Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is a 1993 point-and-click adventure game, developed and published by Sierra On-Line for MS-DOS, Macintosh, and Windows, and released on December 17, 1993. The CD-ROM version features the voice talents of Tim Curry, Mark Hamill, Michael Dorn, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., and Leah Remini. The game’s story focuses on Gabriel Knight, a struggling novelist and owner of a rare book store in New Orleans, who opts to research a recent spate of murders around the city that have a connection to voodoo. In the process, he is slowly revealed to be a descendant of a German family who are involved in combatting people who use supernatural forces, and discovers a link between the killings and his family’s past.
First off, I love the darker and more mature theme of this game. While investigating the murder (“for his book”), Gabriel has access to crime scenes and evidence as his friend Detective Mosley believes it’s just research. Mosley thinks Gabriel is going to include him as a character, so he gives him a lot more access than he likely should have.
Several key story points trigger cut scenes that are presented as multi-panel art boxes. As this gives the game a Graphic Novel feel I actually like it a lot more than if they resorted to FMVs or scripted events.
You move around the French Quarter of New Orleans via a quick travel map, with additional locations being added as you advance the story. There really aren’t too many locations in this game, with several only being visited once. When you move to the greater New Orleans map, there are a couple more locations you have access to, but overall the game keeps you focused on a dozen or less areas you need to return to.
This makes the game feel a lot bigger than it actually is, but not overwhelming as you will need to backtrack to a number of these key locations as you uncover new dialogue options that you’ll then need to try out on every character you’ve spoken to already.
Character interactions are all presented on a static screen with various topics you can ask. Every character gets the the same key topics, with some character-specific topics also presented to help flesh out their backgrounds and motivations. These are actually colour-coded which is a nice quality of life feature to help you identify when you’ve surfaced a keyword you should likely go ask others about.
If you’re playing the CD version of the game, all interactions are voiced by professional actors and it really shows in the quality of the delivery. Tim Curry’s performance as Gabriel Knight really draws you into the story. Though this game was remade for the 20th Anniversary by Phoenix Online Studios I don’t know that I’d have enjoyed it nearly as much with a different cast.
The theme of underground cartels, secret organizations and voodoo is ever present throughout this game and most game scenes represent this extremely well. Though this is still an SCI game using pixel art, it is very expressive and stays true to the darker content and themes of the game.
To really draw you in the soundtrack also fits perfectly and further draws you into the overall experience. Sierra Music Central has the full soundtrack available for free if you want to check out any tracks. My personal favourite would be the theme to St. George’s Bookshop - go ahead, give it a listen.
The game takes place over the course of 10 days, with the story progressing in a linear fashion. Each day you have a certain number of key events you need to complete in order to progress, and you’ll know you’ve finished these because Gabriel will indicate it’s getting late and time to head home. Though the game is very well structured and if you exhaust all the dialogue options available with each character each day you shouldn’t get stuck, I found myself unable to progress past day 4 for longer than I care to admit.
After doing a bit of hunting around online for the solution, apparently others have hit the same roadblock so I felt a little less stupid needing to look for help. Turns out I needed to go to Moonbeam and show her the markings from the tomb you copied earlier using the sketchbook (which teaches you about the Rada drums I believe).
There are a few instances in this game where you’ll need to work with the Rada drums in order to either decode or send message. Initially I thought this was going to be tedious, but it was relatively well done and you weren’t presented with a ridiculous number of useless options you’d need to wade through in order to match the right patterns.
As long as you’re paying attention to the clues the game is giving you it’s not too difficult to figure out what the message is you’re supposed to write on the tomb with the brick either. Thankfully the game will tell you right away if it’s the wrong message when you exit the screen so you’re not just blindly waiting for some scripted event to occur that’s never going to happen.
Since this is a Sierra SCI game the top of the screen hides the menu bar, which is a bit more involved than most of the Quest series. The typical action icons exist (
TAKE, etc) and you can access your inventory, but there’s also an option for the tape recorder. Since Gabriel is an author and is interviewing people for his book, he’s recording all conversations for future reference.
This is extremely useful as you can revisit every conversation you’ve had and review what topics were discussed and what the answers were. For those of us that don’t write everything down but wonder on occasion “what did XXX say about YYY?”, this is an invaluable tool.
Certain situations Gabriel finds himself in can lead to death and a game over. This is not unexpected in a Sierra Online game, but it was refreshing to find that these were rare occurrences, and were somewhat expected. I’m not sure if there are any game-ending deaths earlier in the game, but later when you’re trying to get out of Snake Mound and you wake the zombies, if one of them catches you they’ll make quick work of you.
When you finally find the voodoo honfour, if you summon Brother Eagle but don’t get out of the hallway in time, he’ll catch and kill you.
Like most Sierra Online games, this game has a speed toggle in the settings - which you’ll likely want to increase as Gabriel walks pretty slowly. I’m guessing speeding up the game likely wouldn’t only affect his walk speed though so it probably wouldn’t help you in these situations.
Sins of the Fathers is one of my all time favourite adventure games. The story is just fantastic and keeps you drawn in until the very end. The pacing is spot on and though some of the puzzles can be a bit difficult, nothing you do feels like busy work to pad out the game.
There really aren’t a lot of locations you need to visit, so backtracking is less of a chore, and if you missed something or forgot to ask someone something it doesn’t take long to fill that gap to advance the plot. I also didn’t find there were any unwinnable situations as I don’t believe a given day will end unless you’ve done everything and picked up everything that’s required.
This is a title I would highly recommend to anyone interested in adventure gaming. Do yourself a favour though and play this game on ScummVM with MT-32 device emulation. It makes an already awesome soundtrack all that much more awesome!
I never finished either of the sequels, though I did try them and was disappointed so not looking forward to having to slog through those when the time comes. For now though I’m still basking in a great gaming experience.
|Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
|December 17, 1993
|DOS, Macintosh, Windows
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