Shadows of Doubt: The Murder Mystery Simulator of a Lifetime
There have been what feels like a plethora of murder mystery games released lately. Between Murderous Muses and Sherlock Holmes, the puzzle-forward detective game players have been having a great time lately. We ate well, gathered clues, questioned suspects, and drew conclusions. Then things changed; a proverbial golden horse came out in early access. A game to satisfy Whodunnit lovers for an incredibly long time. Shadows of Doubt is that game.
While there is no crucial story in Shadows of Doubt, that is actually where it thrives the most. Stories will come as the player spends time in the world. Each time you load into a world, everything is procedurally generated, the people, the buildings, the relationships, and most importantly, the criminals. When you first hope into it, you will have nothing but your notebook and your wits to get you by. You can take up odd jobs at diners and city hall. These vary, from being publicly humiliated to tracking down corporate spies.
You do this by accepting jobs at a posting site, or by telephone, and each one comes with incomplete information. Most of the time, you will need to find out who you are looking for or who you need to turn the job into. Except for a few hints, you might get their first initial, partner’s name, place of work, or fingerprint. From there, it is up to you to decide how to solve the case. Find a city directory, and track down everyone with the same first initial to see if anything else lines up. If you get their place of work, why not talk to everyone at that workplace? These jobs themselves can be very involved. I have had a case of corporate thievery that took me almost three hours to solve. But when you finally crack the case, it can be incredibly satisfying.
While you are venturing into the world of Shadows of Doubt and getting by, there is also some serial murder happening. You will get a notification on your screen that one has happened, as this is the main thrust of this sandbox adventure. These also require an incredible amount of footwork and detective skills. The stakes are very high as well. The longer you go without solving the case, the more murders will occur. It is literally a race against the clock. You will want to make the most of every second, as wasting time could lead to more potential death in the city.
For example, when I started my last game, I decided to take on some bounty hunting, which is basically trying to figure out who the city guard needs to be arrested and who to turn it into. Halfway through this side quest, I was notified that a murder had occurred. It also happens to be the floor below me in an apartment building. These notifications are both good and bad news, it means that the case is now hot and you can gather information, but it also means the cops are aware of the crime and are on their way to collect evidence and section off the area.
Because it was right below me on the sixteenth floor, I knew I had some time, so I went to the correct floor, found a fuse box that shut off the lights, closed a security gate to the floor, and stopped the CCTV from functioning, so I managed to buy myself some time. After breaking into the apartment where the murder occurred, I found the body, detected the cause of death, the time of death, the victim’s fingerprints, and where they worked. This was a start, but I was also able to use their phone to find out the last three numbers they called, and by cross-referencing this with their contact book, I had some suspects. As I was on my way out, I realized I had forgotten to check the scene for more prints, to which I was able to find an unknown set—our murderer.
Just then, the police opened the gate and turned the fuse box on, so I had to sneak out of a grate nearby and escape the building before they noticed me and pegged me as the murderer. As I was on my way to the person on their contact list, another murder had taken place… and it was exactly where I was headed. Clearly, the murderer knew these two were close, and that meant I found my thread to follow. I needed to cross-reference some contact lists and question everyone that showed up on both lists.
I’ll save you from the thrilling story because I ended up down a rabbit hole which was nicely displayed in my notebook because as you find new information, you can pin it to a board, move it around, and connect it to other pieces.
There is no good way to explain the joy of playing this completely randomized murder mystery. Still, if you enjoy games like Return of the Obra Dinn, Murderous Muses, or and Sherlock Holmes, you owe it to yourself to get deep into the seedy city and find your own mystery in Shadows of Doubt.
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