Gabriel Knight - Sins of the Fathers, the first game of the Gabriel Knight series was concieved in 1993 when Jane Jensen, coming out of her major co-designing experience on Sierra's King's Quest VI, was given the chance of designing a game completely on her own. The result was Sins of the Fathers - a game destined to be written in the history of adventure gaming for the innovative blast it gave not only to the genre, but also to all the cathegory of games.
Sins of the Fathers was a traditional point-and click adventure which exploited the interface developed by Sierra for other games, enriched with a consistent amount of hand-made artistical graphics which played a consistent role also in the cutscenes, organised as slides of comic book frames. The interface was a 2D one, with pre-rendered backgrounds on which the illusion of depth was achieved through the rich 256 color palette and a crafty use of perspective.
The main innovation GK brought, though, was realism. What differenced the game plot from anything seen until that moment was the way it interweawed fiction and reality, history and supernatural elements - a quality which would have been peculiar to all the games of the series. The fist solo effort of Jane Jensen was the history of a broke mystery writer from New orleans coming on the track of an evil Voodoo cult and discovering that his own family history was connected to the present events. As the plot unwrapped, more information from history, mythology and compared religions joined the big picture, in a climax ending with a classic tragical resolution.
Worldwide known Hollywood actors such as Tim Curry, Mark Hamill and Michael Dorn performed the voice-overs for the CD version of the game, which got also a version dedicated for the newly released Microsoft Windows OS.
Such a game could not be ignored by gamers and reviewers: it got excellent critics and an even better market response; many gaming magazines did not hesitate in flooding GK with awards.
Meanwhile, strong of the success of Sins of the Fathers, Jane Jensen had started working on a second installement of what was beginning to shape as one of the most memorable game series ever: the next adventure of Gabriel Knight was titled "The Beast Within". Sierra pushed a lot on the technological side of the game, starting a high-budget production which was meant to exploit the most up-to-date FMV technologies used in the Phantasmagoria series. A full cast of actors was hired by the production team to play the roles of the various characters, and while most of the action, except some cutscenes, took place in studio on blue screen, part of the crew went to Germany to the real game locations and took pictures of what were going to become the pre-rendered photographic backgrounds the characters moved on. Since the plot involved a fictional opera supposingly written by Richard Wagner for mad Bavarian king Ludwig II, Robert Holmes, the lead composer, had to write a whole set of pieces of opera music which was performed by professional artists.
The game was out in 1995 and received from the very beginning excellent reviews and a great public response: good sales did not take much time to flourish. In fact, GK2 managed to regain soon all the money invested, despite the fact that FMV was still watched suspiciously by gamers, who proved to not have appreciated the Phantasmagoria experiment.
Not unlike other FMV games, also The Beast Within gained criticism among gamers for its mixed nature, however this did not prevent it from instantly becoming a classic and receiving many prestigious awards: the plot was possibly the best ever developed for a game until then, and that made public and reviewers forgive the overall acting standard, which was in more than one point rather poor.
Overally GK2 was a success: this eventually convinced Sierra to start the development of a next GK installement, and in the meantime to release a limited edition package featuring the first two games; in the same period Jane Jensen wrote subsequently the novelisation of both of the already published games. All this contributed in creating an atmosphere of high anticipation towards the endlessly-in-developement GK3.
Gabriel Knight 3 - Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned confirmed the high technology standards of its predecessors: extremely ambitious as a project, it aimed to push further the technological edges of adventure gaming as its predecessors did. In this sense the great innovation brought by GK3 was the full-3D engine which allowed virtually illimitated camera movement in all the game locations, mantaining fixed camera angle only in cutscenes. Unlike King's Quest VIII, the other 3D Sierra adventure experiment, Gabriel Knight 3 remained faithful to its genre rules incorporating very little action elements and featuring an overally traditional point-and-click interface.
The GK3 plot was the thickest and most researched story ever featured in a game: the powerful mixture of supernatural and history, real life elements and fiction typical to the GK series reached here a peak which often caused players to consider fictional elements as reality and vice-versa. On the other hand, many hardcore adventurers were not satisfacted with it: among the objects of complaint there were some puzzles, voice acting, the 3D graphics and the fact that the game was quite much plot-based. To give justice to the game, it has to be said that it turned out to be a stand-alone title with unique and groundbreaking features which made it different from traditional adventure games, and this was not always appreciated by hardcore adventurers who expected it to be just another adventure game.
A proof of the rather cold welcome Gabriel Knight 3 got from the public was the fact that it sold many copies during the first month from release, to drop then to much lower levels also in relation to the fact that despite its ambitions it was never properly marketed. During the following months sales remained constant, and if we consider its sales history from 1999 to nowadays, we can see that the game sold a signifiant amount of copies, especially in Europe; however, due to the initial marketing fault the GK3 did not bring Sierra the invested money back and thus played its role in convincing Sierra's owners that adventure gaming was not in fashion any more.
Gabriel Knight 4?
Despite Jane Jensen's statements according to which the series was not supposed to end with GK3 and her having already developed a plot for a possible GK4, it never turned into reality. The Gabriel Knight 4 campaign is a mean by which the Gabriel Knight fans are trying to give a helping hand and dig out Gabriel from his burial.
Last update: January 27, 2009