Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown

Moby ID: 10628
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A complete remake of the classic 1986 title Defender of the Crown (not to be confused with the "Remastered" Windows version released in 2002), in Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown the player plays as the legendary folk outlaw in his quest to reclaim the throne of England after Richard Lionheart was captured in the crusades and his brother, John Lackland, usurped the throne and left him for dead in the Holy Land, attracting the ire of several knights. In a heated argument, he considered them to be traitors, causing a civil war to start.

Several gameplay features were changed from the classic title such as the player being Robin Hood himself (instead of picking one of four pretenders), full 3D graphics, a plot included with the game and the goal being to be the first to reach and conquer King John's stronghold in Cornwall. To do so, the player must build an army large enough to hold enough shires, which generate money from taxes. This money can then be used to hire new troops (peasants, archers, footmen and the mighty knights and catapults) or pay King Richard's ransom, which allow to enlist loyalist knights.

As with the original game, action occurs in a turn-based map of England where the player decides which actions to take: conquer a neighbouring shire with Little John's army and hire soldiers either for him or territory defense, raid a castle or caravan, build strongholds, hold tournaments or spy on the other lords using Maid Marian's contacts on the court. Each of the attacking actions bring a quick minigame to be played:

  • The first mini-game that appears is the archery raid; in this mode, the player sees the action directly from Robin Hood's eyes while he lurks on a tree, the goal being to use Robin's trustworthy bow and arrow to hit cavalry guards and the convoy as they pass by his spot. As some guards are also armed with a bow, Robin can also hide behind the log for cover.
  • If the player attacks a guarded territory, the game enters a strategic mode where the battle takes place on a three-lane field, and the goal is to vanquish the enemy defenses of force him to flee by launching direct attacks on each lane.
  • Sword fighting pits the player against one or more opponents, depending on the setting. The goal is simple: slash everyone by throwing blows and dodge/parry the opponents' own. During raids there is also a timer that represents the time before sunrise - failing to escape before that or being killed results on Robin's imprisonment.
  • Battles are done on a real-time fashion, where both armies are placed on the far-sides of a multi-lane battlefield. The player chooses which lane to attack (or defend) and if successful, the opponent will lose enough units to flee or simply wait for their deaths.
  • Jousting in a tournament allows the player to fight for fame, and then for gold and land. To do so, after picking an opponent, he starts by building enough speed, and then slam the spear into the opponent, the goal being to knock him from his horse.
  • Some shires are protected by castles, and to conquer them, first a siege must be laid in. This requires the player to load up on catapults and then destroy each wall of the fortification by throwing boulders at it. Each wall represents a part of the defending army: the most damage done, the easier it becomes to invade it.

Spellings

  • Робин Гуд: На Страже Короны - Russian spelling
  • 侠盗罗宾汉:王冠守护者 - Chinese spelling (simplified)

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188 People (103 developers, 85 thanks) · View all

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Average score: 59% (based on 24 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 18 ratings with 1 reviews)

Not so merry

The Good
Richard Coeur de Lion rots in an Austrian prison. His brother, John, sits on England's throne. Declaring his brother dead, this "dark shadow to his brother's flame" calls himself King. He's bleeding England dry, killing the lords who stand against him. Meanwhile, in Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood continues to embarrass the Sheriff of Nottingham. But the Sheriff has had enough. Mounting troops, he prepares to launch a campaign against Robin. What's a poor outlaw to do?

Acting as a prologue, the Sherwood Forest missions explain the basics of Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown. Using turn-based game play, Robin can either raid his opponents or have Little John muster forces to move against Nottingham. Raids either find Robin in the bough of a tree, sniping enemy troops and wagons with his bow, or leading a small skirmish against a castle—dispatching opponents with his blade en route to the treasury. Little John finds naught more than peasants and archers, sheltered in Sherwood, but they are more then enough to claim territories and move against Nottingham.

If you played the original Defender of the Crown, none of this may sound familiar. Rest assured, after the Sherwood Tutorial, more elements of the classic game emerge. Convinced by Maid Marion that his successful campaign against the Sheriff could be the model for a campaign against Prince John, Robin moves away from the shadows of Sherwood to the castle of Wilfred of Ivanhoe. Here, the game map moves to cover all of England. Wilfred identifies key counties and various lords, all who must be toppled for Robin to unite England and unseat the usurper.

During a turn Robin can still go on raids (or read from his journal to clear up story elements), John can still raise troops (five unit types are available) and war against neighbors, Wilfred can host tournaments or build castles, Marion can spy on the opposition, and Friar Tuck shows up for money for Richard's ransom. While it's a little sketchy about what you can do in a turn, a turn doesn't end until Robin orders a raid, John attacks a territory, or Wilfred hosts a tournament. Of course, while you are conducting your turn, the various lords of the land are conducting theirs. Turns end with reports about what the lords accomplished, you can see how their territories grow (or diminish) and you can see your income.

Interspersed with the turn-based strategy game, are cutscenes showing what John's up to and the fractured life at Sherwood. "Shouldn't we be disguising our selves for an archery tournament," asks Robin? Sadly those days are gone. Having avoided judgment so far, 2003's Defender of the Crown is a better Robin Hood game than a strategy game.

It's fun sitting in a tree, sending arrows at troops on horseback, dodging the whistling shafts flying in my direction. It's less fun (but very cinematic) running along rooftops, up stairwells, and across tables engaging in swordplay—mainly because it's more a matter of timing than finesse.

Other elements act like tweaked versions of the classic game. The tournament is a three stage joust, first for fame, then gold, then land. Rapidly pressing X and O charges the stallion, then a brief window to aim the lance before the joust plays out. Attacks against castles still begin with catapults—effectively using the analog sticks, before leading to combat. Played over a rough map, you select your troops and tell them which troops to engage—ordering your archers to fire on the knights, while your knights overrun their archers. While numbers matter, trying to figure out which troops are the most effective, and timing the attacks matters more.

Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown has decent graphics, but surprisingly good audio and excellent writing. It may seem wordy at time, but the developers have done their homework and the vocal cast pulls it off.


The Bad
I think the original game worked better for two reasons. It was intended to be played in one session and players weren't expected to excel at every area. This story elements of the game require it to be lengthy, but that makes the game play repetitious—you can't even skip a turn. So expect to spend a lot of time doing what I described above. The original game also put Robin in an advisory position, offering help three times during the game. The player picked one of four lords, each one having strength in a different area, and could play the game using that strength. Here, I dreaded the sword levels. Being rather ungainly with the sword (ducking when I should have parried), I doomed poor Marion and repeated the "Robin must win" duels over and over again.

The game case mentions that there are eight possible endings. Let me tell you about number nine. After finally escaping from a prison after a dreadful castle raid, I awoke to find that Prince John had devoured the competition. So it's just me, John, and a few unclaimed territories. As the turns pass, John grabs up the land as I dig in for a battle. I fill my fortress to the maximum number of troops and the campaign army too.

John never attacks me.

Instead, he fortifies his holdings.

So this is how the game looks: I can't attack the surrounding lands, because I don't have a catapult in my campaign army and I need one to start a siege. I can't move units to my garrison, because my garrison is full. I can't dismiss units either.

John won't attack me. I can't attack him. I can perform raids or hold tournaments all I want, but that's it. Ending number nine: stalemate.

The Bottom Line
There's the old quote about a manuscript being good and original. Here what's good is unoriginal and what's original doesn't come off so good. During the game, Robin constantly feels out of his element. It would have been nice to put him back in.

PlayStation 2 · by Terrence Bosky (5398) · 2004

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Kartanym.

Windows, Xbox added by Corn Popper.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Jeanne, Klaster_1, DreinIX.

Game added October 14, 2003. Last modified June 18, 2023.