Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition
Ask fans of the genre to name some of their favorite classic point & click adventure titles from the nineties and you can be sure that the name Gabriel Knight will crop up. Thanks to the dark and mature nature of the game it is perhaps not as well-known as the family friendly Lucasarts titles, but offered an experience that was memorable to say the least. From the voodoo steeped setting of New Orleans to the cast of memorable characters and enthralling storyline, Gabriel Knight was, no make that IS, a bona fide classic.
Remakes and re-releases are very much in fashion at the moment with quite a few hallowed franchises or titles making a return to computer screens, but in the case of Gabriel Knight it wasn’t strictly speaking necessary. Despite the fact that it came out in 1993, the game is still available and despite its age still holds up very well. This 20th anniversary edition is clearly a labor of love though, and is perfect for new players who might not have an appreciation for vintage pixellated visuals. This doesn’t mean that old fans are left out in the cold though as there is enough polish and behind the scenes content included to make it worth another playthrough. Not that any fan will need to be asked twice to step back into the thrilling world of Gabriel.
Story wise the game features New Orleans bookstore owner and struggling author, Gabriel Knight. Gabriel is supposed to be writing his next book, which deals with voodoo and as luck would have it the town is plagued by a series of voodoo themed murders. Fortunately for Gabriel he has a buddy on the police force which gives him the chance to get involved in the investigation by chalking it up as research. As the killings continue, the whole city is gripped by fear and Gabriel finds himself uncovering secret truths not only about the people behind it all, but also about his own family. I’m not going to say anything more as it would spoil things for new players, but suffice to say that even as someone who completed the original multiple times the story still had the power to keep me hooked right to the end.
The biggest change in this edition of the game is obviously the new HD visuals. The old sprites have been replaced with new 3D character models while the backgrounds have also been completely redone. Instead of making high definition versions of the old backgrounds the new backgrounds feature much more detail and a couple of design changes. The locations are all still instantly recognizable to veteran players, but I like the new interpretation that some of them have. The game is still set in 1993, so it’s not like the time period has changed, but elements introduced in some of the sequels have been incorporated in this version. Each location features a comparison shot showing the old and new visuals which can be checked out from your journal.
As much as I enjoyed the new visuals there were a couple of things that stood out. First, some of the scenes feel a bit sterile compared to the originals despite all the extra detail and lighting that is introduced. The game is still very atmospheric, but the pixellated visuals of the original somehow felt more ominous in some scenes. Newer players will probably disagree if they see the old visuals, but veteran players will know what I am talking about. This is something that is probably unavoidable when such a classic title is remade and apart from a few scenes it didn’t bother me too much. Secondly, I really liked the new 3D character models, but the animations had their highs and lows. Highlights include seeing characters physically handle every single object in the game, no matter how small it is. There is none of the usual point and click adventure shortcuts such as items being invisible when passed to someone else or when picked up which is really great. On the other hand, some of the animations look a little awkward and in a few scenes I noticed Gabriel contorting rather painfully to perform an action. This, along with a few clipping issues detracts a bit from the experience. Overall though the new visuals are great and this is certainly one of the better looking updates to a classic game that I have ever seen. The new motion comics in particular are welcome additions to the game.
Another thing that was immediately obvious when I started playing the game was that the audio has undergone some serious changes. Once again it is a mixture of good and bad, but thankfully mostly good. The bad news, at least for fans of the classic version, is that the original voice overs could unfortunately not be used for this game. Since the quality of the original speech samples were too low and getting the likes of Tim Curry and Mark Hamill in to re-record their lines would have destroyed the budget we are instead left with completely new actors.
It is a bit of a shock to hear the new actors for the first time and it took me a while to get used to Gabriel in particular. For the first few conversations everything sounded a bit off as I kept expecting to hear Tim Curry’s iconic vocals every time Gabriel spoke, but before the first day in the game was over my mind had adjusted. I really enjoyed the comments from the narrator and her accent definitely adds to the atmosphere of the game. Some of the performances are arguably not as good as the originals, but once again this could just be a case of nostalgia. After all, this is a game that most players will have completed multiple times over the years and they have probably become accustomed to the original actors.
The soundtrack on the other hand is pure perfection and features all the classic tunes in re-mastered format. Robert Holmes, the original composer handled this, so the tracks all remain as faithful as can be to their original versions. Hearing the new versions of familiar tunes were a real treat and most of the songs were stuck in my head days after completing the game. Far from being tired of these tunes I plan on getting the soundtrack as soon as I have the chance. The dialogue appears to be the same as the original game, and there is plenty of it, but I still found myself listening to each and every conversation. Not all talking points advance the storyline, but the developers have highlighted the ones that do in yellow, so impatient players don’t have to listen to everything. I don’t recommend skipping dialogue though as there are plenty of fascinating things to uncover if only for interest sake.
This edition of the game uses a streamlined interface for interacting with the gameworld and using your inventory and it actually works quite well. Pixel hunting is eliminated as you can hold down Spacebar to label every object on the screen that can be interacted with. Clicking on an object also only shows the available interactions, so you don’t have to cycle through icons to select the right one. Inventory management has also been made easier and overall I liked the new interface. A couple of new puzzles have also been added to the game and while none of them are as good as the original puzzles they did provide a pleasant diversion and prevented me from simply breezing through the game.
Since the original game is known for containing quite a few head scratchers, this update contains an integrated hint system. This means that new players don’t have to go Google hunting to find the answers if they become stuck, but it also means that the temptation to spoil a good puzzle for yourself is always there. The hints are doled out bit by bit and there is a waiting period before you can request the next, but my advice is to go easy on these and only use them as a last resort. The behind the scenes content, such as concept art and interviews are really great additions to the package and integrated directly with the game instead of dumped in a folder like some other titles. I would have loved to have the original game included as an extra, but it is still available for cheap from GOG, so I can’t really complain. Also included in this update are some nice Steam Achievements and trading cards.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with this version of the game and played it for much longer than what was necessary to complete it. None of the extra time I spent poking and prodding around everywhere felt like it was wasted though. On a side note, in the 17 hours I spent with the game I didn’t encounter a single bug or crash which is pretty impressive. Any problems that were reported by players were quickly addressed by the developers who have released three patches fixing various miscellaneous stuff. For a full list of what is fixed or improved check out the Steam discussion page HERE.
As the original game is one of my all-time favorite titles I had very high expectations for this edition and I am happy to say that it did not disappoint. The way that Gabriel progresses from being a self-absorbed womanizer to someone who is actually charming and likeable during the course of the game is still a great showcase for the writing prowess of Jane Jensen. The story also really holds up well despite its age and is sure to enthrall new players just as much as it did back during the heyday of the genre. Obviously, some of the changes, especially the new voice acting is bound to upset some of the fans, but it comes down to a matter of taste and personally I think that the developers did a great job. Hopefully we won’t have to wait as long to see Gabriel Knight on our screens again.
- OS: Windows XP
- Processor: 2.0 GHz
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: ATI or NVidia with 512 MB RAM
- Hard Drive: 4 GB available space
- Additional Notes: Minimum suggested screen resolution is 1024×768. Not recommended for play on Intel systems with integrated/shared video memory.
- OS: Windows XP or later
- Processor: 2.0 GHz
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: ATI or NVidia with 1 GB RAM
- Hard Drive: 4 GB available space
- Additional Notes: Not recommended for play on Intel systems with integrated/shared video memory.