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GrogHeads Reviews Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition

Revisiting a classic and telling new tales ~

Avery Abernethy, 4 October 2017

Gabriel Knight is a point and click adventure game. Gabriel attempts to solve the Voodoo Murders in New Orleans which are occurring in the early 90s. Psychological and physical horror abound. Gabriel is a slacker rogue who wrote several unsuccessful mystery novels and owns an almost bankrupt rare book store. Gabriel is also amazingly vain and attempts to seduce most young females crossing his path.   Gabriel is haunted by a terrible dream sequence which becomes more detailed with each passing day.

New Orleans itself is a main character. New Orleans history, geographical highpoints, and the history of voodoo are all worked into the story line. Gabriel visits the Voodoo Museum, Tulane University, Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, St. Louis Cemetery #1, among other locations. All existed in the 1990s and most are relatively unchanged today. The idiot destroyers of history have not pulled down Andrew Jackson’s statue yet!

The psychological pressure builds as Gabriel gets closer to solving the mystery. Physical threats also escalate. Both the psychological pressure and the physical threats are voodoo themed and woven into the story.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is regarded as one of the best point and click adventure games of all time with a 93% gamerankings score. The original sold very well and two follow-ups were subsequently released.

The original story is unchanged in the 20th Anniversary Edition. No locations were added and the dialogue is almost verbatim from the 1993 release. Amazingly, the original story and dialogue were so gripping that I remembered large chunks of it. My multiple visits to New Orleans over the last thirty years for both business and pleasure probably cemented much of this story in my mind.

Several additional puzzles are added, but none of the new puzzles are as challenging as a couple of the originals. If my memory is accurate, the remake removes only one original puzzle. The removed puzzle was an uninteresting but frustrating attempt to dodge a fat cop guarding a doorway. The puzzle’s demise will not be mourned.

If the mystery is the same, the puzzles are almost the same, and the dialogue mirrors the original, is the 20th Anniversary Edition worth purchasing? For multiple reasons the answer is “yes.”

First, the interface has been significantly reworked in the Anniversary Edition. If you push the space bar all hotspots are highlighted. Sins of the Fathers has an amazing number of hotspots, many of which add local New Orleans color and voodoo knowledge. But the original release was a “find the magic pixel” to trigger an action or a comment from the narrator. The original interface was also confusing because multiple (useless) action possibilities were possible anytime an active pixel was located. The new interface only provides useful options on a highlighted spot.

However, like all adventure games some inventory items must be combined to become useful and sometimes a specific inventory item must be active to trigger a dialogue choice or to properly interact with the game environment. But combining inventory items and interacting in the environment with the right inventory item is a feature of every adventure game I’ve ever played.

Second, all locations and characters have been redrawn with much higher resolution. The game’s version of New Orleans is much closer to the dirty, damp, moldy, and decaying reality that is New Orleans. It is also much easier to interact in the game environment with the reworked scenes.

Third, the new puzzles were interesting but not maddening. A layered hint feature has been integrated into the game which many will find helpful. There is better sound quality. Overall, the improved interface, sharper locations, and improved sound significantly improved gameplay.

The revamp does have a major problem. At the very start or very end of many locations either Gabriel or another individual’s animation would do something weird. I saw butlers jump and Detective Mosley do a quick “white boy dance” at a swampy murder scene. Best of all, one morning Gabriel woke up from a horrifying nightmare and his head spun in circles! That was an unintentional laugh out loud moment. This may be something to do with Windows 10, but I saw a number of Steam reviews which noted the same issue. Still, the revamp’s benefits outweigh the detriments.

I played the original game in the early 1990s, the dosbox www.gog.com port years ago, and the 20th Anniversary Edition in September, 2017. Congratulations to Jane Jensen for a game so good I purchased it three times! The 20th Anniversary Edition of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers was released in 2013 and I picked it up on a gog Christmas sale for $10. The dosbox conversion of the original is available from both Steam and Gog for $5 and the Anniversary update is $20.

If you have never played Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers I recommend purchasing and playing the Anniversary Edition. Like most adventure games, for most this is a one-shot game experience with limited replay value. But this is one of the best adventure games of all time. The story is gripping. The psychological and physical horror builds. It is easy to pull for Gabriel, Detective Mosley, and Grace to prevail. For $20 (less if on sale) you will get many evenings of enjoyment and live a very interesting mystery. The $15 extra you pay over the original version is worth the extra benefits.

If you played the original pixilated 1993 release or the dosbox port is the Anniversary Edition worth purchasing? This is a harder question. I waited for a sale to purchase the Anniversary Edition. I got a lot of enjoyment replaying the game with far fewer interface issues. The reworked scenes are much closer to the reality of New Orleans. Still, this is 97% the same game you played previously. I found it was worth buying (on sale) to enjoy replaying the game with a modern interface. My fond memories were not destroyed by an obsolete interface with fuzzy pixilated graphics. But I also replay computer games that I’ve previously completed and frequently reread books. Playing the Anniversary Edition makes it less likely that your fond memories of the original Sins of the Fathers will not be drowned in the Swamps of Bayou St. John.

 

Avery Abernethy is a Professor of Marketing at Auburn University.


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