Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen. Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men. Chest in his arms, arrow in his head, Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood.
If Hood: Outlaws & Legends had a theme song, the above, based on that of The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, would be it. This game, based on legend of the outlaw who’s believed to have robbed from the rich to give to the poor, seems to take place in a universe where there are multiples of the man himself along with his merry band of men (and woman). It stands to reason that they all want to steal treasure from under the Sheriff of Nottingham’s nose, even if it means engaging in violent combat.
Each game, or Heist, in Hood: Outlaws & Legends pits two teams of four players against each other. In the first phase it’s all about sneaking around whichever medieval environment you’ve found yourself in, seeking out the Sheriff before stealing a vault key from him. Then, it’s up to the team with control of the key to locate the said vault and open it up, giving them access to the treasure chest inside. After that, they need to pick up the chest and carry it to an extraction point, fending off enemy attacks as they go. And finally comes the winching. To extract the treasure and ultimately win the match, a team needs to take control of the winch and operate it like crazy to claim their treasure. Needless to say, at this point, stealth is often thrown out of the window, giving way to all-out warfare.
Each player has a choice of four characters – Robin, Marianne, John, or Tooke – each with their own stats and abilities. Robin comes equipped with a bow, for example, enabling him to take out his opponents at long range, while John wields a giant hammer, allowing him to crack skulls when up close and personal. There are no rules pertaining the composition of your team, so if everyone wants to play as Robin that’s allowed, but it might have some repercussions. That’s because each character has a very specific role, you see, and it’s only when a team works together to really make use of them that Hood: Outlaws & Legends shines.
I’ve been in matches where teams comprised solely of Robins and Mariannes have found themselves hampered because of their inability to lift portcullises, lowered by the Sheriff’s men upon them suspecting some tomfoolery. They defended the dropped chest as well as they could, but to get it to an extraction point they’d have to take a very scenic route. My team, on the other hand, thanks to having John on our side, could make use of his skill to lift a nearby portcullis, providing easy access to an extraction point. It’s just a shame that shortly after doing so, a rogue Robin managed to take out both John and his companion holding the chest with a well-timed explosive arrow.
People like playing as Robin and Marianne because their special skills are perhaps the most fearsome. They can also both dodge, allowing them to avoid many close combat attacks when in skilled hands. Special character abilities become available once a gauge has been filled, and each can turn the tide of a heist if used correctly. As previously mentioned, Robin can fire an arrow that quickly explodes after hitting its mark, instantly killing any opponents trapped in its area of effect. Marianne can become invisible, enabling her to sneak around undetected before assassinating her target. Compare those to John’s ability, which is to simply bolster himself with a burst of energy that grants him unlimited stamina for a short while, and Tooke’s which heals himself and those around him while also highlighting nearby enemies, and you have some clear winners. Though that’s not to say that John and Tooke’s skills don’t come in very handy.
With teamwork key to success in Hood: Outlaws & Legends, play with a group of friends or strangers open to communicating effectively and you’ll not only find yourself enjoying it more, but will also have a better chance of victory. Get lumped with a team that has no clue, however, and you’ll no doubt end up frustrated. But then that could be said of most competitive multiplayer games, really. In any case, the transition from stealth to warfare in each Heist match in Hood: Outlaws & Legends does make for some varied fun. It’s just a shame that there are some elements that detract from the experience, and that Heist is currently the only match type available. Even with the best will in the world, you’re going to get tired of it eventually.
One of Hood: Outlaws & Legends‘ problems is that its close combat is clunky. Playing as John or Tooke, you’ll soon grow tired of their clumsiness, and will dread coming up against Robin or Marianne players who can seemingly endlessly dash out of the way of your attacks. Then there’s the flawed winching stage of each Heist. It seemingly doesn’t matter who placed the chest on an extraction point; the opposing team can take control of the winch at any point, even during the final push, and claim the win. It would have perhaps made more sense for each team to have their own extraction point.
The biggest problem Hood: Outlaws & Legends currently faces, however, is its lack of content. Granted, it has launched at a low-ish price, and additional free content is set to be released over time. Unless a substantial amount of it is delivered soon, however, I fear players are likely to grow tired of what’s on offer. With only the one match type, four characters and a handful of maps, it’s up to cosmetics and perks to keep players coming back to play in the long-term. The perks are good, enabling you to tweak the abilities of your chosen character, but the cosmetics are a grind, especially considering that once you’ve unlocked them you then need to buy them with your hard-earned gold.
There’s a framework for a good multiplayer game here in Hood: Outlaws & Legends, but it needs tweaking and building upon to truly give it legs. A PvE mode that actually awards progression would be welcome, too. As it stands, the clunky close combat, somewhat unbalanced characters, and a single match type results in a game that doesn’t quite meet its potential. Despite its frustrations though, it’s at least fun to play – well, until the action starts to begin feeling repetitive, which doesn’t take all that long unfortunately.
Hood: Outlaws & Legends Review: GameSpew’s Score