I am one of many old relics that enjoyed (and still do) playing Defender Of The Crown on the trusty old C64. Back then, you didn't need to change your graphics card every 6 months and upgrade your computer every year. Hopefully, most of you already know the "Robin Hood" story, but if you don't, please don't ask me because it would just make me feel even older than I already am. Anyway, onto "Robin Hood: Legend of Sherwood!"
The storyline begins with Robin Hood returning to his country only to discover that Prince John is behaving badly and the Sheriff is stealing every last penny from the farmers, which of course, makes life even worse. (I believe Sweden has since adopted the old England tax system :P) Robin Hood has sworn to return the throne to King Richard, but in order to do so, he must chase Prince John from the kingdom and collect enough gold to pay the King's ransom.
While "Robin Hood: Legend of Sherwood" is classified as an action game, the level of action is entirely up to your discretion. You can boldly announce your presence with enemy bloodbaths, or you could rely on stealth to sneak around and accomplish your tasks. You can't very well save the kingdom while looking like swiss cheese, so the latter method is recommended. ;)
You use your mouse to guide Robin Hood -- and other characters -- around the map. Since he is the main character, you will have more options when navigating him than you would with a member of his entourage. Make room for our hero on the 2004 Olympic gymnastics team because he's quite agile and quick (he must have exercised while he was away)! Moving your pointer around allows you to see the paths that Robin Hood can travel. You can also pre-plan the route by clicking on Destination A, Destination B, etc., and once you're done planning, the band of merry men begins marching.
Each character has at least one unique ability that helps you in your quest. Little John, of the high IQ and large waistband, can whistle to distract soldiers or lure them into a trap, as well as being very strong. One of the other characters is an excellent swordsman and a true Brit, speaking proper English while engaged in combat, while others have the ability to throw a net, which can trap several soldiers ... the list goes on and on.
Selecting a balanced team is crucial for victory in battle. Not all of your men are ready-built soldiers, but everyone can handle a sword fairly well. The great thing about Sherwood Forest is that it serves as a place of shelter, a place to hone your sword and archery skills, as well as a place to heal yourself. Moving the mouse over any of the men will show their weapon status. Since most of your men start off with "basic" weapons, so training is strongly advised, although it does hinge on whether you have selected a game difficulty of easy, normal or tough!
When you start to get bored of the perfect harmony of Sherwood Forest's trees, what more could you ask for than a real fight? To your right of the screen, you will see a map, and by clicking on it you will see a selection of targets. Well, actually in the beginning, you will probably only see one selection but hey, who cares? It's fighting time! The targets are anything from raiding a convoy with soldiers to sneaking into a village and performing a task, i.e., saving someone from being executed to gather information. During your village raids, you will meet people who can help and give you tips, but don't think everyone is friendly. I made the mistake of walking up to a woman who was idling around, and she started to scream and alerted 13 soldiers who were resting nearby! Whether she didn't like my pickup line or my cologne, I cannot say.
When you attack a soldier with your sword, you can move your mouse around in different moves, and your player will attack just like that which is very neat. If you move the mouse over an enemy, you will see a little status window popping up, which symbolizes the enemy's state of mind (exclamation points for alarm, storm clouds for annoyance, etc.). Instead of using your sword, if you punch your opponent, he will become disoriented, and stars will circle around his head. Once the stars fade away, however, he will be alert again so look out!
The game's graphics are very detailed and nicely done, especially noticeable when visiting a village or castle. The soundtrack and ambient sounds in the game are great as well. The voice-acting of the soldiers is very well-done. What makes "Robin Hood: Legend of Sherwood" so intriguing is that every single situation has more than one solution. You can almost always find another way to solve a problem. Have a guard standing where he shouldn't? Well, have one of your men whistle, and when the guard goes to investigate, you can lay the smackdown on him. Trying to sneak around a group of soldiers? Have Robin toss some money over the fence, and let the soldiers start fighting over it. Add a captain to the scenario who will yell at the soldiers for their behavior, and you can't help but smile at the hilarity that ensues.
There are, however, some annoying aspects to the game. My main gripe is that time seems to move slower in Sherwood Forest. Select a few men to make arrows, and they won't be done until you return from a mission. The same goes for making food and collecting certain things. I suppose I don't quite have the patience for such things. I mean, how much time does it take to BBQ some meat, for heaven's sake? ;-)
The range of missions is also a little boring, even though it IS quite useful training. If you fail, you can always restart, which isn't so bad either. I also noticed when attacking a soldier, I sometimes lost the control of the player so I had to select him again and make his moves. Then again, this was a beta, and I am sure the game has undergone some fine-tuning in the meantime.
Overall, this is a fun game. It won't make "Defender of the Crown" disappear from my memory, but it will be well worth the money. Wanadooo/Strategy First have yet again been able to make a title that will capture you for hours.