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Frogwares, a Kyiv-based studio released the video game Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened on April 11. What is most remarkable is that the entire game was made while the Ukrainian invasion by Russian military forces was ongoing.

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened

A few hours after the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, Frogwares tweeted, “We can’t just stand by”. Subsequently, the Kyiv-based studio started using its social media space for more than just announcements and posting video game trailers. Their social media platform was also filled with details about life in the time of war.

Frogwares tweet

About 250,000 people worked in Kyiv in the tech industry prior to the February Russian invasion. This includes tens of thousands in e-sports and gaming. Although a lot has changed since the start of the war, there continues to be a boom in the tech industry.

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened was created in just one year while the war was raging in Ukraine. The studio originally planned to make a new open-world game. Eventually, the studio settled for a remake of their 2007 title that got positive reviews.

The studio needed a project that could succeed in a difficult situation and remaking an already predetermined story was easier to implement than starting a fresh project. Frogwares was able to raise $274,000 through crowdfunding and delved into work towards the end of March last year.

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened development called for desperate measures

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened

After the invasion, Frogwares shut down temporarily. During the downtime, the company focused on helping people to relocate or find shelter in safer parts of the country.

“When the invasion started, we decided to give people the time and all of the support that we could provide to help them either relocate or leave the country or find shelter somewhere in the west of Ukraine,” said Sergey Oganesyan, head of publishing at Frogwares.

The studio remained shut for a few weeks before resuming work. Eventually, they developed a hybrid mode that saw some designing and programming done entirely from home. Others came to the office depending on where they lived, whether they had electricity, and how safe it was for them to get to the office.

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened

According to Oganesyan, working on Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened helped to distract the staff from the war. Also, it was a huge source of financial income which was crucial to go through the war.

Also, Oganesyan disclosed that some of the Frogwares team members have donated an average of $3,055 for humanitarian aid and for the support of the Ukrainian army. Such gestures also made them feel like they were contributing positively to help their country win the war.

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened was influenced by the war in Ukraine

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened

What used to be an extraordinary event is gradually becoming a normal everyday life in Ukraine. People no longer scamper for safety with the blaring of the air raid siren in Kyiv. Instead, they move around, hoping nothing happens. Those horrible events also influenced the game.

“I don’t think it’s possible to separate that,” said Oganesyan. “I don’t think the game would have been as dark as it is right now.”

In Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, the player will take on the role of master detective Sherlock Holmes and try to solve criminal cases through intuitive deduction. After observing objects and documents and listening to suspects and witnesses, the player can reconstruct crime scenes and track the perpetrators.

The story goes back to 1882 in Sherlock Holmes’ neighborhood. The young detective is always in the company of his friend Dr. Watson. Holmes radiates intellectual superiority and has a clever way of answering questions and reaching logical conclusions. Eventually, Sherlock Holmes is hired by a rich Londoner to find his missing domestic servant.

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened starts out ordinary but soon twists into a terrifying and bizarre place. The game borrows heavily from the Cthulhu myth created by H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), an American horror author.

Lovecraft describes Cthulhu as an extraterrestrial deity with a face covered with tentacles and has the capability of plunging the entire humanity into ruin. The game also features mystical symbols of the Cthulhu deity.

When Sherlock Holmes is plunged into a supernatural place, he begins to question his sanity. The player must remain calm and draw a logical conclusion which is not always easy in the prevailing circumstance.

The player will encounter dead ends and red herrings that only end in a trap. The game often leaves the player without a clue which can be frustrating—a deliberate ploy to unlock the player’s detective prowess.

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