Sherlock Holmes The Awakened is shaping up to be one of the most exciting games in the series | Hands-on preview

by on January 30, 2023

So look: first and foremost this is a preview for the latest Sherlock Holmes game, but first I want to talk about its Ukrainian developer Frogwares. They’ve been making Sherlock games for years now and I almost always enjoy playing them, but for reasons you can probably guess the last 11 months have been tougher than I could possibly imagine for them. Their Twitter feed contains all manner of posts detailing hiding from missile strikes in underground shelters, regular power outages, and a constant fear for the safety of loved ones, and it is heart-breaking to think that this is their reality every single day. That this game is coming soon (ish) under all that stress and pain is remarkable and we send our best wishes to the entire team. That it’s as good as it is, though? Well, that’s just incredible.

I wasn’t sure where the adventures of Holmes and Watson would go next after the origin story told in the fantastic Sherlock Holmes Chapter One. Frogwares have never been afraid of taking risks with this literary classic, so trying to predict what’s around the corner is never easy as a fan. Sherlock Holmes The Awakened takes all the aspects of these detective games we know and love, and sprinkles in some Lovecraftian horror for a darker and more sinister adventure. This is technically a ground up remake of an older game in the series, but with the modern sexy young Sherlock from Chapter One.

A screenshot of Sherlock Holmes The Awakened

The section I played for this preview took place in a German insane asylum called the Edelweiss, which Sherlock needs to investigate due to some connection to a drugs case in London. On the way to this unsurprisingly sinister facility, Watson agrees to go in first and use the fact he’s a doctor to convince the woman in charge to let him look around the place for research. All is going fairly well until Holmes barges through the front door with a goofy Boston accent and terrible fake sideburns, shouting about bringing this place down for crimes against humanity. Watson watches in horror as Sherlock is taken through to a back room and sedated, but it turns out this was all a part of his genius plan.

Upon waking, our hero finds himself locked up in the depths of the Edelweiss. Fortunately Sherlock’s skill set means this nightmare situation only lasts a moment, and one lockpicking mini game later and I was free to explore this shady psychiatric facility. Functionally this worked very similarly to the last Sherlock Holmes game, and involved going from room to room and finding clues about what women in charge Professor Gygax was doing here.

You have a nice selection of special detective powers to make this investigation go smoothly. A tap of the shoulder button reveals all interactive objects in the environment, whereas the other shoulder button allows you to search for more hidden details (like bloodstains on a wall or a piece of jewellery hidden in a pile of straw). These handy abilities ensure that you don’t have to constantly back track looking for clues you’ve missed, and let you focus on uncovering a mystery instead.

A screenshot of Sherlock Holmes The Awakened

One of my favourite aspects of Sherlock Holmes Chapter One was the crime scene reconstruction, so I was delighted to see it return here. At certain points in the story you’ll need to visualise exactly what happened in a situation, and do so by going to different floating orbs and selecting an image to position there that makes sense. For example if you’ve found blood on a door frame, you’ll probably want to select a vicious altercation to go near it. Once you’ve got it all correct, Sherlock will recount the event in full and you’ll feel like a bit of a genius.

The Mind Palace also returns from previous Sherlock games, and is used to link certain clues together so you can come to bigger conclusions about the situation at large. There’s plenty of room to experiment with different bits of evidence and statements until a solution finally locks into place, and it’s as satisfying (and crucial) to use this mental menu as ever.

What really makes Sherlock Holmes The Awakened stand out from the other Frogwares detective games are the horror aspects. A creepy setting and a few shocking moments really bring the story to life, and made me incredibly excited to play the full game as soon as possible.

A screenshot of Sherlock Holmes The Awakened

Although I really enjoyed every moment playing this preview build of Sherlock Holmes The Awakened, there are plenty of aspects of the game I didn’t get to experience. Previous titles have had open worlds to explore, combat sequences and disguises to swap between, and the hour I spent in an asylum just didn’t feature those elements. Combat and the open worlds specifically have been a bit hit and miss in the past, so I’m keen to see how they work in this Lovecraftian take on Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened is shaping up to be one of the most exciting games in Frogwares’ series, with a sprinkling of horror that is exactly what I want from an adventure game like this. After this short session with the The Awakened it has shot up my list of most anticipated games coming this year, and fans of the world’s greatest detective should be updating their lists too.

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened is aiming for a 2023 release on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and Nintendo Switch.

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