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Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
Hall of Fame Entry #4

Developer: Sierra
Publisher: Sierra
Release Date: 1993
Platform:  

By Katie Scarlett

     

Every once in a while, the rare game comes along that manages to get everything right. Gabriel Knight is one of those games. From characters that are so believable they start to feel like friends, to a story that grabs you right from the beginning and doesn't let go until the final credits start rolling, GK has everything. In 15+ years of playing hundreds of adventure games, I can unequivocally state that this is one of finest I have ever had the pleasure to play. Simply put, GK is more than a classic, it is a masterpiece.

You start your adventure by reading a small booklet done in a comic book style. The book, set in 1693, tells the story of Gunter Ritter, a witch-hunter or Schattenjager, and Eliza, a beautiful slave woman. Gunter is investigating some recent murders that the village people believe are the work of witchcraft. As his work progresses, Gunter falls deeply in love with Eliza, only in the end to find that she is the head of the coven he seeks. The townspeople prepare to burn Eliza at the stake. As Gunter watches, he is torn between his love for Eliza and his duty to the town and his family. Finally unable to watch his beloved suffer in the flames any longer, Gunter uses the power of his family's talisman to save her. But, alas, it is too late. Instead of the power saving her, she turns into a dark, spiteful god, bitter at the betrayal of her lover. She vows that she will seek revenge on Gunter and his descendants.

As you start the game, the intro shows a dream sequence that seems to depict the events of the book. This sequence will repeat throughout the game and is central to the story. Once your character wakes up, you find yourself in the shoes of Gabriel Knight, book store owner and wannabe writer. The place and date: New Orleans, June 1994. Gabriel is currently investigating a rash of bizarre, ritualistic killings dubbed the Voodoo Murders. Haunted by his dreams and drawn ever deeper into the murder investigation and the world of voodoo, Gabriel will ultimately untangle a mystery and not only expose a voodoo cult but learn about who he is, where he comes from, and his ultimate destiny.

The story moves along like a well-written book. The player will meet dozens of characters to interview on his/her quest for the truth. Gabriel's faithful shopkeeper and friend, Grace, helps Gabriel by providing needed research and generally being just a tad bit smarter than Gabriel. Mosely, Gabe's police buddy, will also help him out now and again. The characters are all so well-done that not once did I not find them unbelievable. The story was obviously well-researched, and the player will find him or herself actually learning a few things about voodoo. For all these reasons and more, I give the plot an A+.

Gameplay is exactly what you would expect from a murder mystery. You will interview a wonderful cast of colorful characters in your attempt to discover the murderers and bring down the voodoo cult. All of the puzzles, while being tough, are logical and seamlessly fit into the environment. You won't find one Myst push-the-button, flip-the-switch, solve-the-computerized-Rubik's-cube type twiddle-ware puzzle anywhere (yeah!). The interface is the standard one Sierra was using at the time, where you click on an action icon, such as look or get, and then click on the object you want to perform the action on. Talking to people brings up a screen with a close-up of Gabriel in one corner and whoever he is talking to in the other, with the different topics to talk about listed between them. For having tough, logical puzzles that don't insult my intelligence and none of the loathsome twiddle-ware, I give the gameplay an A.

Seeing as how GK was released in 1993, the graphics look dated by today's standards. But when it was released, the whole game was considered a technological marvel. The game looks pretty much as you would expect from the time: 256 colors at 640 x 480, complete with great big pixels. Character animations are minimal but wholly adequate for their purpose. Cut scenes are beautifully done with gorgeous hand-drawn still pictures that I found pleasing to look at even by today's standards. I'm declining to give the graphics a grade simply because it isn't fair to judge 1993 graphics by 1999 standards.

No GK review would be complete without mentioning the stars that lent their talented voices to the cast. Tim Curry is the voice of Gabriel Knight, while Mark Hamill plays his buddy Mosely. With a cast like that, you can imagine the voice acting was extremely professional. Tim Curry at times does sound a bit cheesy, but cheesy fits the character of Gabriel so well. Every voice matches the character perfectly. The music in the game is good. It features New Orleans jazz, ritual drums and typical what's-going-to-happen-next music. The music is not overdone and does not play all the time. I never once found myself reaching for my volume control. I give the sound and music an A.

Gabriel Knight is such a wonderful game that if you haven't played it yet you should run, not walk, to your nearest software store and grab a copy. The game has recently been rereleased in anticipation of Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned. The game comes bundled with Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within, which is just as captivating as GK1. The set also contains a novelization of the game, and although I haven't read it myself, I'm sure with Jane Jensen having authored it, it makes a good read. Gabriel Knight receives a final grade of A.

System Requirements:

PC:
386
4 MB RAM
VGA video card
2 MB of free hard disk space
2X CD-ROM drive
Sound card

Macintosh:
68020 or higher
System 7.0+
5 MB (3 MB free) RAM
CD-ROM
2 MB of free hard disk space
Keyboard, mouse