grabrielknightlogoA Look Back at Gabriel Knight

by Mitchell “Moe” Long

To help celebrate October, the upcoming Halloween holiday, and the impending release of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition the very adventurous Moe Long decided to play through all Jane Jensen’s classic Gabriel Knight adventure games.  With this massive undertaking Moe will be going into his review of the 20th Anniversary Edition of Sins of the Father with tired eyes, but a keen understanding of the series.  So, before looking at the new game this Wednesday, let’s take a look back at the grand daddy of adventure suspense, Gabriel Knight.

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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I first picked up the Gabriel Knight series, I’d previously only heard of the game in passing. In my defense, the first entry, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers came out in 1993, at which time I was a wee lad of but three years. Thankfully, our friends at GOG continue ensuring that older titles won’t be condemned to gaming purgatory on their now unplayable 3.5 floppies.

Sierra On-line’s point-and-click adventure series follows a New Orleans writer, Gabriel Knight. Series creator Jane Jensen previously lent her talents to another Sierra title, King’s Quest VI. Jensen’s clever storytelling truly shines throughout the series, with riveting plots, engaging dialogue, and vivid characters.

Filling my mug with Café Du Monde coffee I sat down to enter the world of Gabriel Knight. Upon launching 1993’s Sins of the Fathers, I was greeted with a portrait of classic DOS style. The blocky graphics gracing my 22 Lenovo monitor lit my face with a warm smile.

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Sinsfathers [dropcap]J[/dropcap]ust like the Big Easy, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers maintains a laid back progression. Unlike most point-and-click adventure titles, Sins of the Fathers allows for exploration and completion of tasks in any order. Gameplay is presented as a series of days, and once requirements are checked off you proceed to the next day. Sins of the Fathers is unique in that you may meander about the streets of New Orleans in whichever order you’d like.

Notably, the voice acting is phenomenal. The cast could comprise a movie roster, featuring the talents of Tim Curry, Michael Dorn, and Mark Hamill. As an avid Star Wars and Star Trek: The Next Generation fan, my love for Sins of the Fathers could only intensify. A mystery writer struggling for inspiration, Gabriel Knight begins investigating a spate of murders which are reeking of voodoo. You find yourself drawing closer to solving the mystery, and even uncover a bit of your past. I really enjoyed the personal connection, as it felt more naturally connected than Gabriel simply stumbling upon clues.

Having lived in New Orleans for a few months, I relished the easily recognizable landmarks: Jackson Square, Lake Pontchartrain, Tulane, and the French Quarter. The exaggerated Southern drawl, and Louisiana twang added an auditory element, complementing the on-screen visuals. Around Jackson Square there’s a band and artists, staples of the French Quarter. The soundtrack features a rendition of When the Saints go Marching In, and let’s be honest: nothing set in New Orleans is complete without this melody.

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Gabriel_Knight_The_Beast_Within [dropcap]1[/dropcap]995’s The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery continued Gabriel’s legacy, with several changes. Most noticeably, the whole game is rendered in full motion video. The 90’s seemed to have an obsession with FMV, and accordingly Gabriel Knight received a makeover. Not to worry, however, as the superficial revamp kept the same lovable Gabe. He’s still rocking the white t-shirt and jeans, point-and-click play, and supernatural themes. Further innovation derives from the ability to play as Grace, Gabriel’s sidekick, returning from the first game. It’s a welcome addition, and really contributes to the depth of storytelling conveyed in The Beast Within.

Rather than the voodoo theme from Sins of the Fathers, The Beast Within concentrates on werewolves, and the New Orleans backdrop is replaced by a German landscape. The FMV sequences lend the sense of an interactive movie, which further solidifies wonderful narrative. The FMV actually aids The Beast Within’s storytelling, allowing for a full range of facial expressions and the voice acting is top notch. It’s engaging enough that you’d be content simply watching the entire game. Occasionally I even forgot I was playing, the true sign of a successful game. There’s a fascinating subplot involving a Richard Wagner opera and King Ludwig II, and I particularly appreciated these historical references. The plot, as with Sins of the Fathers, is detailed, and Gabriel’s relationship with Grace gets added complexity. The Beast Within provides a lovely score as well, an underrated aspect of gaming.

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Gabriel_Knight_3_-_Blood_of_the_Sacred,_Blood_of_the_Damned_Coverart [dropcap]1[/dropcap]999 saw the return of Gabriel for a third installment in the Gabe Knight saga, Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned. As the title suggests, it derives its plot from Holy Blood Holy Grail, the book that spawned Dan Brown‘s Robert Langdon series. Accordingly, Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned focuses on the Templars and the Holy Grail, as well as vampires. This mythology makes for wonderful intrigue, and the third Gabriel Knight romp does not disappoint.

Action is set in Paris, but the geography isn’t the only change. Graphically, Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned returns to more traditional video game animation, though six years after Sins of the Fathers, there’s no comparison between the first two games. More importantly, veteran actor Tim Curry returned to once again voice Gabriel, and it’s a welcome reunion. Dean Erickson did a wonderful job as Knight in The Beast Within, but hearing Curry’s lazy baritone emanating from Gabe’s animated mouth is a beautiful throwback, and it’s akin to meeting an old friend after many years.

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he progression of the Gabriel Knight installments illustrates the success of the series, and why it’s aged so well. Each release retained generally the same style of gameplay: they all maintain a point-and-click interface, with subtle alterations. Similarly, the plots differ in content, but still remain variants on a central theme, involving mythology, intrigue, and conspiracy. Graphics, however, are radically changed between releases. Sins of the Fathers employed your traditional DOS-era blocky goodness, which morphed into full motion video for The Beast Within. Finally, Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned saw a return to traditional video game animation, though naturally updated significantly.

gabrielknight20thIn staying loyal to certain elements, such as theme, character development, and gameplay, while switching up the geography, graphics, and the specific mythological concentration, the Gabriel Knight franchise thus feels like a unified whole. Playing can’t accurately describe the experience of delving into the Gabe Knight trilogy. There’s an astonishing familiarity and uniformity accompanied by a revitalized texture, appropriately demonstrating the passage of time. Series creator Jane Jensen’s original Gabriel Knight adventure was crowdfunded, and October 15th will see the release of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition. The remake will follow the same premise, and feature Jensen’s renowned storytelling. Original musical composer Robert Holmes returns with an updated score, and graphics are gorgeously revamped. Jensen’s first new Gabriel Knight game since 1999, the 20th anniversary reboot offers the perfect excuse to check out the series for the first time or dust off those beloved copies you’ve been wanting to revisit.

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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/moe.jpg” ]Mitchell “Moe” Long is a North Carolina writer with a passion for all things pop culture. Besides gaming, Moe enjoys cult classic films, listening to vinyl, and drinking far too much coffee. In addition to Cliqist, Moe writes about music and movies, and is currently composing what he hopes will one day be a novel about the universally awkward period of life known as high school. Feel free to check out and subscribe to his Examiner page as well as connect with him on Twitter. [/author]

Mitchell Long
Mitchell “Moe” Long is a North Carolina writer with a passion for all things pop culture. Besides gaming, Moe enjoys cult classic films, listening to vinyl, and drinking far too much coffee. In addition to Cliqist, Moe writes about music and movies, and is currently composing what he hopes will one day be a novel about the universally awkward period of life known as high school. Feel free to check out and subscribe to his Examiner page as well as connect with him on Twitter.
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