Ukrainian developer Frogwares has been making Sherlock Holmes games for 15 years now, slowly improving and reshaping a solid adventure model. The Devil's Daughter is the eighth mainline game in the series and features a younger Sherlock, who juggles the life of a master sleuth with the perils of parenthood. We spoke to CEO Wael Amr about adapting beloved source material and what the future has in store.
Push Square: First off, Devil's Daughter features a whole new set of cases, some of which impact on Holmes personal life. How much does the established lore inform what you can and cant do in the story?
Wael Amr: We are huge fans of the original Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, and they always served as inspiration for our game. However, we also wanted to create our take on the character as well. With The Devil's Daughter, we wanted to make Sherlock more vulnerable, fragile, and most importantly, human. We wanted the players to feel a human connection with him. Hence the introduction of Katelyn, Sherlock's daughter, in our story.
The game sees a younger, brasher version of Sherlock than seen in previous titles. Did you want to reboot the character and bring it in line with more modern interpretations?
Our main reason for the Sherlock "update" was from the narrative perspective. Since in our story Sherlock Holmes is a father, we needed to make him a bit younger, more modern, and behave less stiff and sarcastic. It's all part of making him a believable character and to help players build this emotional tie-in to the character, but without losing that Sherlock Holmes DNA.
We are introduced to Holmes' daughter in this game. Doting father isn't a side of the character we've seen before, how did you approach this from a writing perspective?
It was a tough one. For us, making these games is a personal experience. We've made quite a few Sherlock Holmes games over the years, and you can't help it when the game starts influencing your life, and vice versa. Since our first Sherlock game, we've grown up a lot, and a lot of us became fathers during this time as well – and that experience filtered through to our game and the world that we've created in The Devil's Daughter.
How did fans react to the inclusion of Katelyn?
To be honest, we were worried that fans won't take too kindly to her, but it was great to see a lot of our players writing in saying that they appreciated the little change that we've made. It's very easy to get "stale" with a character like Sherlock, so having Katelyn around was a nice, extra bit of spice added to the Sherlock Holmes formula.
The 'echoes' system adds branching story elements based on final deductions made by the player. Was this an attempt to diverge from the more linear nature of previous titles?
With The Devil's Daughter, we wanted the players to really feel the choices they make and make them think twice before taking a decision. The choices you make while solving each case will have its consequences in the grander scheme of things. We also wanted players to feel the impact of their choices on a micro-level as well. When players will analyse different suspects in each case, they will have to use their judgement in creating character profiles. The choices they make there will also shape the dialogue options that will be available to them later. We've definitely built on that the idea of choice and non-linearity, and it is a thought that we want to build on in our future production as well.
Moving on from Sherlock, Frogwares next title is The Sinking City, an open world investigation game based on the work of HP Lovecraft. Has there been any challenges in the transition to open world design?
We feel that us creating our first open world game is a natural evolution of the path that we've been taking. We are gamers ourselves, and we know that an open world design has its own set of rules and challenges that need to be tackled in their own specific way. The biggest one – making sure that the world "lives". There is nothing hard in creating a huge map, but it is the little, subtle things that make the world great. We want players to feel like they wondered into a liveable, breathing, macro-organism – with its own set of rules, stories, and people. This is what we want to create in The Sinking City – a world that is real.
The concept art for the game is rich with tentacles, is this going to be full on horror?
There will be elements of horror in The Sinking City, but not just your typical "giant, evil looking monster is coming – be scared" type of horror. We know that the things that we are scared of the most are those that we don't know. As a player, you will also dwell into the world of the occult and mysticism, seeing and experiencing things that are truly out of this world. This will be a game that will go after your senses and emotions – not just after jump-scares.
Like Conan Doyle, Lovecraft has a rich universe to mine, could this be the start of a new ongoing series?
For the moment, we are only concentrating on The Sinking City. What will the future bring? Only time will tell. Right now, we just want to make sure that our first Lovecraft-inspired game will be as strong as possible.
Finally, what are the chances we can get a spin off game starring Toby, Sherlock's trusty pooch?
Hahaha. Well, we didn't think about this one, but now that you mentioned it, we should do a Toby simulator. Perhaps this could be the VR experience we've all been waiting for!
Have you played Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter yet? Are you looking forward to The Sinking City? Does Sherlock's dog deserve his own title? Let us know in the comments section below.