Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

Posted by Philip Jong.
First posted on 16 October 1997. Last updated on 13 August 2009.
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Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
The slick interface controls all the game functions with ease.
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
Grace helps Gabriel to unravel the mystery of the Voodoo murder.
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
Haunting images herald unimaginable danger for Gabriel.
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
A map helps to track the places needed to be explored.

Sierra On-Line makes a splash in the history of adventure gaming with the release of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. Under the direction of writer Jane Jensen, the first title in Gabriel Knight series is the among the first adventure games that feature fictional stories based on real life legends or events. Thoroughly researched, Jensen has brought an unparalleled sense of authenticity that draws the player deep into the game. Backed by a first-rate production including a talented Hollywood caliber voice cast, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers sets a standard for all other developers on how an adventure game should be made.

You play Gabriel Knight, a wisecracking, hard drinking bookstore owner who is haunted by a recurring nightmare of the death of a woman burned in a witch hunt. He knows neither the face of this woman nor the connection of his nightmare to a recent string of voodoo related murders in New Orleans. Following his investigative instinct, he soon trots into a journey of self-discovery and terror that will span across the ages and the continents. He is assisted by his companion, Grace Nakimura, Detective Mosly, and Dr John. In the end, Gabriel discovers that his ancestral lineage has much to do with the voodoo culture, as he bears the chilling acknowledgment that he is the last of a long line of Ritters known as the Schattenjägers or shadow hunters whose duties are to battle against evils and demons.

The story of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is loosely based on the voodoo culture in real life. This detailed blend of fiction with history has not been previously seen in adventure games. The story is narrated using still artworks flashed in a comic style and cut scene animations. The game even includes a prologue written and bounded as a full color comic book. The game is released in both Floppy Disk and CD-ROM versions. The use of CD-ROM format allows Sierra On-Line to incorporate full digital voiceovers for the first time in this brand new graphic adventure series. To realize these voiceovers, professional Hollywood caliber actors are hired. Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Three Musketeers) provides the voice for Gabriel. Other notables include Mark Hamill (Star Wars) as Detective Mosly, Michael Dorn (Star Trek: The Next Generation) as Dr John, and Virginia Capers (Howard the Duck, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) as the narrator. The voice director is Stuart M Rosen, who has won numerous Emmy awards for his directorial talent. Interestingly, Curry and Hamill actually lend each of their voices to a second minor role in additional to their lead roles—Curry as Gedde Butler and Hamill as the jeep driver. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is said to be the last game of its kind made using traditional animation techniques before the onslaught of Full Motion Video. Still, animations of some characters in the game are done by rotoscoping of video captured actors.

Gameplay is controlled using a point and click interface, dispensing the outdated annoying text parser. Icons are available to denote various actions, such as walking, looking, and talking. An inventory system allows the player to carry multiple objects concurrently. A map of the New Orleans simplifies traveling between locations. A score (out of 342) is displayed in the icon bar and shows the player's progress in the game. Points are awarded on the completion of key sequences. The play is acted out over days or chapters. Subtitles are available and can be turned on or off. An option also allows the player to bypass the non-interactive scenes previously seen to speed up the gameplay. Gameplay lasts 40 hours or more. All the puzzles are well integrated into the story. Most puzzles are inventory based, but a few are action oriented. An interesting feature is the use of a tape recorder which allows the player to playback any dialog Gabriel has with other characters in the past. This is important since the dialogs contain a lot of clues that are often not evident during the first listening. The animations are beautifully drawn and stunning to look at. The use of a comic book approach to propel the story is refreshing. It works well both onscreen and in print. All the sound effects are recorded in 16-bit format and add to the eerie atmosphere of the game. On the other hand, the MIDI background music sounds too synthetic. To Sierra On-Line's defense, support actually exists for both "Base-Level" and "Extended" MIDI synthesizers under multimedia Windows. Channel assignments from 13 to 16 are for "Base-Level" and channel assignments from 1 to 10 are for the "Extended". In 1998, a soundtrack CD for both Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers and The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery is bundled with the re-released Gabriel Knight Mysteries: Limited Edition.

For an amateur gamer, some puzzles in Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers can be too tough, including those that involves the writing of a message in voodoo code and the translation of the drum code. In fact, both of these puzzles have a separate interface built specifically for their purposes.

Jenson must be commanded for her effort to incorporate real life history into the creation of a fantasy game. It brings much authenticity to the title which by itself already stands up quite well. The amount of pre-production research on the voodoo culture and New Orleans is evident from the list of bibliographies included in the game manual. Top notched voice talents back up this classic series in the making. Curry simply runs away with the role of Gabriel. The narrator, Capers, also has a nice soothing voice. In the end, Gabriel Knight: Sins of The Fathers is a fantastic game that mixes together the mystery of the voodoo culture and the thrill of a murder mystery to create a gripping adventure gaming experience. Anyone wants a fresh heart just ripped out from a chest?

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