Top-5 and Bottom-5 Favourite and Least Favourite Things about the Gabriel Knight series
Having now played all the Gabriel Knight games, I really feel more connected to the series. Gabriel Knight 3 is still my favourite game of the series, but now I’m glad I know all the history leading up to that instalment. And while the series is an excellent, dark and well-written set of immersive adventure games, there were things I found dumb and a bit disturbing about it.
Here’s a list of the five things I loved and hated about the whole series. All Gabriel Knight games are available through Good Old Games (as of this writing with a generous price-drop).
Warning: These lists contains spoilers!!
When it comes to adventure game puzzles, many tend to be of the quickly expendable quality. There’s an obstacle that prevents your character from doing something and you have to use what you have at your disposal at the time to get away from. Occasionally, puzzles do move the story along, but often in the “getting an NPC off their butt” kind of way.
Le Serpent Rouge is truly exceptional as a puzzle since not only is it a puzzle that stretches out over several chapters (or time-blocks) in Gabriel Knight 3, it’s also of pivotal importance to the story-line and, without a doubt, the most engaging puzzle I’ve encountered in any adventure game.
You will have to find hidden geographic shapes, decipher ancient texts and search for key pieces of information. Sounds like a lot of work, but thanks to the game’s well-designed hint-system (giving you enough of a clue without revealing the answer) you’re encouraged to go on with the puzzle all the way.
Though I quite like Gabriel’s golden (in GK2, brownish) mullet from the latter two games, I have to say that I also got a massive kick from his hilarious mop ‘do from Sins of the Fathers. I’m even a little disappointed Dean Erickson didn’t attempt to don this unconventional style of hair in The Beast Within, but I guess it’s a look that’s difficult to replicate – on top of which, it’s probably the creation of GK1’s comic-book artists.
It seems like all the characters in Sins of the Fathers had some rather extreme outfit choices, whether we’re talking about Mosely’s gold-blazer, Malia’s bright red jacket or Gerde’s very stereotypical maid’s outfit (hat and all). I guess everything in Gabriel Knight 1 was a little larger than life through the virtue of pixel art. That’s probably the thing I liked the best about the first game, the art-direction was just fantastic.
And though Gabriel abandoned his mop ‘do in later instalments, I’m actually happy he’s stuck true to his fashion choices in life: white t-shirt, blue jeans and a black or brown jacket. And a Harley… you gotta give him that.
When I first watched the opening to The Beast Within, I nearly shat myself at the realisation that Werner Huber (the one with the beard) was none other than the late Kay E. Kuter live, in person and acting his character heart out. What’s interesting is that I had never seen Kay live-performing before, so you might wonder how did I recognise him. The answer: his voice.
Kuter was also in the voice-casts of two LucasArts adventure games which I consider absolute must-plays for anyone who considers themselves serious adventure game fans: The Curse of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. In Curse, he played the hung-over hotel owner Griswold Goodsoup who relays his tragic family history to the player with the epic, warm and lovable Kuter-voice. His role in Grim was much smaller, but just as memorable as the salty, poetry reciting dock master Velasco (when he fishes Manny from the drink for the second time, look up at the moon on the dock).
Thankfully, Kuter’s performance isn’t limited to only the game’s intro, but you also get to talk to him in-game as well (as Grace). And wouldn’t you know it, he’s sitting behind a bar again.
When I noticed that the desk-officer at New Orleans PD was voiced by Jim Cummings, I thought it was cool to recognise him but felt that such a small role was sort of under-whelming for an actor of his skill. Then comes the dream sequence at Schloss Ritter and (just like with the intro of GK2) I nearly shat myself when I heard the Dragon talk.
Whether or not you know that Jim Cummings is best known as the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Pete from Disney’s various cartoons and movies, you should know that this dream sequence from The Sins of the Fathers is one of the single coolest moments fo the entire game series. A giant dragon taking the piss out of Gabriel who is in a hurry to become a Schattenjäger and track down his long-lost great-uncle and his family talisman is a scene that I think everyone should experience.
And as a side-note, Jim Cummings has one of the best villainous laughs in history.
A thing about adventure games, which I’ve always hated, is how many of them treat their casts as fairly expendable. Characters will often appear for one chapter, at best two, and never be heard from again if they’re not part of the main group of protagonists or antagonists. And sure, one-shot characters can be memorable (Mad Marty, Shady Man from Simon the Sorceress II and the desert trannies from Runaway) but if there is a chance to reuse a character and it’s never done, I often feel very disappointed.
Here is where Gabriel Knight 3 excels in comparison to many other adventure games and even its predecessors. Not only will you spend a lot of time with the cast but you’ll also be very much involved in their activities. Depending on how well you play, you’ll learn more about their personal motives and backgrounds and this is what makes the cast so brilliant.
Plus, there are just great characters here: the pompous Lady Lily Howard, the meek Estelle, the slutty Madeline, the cocky-git Wilkes, the up-tight Bucelli, the over-excited Jean and of course, your old pal Mosely (eh, eh). This is just the most lovable band of misfits you can find and one of the many reasons I love Gabriel Knight 3 so much.
Now, I want to stress that the story-writing in the Gabriel Knight franchise is unquestionably great throughout. Each of the individual plot-lines for each game shows an incredible amount of effort from Jane Jensen in combining real history and the paranormal to create a new, fresh and exciting narrative to be told in the private dick style. And the suspense is excellent as well.
However, no matter which game you play, you will be able to tell who the bad guy is from a mile away. What about Dr. John? He’s voiced by Michael Dorn and has a massive python as a pet (no way would it try to strangle you to death at some point, in a Sierra game of all places). How about Baron Friedrick von Glower (the gay werewolf)? The man just shows up and invites Gabriel to join the Hunt Club without as much as a “grüss gott”. Excelsior Montreaux? You didn’t think the guy was up to something when you saw his study (assuming you didn’t get caught snooping up at the attic as Grace)?
The problem I have is that the villains give the game away way too soon. You ask one incriminating question and they’ll fumble or say something else that doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. These guys should walk around with a big neon sign that says: “Bad Guy!”
Grace is definitely one of my favourite characters from the Gabriel Knight series, especially in GK3 where you got to play as her a lot. In the first game, she’s merely part of the supporting cast, but very resourceful and a lot less reckless than Gabriel (she might have even saved Gabe’s grandmother from the Voodoo cult). However, the only other game where you got to spend a lot of time with her was The Beast Within.
The second chapter of the game probably holds the most mixed feelings I’ve had for any one specific section of any video-game. At first, I laughed myself silly when Grace tells the hokey story of a disfiguring car-accident to one of Gabe’s fans. A little later though, she’s a horrible bitch to Gerde and even accuses her of “schtumping” her boss.
I never liked this turn in her character and it’s true that Grace doesn’t exactly “click” with other women. But based on her behaviour in GK2, I’m surprised she didn’t punch Madeline’s teeth out in Gabriel Knight 3. It just made her out to be a rather nasty character (although she does redeem herself later in the game).
Okay, while Gabriel Knight 3 is an excellent game in every single aspect of its being, it does have one gigantic flaw and that’s the fact that the game’s opening does not explain what the game is about. It wasn’t until I found the Hotel telephone and discovered that I had the phone-number of someone called “Prince James” that I learned why Gabriel was on the train to begin with. And then I was all like: “Holy shit!? I’m tracking down a kidnapped babeh!?!”
It wasn’t until I had already played through the whole game that I discovered that the background story of the game was explained in the comic that was in a PDF-file on the first CD-Rom of the game. Now, as beautiful as the first cinematic of the game is, I would trade it any day of the week for a proper opening which actually explains what happened to Gabe before he arrives in Rennes-Le-Chateu.
True, given that Gabe relays all the past events in that one phone-call means that the lack of opening doesn’t detract too much from the experience, but the game is so excellent in every other aspect that it feels frustrating to know that they dropped this one vital element.
Gabriel Knight 3 might have not been the first game I had played where the characters knocked boots but I would have never suspected that bonking was actually a recurring theme throughout the whole series. In fact, Gabriel goes for a roll in the hay at least once in every single game. This shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise considering his rather weak moral fibre at the beginning of the first game, but still…
First he bumps uglies with Malia in one of the cheesiest and pulpiest romances I’ve witnessed in any video-game. If there’d been a bit more of a build-up to it, I could have bought it, but Malia jumps in the sack with Gabe already on Day 3. The same day, I may add, when Gabe makes his slimy “oh baby please” speech at a fricking graveyard!
In GK2, Gabriel fornicates with Von Glower’s girlfriend, who seems remarkably okay with having his Hunt Club buddy which he’s known for maybe two days to go scoodlypooping with her. The opening of this scene almost looks like the start of a porno, it’s that sudden.
What I’m trying to say is that if it weren’t for the fact that there are only three Gabriel Knight games, he would otherwise be getting more action than Leisure Suit Larry.
Now true, Gabriel is a novelist first and foremost – so some of his activities in Sins of the Fathers could be explained by him being new at this P.I. business. However, regardless Gabriel does some absolutely stupid things while tracking down criminals, it’s quite surprising he’s never killed halfway into the story.
Now yeah, Gabe pulls some pretty dumb moves like the Mosely costume in GK3, but he only blurts out the truth when he’s already confident about his own conclusions. In GK2, he was a little sloppy and tended to give the game away a little too early (in hindsight, Von Zell was probably the only one of the villains who had the right idea). I think trying to get on the news to piss off Leber nearly took the cake.
However, Sins of the Fathers was the worst of the lot by far. Gabriel questions everyone as if he was a police officer and even waves incriminating pieces of evidence in the bad guys’ faces. There are so many occasions that Dr. John could have up and strangled Gabe to death but didn’t, that I started to wonder if the villains in the game were as retarded as Gabe.