The visuals are at least as good as expected, and markedly improved at times. In the Whitechapel area in particular we finally see the amount of people we expect to see, solving a big issue with earlier games.
As usual in this series, gameplay consists of a combination of trying to notice everything of interest, some inventory-combination puzzles, some traditional fare, occasional mini-games, the deduction board/reconstruction and special puzzles (puzzle-locks, mostly) in-between.
- The inventory-combination and other traditional fare are as expected. A bit straightforward perhaps, but that’s in keeping with the serious tone.
- As in earlier games, noticing the important hotspots can get a bit tedious at times. Feeling a straight-up hotspot revealer button would spoil too much, the game introduces the “Sixth Sense” hint feature, supposed to lead you to an important hotspot you missed. Sadly this isn’t implemented well: most of the time it will point you to doors you’ve already been through or puzzles you don’t have the components to solve yet.
- The deduction boards have improved a bit. It still works through multiple-choice questions, but doesn’t have as many patently ridiculous suggestions as in previous games. Instead though, you can generally eliminate answers using the evidence you’ve seen. A big improvement then, though the word “deduction” seems used a bit loosely now and then.
- The occasional minigames are a nice diversion, but the lockpicking game in particular is simple enough to be an insult.
- The developer has made important steps forward in handling the difficulty of the major puzzles. It is clear they tried to make the descriptions significantly less obtuse while not reducing the difficulty much (at least on the Hard setting I played in). And they have for the most part succeeded. There is also an option to skip puzzles that are too hard for you, but this makes you miss out on an achievement, potentially motivating you to retry later.
Testament for the most part does great on storytelling and atmosphere. The murders are as disturbing and intriguing as they should be, and so is Holmes’ curious backslide in morals. The culmination in his death is handled well, and even caught me off-guard for a moment. (I was told how some things would play out at the 2011 GamesCom, but apparently they changed their mind afterwards.)
But the things it does right here are marred by some baffling design choices that go with them. This starts at the very beginning of the game. Three toddlers, apparently including Holmes’ granddaughter and Watson’s grandson, find an old story in an attic and begin to read it, after which the game proper starts. This completely unnecessary framing device is returned to a few times later including at the very end. In my opinion it does not mesh well with the feel of the rest of the game and would have been better to leave out.
There are more such things. At one point Sherlock brings in a tracking dog and you play as the dog for a while. This section is actually rather well done and would have made a great segment in an other game, but the puzzle-solving in particular make it feel like you’re watching some children’s movie about a wonder dog, ruining the otherwise very serious atmosphere.
All in all the Testament is a worthy installment that improves on its predecessors in several ways, and should certainly be picked up by any fans of the series, but still is not everything it could have been.
Time Played: 10-20 hours