by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
What one man can invent, another can discover
The previous Sherlock Holmes title from Frogwares was the Secret of the Silver Earring, which was well enough received by the fans of the adventure genre. But whereas the Secret of the Silver Earring was a relatively old-fashioned murder mystery, the upcoming title, the third Sherlock Holmes game from Frogwares, The Awakened throws a curve ball right at our dear Holmes' gut region. When he is confronted by a secret sect that worships Cthulhu, the horrible dark entity known from H.P. Lovecraft's books, Holmes cannot always rely on his skills of logical deduction to get to the bottom of the mystery. Or can he?
These are much deeper waters than I had thought
The mystery begins as Doctor Watson is called to visit Captain Stenwick, who has been suffering from health problems. As Watson sees to the medical side of the matter, he also learns that Captain Stenwick's servant, a young Maori called Baobwa, has disappeared. And, according to the a police officer, Baobwa is not the only foreigner who has gone missing in London over the past few weeks. In his initial survey of the situation, Sherlock Holmes realises that the people did not go missing voluntarily but were, in fact, kidnapped.
I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street
It is the 6th of September 1894 and the city in question is London. Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened recreates the late 19th century look of London in full 3D detail, allowing, according to the marketing info, Sherlock Holmes Doctor Watson to move around freely and in real time as they pursue the answer to the mystery. Unfortunately, at least the first demo shows otherwise for when you try to roam freely, Sherlock often objects, and utters that he has no reason to go where I, as the player, wished to go.
The streets of London have been depicted adequately and Frogwares has created an atmosphere that reeks of dark mysteries. The buildings and the shop signs, as well as the cobbled streets represent the style of the era very well, insofar as I can make a judgement on such matters, and you can immerse yourself into the world relatively well. Unfortunately, the graphics thus far are reminiscent of games from the nineties, the textures are simple and several aspects of the environment (e.g. bushes) are often not in 3D at all, but simply conceived textures painted on building walls. This aspect of the game clearly still needs some work before the final release.
The major thing that makes the streets of London seem unrealistic at the moment is the absence of people. It is as if more than a few foreigners have been kidnapped by the Cthulhu worshipers. Indeed, the whole population of London seems to have become a victim of the secret cult. This may be one of the reasons, alongside the lack of use of modern graphics, that allows the game to be played on computers from a past era: the minimum requirements only call for a Pentium III processor. On the other hand, further development may still be at works in this area.
Even though London is the base of operations for Sherlock, the streets of London are not the only location investigated in the game ? Holmes and Watson will also visit other parts of the world, including New Orleans and its river boats. Similarly, a big part of the mystery seems to be centred around an asylum called "Black Edelweiss", many of the patients of which will be amongst the NPCs that Holmes has to confront.