We don’t know about you, but when Russia first attacked Ukraine in February 2022, we were terrified, and concentrating on anything else was difficult.
We’re 2,000 miles away, though, in the UK, and so any immediate threat to us was tenuous at best. The team at Frogwares, however, the studio behind the upcoming Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, living and working in the heart of Ukraine, are far braver than we are. Rather than fearing for their lives and fleeing the country, they knuckled down and got to work. Life must go on, and so they busied themselves by focusing on developing their next game.
In a press release circulated in November, Frogwares’ Head of Publishing, Sergiy Oganesyan, said: “By around May or June 2022, our team had become quite stable and adept at working with the war raging on in the background. But since October missile strikes across the entire country have ramped up immensely with civilian electricity, internet and water infrastructure now being the main targets. So, like the whole country, we are grappling with constant power outages, unstable internet connections, heating issues and so forth. It’s an inconvenience that hinders our work […] But we have figured out ways to deal with these hurdles like everyone else and simply keep moving forward.”
That attitude is remarkable in itself. What’s even more remarkable, however, is that Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, the game the team is currently working on, is still on track for an early 2023 release. And, after getting our hands on a hour-long preview of the game, we can confirm it’s going to live up to the quality the studio has become known for.
Related: Read our Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One review
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened has been funded in part by Kickstarter, with a successful campaign in 2022 accruing almost four times the original goal: €250,000 earned instead of €70,000. That’s no doubt helped spur the team on, providing them the financial security to keep working in otherwise spirit-breaking conditions.
A remake/reimagining of a game of the same name originally released in 2006 – yes, Frogwares has a 20-year history of bringing Sherlock Holmes to the world of video games – The Awakened sees the famous literary detective venture into the dark world of cosmic horror. Normally grounded in reality, this time Holmes and Watson will be up against a host of Lovecraftian-inspired horrors. In our preview, it took the form of a possessed doll.
Frogwares has confirmed that Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened will take place in four locations: Victorian London, a psychiatric hospital in the Swiss Alps, the New Orleans bayous, and the Scottish Highlands. The short preview we’ve gone hands-on with took us deep into the belly of the psychiatric hospital. Purposefully getting himself thrown into a holding room – undeniably a cell – under the hospital, Holmes is on the case of some very dark happenings. It seems people have been going missing, being shipped to the hospital from overseas, only to never see light of day again.
If that isn’t dark enough for you, there’s a haunted doll thrown into the mix, too, and the very unnerving setting of a turn-of-the-century psychiatric hospital with very bad conditions. Tonally, then, it’s quite different from Frogwares’ last outing, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One. But in other senses, it’s very much a continuation. This is the same Holmes and Watson you became familiar with if you’ve played Chapter One. And Frogwares has confirmed they’ve reworked the story of The Awakened to make this feel like a logical sequel.
That means various game conventions, such as the way Holmes investigates scenes and gathers evidence, is very familiar. Like in Chapter One, you’ll need to ‘pin’ pieces of evidence to your screen in order to effectively search the area. There’s also a ‘Mind Palace’ where Holmes can go to piece together the evidence he’s gathered so far.
Unlike Chapter One, however, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened isn’t open world. You won’t be able to explore the wider world to pick up additional missions, for example. But that’s not necessarily a negative. It means we’ve got a much more focused story on our hands. It’s unclear whether this is a compromise Frogwares has made due to the current conditions in Ukraine – after all, the studio has said that The Awakened isn’t necessarily the game they originally planned to make right now – or whether it’s simply to keep the game closer to its source material.
Whatever the reason, though, we’re intrigued enough by the story at hand already and can’t wait to see what else Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened has to share with us. The world may not be as big as it was in Chapter One, but thanks to its Lovecraftian influences, it’s perhaps more alluring than ever. This is Sherlock Holmes meets The Sinking City: it feels like the team at Frogwares is pulling together all of their loves, interests and specialties to create a game that encompasses it all. We can’t wait to see the finished result.
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is scheduled for an early 2023 release. It’s coming to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.