Robin Hood: Learning How to Deal With Other People

I haven’t quite gotten through the second mission yet. This is a save-a-prisoner-from-the-gallows mission, one of the classical Robin Hood scenarios, and it’s quite daunting from the start, especially if you’re trying to cooperate with the game’s discouragement of killing. The place is crawling with soldiers, and worse, they’re clustered in small groups and watching each other’s backs. With only one playable character, you only have two nonlethal ways to dispose of enemies. First, you can sucker-punch them before they draw their weapons, which only really works on isolated individuals, and only on the weaker sorts at that. Secondly, you can throw a purse of gold into their midst, causing them to fight each other over it. Ideally, the brawl leaves only one guard standing, thus turning them into an isolated individual who you can sucker-punch. But again, the tougher guards are immune to this trick, and you can only do it so many times — you can retrieve the gold from the unconscious guards, but oddly enough, throwable purses are a limited resource.

The whole deal, then, is that you can’t do much of anything on this map with just one playable character — because this is the level that teaches you how to use multiple characters. With the man you’re rescuing, and three other condemned prisoners who just happen to be there too, you have a party of five, which seems to be the maximum the game accommodates, judging by the UI. Different characters have different abilities: this guy can pick locks, that one knows how to use healing herbs, and so forth. The two most relevant skills for the above discussion are the ability to tie up unconscious foes so they don’t pose a threat when they wake up, and for big strong guys, the ability to pick up the unconscious, dead, or bound so you can hide them where they’re less conspicuous. In short, your standard stealth-game stuff, but it takes multiple people to do. Most of the time, I’m using just those three characters: the big guy, the bondage guy, and Robin, who knows how to sucker-punch.

Not that sucker-punching is always necessary! The big guy carries a bludgeon that lets him deal nonlethal damage in combat mode. Still, the most effective way I’ve found to conduct combat is: One of my merry men engages the enemy in combat, and while he’s thus distracted, Robin comes in from the side and sucker-punches him. I’ve basically got it all down to a science now, and have been indulging in the same sort of foolishness as I did in Deus Ex: maximizing my freedom by clearing the map of all threats and stuffing them into the same few picturesque half-timbered buildings, where they are no doubt stacked like logs. This is why it’s taking me so long to finish the level.

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