When anyone brings up the subject of fictional characters, it's hard to argue that Robin Hood is one who may be sitting at the top of the list. He's been in Disney movies, he's made a silly cameo in Shrek, and of course, he's got games and toys fashioned after his plot. Ok, Cinemaware and Capcom have brought Robin back to life in the video game console universe with Robin Hood: Crown Protector.
In Robin Hood, of course, you play as a green hero in a tale set in England around 1100AD. The tale opens when Robin and his merry men's band (and lady) protect Sherwood Forest from Robin's arch-nemesis... the Sheriff of Nottingham. As the tale unfolds, you discover that good King Richard was abducted and held for ransom and that his very cracked brother John took over the throne in his absence, plunging England into a feud between lords vying for land and prosperity. It is clear that only Robin can help bring stability and prosperity (and also King Richard) to England, and you can help Robin and his gang to achieve this mission by reclaiming the throne from John.
The first thing that stands out to me in Robin Hood is the variety of different things you can do when you're playing. The core feature of the game seemed to revolve around the RISK-based format, where you recruit troops in one of five different groups (farmers, footmen, archers, knights, and catapults) to protect your territory and advance forward to extend your power. Expanding your power gives you more money at the beginning of each turn, which, of course, is required to pay and hire more soldiers to fight for you. Of course, several times during the game, you can find that you don't have enough gold to do everything you want to do, and that's when Robin's legend and talents begin to come into play.
We all know how Robin will loot from the wealthy and offer to the poor, don't we? Well, you get to loot from the wealthy and send to your armies in this game, which of course allows the people of England to have a prosperous life once again by getting out of the tyrannical hand of Prince John. To do this, you should say Robin to raid merchant caravans going by or even raid the strongholds of his enemies. Each of these options comes in a different format, the first of which is Robin hidden in a tree with an FPS view, where you fire arrows at passing soldiers and wagons while attempting to avoid detection. The second choice instead becomes a 2-D traveling style of action based gaming, where you move Robin through castles, across rooftops, over dining hall tables, and through fortresses battling all the way through the enemy's footmen and knights to enter their gold shop.
There are a few other options to get some cash if you appear to be poor, that's to conduct jousting tournaments against the lords of the other areas that you're trying to win. This is going to put you in charge of Ivanhoe as he races against his enemies with you in complete control of charging up the horse and then shooting at the lance attempting to smash it against an enemy rider. In addition, Can Scarlet will remind you of different activities that you can pick from, such as raiding a passing band of soldiers to help arm your forces to free a variety of captured knights so that they can join your cause... or even a "Robin trademark" to save a damsel or two in distress from the enemy.
Finally, the upgrade of your strongholds is one area of the game that you are responsible for keeping up with. Through doing this, it allows you to house more troops in a given area, and it also helps to repel an enemy attack. Your enemy will still have strongholds, and so the game will turn to a "sitting mode" in which you have to use your catapults to knock down the walls of the opposing castles in order to smash the wall and charge to take over. Either you may opt to knock down all four walls, which of course makes them defenseless against your attack, or you can merely drop one and charge... that's up to you, and it will depend on how secure you are of the capability and size of your force.
Overall, there's a lot to do and a lot of distractions on the whole that you can take part in to help kill monotony, but even with all these things, the game can still be boring. The war as you go up against the enemy takes place on an unfulfilled scroll in which you take and type of troop (represented by a chess piece, look at it) and march X number of units through the set paths to the enemy, and there are normally just 3 or 5 set paths to go down. It doesn't take a lot of action, and a lot of the general planning aspects seem to be literally "who has the biggest army" rather than having a certain sort of troop to try to conquer another one because of strengths and disadvantages. Each troop type can learn new tactics, such as catapults can start using "barrage" and archers can start using "cover fire," but ultimately they don't seem to do anything to really place a strong focus on changing the tides of war if you happen to be a low guy.
Second, doing stuff like castle raids can be enjoyable, but the gameplay just seems to be repetitive. Robin runs either left or right and has three major types of attacks: strong, medium, and high. He can block the coming sword swings from the bad guys, and then strike back, but there's really no reason to try to turn types during play, as you can simply sprint around any raid using a block and a low attack press. There are no actual combinations to take out, save for "press X four times," and the movement just seems to be very robotic and easy in any tangle you get in on the way. And battles with higher up rivals like the Sheriff of Nottingham are played the same way.
The game is definitely not going to take that long for any RTS or Danger fan who is well versed in how to play those kinds of games to run through. In a couple of hours, certain types of players will actually be able to see all they could see, step in and take John's fortress, and win the game. Friar Tuck does turn up and collect a ransom to get King Richard back home again, but it's very hefty and definitely won't be the main priority on seeking to win that way versus just overtaking everybody.
Overall, Robin Hood: Crown Defender has a really amusing tale and has a lot of entertainment for a short period. Big fans of the series (since it was published on PC and NES years ago) will definitely be pleased to see the hero coming back in a more contemporary look and format. Others might want to use it as a weekend rental or at least try it out before you make a decision to buy it.
Thank you for reading and I'm wishing everyone the best holidays,