Gabriel Knight 3
The third installment in Jane Jensen's brilliant supernatural sleuth games Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned is the deepest and most mature of the series to date. A beautifully arching story line, which is obviously the result of painstaking research, twists and turns through a backdrop of gentle French country life. The result is a game that is as haunting as it is difficult and will compel gamers through its refreshingly long story. A wonderful soundtrack, full of moody music and excellent voice work round out this intriguing title.
In the world of adventure games, there are no mini marts and any everyday item could be the one to save a character's life. Peppermint candies and spare pieces of masking tape are invaluable possessions and only that packet of pancake syrup will gain the final prize. With this scavengerlike survival theory constantly in place, the 3D engine in GK3 becomes a player's best friend. The basic view is over Gabriel's shoulder, but there is no reason for it to stay there. In fact, the camera doesn't have to stay anywhere near the story's protagonist. A quick tap of the arrow keys sends the camera zooming down the street, around the corner, or into the crack behind that antique dresser. When something interesting presents itself, a quick click of the mouse reveals that Gabriel was somehow directly behind the camera all the time, and he easily leans forward to investigate or pick something up. This means no more fumbling at the controls trying to position the characters to have them interact with what is plainly obvious to the player. This single innovation makes every single scene in the game better than it could have been otherwise.
Even if the interface had been as awkward as stuffing Jell-O in hot water bottles, the scenes would have shined. The story opens with Gabriel, bruised and abused, stumbling out of a train in France with little idea where he is or what he's looking for. He knows only that the child he was set to watch over has been kidnapped and that he was following two suspects when they ambushed him. Each subsequent scene draws Gabriel deeper into a mystery that centers on the small town of Rennes-le-Chateau and eventually includes church templars, the Holy Grail and a cult of would be vampires. As the connections that seemed so tenuous to begin with wind themselves together, Gabriel and Grace, his assistant and secondary character, find themselves in way over their heads.
Every part of the plot is handled with a maturity of dialogue and story that is rare, even in the M-rated games that are supposedly for a more adult audience. Historical research is a major part of unraveling the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau, and detective work plays as large a role as collecting items. Gabriel is good with the sneaky stuff and spends his time following hunches and suspicious characters. Writing down license plates and clues helps him keep his thoughts in order, but his dry sense of humor tends to keep people from warming up to him. Grace, on the other hand, is more of a people person. Intelligent and computer savvy, she makes her way through her scenes in the game with friendly personal interactions and Internet research. She's still innocent enough to need Gabriel's experience though. In one scene, for instance, Grace tries her hand at flirting in an attempt to pump information from John Wilkes, a big Australian treasure hunter, only to be met with his comment, "Hmmm, I ain't ever had me an Asian ... " The blush that shoots through her face is priceless, an example of the humanity found everywhere in the various characters.
From the slow paced laziness of the French countryside to the frantic fear that pervades the amazing end scene, there has not been an adventure title in a long time that so personified what it meant to be an interactive story as well as a great game.