"Gabriel Knight knows mystery. After all, he's a writer who has tried his hand at the literature genre. Unfortunately for him, much like most aspiring authors, the glory he had hoped for never materialized. With no promising career as an author, he has instead become the owner and proprietor of St. George's Rare Books, located in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Gabriel isn't a man to give up on his writing ambitions, however. When a rash of serial killings occurs in the city, Gabriel sets out ..."
Gabriel Knight knows mystery. After all, he's a writer who has tried his hand at the literature genre. Unfortunately for him, much like most aspiring authors, the glory he had hoped for never materialized. With no promising career as an author, he has instead become the owner and proprietor of St. George's Rare Books, located in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Gabriel isn't a man to give up on his writing ambitions, however. When a rash of serial killings occurs in the city, Gabriel sets out to investigate with the help of Mosely, a friend from the Police Department. His motivation is to spin off the revolting voodoo-style murders into what he hopes to be his breakthrough novel, but as one could expect, he is quickly drawn into something far bigger, influenced by events that occurred as early as several millenia ago.
One can tell that Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers will be good. Developed by a Sierra Entertainment team led by Jane Jenson of critically acclaimed King's Quest VI fame, the first hour eases you into Gabriel's world by introducing many of its characters. A 'Guess that Voice!' during that time period shows a game rife with talent: the voice of Gabe by Tim Curry, who most recently voiced Arl Howe in Dragon Age: Origins; Mosely the police investigator is done by Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame; Grace Nakimura, Gabriel's chatty and playful store assistant, is played by Leah Remini, best known as Carrie Heffernan from The King of Queens. Contrasting that voice is the excellent soundtrack. Jenson's husband Robert Holmes has done an excellent job with composing the game's music: during the day, the music takes on a tranquil nature. As the days pass and Gabriel finds himself deeper and deeper into the dark depths of his family's mystery, the soundtrack marches onwards with deeper notes that inspire tension and a morbid atmosphere.
Morbidity reflects the storyline of Gabriel Knight. The victims being investigated at the start of the game were tortured to death, their bodies mutilated. Characters can and will die, only a part of the violent twists which are often thrown at you. Much of the game's plot is submerged in the supernatural: for example, said earlier murders were connected with voodoo rituals involved in their deaths, one character is possessed by a demon with Satanistic themes, and a sinister cult operates in the shadows of New Orleans. Gabriel starts the game dreaming of a corpse hanging from the branch of a great oak; by the end of his fated journey, the last casualty occurs when the victim's still-beating heart is ripped out.
In solving the mysteries that have been cast upon the Knight family history (hence the subtitle to the game), the player directs Gabriel around various locations via the traditional point-and-click system. Using their in-game avatar to examine objects, the player can chat with Gabriel's friends and interrogate suspicious folks, and utilize several other vanilla actions such as opening a door or picking up an item from the ground. This is useful, as Gabriel's investigation will require the aspiring author to solve several puzzles using both legal and illegal methods; these riddles vary from the mundane, such as deciphering mysterious marks on a tomb to create a message, to picking up floor tiles and redistributing them to various rooms. Regardless of complexity, each of them will require thinking, observation, and the occasional running around to find clues to help form a solution.
Gabriel Knight's interpretation on the point-and-click adventure genre isn't entirely without its flaws, however. Dying is uncommon but unexpected when it occurs, forcing the less-wary player to reload from a far earlier point in the ten separate in-game days that make up Sins of the Fathers' storyline. One puzzle in particular even imposes a time limit that can be difficult to solve, forcing an unsuccessful player to restart the whole sequence. There is also the occasional logic skip, as nearly all such text-heavy adventure games are wont to have, but these flaws in the game's design rarely crop up.
Gabriel eventually visits both Germany and Africa, the former to visit a family relation who has also become caught up in the curse of the Knight family's heritage, the latter to finally solve the many questions that have popped up from a slew of seemingly irrelevant voodoo-ritual murder cases. Each of the three locations have their own hotspots, each with their own little story to tell; the French Quarter's St. Louis Cathedral, for example, features a magnificent stained glass window of St. George fighting a dragon, but off to the side are darker portraits, such as blood shed by a sword dripping into a chalice. Gabriel will eventually find a secret chamber hidden underneath the church; the ensuing consequences makes him wish he hadn't.
The various elements of design that make up Sins of the Fathers meshes together well; consider, for example, that Sierra only had a 256-colour palette to work with. With a stroke of the paintbrush, the dark shades that make up Gabriel's world give off a foreboding aura, creating an immersive atmosphere that reflects the supernatural themes and cultist plot elements latent in the game's storyline. Though the chilling plot already makes for a good game, it is Gabriel's own characterisation that solidifies the game's excellence. At first, he may seem like the prototypical down-on-his-luck amateur private investigator, the drinker, the smoker, the womanizer. However, as his story plays out, Gabriel becomes a far more sympathetic character, one who rises above adversity to do what must be done. It is his ability to adapt to the circumstances that will eventually see him realise his hidden destiny as a Schattenjager, literally a 'Shadow Hunter' - one who is bound to hunt down and destroy the evil that lurks in the heart of the world. Overall, Gabriel falls into the gray spectrum of video game protagonists; he certainly isn't a knight in shining armour, but neither is he a dark knight.
That Sins of the Father saw a novelization and several sequels is a testament to how strong the game holds up after a decade and a half. I know little about the history behind the decline of the point-and-click adventure genre; however, if Gabriel Knight is representative of its general quality, then the point-and-click game died unjustly.
Community review by yamishuryou (January 03, 2010)
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