Robin Hood: Merries

Two more critical path missions down, plus a couple of optional caravan ambushes to get extra cash. I don’t really have a use for all this cash yet, but the story has got to get around to asking me to ransom King Richard at some point. There’s nothing really unexpected about the story. It’s taking care to give all the Robin Hood fans out there what they want, introducing the old familiar characters one by one: Will Scarlet, Maid Marian, Friar Tuck. No Little John yet, although I’m sure he’s coming. Will Scarlet is the only one who’s actually joined my outlaw band back at the base in Sherwood Forest, though. The rest of my recruits are generic Merry Men.

The generics all have individual names, and can be trained up in combat individually, and the game tracks their individual health and inventory from one mission to the next. In terms of abilities, though, they come in just three types, which the manual calls Strong Merry, Aggressive Merry, and Mustachioed Merry. I’ve been finding the Strong Merry to be by far the most useful in combat: under player control, he can do big sweeping moves that knock out multiple people at a time (including any friendlies standing too close). But you can’t neglect the skills that the other Merry types bring to missions, like healing and lockpicking. Robin Hood stories and Robin Hood games sometimes make the mistake of making Robin simply the best at everything anyone does, making you wonder why he’s keeping everyone else around at all, but I think the RTS influence in this game’s ludic makeup helps it to avoid that, making the focus on the coordinated actions of a team.

What do all the extra duplicate Merries do while you’re on a mission? Whatever jobs you’ve assigned them to back at Sherwood HQ. They can produce supplies to take on missions, such as arrows and healing herbs and throwable coin purses (with extra-weak seams to make them burst on impact and scatter their contents over a wide area), or they can train in hand-to-hand combat or archery, or they can just rest and heal. This is all done with the same UI as missions: home base is a kind of Sherwood Treehouse Playset that characters walk around in, with stations you can leave them at to tell them what to do. The annoying thing about this is that with dozens of controllable characters, you can’t select who to control in the more convenient ways, like the 1-5 keys. To select someone, you have to click on them, which can be difficult if they’re walking around. If you try to click on someone and miss, the game interprets it as telling the currently-selected character to walk to the spot you clicked on. I really wish sometimes that I could pause the game and still give orders, Baldur’s-Gate-style — not just here, but in combat too. But I suppose that’s the downside of the RTS influence.

1 Comment so far

  1. malkav11 on 24 Sep 2023

    I think later games in this subgenre have tended to have some sort of at least quasi-pause for exactly that sort of reason. I don’t think I’d personally probably make it very far into the oldschool games where it’s all real time all the time. I’m not even sure how well I’ll do in the new ones, like Shadow Tactics or Desperados 3.

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