The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery
|The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery|
|Engine||SCI Engine v2|
|Platform(s)||MS-DOS, Macintosh, Microsoft Windows|
|Genre(s)||Interactive movie, point-and-click adventure|
The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery is an interactive movie point-and-click adventure game released by Sierra On-Line in 1995. Unlike its predecessor Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, released in 1993, The Beast Within was produced entirely in full motion video. The technology was popular at the time of the game's production with the recently introduced storage capabilities of CD-ROMs, but was expensive to produce. Its sequel, Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned used a rendered 3D engine.
The Beast Within is a point-and-click adventure game, played from a third-person perspective. The game is divided into six chapters and the player controls Gabriel and Grace alternately between the chapters. They conduct their investigations separately for the most of the game, only joining forces in the finale.
The storyline weaves together werewolf mythology and Bavarian history with sexual intrigue and businessmen's quest for their primal roots. The game's two lead characters are Gabriel Knight—the seemingly less-than-bright but smart-as-a-fox mystery writer and bookstore owner—and Grace Nakimura (played by Joanne Takahashi), his less-than-trusting and keen assistant. Knight (portrayed by Dean Erickson) has inherited a castle in a small German village and the title of Schattenjäger ("shadow hunter" in German) that comes with it. It has been a year since the voodoo murders case (Sins of the Fathers) and the local villagers implore him to investigate the mysterious death of a little girl—caused, they believe, by a werewolf. Knight and Nakimura's search for clues takes them to Munich, King Ludwig II's famous Neuschwanstein Castle, Altötting and Bavaria's forested countryside. Their efforts lead them to uncover the truth about King Ludwig's mysterious death and discover a lost Richard Wagner opera, written by Robert Holmes (composer of music in the game).
The game was released for PC and Macintosh. The Macintosh version uses a video player developed by Sierra instead of an off-the-shelf technology such as QuickTime, and had a tendency to crash or run slowly on 680x0 processors. There is an XP-compatible re-print on DVD with de-interlaced movies, but it is exclusive to the Italian market.
The Beast Within has a much more involved plot than its predecessor, Sins of the Fathers. Jane Jensen said that this was because the FMV graphics "limited the interactivity we could do. I specifically tried to put a lot more intrigue in the plot, so even though the interactivity was easier, there would still be enough meat going on to keep people engaged."
The role of Gabriel Knight was re-cast, since Jensen felt Tim Curry, who voiced Knight in Sins of the Fathers, didn't look the part. Dean Erickson took the part, and delivered a take on the character markedly different from Curry's. Erickson explained "There was no way I was going to do Tim Curry, because... you know, Tim Curry is Tim Curry. He was a little more animated or maybe you could say over the top. What he was doing called for that. What I was doing called for something a little more down to earth and grounded." He clarified that "[Curry] only voiced a character and, due to the nature of animation, voices often need to be more over-the-top, because they have to impart more of everything without the visual aspect of a real, live person on screen."
To prepare for the role, Erickson intensely studied films with Southern characters and voice tapes of Southern dialects in order to make his accent sound natural. He enjoyed the role and later said that if the Gabriel Knight series had continued using live action FMV, "I would have done the next five or six."
Filming for the cut scenes was done in California during mid-1995. Erickson recalled that due to video game budget constraints, the actors were expected to show up at the set prepared to give a perfect delivery; director Will Binder would not run more than two takes of any scene unless absolutely necessary. In addition, all of Erickson's narrative voice overs were recorded in a single day at a sound studio.
In Neuschwanstein the actual paintings in the Singer's Hall were changed to correspond with the plot. The filming for the cut scenes was partly documented in the British series Bad Influence, leading to presenter Violet Berlin having a brief walk-on cameo.
- Dean Erickson - Gabriel Knight
- Joanne Takahashi - Grace Nakimura
- Andrea Martin - Gerde
- Kay E. Kuter - Werner Huber
- Nicholas Worth - Kriminal-Kommissar Leber
- Fredrich Solms - Harald Übergrau
- Peter J. Lucas - Baron Friedrich von Glower
- Richard Raynesford - Baron Garr von Zell
- Clement von Franckenstein - von Aigner
- Wolf Muser - Doktor Klingmann
- Bruce Ed Morrow - Mr. Smith
- Judith Drake - Mrs. Smith
In every Gabriel Knight game, the popular gospel hymn "When the Saints Go Marching In" can be heard, albeit in different remixes and forms. In The Beast Within it is heard when Gabriel is visiting the Marienplatz in Munich.
As well as creating the soundtrack for the second game alongside Jay Usher, series composer Robert Holmes wrote the music for a scene from the fictional opera entitled "Der Fluch Des Engelhart" ("The Curse of Engelhart").
The Beast Within was very well received by critics. At GameRankings it scores 90.50% (based on 6 reviews). Critic Philip Jong of Adventure Classic Gaming gave the game 5 out of 5 stars, saying that it "is an epic interactive adventure that triumphs in both gameplay and storytelling. It masterfully blends fantasy and a touch of real life history to add an unparalleled degree of realism to an adventure game. With this title, Sierra On-Line sets the standards for developing strong female leading roles; Jensen should be praised for her development of an intelligent female role model." A Next Generation critic likewise praised the character of Grace, as well as Joanne Takahashi's "appropriately sardonic" performance in the role. He compared the game favorably to Sierra's Phantasmagoria (which uses the same engine), citing the greater amount of gameplay content and better scenery, and rated it one of the overall best graphic adventures due to its "detailed and evolved storyline with an easy to use yet sophisticated graphic system". Maximum commented that "The Beast Within is one of the few [interactive movies] which manage to grasp the attention of the player, largely due to the interesting plot that runs throughout. Graphically the game is pretty smart too, the digitised actors working well with the computer-generated [scenery] on which they're super-imposed."
The Beast Within won Computer Gaming World's 1995 "Game of the Year" award. The editors wrote, "Gabriel Knight II is the continuation of a brilliant tradition—the graphic adventure as art. That it combines solid technology and a marvelous aesthetic with outstanding gameplay is a testament to a designer who understands that 'the game is the thing.' "
In a retrospective review, Adventure Gamers' Dan Ravipinto called The Beast Within "one of the few computer games to actually involve personal, meaningful growth in a player-character. Easily one of the best Full Motion Video games ever made." In 1996, Computer Gaming World named The Beast Within the 17th best computer game ever, the highest position for any graphic adventure. The editors declared Jane Jensen "the interactive Ann Rice". In 2000, Computer Games Strategy Plus named The Beast Within one of the "10 Essential Graphic Adventures", and called it "probably the best video-based adventure game ever released."
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