I recently finished the game Gabriel Knight: Sins Of The Fathers, the first game in the Gabriel Knight horror adventure series by Jane Jensen (which is currently a trilogy, but fans are crossing their fingers for a quadrilogy). The game is set in New Orleans, where a series of ritualistic murders have been taking place. You play New Orleans native pulp-novelist and book store owner Gabriel Knight who’s doing research for his next novel. He starts researching the recent murders as they appear to be voodoo-related, as voodoo seems to be the topic of his novel-in-progress. I’m tempted to say the game was fantastic, but I’m afraid I can’t make that statement without a few caveats.
The game starts off great; you explore various areas and talk to various characters, and I soon enough found myself so immersed that I lost track of time. It was such a refreshing experience, playing a game with an engaging story where I wasn’t killing anyone, where I had to jot down notes on a paper sheet, and at least twice I was able to enjoy the game with a hot cup of cocoa while it was raining outside which I highly recommend trying.
The game taught me a fair share about voodoo, and some about New Orleans, and made me want to know more about both! It’s impressive when a game actually manages to teach you something without feeling like a chore, and even presents certain topics so vibrantly that you want to know more. Though it’s a bit of a risk with fact and fiction being mixed, as you may end up taking some of the creative flourishes from the author as actual fact.
The graphics look both dated and great at the same time. I occasionally wished the level of detail would have been better, as it occasionally made it so you couldn’t make out certain things as well as you’d have liked. Most of the music is MIDI synthesized (or at least sounds like it is), and while there’s definitely no bad music it feels held back by the game’s present day technology. Some of the music heard in this game is reprised in the third game in the series, where it sounds absolutely lovely.
But, once you get closer to the end there’s less to explore and very specific things you must do to progress, and it starts getting bogged down by two well-known game design problems of the adventure genre: “bad” puzzles, and having to hunt for the right “pixels” on the screen.
Sometimes you need to click certain items on certain spots on the screen, but said spots can be hard to see (in part due to the “dated graphics”). Sometimes there might be an item you didn’t notice or which you didn’t know you could pick up. Or there will be puzzles for which you don’t feel you’ve been given sufficient information to solve, or which just seem illogical. It doesn’t help that the game has a hand full of different actions you can choose from when interacting with the world as well, including operating, opening, and picking up, which makes the process all the more tedious; I recall becoming frustrated as I’d wasted 15-20 minutes trying to get a drawer to open, but my mistake was that I’d used the wrong action to do so. So to avoid growing frustrated and spending hours trying to figure out what you’ve missed, using a walk through is recommended. I used one several times myself when I got stuck, but generally I tried going through some trial and error before consulting it.
There are some loose threads at the end, too; certain plot related questions which haven’t been fully answered. It’s nothing that ruins the game or makes the game’s plot seem flawed, just something you wish they could’ve taken the time to explain. I guess it does give a few topics one can discuss and speculate about with other fans of the game, though.
While the game did suffer some towards the end, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’d recommend anyone interested in either horror- or adventure games to give it a look. It also scores some bonus points for casting voice actor Jeff Bennett, although only voicing some minor characters. I’ll eventually move on to Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within, as I purchased both when GOG.com was having a sale on the entire series, but I think I’ll take a li’l break with other games before moving onto that. I still have a bit of a backlog.