It’s been at least 15 years since I last picked up Jane Jensen’s point-and-click adventure classic Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father. Some revere the title as the best Sierra game of all time, which is quite a bold claim, and although I can’t say I appreciate it that much there’s no doubt it’s a special game. Now, nearly 20 years after the game’s 1993 release an updated 20th Anniversary version is upon us complete with new graphics, a new voice cast, and even some tweaking to the more obtuse gameplay mechanics and puzzles. We got a chance to check out a demo that contains a handful of days and around 90 minutes of gameplay (roughly 10-20 percent of the game) to check out these updates.
Right when you boot up Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father 20th Anniversary (Gabriel Knight from now on) it’s like journeying back to the first time you played it - and first timers, fear not, it mostly holds to contemporary standards for an adventure title. Initially I didn’t think much had been done to the game. The opening seemed the same, the credits definitely were (which gave thanks to the original voice cast for some reason), and although the opening seemed tweaked I thought it was pretty much the same. Upon booting the original (available on gog.com for modern machines) boy was I reminded how thick nostalgia goggles can be, it’s a complete overhaul.
Gabriel’s world has been re-imagined in that fantastical but realistic style I see represented heavily in title like The Sims, where there’s a bit of a cartoon twist but also grounded in reality. This is important because although Gabriel Knight sprinkles in some amusing moments and laughable dialogue, it is a story about voodoo murders and has plenty of violence to and dark situations to match. Granted this new title is being built in the Unity Engine, which is why you will see it on both PCs and mobile, but I’m really liking what that engine can do to breathe new life into 2D based games with 3D graphics. Each scene has been given the same care and attention to detail that made the original so special from the graphics to the thematic music and most notable with the voice acting. Many may disagree, but I never cared for Tim Curry’s voice work in the original, it seemed wrong for a creole accent and like he was mocking the character with each line. I was unable to get his exact name, but the new voice actor for Gabriel seems much more fitting. He brings that snarky pedigree with a somewhat smooth accent that I’ve come to attribute to the character proper (although keep in mind that back in the 90s I would frequently switch from having the sound on and off thanks to text of all speech). From the early parts I saw the other voices are great at emulating the originals as well, especially the narrator, but they more assisted in tricking me into thinking I was playing the original rather than improve like with Gabriel’s character. Some of the functions like how to interact with items and select the multiple options you have with each have been greatly improved, especially because it seems optimized for mobile, so you no longer have to scroll between functions and instead just click on something and all available options are displayed. This streamlines the “try anything with anything” nature of a point-and-click adventure and I feel is essential for those of us who have either never played the game or can’t remember almost any of the puzzles. While it seems like the puzzles haven’t changed - my demo was, in terms of content, identical to the original game - perhaps the full release will feature new content or puzzles. Even if that’s not the case, it’s still a brilliant game that I will have no problem returning to upon full release, perhaps even on that dreaded mobile platform I try to consistently ignore. All in all it does prove that a fresh coat of paint, a few audible tweaks, and streamlining the guess-and-check nature of this classic does do it good. Purists of the genre need not worry, there is still some challenge here and none of the puzzles have been made much easier by the new streamlined feature, it merely doesn’t display the ability to do the many things that would get you that “I can’t do that” voice prompt. Gabriel Knight is back and fans of the original or those that haven’t experienced it may want to take notice when the game launches on October 15.
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father 20th Anniversary will be available October 15 on PC, Android, and iOS for $19.99. It can be pre-ordered at this time for a discount on the Pheonix Online site (store.poststudios.com) as well as gog.com and Steam (store.steampowered.com ). This demo was provided for preview purposes by the publisher.
The Walking Dead Season 2 – Episode 2 “A House Divided”
After a slow moving, character driven first episode. Telltale's The Walking Dead returns with a bang in its second episode of the video game series. The patient set-up that we witnessed previously pays off when we watch the relationships forged break down from the offset.
We continue to follow Clementine as she falls down the rabbit hole towards a bleak outlook towards life. However, the episode itself leans more towards revealing one hell of a menacing villain in the form of Carver (voiced by the excellent Michael Madsen). I immediately felt a vibe from Carver that was reminiscent with the television's Governor, and the comic books excellent character, Negan.
Madsen manages to portray a subtle, yet terrifying presence throughout the episode that sets up what can only be a harsh, bleak future for Clementine and her group. The added addition of the majority of the group already having had a run in with Carver heightens the tensions and action.
I truly hope that this also sets up Carvers downfall and we can witness some violent revenge from either Clementine or another group member.
Back to Clementine, and Telltale have shifted the overall feel of the character. In episode one, we were forced to feel uncomfortable with the decisions thrust upon Clementine. The killing of the dog springs to mind as an example. In episode two though we're reminded that no matter what we have Clementine do, there's always somebody else that's worse than you. In this case, it's Carver.
Episode two's explosive third act really hits home that Clementine has had to make some major decisions concerning the future of the group, mainly forced by Carvers actions. We see Clementine either cementing her trust in certain characters, or damaging relationships for the greater good.
I felt that this final 30 minute action pact third act really changed Clementine dramatically, and it certainly was the first major change since teaming up with Lee in Season 1. The stress and urgency of each scenario really hits home the moral dilemmas poor Clementine has to deal with.
The scope of episode two was quite impressive. A lot of ground is covered during the two and a half hour game play with the majority of game changing decisions embedded within some gripping conversation.
Depending on your actions and choices, you may have a wildly different experience with each decision than the next person. It all boils down to where you take Clementine over the 5 day time period that episode two is set around.
The action sequences themselves are by far the best that Telltale have created and I truly was on the edge of my seat frantically trying to find various items to take out zombies whilst saving a character on a bridge. The tension and slow build up we witnessed previously is really paying off and heightens these explosive sequences to its maximum.
Overall, Telltale have really pulled out all the stops with episode two. It's constantly full of fantastic, and gripping dialogue; ever lasting consequences (good or bad); and brilliant action scenes that really get the player involved with the narrative. Clementine's character arc remains to be the most impressive section of season 2 as we watch her wander a dark and brutal path.