Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown Preview

The upcoming game from Cinemaware will reprise the Prince of Thieves' classic adventures.

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Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown
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Developer Cinemaware made a name for itself in the late 1980s and early 1990s with games for the Commodore 64, Amiga, and PC-DOS that featured pulp fiction artwork (inspired by 1950s and 1960s sci-fi and comic book covers) on the box and varied gameplay inside. The company was responsible for producing such games as It Came From the Desert, Lords of the Rising Sun, and the TV Sports series. Now it's reprising one of its most popular games, Defender of the Crown, with an updated 3D version of the game for the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 2.

Oh, I think you know what's going on here, Maid Marian.
Oh, I think you know what's going on here, Maid Marian.

Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown lets you play as the infamous outlaw as he leads his band of merry men against the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham, who serves the nefarious usurper Prince John. In his missions, Robin Hood will be accompanied by his retinue of merry men, including Little John, Friar Tuck, and Will Scarlet. They will serve not only as his advisors but also as tacticians in some of the game's five main modes: archery, swordfighting, field battles, sieging, and jousting.

Robin leads the good fight against the sheriff and his cronies. Robin personally takes it upon himself to duel with enemy soldiers and also takes to the roads of Sherwood to shoot them down and steal their gold. Archery is performed from a first-person view, while hiding in the treetops. Though Robin can't move in this position, he can use the right mouse button to take cover and avoid incoming arrows. You steady Robin's aim by pressing and holding the left mouse button, then releasing it to fire. As in real-life archery, Robin has to slightly lead his targets to pick them off, but if he can pick off individual soldiers, he can collect five gold from each. He can collect a whopping 100 gold by shooting down all the merchants on a wagon, though this can prove especially difficult since caravans are guarded by horse archers. Once Robin sustains three arrow wounds, he has to withdraw from his raid, sacrificing all the gold he's earned.

Robin's followers take the lead in other modes. For instance, Little John commands larger armies in the game's field battles. The field battles pit armies of peasants, swordsmen, and archers against one another on a large-scale field map in one of 38 English territories. Their attacks are based on numbers and strengths. Though superior numbers can be a powerful advantage in these tactical battles, skill and maneuvering help a great deal--especially since each opposing general has a home base point on the map. If you can slip some armies behind enemy lines and attack this base, you'll inflict additional damage and sustain none yourself.

Little John leads the merry men into strategic field battles.
Little John leads the merry men into strategic field battles.

While this collection of seemingly unrelated gameplay styles seems unusual, it's to be expected for a remake of a game that offered a similar combination of gameplay styles; like the new game, the original Defender of the Crown from 1987 featured disparate elements--like strategic battles and jousting. Fortunately, the new game isn't a simple cut-and-dried remake either, since it features surprisingly good-looking, colorful graphics and lots of professional voice work. Defender of the Crown presents loads of audio dialogue, delivered by professional actors armed with convincing British accents. There's also a well-written script that features more than a few clever one-liners.

With Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown, Cinemaware hopes to update its classic hybrid game for the PC, the Xbox, and the PlayStation 2 by adding modern graphics, improving gameplay, and providing well-delivered dialogue to favorably recalls the medieval atmosphere of the original game. Defender of the Crown is scheduled for release later this month.

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