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Conquests of the Longbow – Dreams of Maid Marian

Written by Alex


As I booted up Conquests of the Longbow, I knew I was in for a treat. Not only due to the pretty graphics and excellent music, but because of the game’s writing and presentation. Right away, Longbow frames the background story in a clear, efficient, and creative way.




Alan-a-Dale, the troubadour and one of Robin’s Merry Men, sings the tale of King Richard the Lionheart. In the year 1193 on his way back from the Third Crusade, the King, disguised as a merchant, was waylaid in the Kingdom of Austria. Captured, he is taken and held by King Leopold for a ransom of 100,000 golden marks.


Meanwhile back in England, the King’s brother Prince John, seems pretty excited about the King’s capture and vows to do nothing to rescue him and instead rules with his lackeys in his brother’s stead, enriching himself at the people’s expense. Luckily, Robin Hood is on the scene!

Alan describes Robin as living the outlaw life in Sherwood Forest due to false allegations against him. As a wanted man, though, he’s not totally defenseless. He has his Band of Merry Men, leading them from their hideout in Sherwood Forest to strike back at the corrupt government officials, hoping to raise enough money to save the King and clear his name while he’s at it!

Clockwise from the top right: Little John, Will Scarlet, Much the Miller’s Son, Alan-a-Dale, Friar Tuck, and Robin Hood.

Although the game does not have voice acting, Alan’s dialogue is written a meter that matches the music’s main melody, and the dialogue boxes change when each musical stanza is complete. It gives the illusion that Alan is singing this story, and the illusion really works.

“What about me, bro? Aren’t I a Merry Man?”

Uh, sorry Robin Bro. Christy must’ve forgotten to add you.

“Whatever, bro. Seems like a sausage party anyway. I’m gonna go lift.”

For the tech geeks out there, I am using the Soundblaster for music instead of the Roland. While some of the instrumentation is better with the Roland, the sound effects, in particular the background woodland sounds in Sherwood Forest, are overly loud, constant, and very obnoxious.

So the Story Begins . . .


Robin begins his adventure in his cave. The interface is standard Sierra point-and-click-era fare, with an added “Bow” icon. In the status bar on top of the screen I see “Ransom,” “Outlaws,” and “Score.” According to the manual, “Ransom” is how much money Robin and his men have raised towards freeing the King, “Outlaws” is the size of the Merry Men, currently at 31, and “Score” is Robin’s current point total out of an oddly-specific 7,325. If there is any significance to this number, it is lost on me.

In the cave there is a bed, a fire, a horn on the wall and a small iron chest on a shelf to the left. I take the horn (50 points) and check the treasure chest. Robin informs us that, while Friar Tuck handles most of the money, Robin keeps some set aside for his own personal use. Taking the money in the chest (50) I see that Robin has 5 pennies, 19 ha’pennies, and 26 farthings. As the manual helpfully explains, a penny is a silver coin, a ha’penny is a half-penny, and a farthing is a quarter penny.

Speaking of the manual, it is of the typical high quality of Sierra games of this era. Included is such interesting and useful stuff like:
  • A short overview of the Robin Hood legend; 
  • A digression by Christy Marx about the evils of software piracy; 
  • A drawing of a hand with letters of the alphabet written on it; 
  • A discussion of various gemstones and their meanings, with pictures; 
  • An explanation, with pictures, of sacred druid trees and their English and druid (i.e., Welsh) names; 
  • A primer on various coats of arms of the era; 
  • A brief history and the rules of the world’s purported oldest board game, Nine Men’s Morris; 
  • A control guide for quarterstaff battles; 
  • A brief guide to the interface; and 
  • A short walkthrough, which I don’t use because I’m an OUTLAW!!!! 
With nothing else to do in Robin’s cozy, albeit empty, cave, I head out to the main encampment where Little John, Alan, Friar Tuck, and Will Scarlett are having a post-breakfast gab session.


The banter between the group is well-written and full of “guy”-type humor, that is to say they spend most of their time busting each other’s balls. They’ve all eaten, but Friar Tuck is cooking a fish and intends to chow down on it himself. Will off to the glade to practice his archery by exiting the screen to the right, while Little John heads left to the Overlook to see if anyone interesting comes along Watling Street. It seems that the Merry Men’s cash supply is running low and Little John would like to do some good old-fashioned outlawing to replenish it. Alan and Friar Tuck stick around, but don’t have much to say: Alan is writing a song, and Friar Tuck gives the player a subtle hint that, if Robin wants to raise money, he should hang out at the Overlook. Point taken! I click hand on Friar Tuck just because and he says this:

Translation: “A bit higher and to the right.”

Wow! They really are a bunch of Merry Men!

“Like, totally glad they left me out of this after all, bro.”

Robin’s course of action is clear—go to the Overlook and see what comes down Watling Street, but I decide to find the glade first and map Sherwood Forest.

Exploring Sherwood Forest


Damn! This place is huge! You can see from the screenshot above that certain plants and trees can be looked at with the “Eye” icon, showing a close-up of its leaves and attendant nuts or berries. These can be identified by using the manual. I am not sure about the significance of this beyond helping the player navigate, as certain types of plants and trees tend to cluster together. For example, the screenshot shows blackberry bushes, which are used as borders of the Sherwood Forest area. Certain other trees prompt Robin to give the direction of the sacred willow grove.

To give you an idea of the size of this place, here’s my low-budget hand-drawn map:

I do it by hand because Excel ain’t for OUTLAWS!!!!!

Watling Street runs diagonally through the middle of the forest and is configured in a way that made mapping kind of difficult, but I think I’ve got it.

Points of interest include:
  • Robin’s camp 
  • The archery glade 
  • The sacred willow grove 
  • An ancient oak tree 
  • The home of the Widow 
There are three points where walking off-screen brings up the game’s map, allowing Robin to quick-travel to certain places in Nottinghamshire.


In addition to the camp, the Widow’s house, the sacred willow grove and the ancient oak, Robin can also go to the town of Sherwood and the Monastery in the Fens. I appreciate the game’s attention to detail, as nearly everything can be clicked on. The shield on the left bears King Richard’s crest, while the shield on the right is the raven of the Sheriff of Nottingham. The River Trent flows from east to west, while the River Leene goes off to the North. Watling Street goes south to Nottingham and north to York.

Enough with the maps! What’s in Sherwood Forest?

Not much, actually. The forest itself reminds me of Spielburg from Quest for Glory I, but without random battles or as many memorable encounters. However, I can’t shake the feeling that there aren’t many memorable encounters yet. Here’s what I did find.

The Glade


Two screens north of the camp is the glade where the Merry Men practice archery. Will is here with a young man named Simon who fled to the Merry Men for safety. It turns out that Simon shot a rabbit and was skinning it for his family’s supper and was drying the skin to make a pouch when a Forester found him. The Forester demanded a bribe in exchange for not turning Simon in, but Simon, in a panic, knocked the Forester down and ran away. Simon was declared an outlaw—he did break the law, after all—and wanted to join Robin’s band, but feared for his family. He didn’t leave until his father ordered him to. And now he is the newest Merry Man. I don’t see Robin’s “Outlaws” meter increase, though. Perhaps Simon is number 31?

In any event, Robin is cool with all of this and checks with Will if they have men watching Simon’s parents. Will assures Robin that they do. I get it in my head to click my money on Simon. An interface appears, similar to that in Conquests of Camelot, where Robin can decide how much of each denomination to fork over. I give Simon four farthings because I’m soft-hearted like that, and get 10 points for it. I then decide to show off Robin’s rougher side by engaging in some archery practice.



This interface is simple enough: Use the black tip of Robin’s arrow as your guide, try to hit the center of the green garlands, and watch out for the wind indicated by the piece of cloth tied to the sapling on the left. I haven’t adjusted the arcade difficulty, but it still takes me a few tries to orient myself and hit the center of each target. Clicking Robin’s hand makes him reload his bow. If you miss Will heckles Robin (totally deserved, by the way; Robin is supposed to be this legendary archer, so he should never miss). You don’t get anything aside from learning the interface, which I assume will come up again, though Robin tells Simon the importance of practice.


The Widow’s House


The Widow and her three sons are friends of the Merry Men, though the Widow seems to have a bit of history with Friar Tuck. Seems he likes her wool. And then they, like Alan earlier, make fun of him for being fat. Not much else goes on here except for introducing the Widow’s sons, from eldest to youngest Hal, Hob, and Dicken. They tell Robin they are going into town and ask if he needs anything. What a swell bunch of kids! Robin does not need anything, but he tells them that, if he ever needs spies, he knows who to ask. There is also talk of the Saturday Fair, which is going to be huge. Foreshadowing, perhaps? I like it! Well done, Christy and company!

Nothing else to do. Robin cannot go into the Widow’s cottage, but he can talk to the ewe.






Oh brother. Let’s just move along.

The Sacred Willow Grove


Nothing to do here, but it sure is pretty. Before stepping into the center, Robin disarms. I’m sure I’ll come back here later.

The only other interesting thing that happened here is that, one screen prior, a little elf ran by. It was too fast for me to click on, and I could not get a screenshot or replicate the occurrence. But this does tell me that there will be some supernatural elements to this game. After the GRITTY REALISM of Police Quest III, I am ready for a fun, fantastical, paperwork-free adventure.

The Ancient Oak


Again, there is nothing to do here yet. Just for fun, I shoot it with an arrow. It does not go well.





The Watling Street Overlook


If Robin walks due west of his camp, he finds Little John standing on a secluded hill overlooking Watling Street. From there, they can spy on passersby in the hopes of finding something interesting, in this case, interesting enough to fill their coffers. Little John warns Robin that he recently saw one of the Sheriff’s men head up the road, and that Robin may want to keep an eye out for his return in case he’s “up to mischief.” You know what that means?

Mischief.

I click “Walk” on the road, and Robin confronts the fiend. I like how Robin’s portrait changes depending on the situation.


This Sheriff’s man is harassing a peasant woman. Her crime? She didn’t pay her taxes! But she claims that she has paid them three times this week. I could make a crack about government overreach, but it’s an election year and I don’t want to let Robin Hood unfairly influence things from beyond the grave. In any event, this proto-IRS agent has the woman at knifepoint, orders Robin to leave, and suggests that the woman can repay him in “other” ways.

“I’m listening bro!”

Robin has other ideas. There are a few ways to proceed, all of which I try:
  • Robin can blow his horn, calling the Merry Men to his aid. The Sheriff’s man is bewildered, but calls Robin a coward for needing help and threatens to kill the woman anyway. Robin orders his men to stand down. 
  • Robin can offer a bribe to the goon. They bicker about whether the woman is released or the money is handed over first. They are unable to come to an agreement and so the stalemate ensues. 
  • Robin can try to parlay with the Sheriff’s man, but no good comes of it. 
  • If Robin walks forward to many times, the Sheriff’s man kills the woman (-100). Robin then takes out his bow and shoots the man dead, commenting on how hollow a victory it is. 
  • Or, Robin can just shoot the bastard, saving the grateful woman (100). 
Awesome.

I really appreciate the multiple responses that the game’s designers thought of in response to actions that the player may take, although the only real solution is to kill the Sheriff’s man. The main variable is whether the woman lives or dies. You can also skip this entire scene, but, being the sweet, caring person I am, I save the woman’s life. The Merry Men then come and, the day over, they all return to the camp for drink, song, and a recapitulation of the day’s events.

Nighttime

Does this guy know how to party or what?

“Bro, total amateur.”

Instead of reveling in his drink, though, Robin is drowning his sorrows. He laments the outlaw life, wishing for the freedom to live . . . to love . . . yes, Robin needs a woman, a fact pointed out by his friends. Sad and bringing the party down, he nearly keels over and is carried to bed by Little John, where he sleeps and dreams . . .


He dreams of a beautiful woman dancing in the sacred willow grove. He is smitten, and eventually appears in his own dream. She turns towards Robin and disappears, though the willows whisper her name: Marian. In her place is a shining emerald. Robin picks it up, and awakens.

But what’s this?


The glowing object Robin picked up in his dream! He has it, here in the waking world! It’s one-half of an emerald heart! Oh boy! A quest! Robin needs to find Marian so they can complete their “BFF” locket! How sweet!

Robin slept until noon, prompting more ribbing from Alan, Little John, and Friar Tuck. He explains his dream and shows them the emerald, telling his friends that he is sure he will meet Marian today.

Will interrupts to tell Robin that a friend of theirs, an informant named Lobb, has an urgent message for Robin involving the King. Lobb is a cobbler in town. He refuses to come to Sherwood Forest. The men muse that Robin will need a disguise to slip in and out of Nottingham unnoticed. Will also informs Robin that Lobb requires he bring a lady’s slipper to prove his identity. I can understand how, in the year 1193, it would be highly likely that even someone who helps a famous outlaw has never seen the outlaw’s face, but I think if Lobb wishes to fulfill his particular fetish he should find someone else to retrieve women’s footwear other than Robin freakin’ Hood.

And on that note, I’ll end this session.

Session Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.
Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Inventory: Horn, money
Ransom: 300
Outlaws: 31
Score: 210 out of 7325

Corrections and Omissions: A new feature where you all tell me what a bonehead I am and I give you CAPs for it.
*5 CAPs to Lupus Yonderboy for pointing out that Leopold was actually the Dukeof Austria, which would not become a kingdom until about a century later.
*5 CAPS to Charles for pointing out how to reload Robin’s bow in the archery interface; It was in the manual, which I did read (honest!) but totally forgot about. Instead, I was leaving that screen after each shot. Another 5 CAPs for correcting my spelling of “Spielburg.”
*5 CAPs to Reiko for clarifying that there are multiple responses to the day’s Watling Street encounter, but only one real solution.
*5 CAPs to Ilmarifor pointing out that you can skip the Watling Street encounter entirely.

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