Gabriel Knight - Sins of The Fathers
Gabriel Knight is a great adventure game designed and directed by Jane Jensen. This game gave me renewed interest on the genre, because like Indiana Jones & The Fate of Atlantis (or other indie games), it’s based in the real and modern world instead of fantasy locations. There are fantasy elements, of course, but it’s a mere accessory for the story. And that’s the best feature: the story is amazing. The game was remade and updated on the Gabriel Knight 20th anniversary edition, so it’s a good excuse to replay it.
We could just say the story is the strong point of this game and the sole reason to play it, period. But there are more virtues to look onto:
- Graphics. The graphics on the remake look very good and the style looks hand made and it’s similar to the original even if there are some tweaks here and there. The vanilla GK1 graphics look too dated today (too much detail on low resolution) and, as a whole, I don’t miss them at all. The 20th anniversary edition is much better.
- Models: the 3D models are renewed and all look amazing, it’s an huge improvement over the old sprites.
- Scenarios: the scenarios now look more alive, with good lighting. The higher resolution allows for better item placement and everything is crisp and clear. In the other hand, old vanilla scenarios look very dated and they lacked contrast and resolution.
- Sound. Everything is fine here, it sounds good (pun intended).
- Music: most of the old sound tracks are renewed and improved, same songs as vanilla but sounding better (pun non intended).
- Sound: the voices are good and I don’t think there is any issue there.
- Overall, gameplay is the typical point and click with some scanning for interaction, conversations with NPCs and classic item inspection/combination. Nothing new, it works.
- In the remaster they fixed some gameplay flaws from vanilla game. One example is a timed event that failed when vanilla game ran in modern CPUs.
- The storytelling is good. Starts slowly introducing the player to Gabriel background, NPCs, location and horror/supernatural theme (voodoo lore), to later develop and expand everything up to the final conclusion.
- The game story is imbued on a voodoo theme and it’s interesting to learn a bit about that. The crime investigation also add some suspense to the general love story. It’s a cool combination. But this game revolves about a love story, that’s the central plot.
- Gabriel is a great character per se, as is Grace, but when paired together the couple is top notch, sweet. Malia is an interesting NPC, spicy. Everything mixes and turns out to be… bitter. And, to complete the flavours, the secondary NPCs add some salty to the final mix.
- This game actually introduces the player to the Gabriel family background and it spawns on the sequels, giving some continuity on the saga.
- There is a lot of humor, mostly focused on Gabriel (and Mosley) but is nice.
- The game location is New Orleans and it’s very nice to know more of that place.
The GK1 remake, which I’m reviewing, improved some things over the vanilla game but also had some issues.
- Animations: There is an induced delay on animations and they’re a bit slow. The pace is strange. The worst part is that those can’t be canceled most of the time, so even if it’s only one second or two, it feels like commanding more than acting.
- Portraits: the vanilla game portraits looked much better for me. Vanilla Gabriel looks older, mature and somewhat sad, which seems to fit better. The remastered Gabriel looks younger. Other characters also looked better before, now they look softer.
- Vanilla game only: sound is fine, but graphics are dated.
- Sound: few music tracks were just better in the vanilla game. I can’t understand the change to Magentia Moonbeam’s track, lost its soul, no more moon nor beam anymore. Voodoo Museum track is also tweaked, sounds fine but I still think it was better before.
- Geographic issues: game seems to confuse Republica Dominicana with Haiti when talking about Voodoo origins of Santo Domingo. It seems to me a terrible mistake. Maybe there is a reason for that statement and something I overlooked or misunderstood, but if that’s the case, it’s wrongly explained anyways.
- There are few images in the game that seem to go into politics with misinformation. One image is of a party of supposed europeans raiding an african place, but the truth is that the europeans bought the slaves to various African empires and kingdoms that actually practiced slavery (some in a softer form, but still slavery) and traded slaves from pre-colombian times. Slavery also was (and is) very common on Middle east, and there was slavery on Asia too.
- Humor is sporadic. This is not a flaw per se, but the main trend in adventure games was to abuse that.
- Typical failure on the genre, sometimes the game fails to point out the next steps and you need to rely on intuition. Like the Veterinary number or the binos. In the 20th Anniversary edition there is an hint system and there is internet, of course, but this games feel better when done without aid.
Also, I want to point out the GK humor on its macho sterotype. It seems hembrist (as opposed to machist). Maybe it pretended to be a parody of Indiana Jones? I don’t think so, as there are no references linking them afaik. Stereotypes are the cheap way to build characters. But, to be honest, it’s fine for me as it’s just humour directed to a fiction character.
Why to play?
Well, just the name Jane Jensen should be enough. If you like adventure games, play it, it’s a good game. Not the best on this genre, but Jane Jensen adds an human touch and reality. That is hard to find on other adventure games as those usually rely too much on the fantasy or just go full joking, without a truly interesting plot, no horror, nothing serious.
Here is the best version of Magentia Moonbeam music track, enjoy:
How to acquire
The remaster, GK1 20th Anniversary edition has been released for PC (Windows), MacOS, iOS and Android. The windows version can be acquired in GOG and the other games should be bought from their stores. The game could also be ordered from the official game webpage.
The old vanilla game can still be bought from GOG too, so feel free to play which feels your fancy.
Version / Platform
As I mentioned before, I’m reviewing the newest version of Gabriel Knight Sins of the Fathers, up to the date. The 20th anniversary edition. That version improves the previous game and there is no real reason to play the original game unless you want to enjoy the old soundtrack or you just prefer the sprites for any reason.
The vanilla game was released for DOS and it can be played nowadays by using DosBOX. The only tip to play in DosBOX is to lower the CPU cycles if stuck on a timed event. Otherwise, you’re going to be fine.
The 20th anniversary edition is from 2015 and there is no reason to update it again. It’s also unlikely to be any spinoffs, there are novels and sequels already anyways. In fact, let’s hope there will be any remake for the sequels.
Games like Gabriel Knight
Well, I don’t think there is reason to recommend anything other than adventure games:
- The sequels, GK2 or GK3. Those are different. In fact, these are other subgenres, gameplay varies. Still, it’s adventure and 100% Jane Jensen.
- The Longest Journey. This game is focused on fantasy themed story telling and is a great adventure game.
- Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Gameplay and graphics are similar to vanilla GK1 (maybe slightly better in the Indy game) and it’s totally worth it.
- Maniac Mansion. I favor this over DOTT (it’s sequel) because of the horror side. Gabriel Knight has some horror and some humor but Maniac Mansion throws both to the player on higher doses.
- Monkey Island (and it’s sequels): it’s a classic and very famous saga, focused on the humor but still cool and… pirate adventures, arrrrrrr, that never fails.
- Still Life. The sequel of Post Morten is a mysterious point & click game, worth it if you enjoy horror games.
- Grim Fandango. Inspired on Mexican folclore, it’s an interesting and well known game.
Gabriel Knight is more about the content than the surface. It’s a good story, so don’t be fooled by anyone that states otherwise.