More about Gabriel Knight Sins of the Fathers

Last night, I kind of ended up ranting about this, so I thought I’d try to record it in my blog and see if it bothers me any less.

I’m about done with the game, on day 9 (I think there are 10 days) and in Africa. I was only a little surprised that the game leaves New Orleans, but it’s no Broken Sword. Travel outside of New Orleans is pretty pigeon-holed and small. One location in Germany with three rooms (well, four, if you count the library) is not on par with everything George does in Spain or even in Syria. Maybe Ireland. But this is kind of making my point even more. That’s a lot of non-starting-point locations.

But I digress. Which I’m prone to do. What’s been bugging me are the puzzles again. In particular, the Schattenjäger initiation ceremony. It’s a lot of minor nitpicks, but this should have been the game’s Crowning Moment of Awesome. A meaningful ceremony in Gabriel’s ancestral home, culminating his adventures and discoveries to this point.

There is a chapel with six tapestries referred to as panels hanging on the walls beside the pews. A huge stained glass window of St George fighting the dragon is the backdrop behind a small altar. The player must examine this room and then ask Gerde, the castle’s single servant, about it. Once that is done, you can go about the steps in the ceremony.

It bothers me that you can’t fulfil them all in the chapel. That seems to lower the meaningfulness of the ceremony, for me. Some of the steps are also not very logical. The first panel shows a pair of hands and droplets of water. Makes sense. Wash your hands, ceremonial bathing reference. In the bedroom, there is a cabinet with a few hygiene items, implying to my mind, at least, that it’s also a sink. But no. You’re supposed to wash your hands in the snow, first opening the window.

The second panel is also straightforward, but also can only be accomplished in the bedroom, not the chapel. You use the scissors to cut off a lock of hair (has to be the bedroom because it has a mirror). Then the third panel requires there to be a chalice placed on the altar.

This chalice is not an item you find, it’s one that you improvise. This was something else that bugged me. Not so much that you can’t just find the chalice somewhere, but that the item you improvise with is clearly a washbasin in every context available, barring the word used to categorise it in inventory and for the narrator to use. The word they use? Chamberpot.

Not only is this completely counter-intuitive, due to the item’s location and appearance, it’s also a bit offensive. You’re leading yourself through an important rite, and the player is supposed to be giggling that you’re using a chamberpot.

The next step is the other problem with this puzzle. The fourth panel shows a dagger, two drops of blood, and the chalice. Fairly easy, right? You search around for the dagger and then use it to drop some blood into the washbasin. The narrator then informs you that you sense that wasn’t quite right. After Gabriel just said that he nearly nicked an artery.

What’s missing? Something that I don’t think I would have thought of if I hadn’t just given in and looked it up in a guide. Salt. Not only is there no indication that you need to add this, either on the panel, any other visual cue, or from the dialogue from Gerde. It’s also a tiny object that you wouldn’t notice unless someone told you to get it. There’s also absolutely no reason for it to be where it is. Gerde is sitting in the great hall, peeling potatoes, and there’s a salt shaker just sitting on the floor by her foot.

Because she needs it to salt the potatoes? wtf.

The sound effect that plays while she peels the potatoes is also clearly the sound of someone chopping something on a cutting board, but at this point, I was just pissed off at everyone. The foley guy can jump right into the fire with the rest of them.

This should not have been a difficult puzzle, and it should have been really meaningful. Instead, I just felt like I was being forced to do out-of-context busywork and the salt thing just made me feel like I had been stymied for no reason.

I don’t care that this game is a classic. It’s flaws are there, and they annoy me. When I finish this, I’m going back to the Simon the Sorcerer series. At least that game is supposed to be nonsense.

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