Retro Review: Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within (PC)

Retro-Review-Gabriel-Knight-2-The-Beast-Within-PCIn a bid to expand my knowledge of adventure gaming, I decided to deviate from my usual LucasArts and Revolution Software libraries and opted for something by Sierra instead, from a wealth of titles, I decided to give the legendary Gabriel Knight series a play through, what an excellent choice that was. 

I could have easily written about the first Gabriel Knight adventure, which is set the New Orleans and has a fantastic storyline regarding Voodoo murders and Gabrielle’s reoccurring nightmares, however, I didn’t feel I could add anything to the wealth of information and other reviews that are already out there; it is a highly rated adventure game and rightly so, if anybody hasn’t played this already, you need to play this game.

With that in mind, I set upon the second of Gabriel’s adventures, Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within. The first thing you will notice about this game is the distinctive change from a 16-bit VGA graphic adventure, to a full FMV based game. Now granted given modern technology, this does look dated, but on the other hand going back to 1995 when the game was first released, FMV technology was seen as a big thing and on comparison to other titles that were based on full FMV technology; Sierra comes out on top with a fantastic and immersive game.

Breaking the boundaries of the CD-Rom drive...

Gabriel Knight 2 was released in 1995 on a stunning set of six CD-Roms. Around the mid 90’s, CD-Rom Drives were just starting to become common place in the majority of home PC’s and become the default type of media for games to be released on, before this time, CD-Rom drives were relatively expensive and it was seen as a risky move to release a game on CD-Rom only.

Gabriel Knight 2 certainly is not the only FMV adventure game out there, but what separates it from the others, is the high production value of the FMV sequences and the quality of the acting to portray the story. The actor chosen for the role of Gabriel Knight was Dean Erickson, in my view he done a brilliant job reflecting the image of Gabriel Knight from the first game, my only criticism was the voice work done by Tim Curry in the first game portrayed Gabriel with a deeper New Orleans accent, this was not reflected well in the second game, but this is only noticeable if you play the games one after the other. 

The FMV and cinematic sequences for Gabriel Knight 2 were filmed with a mixture of Blue screen and live action technology, from further investigation similar techniques were used in other Sierra games like Phantasmagoria. I do feel the combination of live action and blue screen was a master stroke, I have often played other games they were based purely on blue screen technology and the acting does suffer, there is nothing for the actor to interact with and it just looks stale, but the methods used in Gabriel Knight 2 keep things looking much more like a film or TV programme. 

All bases covered

Retro-Review-Gabriel-Knight-2-The-Beast-Within-PC-ScreenshotYou can tell Sierra put a lot of effort into making Gabriel Knight 2 a fantastic game, lots of little touches were included, for example, when you come across a letter or a book, the actor will read out the pages and messages for you, even the majority of current generation games do not do this. Nearly all the objects in the game are interactive and again, with clever one-liners from the characters, it keeps things believable and the quality of the game intact. A special mention must also go to locations used in the game, castles, villages, shops, offices and even zoos were carefully selected and work brilliantly with the story line.

The overall story in Gabriel Knight 2 is exceptional, it is gripping and keeps you engrossed all the way through the game, you can clearly see why Jane Jensen, one of the games creators went on the write up the first two Gabriel Knight games into full novels, the stories are that good. The interface to the game is clean and simple, there is a big difference between what is seen in Gabriel Knight2 and older icon-driven interfaces, no longer do you need to select the correct actions, due to the change in FMV, you can select the objects and go in for a closer look or combine with other items in you inventory. In my opinion, this is a better system and was clearly the better choice for an FMV based game. Some things were kept from the interface from Gabriel Knight 1, for example the dialogue tree’s when interacting with other characters.

The story line is split between the two characters Gabriel and his assistant Grace, much like in Broken Sword 3, both characters take separate arcs of the story that eventually meet at the end of the game. It is not essential to have played the first game, but it does fill in a lot of the story line at the beginning of the game and helps you understand how a New Orleans book store owner and author ends up owning a huge castle in Germany and why the locals ask him for help, when something mysterious happens.

The puzzles in Gabriel Knight 2 were often logical and quiet solvable after some thought, unfortunately I did have to use a gameplay guide to complete the final scene, this was not because the puzzle was difficult or illogical, it was just unfortunate that the use of FMV made this puzzle a little more difficult than it needed to be, on reflection I think they should have picked a better way to finish the game, the actual ending to the story is great, just not the puzzle. After playing the first game, I did note that Gabriel Knight 2 had less dead end situations, personally I think of adventure games to be something relaxing and the addition of dead end situations does put me off playing certain adventure games, which probably explains why it has taken me so long to try out the Sierra library.

Gabriel Knight 2 Trailer


In conclusion, I found this Gabriel Knight adventure to be a fantastic story and well worth playing, if even just to see the FMV technology at work and the contrast between that and the other 16-bit point and click adventures of the time. I would really like to see a modern remake, only for the video quality of the FMV to be updated, with everything nowadays being seen in high definition, the grainy and low resolution of the FMV scenes can be a bit off putting, on one hand I did find it added to the charm but on the other hand, might put some gamers of playing it. An enhanced version was released in Italy, with better video compression; however, it is yet to be released in other territories.

Last Updated ( 03 January 2012 )  

Ed Hale

Tall Handsome Male Seeks.....Ooops sorry wrong type of description. For the majority of the world who do not know me already, I am a seasoned Championship Manager addict who grew up on a diet of Amiga and PC classics. Have had flirtations with console and handheld gaming but always return to the warm comfort of the PC for a good time. Have occasionally done some writing for RetroCollect but always seem to find something new and shiny to distract myself, a legion of loyal subjects and praises might persuade me to keep churning out new content.

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(Link to this comment) Mohok 2012-01-03 23:41
I just wanted to say that this is one of my all time favorite video games. Thank you so much for covering it here on Retro Collect.
(Link to this comment) ironmaidenrule 2012-01-04 12:48
Quoting Mohok:
I just wanted to say that this is one of my all time favorite video games. Thank you so much for covering it here on Retro Collect.

No worries at all, I hope the article was a fair reflection on the game.

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