Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition
Genre: Point-and-click adventure
Platforms: PC, Mac
Developer: Pinkerton Road Studios
Publisher: Phoenix Online Studios
As I begin this review, I’m filled with apprehension at how fans might react. This is the 20th anniversary edition of a game that received rave reviews when it was first released it in 1993. It was the epitome of point-and-click adventure titles, a genre that is often underappreciated today. How could you possibly ruin such a successful title? Or was it even that great in the first place? With a heavy heart, I give you my findings.
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is set mostly in New Orleans and revolves around Gabriel Knight (shockingly), an unsuccessful author experiencing recurring nightmares. A series of murders has taken place, which the papers are calling “The Voodoo Murders” because of the evidence found around the bodies and they’re not particularly imaginative. Gabriel is researching the murders to write a mystery novel and has a source in Mosely, a childhood friend who happens to be a detective. It soon becomes personal for Gabriel, as he fights for his life against powers he doesn’t quite understand.
During the investigation, Gabriel comes into contact with Malia Gedde, a beautiful woman he instantly falls for. Everything is connected, though, and nothing is as simple as it seems in New Orleans. As he falls further down the rabbit hole, Gabriel learns more about his destiny.
There are a lot of twists and turns, as can be expected from this sort of game and the better graphics make it that much more appealing to play. The cutscenes offer the largest improvement over the original. These are done in a graphic novel style and while there isn’t a lot of movement, it doesn’t detract from their impact.
Also, as crazy as the story is, it doesn’t alienate the player. It spends a good amount of time explaining voodoo and the motivations behind it. There are heaps of hints that odd things are going to happen before they happen. As someone who enjoys history, it was hard to overlook certain statements and discoveries in the latter part of the game but thankfully it didn’t dwell too long in these places. For anyone wondering, the Malleus Maleficarum was more about condoning brutality towards others than saving the world from witches.
The biggest failure of the game is that the character of Gabriel Knight is thoroughly unlikeable. He’s one of those guys who thinks he’s God’s gift to universe, particularly to women. He also sounds like a bad Elvis impersonator. It’s not just that he’s creepy, though. There’s so much more to it.
He doesn’t pay his only employee her wages, even though she is the only thing holding his bookshop together. He impersonates a police officer to talk to a woman he fancies and can’t understand why she doesn’t appreciate that. He discovers what he thinks is his friend’s murdered corpse and then steals his credit card to book a flight, saying he only feels “a little guilty.” If that doesn’t indicate sociopath, I don’t know what does.
It’s strange because it’s unnecessary. Gabriel doesn’t have to be the perfect modern gentleman but the story wouldn’t lose anything by having him tone down the sexism just a little (or at least have more characters call him on it). Perhaps if I’d played this game as a child it wouldn’t be as noticeable but for the most part, I just wished he’d die and I would get a protagonist whose motivations made sense.
The UI may have been completely reworked for this remake but that doesn’t mean it reached a point where it handles well. Four options exist when you click on people or objects: examine, pick up, interact, and talk. Several of the options appear quite frequently in situations that don’t make sense and don’t progress the game. You don’t ever pick anyone up, so why does it appear when you click on almost every person? Also, couldn’t interact and pick up be combined? At one point, I looked through some binoculars in a park and was given no instructions on how to exit the view. I ended up having to hit the map key to get away, when all I really wanted to do was continue checking out the area.
It’s not that the game is unplayable but I just spent so much of my time wondering why I wasn’t enjoying it more. I like point-and-click. I like murder mysteries, magic, and history. I don’t care if a character is a bit of an ass as long as they have some redeeming qualities. It’s only my opinion and long-time fans may disagree but unfortunately, Gabriel Knight just couldn’t woo me.
- Compelling mystery at the core
- Art in cutscenes is simple, but powerful
- Incredibly clunky UI
- Horrible protagonist
- Lame voice acting