|Any self-respecting Schattenjager would be intrigued by the latest Gabriel Knight game: It appears to be one thing, but eventually turns out to be a whole other animal altogether. Is that a good thing? Somewhat. Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned begins as a good whodunit. Then it becomes a really, really good whodunit. And in the end most of the playerís work is for naught. |
The story begins with Gabe and trusty sidekick Grace Nakimura guarding the infant son of Prince James. It seems "night visitors" have terrorized James and the entire Stuart bloodline ó Gabe thinks itís a case of vampires, and soon enough heís chasing a black-cloaked kidnapper who escapes with the baby. Luckily for our hero, the kidnapper and his pursuer wind up in the French town of Rennes-le-Chateau.
Hereís where the game shines: Gabriel and Grace are among a tour group populated with suspects straight from Agatha Christie. Thereís the shifty Italian, melodramatic English actress and her companion, saucy French tour guide, mysterious Middle Eastern guru, brash Australian treasure hunter ó and the New Orleans Police Departmentís own Hamilton Mosley (a friend of Gabeís from back home). The player must use more than a little detective work to compile information on each suspect and the mysterious treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau.
See, the valley is the birthplace of the famous Knights Templar, who are rumored to have found the Holy Grail and other treasures, and whose offshoots may yet guide world affairs. The tourists are ostensibly there to find said treasures ó but Gabe and Grace think theyíre in on the kidnapping, too.
Again, the detective work is a blast, between the gameís scripted events and the usual skulking about taking fingerprints and collecting evidence. At one point, Graceís new laptop program (SIDNEY, the Schattenjager Information Database) can be used to solve a clever riddle as to the treasureís whereabouts. Itís a fascinating sequence. Unfortunately, itís the last really compelling part of the game.
It should come as no surprise that Gabe finds a hidden Templar stronghold. We wonít give much away about this last sequence but this: If I never see another deadly chessboard in a computer game, itíll be too soon.
Why is this last part so bad? Because aside from one short question-and-answer sequence, none of the detective work really has any impact on the game. And yes, the game can be finished without giving the right answers in that Q&A. Argh!
The graphics this time around are the sort of 3D modeling thatís all the rage. This is generally well done, especially when characters get a chance to show their range of expression. Cutscenes alternate between scripted events using the 3D models and "movies" ó thankfully, the characters in said movies are made to look similar to the 3D models, albeit more smooth and rounded.
These movies often deal with the relationships between Gabe, Grace and Mosley, so much so that all three quickly feel like old friends. Author Jane Jensen did an excellent job on these private moments.
The voice acting is topnotch; British actor Tim Curry is the very model of a good olí Louisiana Boy. Unfortunately, Mark Hamill doesnít return as Mosley, but David A. Thomas Jr. does a good job. Charity James makes Grace both sweet and sassy.
If youíre new to the Gabriel Knight games, make sure to read the introduction in the manual. Many conversations in the game refer to past events, and it helps to know a little more about them.
In short, this one is a great detective game (up to a point) and a good adventure game overall. If you can forgive its endgame shortcomings, youíll definitely find something to like in the blood.