Defender of the Crown is back! Fun game that stays true to the spirit of the original...for the most part.
Chances are, if you purchased this game (or are planning to), you've played the original. This is why I will split my review into two sections: For those who have played the older versions, and for those who have not.
"This is my first experience with Defender of the Crown."
First off, let me say this is a LIGHT strategy game. Those expecting Starcraft or Heroes of Might and Magic will most likely not enjoy the game. If you can take it for what it is, it can be a very enjoyable experience.
Plot - Prince John has taken the throne as his own and a group of knights oppose him. While most of the knights battle Prince John (and each other), Maid Marian nags Robin Hood and he too joins the fight for England. Yep, that's the whole (classic) plot. WEE!
Gameplay - Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown is a turn-based strategy game with real-time combat. The game also contains a few mini-games that will help you gather gold, fame, and land. Each turn, you can recruit forces, call a joust, raid a castle or caravan, or move/attack an enemy player. Once in a while, a random event will take place. You will be asked to rescue a maiden (same as castle raids), enter a jousting tourney (more on this is the next section), or ambush a caravan. Friar Tuck will also pop by from time to time to ask for gold to pay the ransom on King Richard.
Combat takes place in real-time and has two modes: unit-to-unit battle and siege warfare. Unit battles consist of pointing a unit down one of four paths and holding down a button that sends more units out the longer you hold it. Very simplistic, but at least you take an active role in the combat. In the older versions, you just select a type of attack for all your units. Siege warfare is a bit more fun. You aim the catapult with the analog sticks (rotating both of them). You then unleash a barrage of stones, plague, or fire. Any wall that is not knocked down in a siege (there is a time limit) will appear when the unit battle takes place. Although the wall can be knocked down this way, your forces can get slaughtered while attempting this in unit combat.
The game itself is won by defeating Prince John. This is possible to do without defeating all the other knights, but the ending will be a bit different.
Graphics/Sound - Better than the older versions. Nothing amazing but they get the job done. This isn't the sort of game you'd buy for the graphics anyway.
"I'm been a huge fan of Defender of the Crown for a long time!"
The first thing you will notice is that you don't get to pick a knight anymore. This did not bother me all that much, but a lot of vets missed the option. This game is A LOT more story-based than the older versions and also takes a hell of a lot longer because of it. Prince John is always on the board, but a random selection of (classic) knights will appear as well. The map itself is pretty much the same, but there are a few places that will make certain units cheaper while possessed. Another change is that a magic item is attained when an enemy's last castle is taken. These items are random, but help you in certain events or combat situations. There is a sword that makes raiding easier, a lance that makes it easier to joust, and the plague used in siege warfare.
The old menu is gone. Now actions are selected by picking the appropriate character. Maid Marian will spy on a kingdom (show unit strength/etc.). Little John is used to recruit forces and leads your army (attacking/etc). Ivanhoe is used to joust. Friar Tuck will show up to collect money. And Robin Hood is used in raids.
Raiding - Instead of just castle raids, you can now also raid a caravan. Robin Hood uses a bow to try and pick off units as they pass by. Archer units fire at you as they pass and if you lose all your health, the mini-game ends. The amount of gold won depends on how many units you took down. I honestly did not care for this mini-game. The aiming was clumsy and castle raiding always netted me more gold. Castle raiding is pretty much the same as it's always been...with two small changes. The first is the time limit. The farther a castle is from your castle(s), the less time you have to raid. You can also be captured if defeated. If captured, time WILL go on as you attempt to bribe the guards or escape.
Jousting - My favorite thing about Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown. It's a bit more involved than the original. Jousting is always done by Ivanhoe and is now broken into rounds. Round one is for fame, round two is for gold (400), and round three is for land. Before each round, you select a knight you'd like to joust. The main knights can be challenged (as well as Prince John), and there are lesser-known (filler) knights as well. You can only select a knight that has not been defeated in a prior round. This can be a pain when trying to acquire a certain piece of land. The joust itself uses the points system. One for the body, two for the head, and three for a knock-off. First person to three (or a knock-off) wins. Aiming is pretty much the same as it's always been, but now you need to alternate button presses on the charge. The faster you press the button the faster your horse will go (which results in a harder hit). While the game can not be won by the joust anymore, it's still a great way to get money and land.
And yes, you can still hit the horse.
And the award for the biggest change goes to:
The story. Now there actually is a story that plays itself out via FMV or the talking heads (turn action selection). Certain FMVs will happen after so many years have passed, or when you take a certain area. The NPCs interact a great deal and I found myself looking forward to the next FMV. Great for the first time though bad for the replay value.
In closing, the Defender of the Crown we know and love is pretty much gone in this edition. The games can drawn out to 6-8 hours and it really does kill the replay value. The old Defender was a beer and pretzel game which could be won in 30 minutes to an hour. Now I loved this new edition, but I find myself playing it once every few months instead of once a week. I think fans of the game will enjoy it if they know what to expect. The spirit of the older game is there, but by making it more complex (it's still simple compared to newer RTS/TBS games), they really did change the game. It's already around $20, so I'd say give it a go or at least a rental.