Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Friar Tuck, and Little John join forces when Robin of Locksley returns from his foreign adventures. With Richard the Lionhearted fighting in the Crusades, England suffers under the cruel hands of the evil Prince John. Robin and his friends will scurry around Sherwood Forest, Nottingham Castle, York, Leicester, Derby, and Lincoln as they harass the Prince's guards and evade his powerful armored knights. An intuitive interface helps players learn the combat system quickly, and everyone can practice skills at the outlaws' training camp. Shrewd players will design strategies to foil Prince John's men by utilizing the many weapons and tactics available.
Probably one of the most underrated RTS games last year was Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive. It had a huge amount of challenge and it did justice to the Wild West setting with some slick graphics and sound. Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood does the same thing for the Sherwood Forest while sticking closely to the conventions of Desperados, which is a good thing and a bad thing.
First the good, getting a handle on the controls will be a snap for players of Deperados, as Legend of Sherwood handles and plays alike - controlling a group, distracting enemies, an emphasis on stealth, etc. - except for one key area. Obviously, the world of Robin Hood is populated with swords and arrows, and not with six-shooters and sniper rifles. This means a complete change in tactics since Robin Hood and his band of happy-go-lucky guys, can't plug an armored knight from across the map. Hell, an arrow won't even drop the knight; you have to get up close and personal with your sword.
This is where the bad things start to mingle with the good things. Legend of Sherwood uses the exact same engine as Desperados - although the backgrounds and environments look great there are only three levels of zoom: way out, medium, and close. At it's closest, the view turns into a pixel-fest and, unfortunately, being zoomed all the way in is the most effective way to win sword fights without taking a huge amount of damage. It looks really ugly. This is one aspect I would have expected to be improved since Desperados was released about 12 months ago.
The added depth of the sword fights almost offsets some of the zoomed-in ugliness - almost. Holding down the left mouse button and slashing the mouse (leaving a short trail of light) in different combinations allows for some devastating attacks. The implementation makes sense and it doesn't take long to get a handle on. The other Robin Hood trademark - bows and arrows - is also present and it's entirely easy to use. Where some of the cohesion breaks down is when you're in control of more than one character (which was also somewhat of a problem with Desperados). There is the option to "program" some quick actions for each character but you have to be really quick anyway because there's little room for error.
Legend of Sherwood features a variety of characters including Maid Marian, Will Scarlet (who likes to snap necks), Little John and Friar Tuck. Each has their own abilities but none are more versatile than Robin himself, who can leap on tables and fight off numerous enemies at once. (He can also leap off rooftops.) It's combining the strengths of the characters that success comes, hopefully with a minimum of casualties as Robin's tagline is "Rob from the rich and give to the poor," not, "Disembowel the bastards!"
Each mission rates Robin's conduct in terms of how many people he killed, etc. This rating affects how many jovial dudes can be recruited. These happy-happy-joy-joy fellows in turn can be brought to Sherwood Forest where they can be put to work in the workshops or trained to increase their experience. (Sherwood Forest acts as Hood's supply depot and training center.) These same guys can be recruited for missions that can be selected. Desperados featured a linear storyline, but Legend of Sherwood features missions that can be taken at your leisure (although there is a definite story track). But the greatest feature (a definite improvement over Desperados) is that characters will defend or attack in a logical manner as the situation warrants.
Something that remains consistent is the difficulty level. How do you say difficult? With a capital, "D." The difficulty ramps up right after the first level and seems to continue from there and some of the bigger battles feel like you're up around Mount Everest. Quicksave and quickload haven't been used this much since... since... well, since Desperados. (Not helping matters, is a lack of tutorial. Instead you pick up various instructional scrolls as you go along - don't bother, just read the manual.) Getting the hang of using your squad of smiling males helps a lot but Legend of Sherwood is still hard.
But Legend of Sherwood also has more depth. While there are definite similarities with Desperados, Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood does enough new that it can stand by itself as a good game. The sword combat is simple to come to grips with, the addition of recruits, Robin's base, and non-linear approach (after level 2) are good features that make it a deeper game than most comparable games even though the engine is showing its age, there's no tutorial, and the difficultly level can be entirely frustrating.
People who downloaded Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood have also downloaded:
Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown, Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive, Sid Meier's Pirates!, Rising Sun, Port Royale: Gold, Power and Pirates, Rome: Total War, Praetorians, Pirate Hunter
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