Developer Frogwares' well-regarded series of deduction-based Sherlock Holmes games is making a comeback next year with an origin story titled Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One.
Chapter One is Frogwares' first new Sherlock Holmes game since 2016's divisive The Devil's Daughter (the studio busied itself with Lovecraft-inspired The Sinking City in the interim), and it tells the story of a fresh-faced, 21-year-old Sherlock not explored in the books - a version of the character the developer calls "more raw talent than refined genius...reckless and impatient and a tad brazen, but unknowingly already on the path to greatness".
Chapter One also sees Frogwares shaking things up further by making a deliberate move away from the over-familiar fog-shrouded streets of Victorian London, shifting its origin story to the altogether more sunny, Mediterranean-inspired island of Sherlock's youth, "where class divides and corruption are the foundations of this society".
As Chapter One begins, Sherlock returns to the island to uncover the truth behind the death of his mother, accompanied by his then-best-friend Jonathan, whose relationship will play a central role in the game, according to the developer.
"While we're getting more creative with the backstory of Sherlock, fans of the series and character can rest assured we're sticking close to the source material to keep it cohesive," says Frogwares, "Most people have a firm view of who Sherlock is. Our story isn't about changing that, but rather exploring how he could have come to be this way, exploring ideas right down to how he acquired his penchant for the violin, his distinct hat and even his addiction to drugs."
Chapter One - which Frogwares stresses is a complete game - introduces the developer's new Global Investigation System, which builds upon the "no hand holding" structure of The Sinking City to give players "much more freedom in solving cases in a way that feels like genuine detective work." There's a combat system too, which might rankle those who felt The Devil's Daughter leaned too heavily on the action, but Frogwares says it's built around Sherlock's observational skills rather than brute force.
Hopefully the end result will more closely mirror 2016's superbly atmospheric Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, which struck just the right balance between pacy mystery yarn and open-ended exploration adventure, featuring a tremendously satisfying deductive focus.
Frogwares says Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One will launch sometime in 2021 on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and next-gen consoles.