Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is an action-adventure game where players get to dazzle people with their famous deductive skills. As expected, we get to play Sherlock at a time when he hasn’t yet developed his crime-solving capabilities. Make no mistake though, Sherlock Holmes does not hold players’ hands as they must put the pieces of every puzzle together themselves. This is achieved through a number of different means and I’m 100% in love with this title already.
Right from the get-go, Sherlock travels to Cordona by boat – a method of travel he is not terribly thrilled about – to resolve previously unaddressed issues. Upon arrival, he relaxes in the restaurant of a fancy hotel. It is then that he stumbles upon a terrible and suspicious crime that requires solving. At first, Sherlock uses common sense and logic to dissuade the stranger from requesting his assistance. But, due to boredom and a small nudge from someone he knows, Sherlock agrees to help.
As a player that enjoys solving mysteries, Sherlock Holmes is the perfect sort of game to get lost in. It has intrigue and class, and it scratches an itch that is uncommon in games. Titles like Obduction, Return of Obra Dinn, Talos Principle, and Antichamber are some of my favorites in the genre is because they require observation and deduction. They are open-world games that allow players to stumble around for clues. And Sherlock Holmes Chapter One now fills me with the same sense of fascination that I enjoy in mystery/puzzle games. The reason for that is because Sherlock Holmes Chapter One shows players a different perspective of the highly regarded character because the game is set in his younger years before he became known.
Personally, I absolutely adore a good mystery, and the fact that the game requires players to use every available tool without holding one’s hand is amazing. I also applaud the fact that Frogwares included a somewhat unique combat system that fits Sherlock’s character. But make no mistake, this game is not easy. It will take wits and perception, requiring players to look around for the next clues. Being Sherlock requires a lot of leg work and the use of various tools to solve his cases.
Sherlock Holmes Chapter One has a number of tools that help to solve cases. We have a case book that shows us the cases we’ve begun or have been completed. We also use various disguises which help us to gather information from suspects or witnesses. There is a neat concentration ability where players can visually see what likely happened based on the information gathered. And using that same ability, players can track witnesses and suspects to their whereabouts.
One of the most useful tools is Sherlock’s mind palace where bits of evidence are listed in a text-based grid. These clues can be pieced together which helps deduce the culprits. What’s neat about this point is that players will always be able to find information for multiple suspects. Just because there is an abundance of evidence to indicate one possibility, doesn’t make it the right one. It is up to the player to figure out which suspect is the criminal.
Sometimes solving crimes takes a good old-fashioned map. When in doubt, players can consult the map of Cordona to find areas they haven’t been or areas with clues to other crimes. I’ve already stumbled onto a case that requires the use of a map to find an item. And if players are unable to find their next location, they are free to solve other cases until more information is learned.
Finally, Sherlock is accompanied by his friend Jonathan who will occasionally hint at an idea to nudge the player in the right direction. If the player isn’t having any luck or seems to be randomly talking to people, Jon will chide you about it. I find this to be a great feature of the game!
Sherlock Holmes Chapter One has a nice combat system that can be skipped if they want to focus on the investigative nature of the game. At first, I actually enjoyed the combat system because it isn’t complex. In this game, players must use the environment to their advantage. Players can blind or stagger their aggressors before arresting them. And I love this idea.
There is a downside to the combat system though. Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is based around a unique QTE system that I don’t know if I like. See, with most QTE systems, I find them to be uninspiring and frustrating because they require quick reflexes. In this title, not only do players need to be quick with their button presses, but they first have to use their mouse to trigger it. For example, the screen might show an icon to move your mouse to the left. Once you do this, then you will have to spam the ‘A’ key. It is intuitive in design because this doesn’t require players to press unreasonable combinations, but I have never liked QTE systems.
The strange thing is that even though I am not a fan of the QTE element, I think that Frogwares did well with the design because it is unique! While I may dislike the system, it’s not rapid button mashing. Plus, players can choose to skip the combat, which is a feature I absolutely adore!
Elementary Summary My Dear Watson
I would be doing readers a disservice to go more into detail about my gameplay experience because I believe it is best experienced by fans of this genre. Like Sherlock, it should be played free from the bias of a game reviewer like myself.
Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is top contender as my Game of the Year of 2021. The game is simply a spectacular, interesting, and mind boggling experience that fans are going to love. The game has me in its grips and I’ve spent every free moment playing it because it’s enthralling. I cannot wait until Sherlock Holmes Chapter One releases on Steam in November because it’s a treat! (And just in time for my birthday too!) In short, pre-order this game right now!Score: N/A for previews