Ukrainian studio Frogwares crowdfunds full-scale Sherlock Holmes remake and gets off to a flier

Developer Frogwares recently announced that it would be going back to the future with its Sherlock Holmes games, and remaking its 2006 title Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened. This was one of the studio's first games, and is fondly remembered as the one where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson take on a cult dedicated to Cthulhu.

The project is a full remake with updated gameplay systems, new content, re-done voice acting, and new visuals that will bring it in-line with the standard of last year's Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One. It is also a consequence of the ongoing war in Ukraine, where Frogwares is based: When the announcement was made producer Denys Chebotarov said, "We’ve always wanted to remake this game at some point, but the war has forced us into making it now."

The studio is part-funding the project through a newly launched Kickstarter, which is happily already well over 2/3rds of the way there. The Kickstarter campaign dishes up some extra details as well as the reveal trailer above.

"The Awakened is set a few years after the events of our latest game, Sherlock Holmes Chapter One," writes Frogwares. "Holmes and Watson are merely roommates renting a flat at 221B Baker street. It’s the events of this adventure that will turn them into the iconic crime-solving duo of best friends, and it’s the only story that Watson will never reveal to the public: the world will be better off being ignorant of what really transpired."

As part of the project, elements of The Awakening will be re-written to align with Frogwares' recent young Sherlock games. This story will now be Holmes' first real case with Watson, and "the only assets from the original game we are using are the general case plots."

The changes include:

  • All new graphics and asset models
  • New animations
  • New cutscenes
  • Additional investigation gameplay mechanics
  • Rewriting the story to connect with the case from The Awakened to a younger Sherlock
  • Amplifying the story behind how Watson and Holmes came to be so close
  • Case story rewrites
  • Additional side quests
  • New English voice over recordings and translations into multiple languages
  • UI overall haul
  • Change to 3rd person perspective camera
  • Additional quality of life features

The Awakened has a semi-open world structure and is set in locations including Victorian London, a Swiss psych ward, New Orleans, the Louisiana bayous, and Scotland. Some of these, such as the Louisiana swamps, can be traversed by boat. Frogwares promises this won't be a hand-holding game but one that forces the player to puzzle stuff out themselves, in order to create that true 'greatest detective' feeling.

The sobering element comes at the end of the Kickstarter, when Frogwares has to provide the standard 'risks and challenges' section: "The war is our biggest risk and challenge."

It's also posted this video detailing some of the challenges of developing a game in the middle of a conflict.

Frogwares says it's using crowdfunding to part-fund the game because "this war is continually throwing new challenges at us that each time requires we stop, regroup and adapt. This takes time, effort, and in many cases money that was normally set aside to fund the production of the game."

This is also why a remake project makes sense: "We have the bulk of the content, new features, and storyline all mapped out and locked in. We have a clear roadmap of what happens in the game from start to finish."

It looks like the campaign will very soon beat its target of just under $73,000 / £60,000, with the game available for pre-order at $40 / £35 and lower tiers for those who just wish to make a donation. The Kickstarter will run until September 3rd, and Frogwares estimates the game will start shipping in February 2023.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."