor controls, these sequences end up being more frustrating than fun.
I think these features were added with console players in mind, but given that there are tons of action games on console that implement these types of gameplay mechanics better than the Sherlock series, I doubt even console players will find these appealing.
The game tries to alleviate the frustration caused by puzzles and action sequences with a skip puzzle/action sequence button. In my first playthrough, I found myself frequently pressing this button and initially, my thoughts were, “It is so cool they implemented this feature! I can pass all those annoying sequences.” However, after awhile, due to increasing frustration on my part, I found myself abusing this button and my thoughts shifted towards, “I feel like I am cheating rather than playing the game…”. Thus, rather than being a cool feature, the skip button starts to feel like an excuse for badly designed puzzles and game mechanics.
Up to this point I’ve focused on bashing the bad parts of the game. This is due to my being such a big fan of the series that I only want it to get better.
That being said and all the weak parts aside, the Sherlock series — including The Devil’s Daughter — has an irresistible charm that keeps you on your seat till you finish the game. The acting, dialogue, graphics and atmosphere are so strong you cannot help but enjoy yourself while playing the game. Also, the deduction and interrogation systems are still the best representation of actual detective work in a computer game. The Sherlock series is simply unmatched in that department.
Overall, The Devil’s Daughter is well above-average, but it is a step in the wrong direction compared to the progress of the series so far. The Devil’s Daughter does not add anything to Crimes and Punishments and actually takes away some of the fun in puzzle-solving and stories. I hope Frogwares will get rid of some of the action sequences and come up with better puzzles and cases in the next game.
+ Amazing production
+ Solid location design, brilliant atmosphere
– Cases are weak compared to previous entries
– Null puzzles
– Frustrating action sequences