August 27, 2014 7:30 AM | Lena LeRay
Pinkerton Road's 20th anniversary remake of the classic point and click adventure game Gabriel Knight: Sins of the fathers still doesn't have a set release date. "Mid-2014" is close to passing us by, but they've started making preview builds available to the press. This preview article comes from hands on experience with the beginning of the game. The first part of this article covers the game in a general sense before going into the game as a remake of the original. At the end of the article, fellow IndieGames writer Konstantinos Dimopoulos gives a second opinion.
The titular character Gabriel Knight is a small-time writer and book store owner in New Orleans. Both endeavors are pretty unsuccessful, though he has an employee for the book store. When the game starts, his sleep is plagued by nightmares and he's suffering from writer's block. The book he's working on is a voodoo mystery novel, and since there's a string of so-called "voodoo murders" occurring, he starts investigating them for inspiration. As the story goes on, though, Gabriel discovers that both his nightmares and the voodoo murders are tied to a Knight family legacy he knew nothing about.
Although not devoid of humor, the story in Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is a mystery with dark and mature themes. At the time of its original release, this made it stand out in a genre which was then and is still largely dominated by silliness. Even now, with a much greater variety of point and click games in existence, you'd be hard-pressed to find another game with the same kind of atmosphere as Gabriel Knight. One nice thing about the story is that it has aged pretty well. It's not so era-specific that it suffers from the passage of 20 years, though if you think about it, a notable lack of things like cell phones does give away the fact that it wasn't written recently.
One of the Gabriel Knight series's strengths is its characters. Gabriel himself is far from perfect, a lecherous fellow who doesn't always manage to pay his employee on time. Said employee, Grace, is a smart woman who rebuffs Gabriel's advances with masterful snark while proving invaluable as a research assistant. Gabriel's best friend, Mosely, is a cop who agrees to leak information about the voodoo murders in exchange for [empty] promises that he'll appear in Gabriel's new book. All of the things mentioned in this paragraph (and more) can be learned via dialogue or narrator commentary on looked-at objects in just the first day of the story. The writing does a great job of teaching the player about the characters, major and minor, in a pretty natural way.
Being a remake of a 20 year-old game, the graphics, music, sound, and interface have all been redone. Anyone who's played Pinkerton Road's previous release Moebius: Empire Rising will have an idea of what to expect in terms of quality and user experience. The game plays as a 2D game, though it was built in the Unity 3D engine. The user interface reflects modern point and click sensibilities; rather than having a list of verbs to try on everything, clicking on objects brings up an action wheel with only relevant (or humorously irrelevant) actions available to try. There's a spoiler-free hint system and story-critical dialogue options are yellow instead of white.
For all those upgrades, old fans of Gabriel Knight will find everything very familiar. The graphics have been upgraded, but the book store still has that ladder, grandpa's creepy painting, and a daily newspaper. Each day still starts with DAY # and a snippet of poetry, the nightmare cutscenes still show the same things in limited detail, and although the music has more instruments to it, the melodies are familiar. The voice acting all had to be re-recorded because the original performances were lost, but the new voice actors have done a really good job of stepping into some impressive shoes.
Speaking as a fan of the original Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, the remake is very satisfying. It's been a very long time since I played the original release, but at the time it was like a book that I couldn't put down. Playing this new edition feels like picking that book up again for the first time in years. I remember how the story goes, more or less, but I can't wait to dig in and relive the details. There's nothing in the remake that I snag on, no outrageous changes or flaws that make me want to strangle someone. A lot of care has gone into making this the best remake it can be, and it shows.
If you missed it the first time around, this is a great chance to play a classic, well-loved, and unique entry in the point and click adventure genre. If you're an old fan, this is a great chance to replay a beloved game. Keep an eye on this one, folks. It's one to grab when you get the chance.
Second Opinion from Konstantinos Dimopoulos
With Lena having eloquently covered everything there is to be written about the forthcoming Gabriel Knight remake, is there anything there left for me to do? Well, not really, no, though I can tell you that the Gabriel Knight series has always been my absolute favourite among all of Sierra's offerings. And I love it. And can't be objective about it and would probably even buy Gabriel Knight socks if such a thing existed.
So, what did I think of the new edition? Well, unsurprisingly, I loved the thing.
I especially appreciated the inclusion of the in-game journal, hint system and director's cut material, which includes screenshot comparisons, concept art and some rudimentary commentary. I loved the new streamlined interface, the generous amounts of new content, the built-in graphic novel, but, above all, I was ecstatic with the substitution of that ludicrous pixel hunting puzzle with something way more sensible.
On the other hand, I certainly didn't particularly enjoy the way the mime puzzle was handled, though I suppose it could easily be fixed by the time the final game gets released in a few months. As for the new graphics, admittedly they are not quite as atmospheric as the original's, despite the gorgeous backgrounds, and I'm pretty sure a few palette changes here and there and better animations would really help.
But that's nitpicking. What really matters is that this absolutely classic point-and-clicker has been subtly expanded, generally improved in all sorts of ways and still plays as engrossingly as ever. Hopefully, it will introduce a brand new generation to the Schattenjäger saga and give the rest of us a good reason to replay a fantastic adventure.