Adventure games have been around for quite a while. The golden decade of the 1990s saw some of the best games ever to come out in that genre, some of which fans still talk about to this day with reverence and awe. One of such games is 1993’s Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, which was developed by Sierra under the writing and direction of then famed King’s Quest series writer Jane Jensen.
Set in then contemporary New Orleans, Sins of the Fathers dealt with the occult, having the ultimately likeable but still a jerk romance writer/rare used book shop owner Gabriel Knight as the protagonist. The Southern setting was very unique for any kind of videogame at the time and thanks to some intelligent and humorous writing, it went on to become a classic, often quoted as one of the best adventure games ever.
So it comes as no surprise it’s been picked up for a remake, in the holy year of 2014, the year of the re-releases. Unlike most games that got that treatment lately, though, this 20th anniversary edition is a welcome upgrade that should please both die-hard and newcomers, even with its few faults.
What probably will come as a shock to nostalgic fans of the original release, the entirety of the voice acting that featured some big Hollywood names for the time, including Tim Curry, Mark Hamill and Michael Dorn has been replaced by a new crew, which for the most part do a decent job at it. Knight’s voice acting is most likely the most divisive change. It’s quite a jolt to hear some words that come out of that virtual human being’s mouth without laughing at first of how cartoony his New Orleans accent is, but I’ve managed to get used to it and like it by the end of the game. Other characters sound like they should, though, and sound mostly okay in conjunction with a soundtrack that fits in well with the style set by Phoenix Online Studios’ previous releases. Oh, and I hope you like “When The Saints Come Marching In”. You’ll be hearing it a lot; it’s N’Awlins afta all, right?
Speaking of Phoenix Online Studios, it’s worth mentioning how polished this newest release is. It’s by far the best looking of any of their games, and most importantly, one of the most stable. I still ran into some technical hiccups towards the end of the story, but all in all, it’s very well optimized. The visuals are greatly upgraded from the original release, obviously, and the change from the pixelized style of the 90s to polygonal models and gorgeously painted environments works exceptionally well.
Cutscenes are extremely colorful and feel like you’re reading a comic book, with animated panels that manage to convey action and drama with little movement, which should come as no surprise for anyone used to Phoenix’s brand of storytelling and it’s certainly a notch above the rest. Character faces are emotive and detailed during dialog and the usual brand of weird movement and unnatural body language seen in other of the studios’ games are nowhere to be seen in this remake.
Gameplay wise, little has changed from the original release. There are a handful of new puzzles to dabble with within familiar segments in the story that work well and are just challenging enough not to prove to be speed bumps on your journey into the dark mysteries of Southern voodoo. This isn’t one among one of the more inventory involved adventure games, and every item you pick up sees some use during the game, within common logic. The story progression flows well from start to finish, but if you manage to get stuck, there’s the option to grab some tips that start out smartly implemented in a vague manner but can lead you by the hand the more you need of them. Thankfully none of the obstacles in the story are that demanding, but the option is there.
The only sections from the original that I hoped to see more work going towards this new version are the insta-fail ones that take place further into the game. They’re still relatively annoying to get through, especially if you don’t figure out how to do so right away – it’s those moments in games when you know exactly what’s needed but have no clue of the timing or the how, or heck, both. Still, they are barely frustrating but have to be mentioned nonetheless.
As point and click adventures go, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is still a great game. Even though this remake’s changes to the voice acting might poke hardcore series’ fans the wrong way, the rest of the changes should come as welcome refinements to what already was an incredible classic. By the end of the adventure you’ll be both glad to have experienced it again, or for the first time, and be sick to death of listening to that blasted Saints song. Hopefully this remake will do well enough to warrant remakes of the other two titles in the franchise – The Beast Within and Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned – which have not aged nearly as well as this first entry. It’s still one hell of a ride.