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#5: Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

"Did you dream about the fire and the hanged guy and that lion thing last night?"

Image #1The graphic adventure was peaking in 1993, and Sierra was hard at work on sequels to their established dynasties: Police Quest 4, Space Quest VI, King's Quest VII, Quest for Glory 4, and Leisure Suit Larry 6. In the midst of these games came the unheralded entry of an unknown hero. His name was Gabriel Knight, a womanizing failure of an author who owned a barely-surviving bookstore in New Orleans. A non-hero if ever there was one; yet in Gabriel Knight many gamers found a character possessing all the traits of humanity that make a main character appealing. This guy was real, and the response to Sierra's creation was unanimously positive.

I remember reading the issue of InterAction Magazine in which Sins of the Fathers was first previewed. It was a short preview, in between the very first articles about Police Quest 4 and Quest for Glory 4, sequels I cared much more about than this game. I scanned the article quickly, raised an eyebrow, shook my head, and commented to a friend that the idea would never work. I am glad to have been proven wrong.

Even Tex Murphy casts more of a heroic light than Gabriel Knight, who has literally failed at everything in his life and has nothing going for him. His books go unnoticed and his store has no customers; all his hope is pinned on a novel he is working on about the series of voodoo-related murders occuring all over town. Gabe's family history soon plunges him, quite unwittingly, into a dark ring of secrets that every adventure fan has etched on their minds.

Image #2Gabriel Knight excelled in all technical areas without being extraordinary in any. High-quality graphics and an appropriately moody soundtrack gave the game all kinds of ambience. Sierra gave their familiar SCI interface a facelift, and now provided players with four separate alternatives to the Hand icon: Use, Take, Open, and Move, as well as separate Talk and Ask icons.

The writing, and especially the historical research involved, is also top-notch. I learned more information about voodoo from Gabriel Knight then I thought existed, and the painstaking attention to detail taken by Jane Jensen is so evident, as it is in the entire GK series. The script accurately portrays Gabriel not as any sort of hero, but as a downtrodden man who simply can not escape his fate. The series of events that occur as a result of this fate is dark, disturbing, and brilliantly told.

Image #3Despite all of its successes, by far the best thing about the first Gabriel Knight is the mood. Forget the laughable Phantasmagoria games and 7th Guest: this is the ultimate game to be played in a dark room. Every inch of the game drips with gloominess and tension, and the sense of dark foreboding that something is very, very wrong in New Orleans. I personally stopped playing (against my will) two or three times over the course of the game so I could turn up the lights and catch my breath (never been much for scary movies or games); the intensity is that thick. I am certain I'm not the only gamer who has experienced the conflict of "too scared to play, too fascinated to walk away."

A game whose plot centered around a cult created a cult of its own; a loyal legion of Gabriel Knight fans propelled the game to two excellent sequels at a time when adventure franchises were dying out left and right, and it was all because of the drama and intensity of Jane Jensen's original masterpiece. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, the darkest and most intense adventure game ever, is the #5 adventure game of all-time.

Last time: Gabe, like Indy and Sam & Max, falls one slot from #4 on the last countdown. Why all these one-slot drops? Well, that will be explained tomorrow.

Click here for the complete top 20 of best adventure games of all time!

 

Community Comments

Latest comments (6 total)

One of the first adventure games I completed as a kid (w/ no spoilers/walkthrough). I had a fascination with the macabre and this game also jump started my love for voodoo themes. It was just creepy enough, and such a good suspenseful plot, just all and all, so well written I remember not wanting to stop playing it.

In a way, Sins of the Fathers sort of spoiled me…because I’ve spent the rest of my life searching for games that replicated it’s quality and feel in one way or another. It is the bar i’ve set. I like the other two in the series as well, but not as much as this one.

Mar 25, 2012

I started playing this a few days ago after seeing all the praise found in everyone’s posts. I have to say that it is quite a good game. I’m up to day 4 as I write this. One thing has tripped me up, however. I find that while I wouldn’t classify this game as one laden with pixel hunting, it does tend to hide needed inventory items or resources in the background. For example, you need to translate some German to English (for all us non-German speakers) and the book is found in an unassuming corner of the book shop. Having clicked on many of the books earlier only to be given a generic description of their contents by the narrator, I thought these books were just part of the scenery. I hate using walkthroughs but found myself needing one in order to decipher which parts of the background I was missing. I think a one-click system, like that found in Beneath a Steel Sky, would have really helped this game. BASS got rid of a lot of the guess work by displaying the name of objects that you could interact with. I could have used that system here. The story is top notch but I find a lack of puzzles with a heavier emphasis on inventory interaction with NPCs. A very fun game, though. I’ll save my final verdict for when I finish it. For now, I’m just enjoying the ride.

Aug 18, 2009

Rootie—

Try Amazon.com.  Their Marketplace sells old and used everything.  I’m looking right now and there are used copies of the game for $10 shipped.

Good luck!

Feb 21, 2009

I know this is an old article but today I dug out my Limited Edition Gabriel Knight Mysteries box and what did I find? The empty sleeve for Sins of the Fathers! So I’m wondering, can I still BUY this anywhere? Or if I must, d/l it? I’m just on this big “dig out old games and play them” kick right now and was looking forward to this one. It’s been years but it’s a great one, IMO of course.

Feb 20, 2009

should be number 1, and not just because i`m a GK fan… this game was the best combo of great graphics, soundtrack and strong adult plot at the time it was released, and surely stood the test of time…

Jul 24, 2008

For some reason it always seems to get the cold shoulder from most adventure fans, but I think GK series is by far the best of the adventures. On top of that, GK3 is by far the most inventive, and BY FAR the best plot of any adventure game ever, and possibly any game ever. All of them are incredible though, I just hope so bad for another chapter somehow, someday. It’s a tragedy that these incredible dynasties from Sierra and LucasArts have been totally forgotten.

Oct 29, 2007
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