Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (original 1993, remake 2014)

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (1993), designed and written by Jane Jensen, developed and published by Sierra On-Line
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers - 20th  Anniversary Edition (2014), designed and created by Jane Jensen, developed by Phoenix Online Studios, published by Pinkerton Road Studio

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers was among the first times I realised games can tell a story that rivals with movies in both style and narrative. It was a game, that had it all; a solid, albeit a bit pulpy, murder mystery story, gorgeous graphics, a great cast of characters, well-done puzzles and to top it all, good soundtrack and a star-studded voice cast, at least if you know who Tim Curry, Leah Remini, Micheal Dorn, Mark Hamill and Efram Zimbalist Jr. are.

Gabriel Knight (Tim Curry) is a two-bit New Orleans writer, who tries to keep his head afloat in between his womanizing by selling books in his low inflow book store, where Grace (Leah Remini) mans the store while rolling her eyes at her boss.  Gabriel, like every writer out there, is hell-bent on writing a bestseller and is aiming to do just that based on a series of voodoo-based killings, investigated by his old childhood friend, Mosely (Mark Hamill).

At first, Gabriel is looking at the case from the outside, but the further he goes, the more personal it all becomes. He finds out, he has family ties to New Orleans centuries back, when his grandparent came there to stop a voodoo cult. His paternal grandfather, Wolfgang (Efram Zimbalist Jr.), whom he didn't even know existed, contacts him, telling Gabriel of the family legacy and his responsibilities to take the mantle of a Schattenjäger, a god blessed warrior against the dark forces of the world.

The story is divided into several days, during which Gabriel has to investigate the murder and the clues he finds. Grace acts as his assistant, doing additional research, which provides new clues at the beginning of the next day. That said, the game isn't as linear it sounds, as you can dome some things in different days. The remake turns the game more linear, forcing all the things you can do on specific days.

At the beginning of the game, the Voodoo murders, as dubbed by the local papers, have been going on for a good while, leaving behind 7 victims with the hearts cut out. Gabriel, smelling the scent of money he so severely is missing, has thrown his own nets in the water, fishing around his old pal Mosely for crumbs he could put in his book.

During the first day, after Gabe wakes up sweaty and grumpy from his nightly nightmares which have haunted every man of his family, he soon learns of a new murder. After some adventure gaming, he finally finds his way to the location, where he finds a new victim surrounded by the cops. This is also where he winds deeper to the case, as the location is witnessed by Malia Gedde (Leilani Jones), a stunningly gorgeous New Orleans socialite. Sparks fly and all that when the two lock eyes.

Gabriel Knight wasn't the first CD-title Sierra had released, but it is perhaps their first attempt in trying to achieve higher quality. Unlike with King's Quest 5's CD release, the actors used in Gabriel Knight are actual professionals, even with some recognition value, whereas King's Quest was awkwardly voiced by the employees of Sierra at the time. And the voice acting is mostly very good, even if some of the discussion can be a bit wordy, as you can talk about a high variety of subjects with almost everyone.

One role, that often arouses discussion, is Virginia Capers' narration. She does it with a wonderfully drawn New Orleans accent, taking her time with the text. Some people hate it and prefer to turn the narration voice off. But for me, personally, I love her voice and the accent she has. It brings a different kind of atmosphere to the whole thing.

Graphically the game looks very good, just as you'd expect a Sierra game of the era look. Despite some 3D rendered segments in the intro video, most of the game is hand drawn in a gorgeous detail only marred by the technical limitations of the era. I've seen some of the scans of the original works during the Jane Jensen Pinkerton Road Kickstarter and they were great looking works. The animation is solid as well and the dialogue close-ups are well drawn and animated.

Gabriel Knight is a point and click adventure just as you'd expect from the early 90s. Though it must be added, it is far fairer than many other Sierra games at the time as far puzzles go. I'd even say it is from the easier side of Sierra games, relying more on atmosphere and story. It is obvious this was a game, where a budget was not an issue, with is something that can't be said of the 20th Anniversary remake.

As such, it feels almost unfair to compare the original and the remake. The original was made with a big budget and the backing of the company still on its prime. They had the engine, coders and artists, all still at the top of their craft whereas the remake was the third proper game of a small team, who was working on a budget. And while some aspects of their first game Cognition had shown promise, their second one, Moebius: Empire Rising was a game far too ambitious of their skills and the budget of at hand.

So colour my surprise, when the Anniversary edition ended up being a pretty decent game. It is technically a bit flaky, especially the animations are at places almost broken and the speech skipping does a weird silenced fast forward which seems more like a bug than an intended feature.

The art style has changed from nice hand-drawn art to blander 3D renders, some of which feel a couple of passes from being finished. The characters are done in full 3D and they, at least, look mostly decent, but the dialogue portraits suffer from poor animation and look at times rather off-putting.

As the original voice records couldn't be found, the dialogue has been re-recorded by new actors, which are, for the most part, surprisingly good. The biggest disappointment is the voice of Jason Victor as Gabriel. He just doesn't manage to capture the same essence of a scoundrelous womanizer as Tim Curry did with his own performance.

Perhaps the biggest improvement over the original is the soundtrack, which was re-recorded for the game by the original composer. Now, instead of the midi track of the 90s, you can hear solid versions of all the in-game music.

Other changes besides audiovisual ones include streamlined narrative and additional scenes and puzzles. The puzzles are rather poor in contrast to other puzzles of the original design and the game could have easily lived without them as they add no genuine value. The narrative is streamlined so, that all the things in the game happen on specific days. On the original, for an example, you could go to Gabriel's grandmothers' house the very first day, in fact, you have to as you need a sketchbook from there. But besides the book, you can solve another puzzle there or leave that one for some other day.  In the remake, you get the book delivered to Gabriel's store the first morning, thus removing the need to see granny during the first day, saving her for a later chapter.

Other additions include some new story beats, including a "zombified" vision of the police force. These scenes I found rather unnecessary additions, which did not really work for me as they felt, again, additions for addition's sake.

Still, despite the flaws of the remake, it is a testament how good of a story Gabriel Knight is and how well it was designed by Jensen the first time around. Despite the unnecessary additions and rather unimpressive art design, it still is a game, that manages to keep its grip on you till the end.

If I were to recommend a version to play, it would be the original. It is a great game and you won't miss anything with the new additions. The remake does, on the other hand, have a simplified user interface, a bit better music and an in-game hint system to help you from getting stuck, so depending on what you need, those might be a deciding factor.

In the end, it doesn't really matter which version of the game you choose, as it is the story that'll keep you till the end. Yes, it has good puzzles as well, but it is, in the end, more about the story and seeing Gabriel mature at least a tiny bit. Not much, but at least a tiny bit.


  1. First off I would like to say awesome blog!
    I had a quick question which I'd like to ask if you don't mind.
    I was interested to find out how you center yourself
    and clear your mind prior to writing. I've had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting
    my ideas out. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first
    10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted simply just trying to figure out
    how to begin. Any ideas or hints? Kudos!

  2. I've found out the worst thing you can do is to write feeling that you are forcing yourself to write. It usually happens, when I start to write about something and notice that I don't really have anything to say, but I still try to write something. In the end, I usually end up scrapping those blogs entirely

    I also often put a piece in a hold and return to it later to see if it works or not. That usually helps with pieces I felt a bit muddled about while writing them.

    But in any case, the best advice I can say is, that try to write about something you like. It might also help to make a couple of notes, a list of things you feel you should say in your text. That helps you with structure as well as gives you a guide to follow. And there's no need to write everythign complete on the first go. You can always reuturn later to add more meat.


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