Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Try as I might, I just can’t get into Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter. And it’s not just because, going against everything in the character’s long, rich history, said daughter belongs to the titular detective.
Admittedly, that doesn’t help matters much. In fact, it’s kind of emblematic of one of my key gripes with the game: it feels like they just slapped a bunch of stuff together and threw Sherlock’s name on it, hoping that would be enough to make it all worthwhile. Sadly, it’s not, for two very big reasons.
First and foremost, “slapping a bunch of stuff together” is a good description of The Devil’s Daughter’s gameplay. One moment you’re examining objects looking for clues, the next you’re running through the woods, timing your dashes so that you don’t get shot, and another you’re cracking safes or picking locks. The net effect of all the different tasks is that The Devil’s Daughter feels less like an adventure game (to say nothing of a mystery novel), and more like a collection of minigames. While there’s certainly the odd skill that carries over throughout the game, for the most part it feels like a bunch of discrete tasks carried out in locations that have no connection to each other — their proximity on the game’s map notwithstanding.
Which speaks to another issue: while there may be a map, it’s not all that useful. You fast-travel everywhere, meaning you don’t get to develop much of a connection to Holmes’ London. Not only that, the load times here tend to be pretty long, which means that you spend much of the game waiting around to get to the next location: you go to location A to do one thing, then you wait for the next sequence to load; you go to location B to do another thing, then you wait again for the next sequence to load; and so on in location C, and D, and E. Add all these things together, and you can see why everything feels a little disjointed.
Of course, this disjointed feeling hints at the game’s larger problem, which is that the story’s not all that compelling. Some of this can be traced to the lack of respect for the source material. I mean, I don’t have any inherent issues with the Death of the Author thesis, but throwing a kid into a Sherlock Holmes story just feels like it’s contrary to the character’s essence. Even more than that, though, the mysteries you’re tasked with solving seem to hang together by the loosest of threads, and none of them are likely to make you forget The Hound of the Baskervilles or The Red-Headed League. Much of the times the answers seem obvious, and you’ll often feel as if the game is trying to draw from modern action and adventure games, rather than trying to convey a compelling mystery.
Also, apropos of nothing else: Sherlock here looks so much like Jon Hamm, it feels like developers Frogwares should be paying the actor royalties for his likeness.
In a way, that bit of weirdness actually speaks to Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter’s overarching issue: there are too many things here that break the sense of immersion. Whether it’s over-long load times, skills you have to learn once and then never use again, an empty map, or a main character who seriously looks like he should be on the set of Mad Men, The Devil’s Daughter feels like it never misses an opportunity to take you out of the game. Maybe if it weren’t supposed to be a Sherlock Holmes game that wouldn’t be as much of an issue, but if you’re going to borrow from such an iconic character, it would make sense to at least try to get more of that character’s essence right.