The Great Detective Tries to Climb the Mountains of Madness
Frogwares and Sherlock Holmes are a classic combination, but when the developer took a cosmic horror departure with The Sinking City in 2019, it was a pleasant surprise to see it try something different. Now Frogwares returns to a combination of the two for a horror-led Sherlock Holmes adventure in the form of a ground-up reimagining of 2006’s Sherlock Holmes: Awakened. We go hands-on with a demo build to see if the legendary detective can solve mysteries within the realm of the Cthulhu Mythos while retaining his iconic calm demeanor.
After the horrible tussle of The Sinking City, Frogwares returning to Sherlock Holmes: Awakened feels especially pointed. Whilst the Ukrainian developer is synonymous with the Baker Street sleuth, it has dipped its toes into horror almost as much, especially during its early years when it tackled The Mummy, Dracula, Jack the Ripper, and of course, the Cult of Cthulhu.
Frogwares’ fifth game was a unique combination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s and H.P. Lovecraft’s creations, and in more than one way, it’s a game before its time. With Frogwares now known well in modern gaming circles for adapting both, what better time to revive it?e
The story sees Holmes and Watson investigating a series of mysterious disappearances leading them to all impossibilities and Eldritch terrors. Suddenly, Holmes’ famous deductive qualities are knocked sideways by the irrational nature of the mystery he faces, and his sharp mind will take the most significant battering it’s ever met when confronting the unfathomable cosmic horrors of Lovecraft’s repertoire.
The demo begins in the third chapter, where Dr. Watson is visiting the sinister Edelweiss Institute under the guise of having a nice chat with its chief doctor. As Watson is ‘checking in’, a disguised Holmes arrives pretending to be a supposedly dead American investigator (which is part of his ruse).
Even in its early state, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is looking impressive thanks to its Unreal Engine upgrade. The demo opens with a stunning cutscene of foggy forest roads as Watson travels to the institute and it’s striking just how atmospheric it looks. Sure, there’s some obvious polish needed elsewhere (those close-ups of faces when characters talk aren’t doing the game many favors currently), but it’s probably the most visually dazzling we’ve seen a Frogwares game look to date.
After Holmes awakens in a cell, some tried and trusted detective work soon follows, with Holmes piecing together information about the institute by examining various rooms. It’s fairly basic when compared to modern Sherlock Holmes adventures from Frogwares, but there does seem to be an emphasis on grouping this information together to come to a larger deduction. However, the game also explores the mental strain caused by the influence of Cthulhu.
The demo drops you in the action a bit abruptly and isn’t tailored to whatever introductory experience comes before it in the full release, so there was a fair bit of stumbling about trying to figure things out because I lacked that context. It’s a common issue with demos and preview builds nowadays, but at least Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened seems to go at the kind of pace that nullifies any frustration found in getting a handle on how everything works.
The brief preview of the game is impressive and has drawn me into the suspenseful atmosphere and unique take on Sherlock Holmes. Although Frogwares is revisiting its past with this project, it may have found a successful winner.
Sherlock Holmes The Awakened is currently set for release in Q1 2023 for the PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.
Most Anticipated Feature: Seeing the Great Detective try and tackle an unfathomable cosmic mystery