Gabriel Knight is one of the best known adventure series in gaming history, but I must confess that I never played it. I was only 8 years old when the first in the series was released and my parents would never have purchased such a mature game for me, they wouldn't even let me buy Diablo! In any case, I finally bought the first installment from Good Old Games and played it in 2010.
Sins of the Fathers centers around a main character named Gabriel Knight, who owns a rare book store in the French Quarter of New Orleans. He is a civilian investigating a series of Voodoo murders in the city, where victims are murdered in what appears to be a Voodoo ritual, in hopes of making a good novel out of it. Other primary characters include his assistant, Grace Nakimura, and longtime friend Detective Frank Mosley. Later on in the game, Gabriel will meet characters such as Malia Gedde, a wealthy and attractive young woman, Dr. John, a Voodoo historian, and Gabriel's Uncle Wolfgang from Bavaria.
The game is divided up into days and each day you will play until you perform a certain number of key events. These key events include things such as finding evidence or items, interrogating certain characters for information, and witnessing events. In light of this, there is no time limit for each day so it is generally possible to take your time finding everything. There are many areas to explore in the game and most days you will revisit the same ones, although new ones are added as the game progresses, some of which are outside of the French Quarter and even overseas.
Like most Sierra adventures, you are presented with a third person view of each scene and control Gabriel Knight using a variety of possible actions. In this instance, there is a walk, look, open, push, operate, talk, ask, and take. This can be confusing since to solve a certain puzzle you may need to use ask instead of talk, as an example. However, after a while you get used to it and learn to try every option. If you use the wrong option, the narrator or Gabriel often make a snide remark.
The story in this game is pretty interesting and even a bit suspenseful at points. It is possible to die in the game, but only in a few places, therefore most of the game is spent safely investigating instead of fearing for your life. The puzzles are pretty straightforward, although sometimes it is easy to miss a detail and spend hours looking for it. I must confess that I found myself consulting a walkthrough on a few occasions, but it did not spoil the overall game for me. The worst puzzles for me were sequences where you have to perform a timed action very quickly and failure to do so can mean death or having to retry over and over again until you get it right. Luckily, there are only a few of these spots in the game. One minor complaint I have about the game is that sometimes you need to do pixel hunting to find items.
The music used by the game is really good and I decided to download the soundtrack since I liked it. The game also features voice-overs for all of the dialog, all of which is made by skilled voice actors like Mark Hamill and Tim Curry. There is also a female narrator who speaks in Cajun style, but she can be a bit annoying after a while. One complaint is that, at least in the GOG release, the narration has a lot of clicks and pops, but I can't be sure if these audio artifacts were in the original game.
The game itself is rather dark and violent in a number of places. Since it follows the Voodoo murders, there are gruesome scenes and violent acts, but nothing compared to most modern games. Gabriel himself is a flawed character, but likeable nonetheless.
The graphics are about what you would expect from 1993. They are pixellated and don't show much detail, but the art is still beautiful and one can tell what is going on. The cutscenes and interrogation scenes use higher resolution images as well as high quality animations to show the characters talking and reacting to each other.
Overall, I thought the game was worth the hype and the fact that it is still enjoyable after 17 years says a lot. I am anxiously awaiting the release of the next installment so I can continue the Gabriel Knight saga. Sins of the Fathers can currently be purchased on Good Old Games and runs in DOSBox very well.