When Gabriel Knight 3 was in production, Jane Jensen stated “We were the last dinosaur on the block. We had until the game shipped, and then it would be over.” Gabriel Knight 3 was to be the last game in the series and, possibly due to the decline of interest in Point and Click-games, it was for the best financially. Mask of Eternity, which took a huge departure from King’s Quest’s roots, did better than the critically acclaimed Grim Fandango and the well-known Quest for Glory 5 , which is quite a sad sign. However, this makes Gabriel Knight 3 quite remarkable to even exist when it had everything going against it and despite the trainwreck that was Gabriel Knight 2; maybe the third time was the charm?
Worst tour-group ever
Gabriel Knight and Grace are on their way to Paris to help Prince James of Albany protect his infant, Charlie, from creatures called Night Visitors. Sadly, they are in for a rocky start, as the son is kidnapped by two strange men, and Gabriel is knocked out trying to save the child. After getting help from a porter, Gabriel wakes up in a hotel located in Rennes-le-Château and starts his search for the child while figuring out who these Night Visitors really are.
I am thrilled for having Gabriel Knight being voiced by Tim Curry again, as he is such a delight to listen to. His snarky, but clever comments in either conversations or in his observations, are always a treat and he conveys a clear personality with flaws and strengths. Sadly, this is pretty much the only character I can praise anything for, as all the others aren’t very interesting and often come off as generic stereotypes from any mystery TV-show you have seen. It doesn’t help that Grace is not very unique either or has as clear a personality as she did before, despite being a protagonist similar to Gabriel. About 70% of the dialogue in this game is vague just to make someone seem suspicious when it is not subtle at all, or uninteresting filler to try to create personalities, which only serves to create stereotypes. My favorite example of how poor these dialogues are, is another drama between Grace and another woman over Gabriel that drags on and is simply tedious. Did we really need this a second time?
The progression for the overall plot is not good either. There is an interesting and incredibly clever connection with the lore of the Templars, Holy Grail, and Vampires, but it is poorly told as you will get them through long expositions, and even worse in the beginning: barely any knowledge that will be worthwhile. Why not have this lore and knowledge sprinkled throughout the game to build up interest and tension, instead of being force-fed them in huge chunks? This is terrible when you must roam around a museum for quite some time and read as much as possible, or suddenly get points by finding information that will not be important until many chapters later. Even some comments can be similarly odd spoilers.
Out of the 17 chapters, only a couple of them became interesting when they finally revealed why the lore was important, and had some clever puzzles connected to it, making you feel like a supernatural-detective/Schattenjäger. But this is unfortunately a small part, and when no character is interesting to have a conversation with, areas are bleak and forgettable, and the lore is either hammered in or insignificant, it makes a very cool concept, evaporate into almost nothing.
Story Score: 2.5/10
How to make the days drag
As mentioned above, unlike King’s Quest 8, Gabriel Knight 3 sticks to a point and click style game in 3D. The fixed camera is now gone and instead you move it with the D-pad or WASD, similar to an FPS from the 90’s without strafing. However, this only controls the camera. You interact with objects by clicking on them, choosing the action you want to do, and wait until Gabriel comes along and does the command. It is a very unnatural control scheme, but think of it as moving the stationary camera and it is a fitting approach. It is also used to easily spot small details in the area, so pixel hunting is thankfully gone. You can have plenty of different ways to interact depending on the object or the person you click on, such as pick up, open, look, use item on, etc. A new element is the think-button which is supposed to give you a hint, but doesn’t always help and it makes me wonder why there is another hint-button in the option-menu where settings and saving the game are located. Gabriel also has a terribly slow walking-speed, but should you be far away from where you want to go, he will simply teleport to where you clicked if he could have walked towards there in the first place.
We of course have puzzles in this kind of game and there are very few I found clever. The infamous cat-puzzle might be the most popular one, but also some commands that only occur in specific events, such as eavesdropping. It makes the game become somewhat shallow and unpredictable in its execution, but even worse are those that are just a bore. The first couple of days consist of plenty of dried out dialogues that really can take forever, with plenty being unnecessary exposition, and when the overworld-map comes into play you are going to be traveling all over the place, which is time consuming and dull. Then we have the progression of the game. There are a total 17 chapters that span 3 days, with the last day containing most chapters. That might indicate this is not a long game, but often there are minor elements you have to do to progress and it is just daft when you must do something that seems incredibly insignificant.
Grace will also be playable as she comes back to support gabriel before the end of the first day, though she doesn’t play any differently from Gabriel, so she is instead included for fanservice. What she brought however, is quite handy. Sidney is a very impressive computer and will be one of your most important tools, being able to print, scan, search for information and it doesn’t even require internet-cords or an AC-adapter. Plenty of commands won’t be useful, such as most in the email section, but it is home to some creative photo-puzzles and easy access should you want to read up on some mystical creatures. However, it is also flawed as you can search for information and suddenly gain points, spoiling that this will be important much later on in the game. The other thing Grace brought is the fingerprint kit, which I think is the most entertaining tool she has, as you can search for and scan fingerprints and put together clues to figure out what motives the other characters at the hotel have. I just wish both were used for more creative means and some more genuinely interesting puzzles could have helped.
I really feel sorry for Scott Billas. He was brought in to help make this game mid-project and it shows that even he struggled with making this work. Not only do the puzzles waver in quality, but the version on both Steam and GoG, crashed on me plenty of times. After I had tinkered with these versions for 4 hours trying to make them work, I decided to invest in a CD-version and find an old computer I had not used since I was a child. It finally worked, but couldn’t handle higher resolutions in specific parts of the game, despite being marketed as such. It barely gets some points as a couple of puzzles are good, such as one in the church that felt like something out of The Da Vinci Code, and the late part of the game. However, those are stuck in a pile of mediocrity or simply uninspired puzzles, poor progression, and dialogues that can drain your spirit. Like finding a needle in a haystack, I am only reaching for straws here. Thank God you can at least retry if you fail any puzzle and die.
Gameplay Score: 2.5/10
From full motion video to Geppetto’s workshop
The team had no experience with 3D and it shows that they were forced by Sierra to go this route regardless. The best I can say about the character-models, is that they are varied between the few people in the game, but they have aged dramatically with uneven arm-lengths and very blocky limbs. The animations these human beings have are quite awkward and over-the-top, but smooth and at times humorous. My favourite being Gabriel just pouring some coffee while his arms mess up entirely, I would love to see that in real life. The items usually look okay, so the inventory won’t be a pile of oddities you can’t identify.
Then we have the areas and wow: this is a cardboard-box world. It’s understandable that scenery from a late 90’s game is blocky, but every area is big, empty, and unimaginative. The textures give areas a minimum sense of where you are, but with how flat and bare the places are, they can easily be sad sights to behold, especially the outdoor areas. There is also no depth to the ground, making tiles only different from sand thanks to the texture and nothing else. Even your hotel feels like a prison with few windows. I suppose it was to create immersion by making them big, but they needed to fill up these areas and at least be more creative. You can probably imagine that the CG is also quite ugly, as it uses the same in-game graphics. Surprisingly, the lighting is very impressive.
When it comes to the voice actors, of course Tim Curry stands out for all the right reasons. Charming, sarcastic, and while sounding tired in some parts, still brings joy to my ears anytime he makes some clever comments with his deep voice. Unfortunately, the rest of the voice actors don’t come close to his performance. They are acceptable in quality, but are only there to play stereotypes and don’t convey much personality other than their native accent. And really, these are not just small actors either, including Jennifer Hale who could and can to this day, do much more than just making a French accent.
The music is phenomenal as Robert Holmes returns through David Henry. Henry made plenty of covers and new compositions based on Holmes’ earlier tracks, and they are beautiful. It really shows that he understood Holmes’ style and captures it to a tee. They are ominous, calming, jazzy, energy-inducing, all with great variety in their lovely tunes. So why isn’t it used more? There are a lot of atmospheric noises present, but this silence just adds to the empty and dull setting. It is devastating that such a talent went to waste.
Presentation Score: 2/10
There is no point, never was or will be
The score-system where you can get the max amount by doing unknown actions returns and it can just die in a pit. I am sorry, but I really dislike this system as it is more annoying now that some ways of getting points can involve doing something mundane within a limited time space and in only certain chapters. My favorite example, was when I just had to open a door to get some points. No reason, it was an important door I suppose. There are at least some clever easter eggs that are amusing, with more being unlocked through the console screen, but more could have helped for making this game more intriguing to explore as there are very few of these.
Extra Score: 1.5/10
This was a sad way to end a series. I am not going to pretend the last game was a masterpiece, but it could be entertaining for all the wrong reasons. However, this was just a slog to play through. The small positives are barely worth mentioning when the world is not engaging, 80% of the puzzles are dull, and the story is incredibly poorly told. When Tim Curry or interesting lore about vampires can’t even save this, that is an accomplishment. This just sucks.