Sherlock arrives in Cordona to visit his mother's grave but a twisted turn of events leads him down a path that he never saw coming.
In Sherlock Holmes Chapter One, you play as young Sherlock while visiting his childhood home of Cordona, an island that looks like it would fit in the warm climate of Spain. However, even before getting the chance to visit his mother's grave, Sherlock is pulled into a murder investigation at the very hotel that he's staying at. v1d30chumz 44-192-25-113
The game world within Cordona is sprawling with 5 distinct districts placed on a large map which makes up your sleuthing playground and is presented as an open-world experience. This is the first Sherlock game I've encountered that takes this leap to introduce something new to the usually linear story-driven gameplay and it pulls it off very well.
While investigating a crime related to the main story, you're presented with many other opportunities to get involved in the citizens' lives by listening in on conversations, taking police jobs from their job board, entering bandit lairs, and searching for treasure. Once I was finished the main story, I spent hours digging into this extra content because I just couldn't get enough. I was particularly happy to see a side-case titled "What Was Did In The Shadows" that took me to an open grave where I had to investigate a possible vampire sighting as I was hoping that Nandor, Laszlo, Nadja, and Colin Robinson were involved. 🧛
An investigation usually starts with one clue which presents itself in your casebook with a notification indicating a logical way to learn more information. With 8 different notifications, there's a decent variety of ways to advance in an investigation such as by using concentration to find a hidden object or person, searching archives, disguising yourself to gain entry, taking a photo, and even performing chemical analysis. I particularly enjoyed the chemical analysis tasks that have you do some light algebra to uncover the origin of a chemical.
Finding the right disguise to enter a building or gain the trust of someone to get more information is also a treat as you often have to find the right outfits by purchasing them at merchants. Sherlock wears some pretty ridiculous disguises and puts on silly accents at parts which just adds to the fun. However, outfits only go so far in uncovering information if you forget to pin a specific piece of evidence that makes Sherlock ask about that particular clue. I enjoyed this system as it meant that I had to be more attentive to what I was asking.
Although the notifications with clues are usually just the right amount of information to guide you as to what to do next without outright telling you, they'll simply not be enough on occasion. A few times, I ended up walking around in circles, talking to every passerby dressed as every character that I could think of over and over while eventually getting frustrated that I wasn't given more direction. This was exacerbated by the fact that sometimes, doors that you can enter show a little interaction indicator to illustrate that they're unlocked when other times, they don't and you have to physically run into them to open them. Such a simple thing ended up being frustrating at certain points but when I figured out what was going on, I started running into every door that I could find.
I had a similar issue where I had to find someone based on a picture and the only indicator was that I had to find a location. I eventually took a wild guess that based on the time period Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is set in and the colour of her skin, she might be poor so I went to the poor part of town and talked to someone dressed in similar clothing to move the story along. I only thought of doing this after I remembered how the Canadian TV programme Murdoch Mysteries would always have the main characters go to China town as soon as anyone Asian came up in the story. Both are set in the same historical period and as I've been reading through the Sherlock Holmes books recently, it did feel like it fits in so I can't exactly fault this even if it did confuse me at first.
As you run around Cordona, you'll be treated to many beautifully detailed sights fitting for current gen consoles including many large landmarks that can be explored inside and out, private residences, large parks, ocean views, ruins, and a derelict mining district. Getting around can be a little cumbersome given just how big the island is and although you have a detailed map, you'll wish that you could see it overhead as you walked. Thankfully, as you unlock new areas, you'll find fast-travel points that make getting around a lot easier.
While you explore, you'll hear the constant murmurs and background sounds of the many inhabitants of the island, sometimes in reaction to what you're doing. The actor who voices Sherlock does a great job of bringing a younger version of the famous character to life and the rest of the cast voices their characters exceptionally well, too.
If you've seen the trailers, you'll be intrigued by Sherlock's buddy, Jon. He isn't Dr. John Watson, however, but a quirky friend who follows Sherlock around and seems to know a lot about his life since childhood. Jon also has his own notebook that you fill out by completing tasks and finding out information about the residents of the island. He will also present you with challenges as part of your investigations such as completing one while dressed as a policeman the entire time or figuring out extra information before leaving a scene.
These optional challenges are a nice way to add more gameplay and completing them will increase your relationship with Jon. Decreasing it is surprisingly easy as I found out after talking to one too many people about a subject without getting any agreeable answers. To be frank, I'm not entirely sure what effect increasing or decreasing this relationship has other than possibly missing out on filling in Jon's notebook. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the character, especially when he made silly poses and I was able to dress him up with a few outfits.
You might be surprised to know that there is actual combat in Sherlock Holmes Chapter One. These events occur in closed-off areas where you'll get into gunfights. Combat involves dodging gun or knife attacks while finding opportunities to shoot an enemy's armour then distract them enough to get close and knock them out. If you accidentally shoot and kill them, the only consequence is that Jon gets a little sad which I found kind of funny because it wouldn't exactly be fun if you spent the entire game in jail.
Apart from a few main story combat scenes, there are also bandit lairs dotted on the map where you can get into more gunfights if you enjoy them. Personally, I found them quite challenging to complete as they require complete focus to avoid getting shot enough to die. I applaud the developers for adding some light combat but it is ultimately quite simplistic and could be fleshed-out in future sequels.
When taking a break from advancing the main story, there are different ways to spend your time if you don't want to get into another side-case. For example, you can collect all of the outfits and create some silly looks or spend your cash on furniture that will show up at your childhood home as it slowly restores it. There are also some hidden items to find if you can follow the clues and match them to the right location as well as newspaper clippings to collect that reflect on past cases and talk about the consequences of Sherlock's decisions. These can be interesting because during the side-cases, you will often struggle to determine who the actual culprit is; meaning you can very easily put someone in jail who may not belong there. This less linear approach to investigating cases is welcome, in my opinion, and actually had me dreading accusing someone as I didn't want to make an incorrect decision.
Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is a masterpiece of a detective game as it manages to deliver a thoroughly enjoyable open-world adventure with an interesting cast, stunning environmental visuals, and highly immersive and engaging sleuthing gameplay. The fact that I was having such an awesome time made dealing with the odd progression issue worth it as I loved taking in all of the sights and stories.
- + Notification system does an excellent job of providing clues and information
- + Stunning visuals / sprawling open-world map
- + Numerous detailed and enjoyable side-stories
- - Occasional issues with progression
- - Map could use a HUD option