The biggest mystery is why this game wasn’t better.
This is my third Sherlock Holmes game review (the previous ones are here and here), and while I enjoyed both of the earlier entries in the series, after 2014’s Crimes and Punishments I was positively itching for more. I was ready for Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter from the moment I saw the first trailer, and patiently waited as the game quietly went from a May to June release, before sliding all the way into October. Delays are so common these days I didn’t think much of it, and besides, all they really needed to do was just give me more of the last game. Well, they did but they didn’t, and while Devil’s Daughter scratches that itch, it falls well short of the high expectations created by its predecessor.
For anyone who has played the previous games, this outing starts with some striking changes in the characters. Holmes and Watson have different character models and voices, and Sherlock’s sociopathic personality traits have been all but scrubbed from the game. This change in tone facilitates the introduction of Katelyn, Holmes’ daughter. Her presence fuels the game’s overall storyline, which I enjoyed, but still throws off the feel of the game. Rather than blindly firing a gun in the apartment, Holmes is reading books on parenting, which feels like a weird parallel universe version of the character.
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
The core of the gameplay is pulled directly from Crimes and Punishments, which is definitely a good thing. When investigating a case, dialog and objects provide clues, some of which will need additional work like analysis or research. As things come into focus players combine collected clues into facts, and then determine how those facts should be interpreted. Someone’s red eyes could be evidence of crying or just simple pink eye, and depending on interpretation different conclusions can be reached as to who the guilty party is.
Deduction is the heart of the game, and it remains its greatest strength. Piecing together evidence to weed out the guilty still feels rewarding, but it doesn’t feel as deep as the previous game. In the past different clue combinations led me to different suspects and sometimes the conclusion that multiple suspects had worked together, but the cases in Devil’s Daughter lack that extra level, despite the evidence in some cases leaning in that direction. It makes me wonder if possibly those extra conclusions were there originally but were pulled for the game’s release. As such the cases feel a touch simplistic, which is a shame considering that there are only four proper cases in the game (there are a couple of smaller ones that don’t really stand on their own).
Also disappointing is the direction the game takes when it comes to puzzles versus action. The evidence examination table is barely used, and there are some action sequences that just drag on way too long, especially considering they’re the weakest part of the game. Several are of the “you’ll figure out what you’re supposed to do by dying a few times” type, which is always annoying. As with previous games, most of the puzzles and tasks can be skipped without penalty, but the worst action offenders are not skippable, making them a chore.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter is the child you’re disappointed in when they bring home a report card full of C’s, because you know they’re capable of much better. With such a solid foundation it seemed like it was primed for success, but it takes the least appealing elements of the series and expands them, while pushing better ideas into the background. The game even takes a step backwards technically – despite being visually on par with Crimes and Punishments it suffers from noticeably more screen tearing and pop-in. It’s not game breaking by any stretch, but certainly frustrating given the game doesn’t appear to be pushing the hardware any harder than its predecessor.
I’ve mentioned Crimes and Punishments three times (ok, now four times), and it’s because players interested in the series who haven’t played that game should definitely start there, as it’s better in just about every way. For those who have already played it, Devil’s Daughter will provide the same fix in the same way that a low fat version of your favorite food does, in that it’s not as satisfying as you would like it to be. It doesn’t help any that Devil’s Daughter also offers less game for more money. It’s a shame, because the story here is enjoyable and the ending has some legitimately tense moments, but almost everything about it feels like it could have, and should have, been better.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.