I’ve read most of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but I never stopped to think that what Holmes was missing was a Lovecraftian crossover. Today is the day I stand corrected, however. Sherlock Holmes The Awakened is a complete rebuild of the original title that Frogwares released back in 2008, about a mysterious cult and its ties to an ancient myth of epic proportions.
Sherlock Holmes The Awakened begins innocently enough with a couple of disappearances that everyone’s favourite consulting detective must investigate. Things quickly spiral from there, and our heroes find themselves dragged right into the goings-on of a strange cult. The story gets very dark very quickly, and Holmes must keep his grip on reality if he wishes to see the other side of this case.
Having played Sherlock Holmes Chapter One last year, I was fairly familiar with the general controls and how to investigate clues and such. The change from PC to PS5 was very easy to get used to. Essentially, you have a casebook and what’s called a Mind Palace. Your casebook is where your evidence is held for you to review, and your Mind Palace is where you try to combine those pieces of evidence into a lead or answer to a question.
If you don’t have enough evidence, you can’t complete the Mind Palace question. So, it is always a good idea to pin different evidence items and look around, ask passers-by, or search through the database (if it’s available for that given item).
Sherlock Holmes The Awakened features a semi-open world map for you to explore in each area that you travel to. As this case will take Holmes from London to Switzerland and beyond, each area will have its own map to explore. While there are a lot of locations to visit on each map, it can get fairly linear at times as there are only certain doors that open or certain paths that can be taken. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as my compulsive need to open every door to make sure I don’t miss anything would ensure that my playthrough would reach close to 100 hours.
“Sherlock Holmes The Awakened begins innocently enough with a couple of disappearances that everyone’s favourite consulting detective must investigate.”
Graphically, Sherlock Holmes The Awakened looks very good. There are a few points where the hair on Holmes or Watson looks dicey, and the facial animations don’t always line up with the dialogue, but it was never enough to pull me out of the moment. The use of darkness and light to create an atmosphere was very good and helped draw me into the experience.
The thing that surprised me the most was that Sherlock Holmes The Awakened turned out to be a terrifying experience. Right from the very beginning, there is a sense of foreboding that just grows and grows throughout the entire story. From the rain-soaked Port of London to the dank basement of a Swiss asylum to the harsh wetlands of the Louisiana Bayou, there is never a moment’s rest. It’s all building towards a conclusion that is as fantastical as it is horrifying.
“Sherlock Holmes The Awakened is a solid rebuild, and it is quite an experience to explore Holmes at the edge of sanity.”
Linking the Cthulhu mythos to Sherlock Holmes is the crossover I never knew I needed. It has a taste of the supernatural and keeps it grounded in the reality of the time period. Being set in 1882 allows Sherlock Holmes The Awakened to create a feeling of dread and maintain it throughout as the technology of the era limits Holmes. These days, it would be a hard sell for the supernatural to be taken as seriously, but in Holmes’ time, it’s more easily believed.
Controls in Sherlock Holmes The Awakened are very simple: your interact button (X Button on PS5), Casebook (Options button on PS5), Analyse Surroundings (L1 on PS5), and Concentration (R1 on PS5) are your most used buttons. There are no fancy haptics to be used with the PS5 controller, and apart from vibration, it is a very bare-bones setup. Not that this is a bad thing at all.
There aren’t really many moments where the game would benefit from these sorts of things. Apart from maybe implementing a subtle vibration to be paired with Holmes’ heartbeat in stressful situations, I can’t imagine Sherlock Holmes The Awakened needing anything else. The only thing I would change, if I could, was mapping the touchpad to the map. I lost count of how many times I would press it only to be met with the pause screen and not the map.
All told, Sherlock Holmes The Awakened is a solid rebuild, and it is quite an experience to explore Holmes at the edge of sanity. Clocking in at around 15 hours, it’s definitely not the longest story, but it never loses steam and keeps players on the edge of their seats for the vast majority of the playthrough. There are a fair few Easter eggs inserted in that reference real-life people, as well as Holmes’ past in Cordona (the main setting for Sherlock Holmes Chapter One). I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this title, and a few more side quests or a bit more padding to the story to expand on the Lovecraftian influences would be most welcome.