Frogwares takes another stab at the open-world adventure game genre with the arrival of Sherlock Holmes Chapter One. The game released on consoles and PC in November 2021. Is it any good though, and how does it compare to Frogwares’ similar but Lovecraftian themed The Sinking City? Take a look at our Sherlock Holmes Chapter One review for the full lowdown.
Frogwares has experience with open-world adventure games where Sherlock Holmes Chapter One follows an almost identical format to The Sinking City which released in June 2019. Set on the Mediterranean island of Cordona, a young Sherlock Holmes investigates a mystery in his family’s home after his mother’s death. Alongside imaginary friend Jonathan (Jon) who plays the side-kick role very well. It’s the telling of the young Holmes story (with artistic license) that is entertaining and fresh. The open-world format is the first in the series and in our opinion works very well.
Gameplay offers an assortment of styles based around Holmes’ investigations including subterfuge, disguises and special vision modes to locate clues and instigate scene recreations or flashbacks. Quite often players can and will have several cases on the go at the same time. However, a handy notebook allows players to segment these and pin specific points-of-interest which in-turn allows Holmes to question NPCs on the specific subject matter. Sadly though, this can end up a little trial-and-error as you cycle through each point with no success. Jon reminds you that a different approach might be required. It is a little confusing at first, and we felt many elements were just too vague, but…this is an adventure game and not a hand-holding exercise which means figuring things out yourself is a satisfying must, or with the assistance of a Youtube video/online guide if the game gets the better of you.
That said, once players master the game’s icons though (these are not available on higher difficulty settings), the gameplay flows a lot smoother with a lot less head-scratching as a result. We advise strongly, to study the icons carefully and memorise before starting the game as it will save a lot of headaches. When players piece together all the clues and evidence, you can then pass judgement which may or may not be correct. It feels somewhat distubing to send the wrong person to jail if you’re not one hundred percent behind your convictions.
The story and writing on offer is of a high standard where Frogwares have nailed the ambience and Holmes character perfectly. The underlying story itself is quite grim or foreboding as well which makes a change from the usual murder and mystery. The game’s open-world lends itself more to action gameplay though, but aside from some gang hideouts where you can perform combative moves including shooting, it’s a bit bare and uneventful. Sure, lots of NPC mill about where you can bump into them as you dash around dimly lit streets during the day or night but not a lot else happens. It’s all just eye candy which is a shame.
In terms of visuals, the game looks good but lacks the atmosphere and tone of The Sinking City. The character models of the main characters though are highly detailed, distinctive and presented well in their own stylish way. In terms of performance, the game runs reasonably but might need some tweaking of the settings. Our RTX 3090 dipped below 60 fps at times running max settings in 4K resolution. Audio is as expected of a very high standard with some great writing and performances all-round, especially the banter between Holmes and Jon.
Players can expect a fair number of hours in Cordona and its mysteries, with a number of optional side-cases to embark on outside of the main story branch. As mentioned, there are gang hideouts to investigate and many outfits to purchase for aid in cases and just for looks. Players can also restore the Holmes family home to its former glory as part of the story.
Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is an enjoyable romp and pleasant change of approach compared to more restrictive offerings of the past. Open-world works well here but could do with some additional oomph to make it feel more interesting. Sleuths will enjoy the varied investigations here and if you desire an even greater challenge, then we suggest setting the game to it’s more cryptic highest difficulty for a first play through.
Score 8/10 – Review code supplied by publisher.