Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood. (computer adventure game) (Evaluation)
by Clayton Walnum
Surely everyone who isn't fifthy rich has at some time wished to be Robin Hood. How noble it would be to help those in poverty and take the ultrarich down a notch or two. Justice would be served, and the underdogs would get their just rewards.
Now's your chance to live the legend. In Sierra On-Line's spectacularly illustrated adventure, Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood, you're Robin Hood as he strives to collect King Richard's ransom. Along with your merry men, you must correct the injustices being perpetrated in the name of Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. If you're successful, you'll save the throne for the king. You'll even gain the hand of the luscious Maid Marion. If you fail, you'll die a rogue's death at the hands of the sheriff's men.
For those unfamiliar with the details of the tale, here's a brief review. King Richard the Lionheart sets off for the crusades with high hopes. But the crusades take a bloody turn, and the king is captured by Austrian soldiers.
Back in England, Prince John has his eyes on the throne and privately swears that Richard will never be freed. Conspiring with the likes of the Sheriff of Nottingham, he weaves a web of intrigue and treachery that drives King Richard's faithful subjects into poverty and despair.
Accused of banditry and other crimes against the prince and his people, Robin Hood, a disillusioned member of the rich class, becomes an outlaw and sets up a hidden camp with a small group of followers. Stealing from the rich in order to feed and clothe the poor, Robin becomes the people's champion.
Sierra has brought the legend to life. Conquests of the Longbow is a carefully crafted and researched tale, bursting with druid magic and medieval English lore. Over two dozen books were used in the game's research, as evildenced by the bibliography included in the manual. As a result, the graphics, the text, and even the story line ring with an authenticity that inexorably draws the player into the game.
Adopting a pleasing cinematic approach to computer storytelling, Conquests of the Longbow begins with a lengthy graphic introduction that is sung by an animated bard. After the introduction has ended, you, as Robin, find yourself in your cave, and the adventuring begins.
To keep this long quest manageable, Conquests of the Longbow is divided into days. Each morning, you awaken and talk to your men to learn what you need to do that day. Then you sally forth to solve that day's puzzles.
You might, for example, need to acquire a disquise so you can enter Nottingham incognito, or you might need to rescue someone from the sheriff's clutches. Often, you'll find yourself on Watling Street, relieving rich travelers of their gold, battling the sheriff's cronies, or bargaining with innocent passersby.
At first, the game is fairly easy, with quickly solvable puzzles and many animated sequences to guide you into the story. However, don't let the first few game days fool you. Conquests of the Longbow is a challenging adventure that requires much ingenuity to solve--inexperienced adventurers may have a rough time solving some of the puzzles. This is a toughie!
Usually, after solving a major puzzle, you're treated to an animated sequence in which the characters take over the game in order to advance the story line. Each ensures that the game's story is captivating and cohesive. At the end of each day, you and your men gather around a campfire to discuss the day's events. When a character speaks, his animated portrait appears on the screen, allowing you to see your men close up and further adding to the game's realism.
If you discount the many "rooms" that make up Sherwood Forest, there are few locations in the game--so you won't need to do a lot of mapping (hurray!). In fact, Conquests of the Longbow includes its own map. To move to one of the game's main locations, you bring up the map and click on your destination, saving you from much wandering through the forest.
Of course, there are locations you must discover on your own. Once you've found them, they're added to the map. Other adventure game designers would be wide to incorporate this feature.
As you travel through this medieval fantasy, you'll visit the Watling Street overlook, the town of Nottingham, a mysterious fens monastery, and more. When you enter castles, the display changes to show the building's floor plan. You can visit any room by simply clicking on it in the display. Once again, Sierra avoids meticulous and boring--and senseless--mapping.
The adventure is packed with Sierra's trademark humor, so talk to everybody and look at everything. That way you won't miss important some zany comedy bits. At a fair, for example, you'll run into a lazy gossip named George Bush. Then there's the log-laden peasant who confesses, "I used to be a programmer for Sierra On-Line, but hauling wood is much easier work."
Conquest of the Longbow features not only Sierra's famous mind-bending puzzles but also several arcade sequences, and there's even an authentic ancient English game called Nine Men's Morris. The arcade sequences and Nine Men's Morris are fully playable games within the adventure. However, if you prefer straight adventuring, you can set the game's arcade level to 0, which assures that you'll win all arcade sequences on your first attempt.
As with all recent Sierra games, no typing is required to enter commands. You can choose commands from a menu or you can use the right mouse button to cycle through the commands, with the mouse cursor changing to a different icon with each click. There are only about half a dozen commands to choose from, but they can be used in many ways. Even with the limited command set, you won't reach the end of this adventure quickly.
No game is perfect. There are a couple of minor but annoying problems with Conquests of the Longbow. For example, if you click the mouse button at the wrong time, you may inadvertetly dismiss an important text box that has just appeared on the screen. Moreover, although you outlaw band comprises over 30 men, the only ones you ever see are the five main characters. You never get the feeling that you're leading a large band of men. Finally, I came across one important password that was misspelled. Ouch! Remember i before e except after c.
These are just quibbles, though--all easily overshadowed by the many strong points of Conquests of the Longbow. The 256-color graphics are marvelous; the text is, for the most part, impeccably written; and there's a large helping of myster, mayhem, and magic. Even romantics will get their due as Robin woos the beautiful Maid Marion.
The Legend of Robin Hood: Conquests of the Longbow is a delight, accurately portraying a long-gone medieval age. If you've played Sierra games before, this game's high quality will be no surprise. If you've never played a Sierra game before, Conquests of the Longbow is an impressive introduction to htis company's fine fare. This feathered cap fits perfectly.