Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers by Sierra
Gabriel Knight is one of the best and most beloved adventure game series Sierra ever released, receiving rave reviews and making designer Jane Jensen famous. It is not the first departure from the rather cute adventures that made Sierra famous (remember the Manhunters?), but it is a much darker and adult game than those the company used to make (and if anyone tells me that the Larry games are adult oriented, I am viable to die laughing). Before being misunderstood, let me clarify that by adult I mean that the game characters have complex personalities, they are not strictly good or bad and they sometimes have to make difficult moral decisions-in short, a game that is more likely to be appreciated by a mature audience.
You are Gabriel Knight, the owner of a bookstore in New Orleans, held open mainly by the diligence of your secretary, Grace Nakimura. You are aspiring to become a famous writer and to gather material for your book, you ask the help of your friend Detective Mosely to give you information about a series of gruesome murders taking place in the surrounding area. But as of late, the nightmares that have been troubling you since you were a child are getting worse- coincidence? And as if things weren’t complicated enough, you meet Malia Gedde- alluring, mysterious, and completely out of your league. So, slowly, what will begin as simple research for your book will turn out to be a quest full of peril and passion, were old Voodoo cults strive for more power while the forces of good are helpless- unless you take up their cause for your own. In your efforts to do so, you will travel from New Orleans to Germany and from there to Africa, you will discover your ancient heritage, and you will find out who and what you really are…if you have the courage to accept it.
The graphics are standard for the time the game was released. They successfully convey the gloomy and subdued atmosphere a supernatural thriller must have to give the story convincing surroundings. I have never been in New Orleans (yet, I hope), but I hear that places like St. Louis cemetery and Jackson Square are accurately represented. When you enter a conversation you get a close-up of Gabriel and the character you are talking to. The portraits are hand drawn and as I have said in a previous review, I like them that way, I find them more expressive and aesthetically satisfying than the rendered characters that are so popular nowadays. The cut-scenes have a “comics” look, and the way pictures fall on top of the previous ones gives the watcher a feeling of real suspense and drama. The CD version of the game also has the option to play in SVGA graphics, but I couldn’t get the mouse to work properly with that resolution. The simple VGA graphics worked just fine for me.
The sound is of good quality too. The music sets the mood, changes to suit the situation you are in, and adds to the atmosphere. The voice acting is excellent, and some famous names are found among the actors that give their voices to the characters- Tim Curry is memorable as Gabriel Knight, and Star Wars fans will recognize Mark Hammil as the voice of Detective Mosely. I do have one complain however; I did not like the voice of the narrator at all. Not to the point of turning it off, but if the drawling tone was meant to sound authentically “Voodoo”, it failed.
This is a third person point-and-click adventure. The user interface is the one Sierra introduced with King’s Quest V I think. There are icons representing any action you can make, and you switch among them by right clicking, you perform them with left click. Your inventory is limitless, there are 20 save slots, and you can set the speed with which Gabriel moves. Subtitles for the dialogues are available. There are no hotspots though, which adds to the game’s difficulty. If you have played any Sierra adventure of that period, you will be on familiar ground- and those of you who haven’t, don’t be afraid, you will get used to it quickly.
Gabriel Knight is based on information gathering and inventory management. There are also a couple of mechanical puzzles, but they are rather easy. The rest of the game is not, though. The average difficulty of the puzzles is above medium, I think, and there are a couple of notoriously devious ones- the one where you must write a message on a tomb wall using voodoo symbols, and sending drum messages (on a personal note, I didn’t find the later all that difficult). There are no sliders, no music puzzles and no mazes in this one- those who hate them, rejoice. This is an engrossing game, with the excellent writing and game design, suspenseful story and great atmosphere making you to always want to see what will happen next.
The game is DOS, but it run ok from Win98. While the operating system does not cause any problems, the system’s speed does. If you have a fast CPU, and at the time the game was released, a Pentium was the most powerful PC money (lots of money) could buy, there will be gameplay problems, with one instance where you will be completely unable to continue due to a glitch. Using a slowdown utility will take care of the problem (Turbo is the one the company recommends and includes in the CD in the Limited Edition of the game, I used Moslo). I though you should know. I encountered no other problems.
Gabriel Knight is a classic that managed to withstand the test of time and frequently appears in the list of the best adventures of all time. All adventurers should have it in their collection, and those who have a preference for dark, suspenseful, mature themes will enjoy it most of all.
[This message has been edited by Clovis (edited 06-07-2001).]