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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Adventure

 

Developer / Publisher

Sierra

 

Released

1997

 

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Gabriel Knight II: The Beast Within

gabriel knight ii,the beast within        gabriel knight ii,the beast within

Gabriel Knight II: The Beast Within is a rare game that pulls the player in from the moment it starts right to the closing credits; the writing is tight, the puzzles challenging, the characters made believable. And itís all done in glorious full motion video (FMV).

Gabriel Knight II (GKII) follows on the heels of its successful predecessor, Sins of the Fathers, and shows the progression of Gabriel Knight in his role of Schattenjagger, or Shadow Hunter. The game opens with Gabriel being solicited by the locals of Schloss Ritter to track down a werewolf that killed a little girl. From there, Gabriel travels throughout Bavaria, from Munich to a hunting lodge deep in the Black Forest, investigating mutilation killings, an animal smuggling ring, and an elite men's club. And while Gabriel is pursuing his agenda, his assistant, Grace, comes from New Orleans to join in the adventure. Grace spends much of her time touring museums, seeking clues as to the identity of the Black Wolf, and the link between Wagner and King Ludwig II. The separate quests of the two characters fold together seamlessly at the climax of the game.

 

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The standard point and click interface is used throughout GKII. There is a single icon to manipulate on screen items, which changes to an arrow when it passes over an exit to another area. The backgrounds are all scanned images of actual places in Germany, which creates the feeling of being there, or at least participating in a fantastic slide show. FMV has received a bad reputation over the years, especially with the advances in 3D technology. Either the video is grainy or the 

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acting horrible. GKII manages to avoid both. The FMV adds, rather than subtracts from, the experience. The video quality is good, especially when itís considered that the game fits neatly on five CDs. The acting is well above what is expected of FMV titles. Dean Erikson brings Gabriel to flesh, even without the New Orleans accent that Tim Curry set in the first game. The supporting cast of characters all give good performances. The inventory system is standard for adventure games. Combing items is a simple process, as is using items in the game world. One inventory item that proves indispensable is the tape recorder, which is necessary to solve a couple of important puzzles. The tape recorder records all conversations, allowing Gabriel to review dialogue for clues. The game itself is broken up into chapters, with every other chapter being played out from Graceís point of view. While Gabriel plows into the investigation, Grace spends more time researching, and visiting museums, castles, and churches. As each chapter is completed a long cutscene is played, and then becomes active in the cutscene menu allowing for multiple viewings.

Making the story believable in GKII is owed to writer and designer, Jane Jensen. She takes real history, takes a few artistic liberties, and produces a story that is complex but easy to follow. She manages to connect the dots between werewolves, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Wagner, a lost opera, and Gabrielís current troubles. Anyone who knows some German history knows that Ms. Jensen has done a fairly complete job of staying true to history. The writing is the strongest aspect of GKII. The dialogue is natural, the character development is excellent, the plot is gripping, and there is still room for humor.

The music is good, with the Gabriel Knight theme running throughout. The music does what itís supposed to do. It adds tension to scenes that are tense, and sets the mood for every location. The sound effects are executed well. Howling wolves have never sounded so good! Ambient effects in the forest scenes are great, especially the wet squelching heard in the dark cave. Playing with headphones on is probably the way to get the most out of the sound.

Good adventure games are able to integrate puzzles right into the story. GKII scores again on this point. There are no jarring puzzles, instead there are logical steps taken to solve the mystery. At itís heart, GKII is a detective story. As with detective fiction the steps taken to achieve a satisfactory ending lies in a progression from finding facts to fitting them into place, without taking a huge leap at the end of the story to force an ending. And since GKII takes place in the "real" world solutions make logical sense. There are no chess puzzles or other obtuse challenges. And if Gabriel or Grace is at a loss for what to do, the travel screen can provide a hint as to locations that still have objectives to complete.

Saving and restoring games is typical for older Sierra games. There are a limited number of save slots. Each slot has only enough room to type a very brief description.

- Omni

 

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