The Sherlock Holmes series developed by Frogwares has changed a lot over the year, reaching its culmination with Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, which introduced open-world mechanics to the investigation gameplay formula the series had always known for.
Despite the games getting bigger and more complex, many still hold the first few more straightforward entries in the series close to their heart. Among these, The Awakened is the one that stands out the most, thanks to its Lovecraftian elements that allowed the developer to create a well-realized oppressive and dark atmosphere that is quite different from the rest of the series.
Using the open-world formula of Chapter One as the basis, the Ukrainian team is remaking Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened as a sequel to their previous title. And while it is too early to say how the open-world mechanics will influence the experience as a whole, the modernization of the game’s central mechanics, in combination with improved visuals and audio, do a great job in making Holmes’ investigation into the Cthulhu Mythos better than ever.
The short demo I was able to check out starts at the beginning of Chapter 3, as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson infiltrate the Edelweiss Institute in Switzerland as part of their ongoing investigation using alternate identities. This, however, doesn’t save Sherlock Holmes from getting sedated and locked up in the institution, something that, incidentally, helps him more than anyone could think, as an inside look at the asylum is just what he needs to uncover its mysteries.
While Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened promises to spice up the series’ typical experience with the aforementioned open-world mechanics as well as with others inspired by H.P.P Lovecraft’s works, the demo was as traditional Sherlock Holmes as it could get. The investigation mechanics are nearly identical to those seen in Chapter One, with only a few choice differences. When recreating a scene, for example, Sherlock Holmes cannot rotate between different options right away but must first find them by continuing the investigation properly. The game also tells which of the picked options is wrong, a good quality of life improvement that will help newcomers to the series or those in it just for the story proceed through the game with fewer issues.
The Mind Palace, one of the series’ trademark features that allows Sherlock Holmes to put together facts and hints to reach conclusions central to his investigations, received a slight facelift as well, although it still works as it always did, so returning players will find themselves right at ease. Some completely new features, such as Lockpicking mechanics and a new take on Quick Time Events, such as when Holmes has to hit a doctor with a syringe full of sedative, and other returning Chapter One mechanics, such as the ability to don different disguises, round up the package.
Even with these small changes, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened feels incredibly familiar, even more so to those coming from Chapter One. While I cannot say if Frogwares’ reimagining of The Awakened’s story will be spot on, due to the limited scope of the demo, it is undeniable that Sherlock Holmes himself has been changed a lot to better connect the game with the origin story of the previous game. Given how central The Awakened’s events are for the growth of both Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, I expect the soon-to-become world-famous investigator to go through development during the adventure.
At the end of the day, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened will probably not be as huge a step forward for the series as Chapter one, but no one should have expected any different. Considering what Frogwares has been going through with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s almost a miracle that they have managed to work on yet another title in such difficult times. The open-world mechanics, which were absent from this demo, may spice up the experience in unexpected ways, but even if they do not, the game is set out to be another solid entry in a franchise that has grown a lot over the years and certainly won’t be damaged by a safer new entry.
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is targeting a Q1 2023 launch. A final release date has yet to be officially confirmed.
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