8: Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

Publisher:Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1993
Platform: DOS; Windows; Macintosh

Review: Near the height of Sierra’s peak in the gaming industry they were releasing copious amounts of sequels to the games that made them famous. But in 1993, Jane Jensen began a new series, and in this author’s opinion, created the best game Sierra developed.

You play Gabriel Knight, a New Orleans writer and owner of a failing bookstore. “Employing” a young post-grad, Grace Nakamura, to run the shop while you grimace with writer’s block, there is little to look forward to in life except philandering. The headlines are barraged with stories regarding the “Voodoo Murders,” a series of mutilations that appear to be a part of ritualistic cult. Your friend Detective Mosely lets you in on parts of the case to help you write your new book about Voodoo, and even reluctantly turns a blind eye to your own personal investigation of the murders the NOPD cannot solve.

While the game includes a comic book prelude to the plot, it gives away very little of the gaming experience. The pacing is brilliant, with a believable timeline and healthy doses of tension and humour. Gabriel’s relationships with his family and friends are genuine and deep, even though he has difficulty coping with his emotions. The story itself is fascinating, with several plot twists (mostly acceptable), and rich in detail and culture. I practically wanted to visit New Orleans after completing the game.

Sins Of The Fathers executes Sierra’s best implementation of the point’n’click system. Rather than four icons at Gabriel’s disposal, you now have eight, all with distinct and purposeful functions. The game differentiates between merely talking to a person and interrogating them about certain topics. Thankfully, you don’t have to take notes as the game saves all conversations for you. Unfortunately, the interrogation process can be painful; you are given a list of topics you can speak to each character about, and as you learn more in the game, more topics become available.  What this leads to is revisiting the same places dozens of times to see if a topic subject has appeared on the approved list.

What makes this whole process tolerable is the excellent voice acting by the game’s many characters. Tim Curry plays Gabriel. At first, I was turned off by his cocky drawl, but the longer I played the game, the more I became addicted to the personality Curry gives Gabriel. Michael Dorn also does a fine job as a Voodoo store clerk, and Mark Hamill gives a believable performance as Detective Mosely.

The game’s puzzles can be contrived at times, but usually fit seamlessly into the plot anyway. A few are also pointlessly difficult. What, if anything, holds this game back is the precise order you must complete all of your tasks in.  While the game employs Sierra’s time advance system, cutting things nicely into several days of action, it rarely allows the player to differentiate from the predetermined path. This creates stagnancy when the player is stuck on one minor puzzle, which a game should never do if the focus is on story and atmosphere.

To wrap up, the graphics and sound are brilliant, and the series of events that lead to the end of the game are superbly written and pack a wallop of intensity. Any serious fan of adventure games must play Sins Of The Fathers.

Contemporary RatingMedium. The constant revisiting of the same places annoyed me, so I’m sure it would annoy modern gamers.

Cruelty RatingPolite. Yeah, a Sierra game that isn’t cruel!  The few times you can die, it should be pretty obvious to save before hand.

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6 thoughts on “8: Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

  1. Hey, this is the first game on this list I’ve played (back in college, maybe), although I never finished it. I remember enjoying it well enough (though I’m not really a big adventure game type of guy), but then I got to some part where I had to tail a mime, couldn’t do it, and never returned.

  2. I have the original 3.5″ disks for this game, though I’ve never played it. If it’s as good as you say, I should probably get on that. On a related note, I hate games with non-rectangular boxes.

    • Also, I’d recommend playing the talkie version. One thing I fail to mention above is that the narrator is horrendously awful. But god bless the designers, you can turn off the narrator but keep all the rest of the dialogue.

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