Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers originally debuted more than 20 years ago in December of 1993; created by Jane Jensen and released by Sierra On-Line. During that time adventure games were seeing a boom in popularity. They offered challenging puzzles to solve, richly-detailed backgrounds and art, and of course a cast of characters with interesting stories. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers was no exception – it was the first of three games that starred Gabriel Knight, of which all three received awards such as Best of E3, Best Story, and Adventure Game of the Year to name a few.
Now the 20th Anniversary Edition is on the horizon, with Jane Jensen’s studio Pinkerton Road getting a license from Activision (current license-holder of the Gabriel Knight series) to carry out the project. We were able to get an early version to get a first-look at the game and our initial impressions are pretty good.
Starting up, the game treats us to an introductory cutscene that uses painted animation, much like a graphic novel, along with a musical score that gives it a feeling of the beginning of a movie – there are even credits coming up as in a movie. It all fits nicely to lay out the mood and setting for Sins of the Fathers.
The story remains the same for Sins of the Fathers – Gabriel Knight is an author who owns St. George’s Book Store who is looking to do some research on the recent Voodoo Murders plaguing New Orleans for his upcoming book. During this time he is having some haunting nightmares that seem to allude to something more sinister in his family’s past. Our first-look version only gave us the first two days, enough to start digging and end up asking for more.
After the credits have rolled, the game starts off with a groggy and possibly hungover Gabriel coming out from his bedroom into the main part of the St. George’s Book Store. From here we are treated to the face-lift that the 20th Anniversary Edition of Sins of the Fathers has received – 3-D character models, high-definition artwork with wonderfully detailed objects to check out and inspect. Those familiar with the original version will see that the locales and areas have all received the HD treatment with some alterations here and there. Combining the artwork and 3-D work was done pretty well; you hardly notice that some objects (usually important items or objects to interact with) stand out in comparison to each other. What this results in is scenery and settings that blend together seamlessly into an immersive experience.
Interacting in Sins of the Fathers has been streamlined – instead of having to pick an action first before trying to interact with an object or person, you can click first to see the list of actions to use, from chatting to using to inspecting. Players can also move about quicker by double-clicking, which results in Gabriel instantly teleporting to the spot rather than waiting for his animation of walking to finish. The menu has been made more up-front for easier access (or you can remove it for an unobstructed view), with even the ability to see all possible interactive items/people in the area. This welcomingly solves the problem of “clicking the heck out of everything to find anything” that some adventure games love to throw at us.
Tons of Additional Features
This updated version also brings with it tons of additional features such as voiceovers for characters you’ll run into, as well as animated chat interactions – face-to-face dialogues that show off emotions and reactions clearer to draw you into the situation and experience.
As Sins of the Fathers is set in New Orleans, this means a lot of the voice actors have a nice southern drawl to them, with the narrator being a relatively sassy older woman who will chime in with descriptions of items, or in a sly way insult Gabriel himself (due to his brash nature and womanizing wiles). It’s quite easy (and fun) to spot non-natives of New Orleans such as Grace, Gabriel’s accountant/employee/attempted love interest, or Detective Mosley. Along with the voice acting, there are some animated cutscenes in certain situations, which help punctuate the game with some flavor.
Twenty years later the puzzles to solve remain roughly the same – they require your mind to be in adventure game logic mode to solve. This can result in some very creative ways to figure out solutions; some can be frustrating, some include a bit of comedy as well. Back in the original if you couldn’t figure out the puzzle you were pretty much stuck unless you had a bright friend, an internet connection along with knowledge of helpful communities, or dug into your wallet/purse for money for a help guide or calling the help line. The 20th Anniversary Edition adds in a helpful hint system to keep you playing the game rather than taking time out to figure out the answers – if you wish to do so. A three-tiered system is in a ‘hint book’ that also serves as a journal, along with additional goodies (such as seeing concept art and side-by-side images of the re-worked version and the classic from 1993) that give timed hints to players in need. It’ll eventually give you the full answer, but it’s your choice to use it. One of my personal favorite puzzles was trying to talk the exquisite Malia Gedde, which involved trying to steal your good friend Detective Mosley’s badge – it’s all about playing to egos.
Sins of the Fathers takes place during multiple days which end when you’ve completed all you can for a particular day. Solving all available plot-related puzzles for the day can take some time due to the exploration system that can have you move about town via a map, which takes you around New Orleans from various locales like the French Quarter to areas around Lake Pontchartrain. You can freely travel about to discover clues and meet interesting people to help with your research. Some areas will be cleverly blocked off -- as in being closed for the day for repairs, for example -- to help keep players focused on important areas to prevent getting too lost.
Some Final Thoughts
Overall the 20th Anniversary Edition of Sins of the Fathers, at this point, is definitely looking very good. By the end of Day 2, I was asking for more – there are tons of little details in the artwork, character interaction, puzzles that can be solved and so on. It’s full of atmosphere that the remake does an excellent job of putting out there. We’ve been told that additional content is still being added, including audio interviews; it will be interesting to hear the team’s experience in developing the game. If you were a fan of the original, or if you are looking to get into the Gabriel Knight series and want a more modern experience, this can be right up your alley.