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Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood
November 15, 2004 | August Brown

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In the realm of real time strategy games, hidden in a little corner behind all the space ships, orcs, and terrorist groups, live a happy little sub-genre of tactical squad-based strategy games. Early entries in this category were Commandos, its sequel, and Strategy First's Desperados. Now, e.p.i.c. interactive is at it again, this time taking us further back in time into the days of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

A Little History Lesson
The story should be familiar to just about everyone and their mother. After fighting alongside Richard the Lionheart in the Crusades, Robin returns back to England to find his father dead, his land taken, and he himself presumed to be dead. All of this, of course, is due to the evil efforts of Prince John. Robin must now fight off masses of John's evil followers and coconspirators as he attempts to reclaim his honor and the throne for Richard.

Go and be Merry!
At the beginning of the game, Robin is on his own to tackle the hoards of John's men. But any good prince of thieves knows better than to do this alone, right? So your first order of business is to recruit for the cause. All the familiar faces show up: Little John, Friar Tuck, and, of course, Maid Marion.

Once your base is secured in Sherwood Forest, then the real action begins. The game allows a nonlinear mission option in which you may choose whichever mission sounds good to you from a list. These range from ambushes of caravans traveling through the forest to attacks on such cities as York, Derby, Lincoln, and Leicester. Between action, you are able to go back to Sherwood to prepare for upcoming missions, have your troops train and make items. Speaking of troops, you have to learn each unit's abilities and learn to use them well.

You are only able to bring seven characters into each mission, so who you bring can mean the difference between success and utter failure. Each unit has unique abilities, such as healing units with herbs, disguising themselves as beggars, and throwing apples at guards to distract them. Not only is the mission sequence nonlinear, it is the same once you jump into the action. In any mission, of which there are about 40 ranging from ambush, to sieges, to search and rescues, you can usually go about achieving your goal in a variety of manners. You could rush in with swords swinging, surround the area with archers, or send units on cloak-and-dagger-esque stealth runs to thin the guard population. Not that the best way to win the game is to actually kill everything that moves. As being an honorable man such as Robin Hood, you have a certain reputation to keep up. If you keep up a good image and spare guard's lives by knocking them out instead of killing them, your popularity will increases and so will the number of merry men at your disposal.

Steal from the Graphics to Give to the Gameplay
The aesthetics are there for a reason: they get the job done. All graphics in the game are 2-D backdrops and sprites. For a 2-D game, it is quite gorgeous... when you are zoomed out. Once you zoom in on the action, the graphics quickly become pixilated and blocky. An upside to these graphics is that slower machines can run on higher resolution, which can really give you an edge when trying to manage action taking place over a large area. The music is adequate and what you'd expect from a game like this. The voice acting is humorous, but can tend to get a little old after a few missions. The controls are rather standard fare for the genre, however, the ability to edit all hotkeys is a nice little addition that allows you to control the game in the way you see fit.

For fans of the tactical squad-based strategy games, or strategy games in general, this would be a title to keep your little eyes on. For others, you should still check it out if you have the chance; it's a title that you just might get into.

Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood
Mac Version: Runesoft
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