Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned (Second Opinion)
just finished playing the best adventure game that's ever graced my hard drive, and I'm still
reeling from the experience almost a day later. We adventurers may have been skeptical that Jane
Jensen could deliver the goods again, given the switch to 3D technology. After all, some recent
attempts by adventure games to utilise the new medium have managed to produce a bit of eye candy
(where all the budget goes), and rather little else of any substance. Well, let me assure you,
spending only the first hour with Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned
(hereafter, GK3) is enough to turn even the most hardened skeptic, like me, into a believer!
But before I continue with my fanatical rantings, I suppose a little Gabriel Knight history is in
order. Gabriel's first case, Sins of the Fathers, way back in
1993, had him dealing with a deadly voodoo cult. His long-suffering personal assistant, Grace Nakimura,
also follows him into the second appearance, The Beast Within
(1995), which saw Gabriel putting pay to a devious pack of werewolves. And you'll be pleased to know
that Grace also figures heavily into the latest installment, because these two make a great team!
You see, Gabriel is a Schattenjäger (Shadow Hunter). Actually, he's the latest in a long line of
Shadow Hunters, the genetic traits and necessary knowledge being passed down through each successive
generation. The best way to describe these special talents that Gabriel and his forefathers possess is
this: a Shadow Hunter can see things we can't. Thus, they are especially adept at dealing with
supernatural phenomena in all its earthly manifestations. So, Gabriel generally supplies the instinct
and the brawn, whereas Grace is the knowledgeable one who researches the background material on
Gabriel's cases and provides most of the smarts when it comes to piecing together the bits of whatever
enigma Gabriel is currently trying to solve. Of course, the character of Grace also supplies the
romantic interest in the series, though so far she has managed to stave off Gabriel's puerile advances.
As a matter of fact, watching Grace put Gabriel down in so many witty ways provides much of the humour
in these games. So, it's strictly business between Grace and Gabriel at the outset of GK3...
prologue to GK3 is presented as a comic book that ships with the game - certainly an approach
that's rather unique to the GK series. It foreshadows the dark and sinister events, often seen in
Gabriel's dreams, that will occur repeatedly throughout this suspense-filled epic. Here we learn that
Grace and Gabriel have been invited to visit Lord James Stewart, ostensibly to rub elbows with the
European elite. Grace is delighted of the opportunity, always despairing because of Gabriel's pronounced
lack of social skills. However, it appears that Lord Stewart is aware of Gabriel's less publicised
talents, and has actually invited him in order to avail of his services as Schattenjäger.
Lord Stewart approaches Gabriel once the other guests have bedded down. He tells the tale of how the
Stewart family has been plagued by apparent vampire visitations for centuries, and Lord Stewart is
concerned that his newborn son will fall prey next. As Gabriel and Grace hold an all night vigil beside
the infant, the inevitable happens - dark figures appear, Gabriel is rendered powerless in their presence,
and Stewart's son is whisked away. Gabriel pursues the mysterious kidnappers onto a train, but receives a
nasty knock on the head as he searches the compartments. Several hours later, a dazed Gabriel staggers
off the train in the Languedoc region of southern France, and so his next adventure begins!
Rennes-le-Chateau, the small village near the train station where Gabriel loses the trail of the
kidnappers, boasts a small but comfortable hotel where Gabriel is allowed to sleep off his headache. He
awakens the next morning only to find himself amidst an eclectic group of people on tour. The tour group
is led by Madeline Buthane, a stunning red-haired French woman, and contains, of all people, Gabriel's
old buddy Detective Mosely! It turns out that this region is steeped in ancient mysticism. It's been
inhabited for centuries by descendants of the Knights Templar and the Merovingians, and it's rumoured
that the Holy Grail may even be buried here. The tour group is on an organised treasure hunt, and Gabriel
and Grace get caught up in the action, searching for kidnappers and treasure alike.
hopefully I've managed to convey all this intrigue without telling you anything that you won't
find either on the web site or the back of the box, for that would be a shame! The story and the way it
slowly unravels is so good, that it deserves not to be spoiled. Likewise, I've been careful not to show
any spoilers in my screenshots. Many times while I was taking the shots, I had to hold back. I'd get a
really good one, only to realise: "Oh no. I can't show them that!"
Tim Curry steps in right where he left off from Sins of the Fathers,
taking on the voice of Gabriel (Dean Erikson played Gabriel in The
Beast Within). He's obviously quite comfortable with the role, seeing as he defined it in the first
place, but he does tend to ham it up a bit at times. However, the overall effect of his deep southern
drawl is quite pleasing, and his casual air helps Gabriel to defuse tense situations on many an occasion.
Charity James does a great job with the character of Grace: straight to the point, lots of wit laced with
cynicism. There is also a smorgasbord of accents cropping up from around the world: French, Italian,
Middle Eastern, et. al., perhaps done a bit stereotypically, but all competently handled nonetheless...
and then there's Mosely.
The best way I can describe the graphics in GK3 is something like: a cross between
Pandora Directive and Half-Life. On the one hand, you
have this marvellous 3D engine that is well suited for exploration, on the other you have the same
engine producing all the cut scenes. The end result is quite effective (though we're still a long way
from film quality yet), and fits on a respectable 3 CD's, unlike these 6 or even 8 CD monstrosities you
get when the cut scenes are filmed with actors. Consequently, you only have to switch CD's twice in the
whole game. That's progress, folks!
interface uses a camera technique that seems strange at first, but becomes indispensable
once you get used to it. It's 3rd-person, but you can move the camera to any place in an area at will.
This means that you can leave Gabriel or Grace standing still, and just move the camera around to do
your exploration (by holding down the left mouse button). If you need to examine something, just click
on it for a close-up and Gabriel will walk over to it. The manual recommends using the interface this
way, and it really does work. It only takes about a half hour to get the hang of it, and then it feels
very natural. And if you leave the settings at their defaults, whenever an in-game cut scene takes place
the camera will automatically be moved to the best vantage point for the scene, then returned to your
control afterwards. From the above you probably caught the mention of 'Gabriel and Grace'. Yes, GK3
is a lot like The Beast Within in this respect. You take turns
playing both Gabriel and Grace.
As in the earlier games, the adventure takes place over several days, and each day is split into
'timeblocks'. A timeblock might be, say: "Day One, 10am - 12pm". There are certain tasks that Gabriel or
Grace must accomplish within a timeblock in order to progress to the next one. Of course, figuring out
what these are can be a challenge in itself! For you point-lovers out there, the highest possible score is
965. I finished the game with 839, which means I missed quite a few things along the way. However, I
intentionally didn't perform some tasks that I would have considered vital in order to test the game for
'long dead ends'; in other words, things that would mean I'd have to restore to an old game and replay
from there even though I had been allowed to progress through several timeblocks in the meantime. Well,
I'm delighted to report that I found nothing of the kind, and thus GK3 gets a clean report card from me.
I didn't experience any bugs or lockups the whole time I played either, which says a lot for Sierra's
play-testing given the immense time-to-market pressures being brought to bear these days.
GK3 has some brilliant puzzles, and most of them are of a practical nature. There were some timed,
and let's say... arbitrary puzzles at the very end of the game. You know, the kind that you'd find in an
'action adventure'. I'm assuming these were put there in an effort to build up excitement for the
approaching finale, but they only served to frustrate me in what was otherwise the perfect "thinking
man's" game. However, it's really the only fault I can find with the entire game!
are a lot of scenic places for Grace and Gabriel to visit in the Rennes-le-Chateau area.
Fortunately, once you are on the area map that Grace and Gabriel can travel via moped, you can click on
a hint button that lets you know which spots you still need to visit to complete the current timeblock.
I don't consider this cheating, because otherwise you'd have to check out perhaps a dozen places during
each timeblock, when only one or two of them might actually have anything going on there. And, by the
way, GK3 is reminiscent of The Last Express in this respect.
There are lots of places where events are occurring independent of what Grace and Gabriel are doing. If
you show up there, you'll learn something and obtain extra points. If you don't, maybe you'll find some
new things the next time you play!
SIDNEY (the Schattenjäger Informational Database) makes its first appearance. It's a laptop PC
whereupon Grace has concocted an ingenious menu system that allows her and Gabriel to input evidence
pertaining to the case. You can scan in notes, maps, fingerprints and the like, correlate them with
suspects, and even analyse text and pictures to find hidden symbols and meanings within. SIDNEY is
indispensable in helping Grace and Gabriel to solve the tougher puzzles in the game. Now, about the
difficulty of those puzzles... well, there were two in there that I wouldn't have been able to solve
without a walkthrough. On the first one, I had the right idea but was going about it the wrong way, the
other I just plain forgot an important fact that I had learned much earlier on. So beware: this is quite
a difficult game. Grace will give you hints when she's logged into SIDNEY (actually, it's more like
telling you what she's thinking). I'd advise taking these hints, especially during the 'puzzle to end
all puzzles'. It's part of the game.
As per usual with Gabriel Knight games, this is most definitely not for kids. Heh, that's probably why
I like it! While the gameplay itself might seem (mostly) innocent, the cutscenes - especially concerning
Gabriel's dreams - depict some excruciatingly disturbing scenarios. This is a game that makes you
contemplate the 'meaning of life', and all those other trite phrases that most aptly describe what you
think about... when the lights are out... just before you fall asleep...
Copyright © Steve Metzler 1999.
All rights reserved.