Sherlock Holmes is one of the most recognized name in fiction, for good reason. Any time this character is involved you know you’re going to be in for an intellectual (and often emotional) ride.
When it comes to Sherlock Holmes, I’ve read a few books, seen a few movies, and have watched several television shows on the subject. But I haven’t yet played a game. Well, not until a few days ago anyway. Join me as I recount my experience with the Xbox Era preview of Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One.
Ukrainian studio Frogwares is no stranger to the Sherlock Holmes IP. They’ve made several games on the character through their 20 or so year existence and Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is their latest and (hopefully) greatest game in the franchise.
This isn’t a small game and so it has plenty of activities and gameplay elements I can dive into. But as this is a preview and not a review, I’m going to keep myself brief.
Chapter One takes place on the Isle of Cordona, in the Mediterranean, and stars a young Sherlock Holmes. This itself was an interesting twist on the character as right away you can just feel the arrogance breaming off of him. Sherlock’s primary reason for coming to the isle was to visit his mother’s grave but he soon finds himself wrapped up in the mysterious circumstances of her death. Accompanying him on this journey is his close friend Jon who has his own place in the story and gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, as this was my first time playing a game like this: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. In Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One you spend most of your time exploring the environment, looking for clues/evidence, and obtaining information from the people around you. In this preview for example, I first solved a mystery about a stolen diamond.
I spoke with the relevent parties of the theft, such as the victim and the accused, and investigated every clue I could find. All of this information was saved quite handedly into a notebook that I could easily access. Once you find a piece of evidence you can “pin” it, which allows you to ask anyone around you specifically about this object or information.
You can connect clues that you think are related through the “Mind Palace” part of your notebook which eventually connects more clues until you’re ready for a decision. This was pretty well done I have to say, as I really felt involved with the investigation process.
And this was always my biggest fear going into a Sherlock Holmes game. He’s the genius, not me. So how much handholding does the game need to do for me to progress? I’m happy to say that Chapter One doesn’t really hold your hand. At least, not if you don’t want it to. It has a wide range of difficulty options (including separate difficulty sliders for combat) and for the most part let’s you make your own conclusions based on what you’ve found. Though yes, this could mean you accuse the wrong person, or miss a major piece of evidence, but if there was no risk of failure, then why play an investigation game?
There’s so much more I could say. Each aspect of the investigation is almost a minigame of sorts, there’s combat when it’s deemed necessary for the story, the Isle of Cordona is vast and full of interesting characters, and throughout all of this you’re in the feet of a young, arrogant, and eager Sherlock Holmes.
Thankfully there isn’t long to wait. Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One releases for the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles on November 16th, only a couple months away, and we’ll (hopefully) be there to cover it when it does.