Conquests of the Longbow – Final Rating

Written by Alex

Conquests of the Longbow was a thoroughly enjoyable game to play. In fact, I wish that it were longer (there were so many people I didn’t shoot . . .). I have a feeling that the game will do quite well on the PISSED scale, as it seems to be one of the better games we have played on this blog in a while. Will it reach Secret of Monkey Island and Quest for Glory Iand IIheights? Read and find out.

The high-quality even extends to the game box copy.

Puzzles and Solvability: 7
Longbow had some of the best, most logical and consistently entertaining puzzles out of the games I have played for this blog so far (Leisure Suit Larry 1 VGA, Leisure Suit Larry 5, and Police Quest III). While I wouldn’t qualify any puzzle as “difficult,” some of them required a little outside-the-box thinking, such as leaving the beer money on the table for the guards instead of supplying the alcohol yourself. Puzzles ranged from being inventory-based to requiring the manual to solve. Speaking of which, while manual-based puzzles are really just glorified copy protection schemes, Longbow integrated them fantastically, making their content actually interesting! For example, the manual was required to:
  • Use the Druid’s hand code;
  • Identify and learn the Druidic names of the trees;
  • Know gemstone lore; and
  • Be able to correctly identify various coats-of-arms
all in a beautifully written and illustrated manual full of Robin Hood legend and lore.

Then there were the archery and quarterstaff mini-games which, while not a large part of the game, were pleasant enough diversions. And of course, Nine Man’s Morris, which featured some of the most challenging computer game AI I have encountered in games of this era.

This guy didn’t mess around.

One of the best aspects about Longbow’s puzzles is that the game doesn’t hold your hand. It straddles the line of providing more than enough information to the player without being too obvious or too obtuse. As long as you’re paying attention, you should be fine. No brute-forcing here (unless you decide to shoot everybody, of course (PRO-TIP: You should)).
Lastly, Longbow features something I love, and wish more games had: Honest-to-goodness multiple solutions, each with their own consequences. The scenarios involving rescuing Marian and robbing the treasure train are obvious examples, but even how Robin deals with the various people he waylays on Watling Street, as well as their victims, can be approached from different angles. And they have consequences for the end game! Stuff like this really makes the player think hard about every decision, adding layers of complexity: Do I treat everybody with compassion and charity? Do I act like a jerk, robbing indiscriminately? Or do I just skewer everybody with an arrow to the face (Answer: Yes). You can even choose the order in which you approach certain quests. To top it off, stuff even happens “off-camera” if the player dithers for too long; the Widow’s sons being rescued by the Merry Men if Robin dithers for too long comes to mind. And let’s say you screw up by doing something really dumb like, oh, I don’t know, following Much the Miller’s Son’s advice (Boars? Did Papa Miller drop you on your head as a child?) and the game will let you continue.

Still funny.

If I dock any points, it’s because re-using the “turn into a tree to avoid the Sheriff’s men” puzzle felt like padding, and knowing that you had to stand still in a forest screen in order for the little pixie to appear was a result of dumb luck on my part (if you’ve been reading my posts so far, you know that the emphasis is on “dumb”). But these are minor nitpicks to a game that otherwise contains some of the best, most creative and logical puzzles we’ve seen—almost like anti-Sierra puzzles—since that LucasArts classic widely held to be a standard-bearer of the genre.
Interface and Inventory: 7

A 7 might seem a little high here, but Longbow’s interface and inventory were so good I didn’t even notice them. That’s a complement! Not once did I get tripped up trying to do something, nor was I ever at a loss as to what to click where and when. Even the quarterstaff duel I mildly complained about as being a button-mashing contest devolved into such more due to my impatience and less due to the interface itself (the fact that I hadn’t adjusted the arcade difficulty from its default “low” setting likely had something to do with my success just ramming the attack keys).

Arguably less-humane than getting longbowed, I say!

Interacting with objects in the inventory itself, while only done a handful of times, was so easy, even Much the Miller’s son (aka, Loser) could do it. Boars, Much? Boars?

I still cannot get over this.

Changing Robin’s rings was the main thing the player has to do in the inventory screen, switching from wearing the fire ring to the water ring. The handy depiction of Robin’s fist (pun totally intended) let you know in no uncertain terms which ring Robin was currently sporting, which could spell the difference between a dramatic rescue and a fiery death.

Probably Much’s fault.

While the inventory and interface are standard Sierra point-and-click fare, the specialized “Bow” icon helps, as does the fast-travel option in the top-screen status bar. Best of all, the interface never got in the way like it did in Police Quest III, arguably the low-point of Sierra’s VGA era.

You take that back, punk.”

Or what, Jim Walls? You gonna make me play Police Quest III again?


Wow, you don’t mess around either! I take it back! Anything but Police Quest III!


Good grief! Get out of my posts, you people!

“‘You people’? What do you mean, ‘You people’?”

That’s it. That’s it! I quit. I’m done. Post over. I’m out.
*deep breaths*

Story and Setting: 7

I’ll be honest with you: The story of Conquests of the Longbow is a little trite. “Save King Richard and thwart the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John while winning the hand of Maid Marian and shooting an arrow through another arrow” is as played-out in the Robin Hood mythos as you can get.

But that’s kind of the point.

The stories are malleable, changing through the centuries yet still retaining certain core characteristics. Conquests of the Longbow is Christy Marx’s own spin on the Robin Hood legend. She tosses in the well-trodden tropes, adds a little magic, and combines it all to give a fresh take on an old character. It’s a familiar tale that is comfortable for the player to slip into, except instead of just watching it, you get to take an active part. The need to raise a literal king’s ransom gives the game a narrative thrust that never falters; in fact, it picks up as the game goes on, the urgency and the stakes being raised until the final rescue of the Queen’s Knight from the fens monastery. The villains are obvious, but so despicable that you revel in every chance Robin and the Merry Men get to put one over on them.


The setting is also excellent. Sherwood Forest truly feels like Robin’s haunt, with secrets that only he and his men know about. And Nottingham provides enough locations to keep the player busy. Even revisiting areas feels fresh due to the story’s changing nature. All told, medieval England is a fun place to have daring, swashbuckling adventures, even if stealing people’s clothes on Watling Street gets a little ridiculous.

Beggar, St. Mary’s monk, fens monk, yeoman, merchant . . . I should’ve kept a running counter of this, too.

Conquests of the Longbow excels in this category because the story and setting do what any good game should: it makes you feel like the character you are playing.

Sound and Graphics: 8

What is there to say? Sierra continues its run of great, hand-painted, 256-color graphics as it entered the nineties. Longbow might be the best of the bunch; I think its graphics look even better than King’s Quest V’s, Space Quest IV’s, and Police Quest III’s. In fact, I’d put them on par with Monkey Island’s. The motion-captured animations are great and never look embarrassing, each character is uniquely drawn, the backgrounds range from the lush environs of Sherwood to the beautiful chapel of St. Mary’s and the dank fens monastery.

And the music . . . oh, the music. Aubrey Hodges—beloved for his excellent Quest for Glory IV soundtrack alone—does a bang-up job here, truly adding to the experience with catchy, evocative, and I’m assuming period-appropriate tracks. From the great opening theme and the somber Nottingham map tune to the jaunty Widow’s theme, the ethereal Marian in the grove, and the more ambient and atmospheric tracks that play in St. Mary’s and the fens, ever track’s a winner, actively adding to the experience. And the sound effects are similarly great: Each twang of the bowstring, death-scream, and twang of the bowstring followed by a death-scream is just so satisfying. The monks’ chanting as Robin approaches St. Mary’s is another nice touch. Top-notch stuff in the audio-visual department all the way around.

Environment and Atmosphere: 7

Was there any doubt that this would score highly? The world of Longbow is a fantastic one to get lost in. From the sun shining through the trees in the sacred willow grove to the dankness of the fens monastery, from the pub hewn into a cave to the comfort of Robin’s camp, each of the game’s setting is detailed, well-crafted, and meaningful. And I haven’t even gotten to my favorite section, the Saturday Fair.

To be fair, the game never makes it clear what day it’s supposed to take place on . . .

This part is three screens of unnecessary detail that does nothing except draw you further into the world. Nearly every single character can be spoken to or interacted with, and Robin can even buy trinkets for Marian or get his fortune told for nothing other than meaningless points. There are even cameos from Sierra alum and some historical figures for you to discover as you try to determine which wandering scholar is your contact and which are Prince John’s spies. And this is before you even get to the archery contest that pits Robin against another legendary English outlaw almost equally as well-known for his prowess with the bow and his luck with the ladies. The only environment I wish was fleshed out more was Robin’s cave. I know it’s just a cave, but it seemed a little bare.

I mean, look at it! Not even a carpet

Dialogue and Acting: 8

This might be Longbow’s coup de grace. The writing in this game is so good, it reminded me of a slightly more-serious Monkey Island. Each character has his or her own memorable style, from Alan’s dandy foppishness, Little John’s no-nonsense straight-talk, the yeoman’s simple bad-assery, the Sheriff and his wife’s thick-headed arrogance, and Much’s mewling stupidity (seriously, &*!#@$ that guy). Each character feels distinct real. The Abbot is a pompous jerk! The Prior of the monastery is a power-hungry brute! Maid Marian’s quiet shyness belies a steely braveness! The textual descriptions are equally evocative and on par with those in the Quest for Glory series. And as with Leisure Suit Larry 5, nearly every character has a unique response to every inventory item being clicked on them. The attention to detail is astounding.

But wait! There’s more! The designers seem to have thought of every situation that a player might enter into. Forget to dye your beard before posing as the jewel merchant to the Sheriff and his wife? They’ll recognize Robin as the archer from the contest at the Saturday Fair. Visit St. Mary’s wearing the Abbot’s stolen fire ring? He’ll call you on it and have you hanged! Little touches like this make for a truly vibrant world that feels alive.

And then there’s Fulk. I love this guy!

All of the little atmospheric touches add to the experience as well. In the fens monastery, for example, a necessary quest item, as well as clues to escaping, are in the monastery’s scroll room. But there are also several other scrolls that do nothing but provide historical information about the game’s 12th century setting.

It’s like history class, but awesome.

One of my favorite touches was the way the Merry Men would sit around busting each other’s balls each night—and bust Robin’s when he died!—the way men have throughout the ages. It’s like those scenes in mob movies where the characters sit around eating pasta and ragging on each other. But with more tights and less Joe Pesci.

Which is a damn shame, really. Imagine this guy playing Friar Tuck. Or Fulk. Or wearing tights.

Great stuff all around. According to Moby Games, a CD-ROM version of Longbow was planned but subsequently cancelled. From the teaser demo, the sole surviving example of this project, it seems like the voice acting would have been pretty good, if a little campy. I can guarantee you that Much would have sounded like Cedric. Friggin’ Much . . .

So since PISSED don’t lie, let’s see what we’ve got: (7 + 7 + 7 + 7 + 8 + 8)/.6 = 73. 73! Holy cow, that’s the second-highest score ever awarded on The Adventure Gamer, beating the first two Quest for Glory titles! But I think this score is eminently fair and totally deserved. Math wins again! Suck it, science!

Hey, come on! What’d I ever do to you?”

I’m not the only one who really likes Conquests of the Longbow. Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in Dragon Magazine issue 179 rated it a 5 out of 5, noting that “LORH [Legends of Robin Hood, although that acronym sounds like they were clearing their throats] is suitable for both novice- and intermediate-level adventurers. Those who have played some really tough adventure games might find some of the challenges in LORH less difficult than they would like. However, the overall treatment of the adventure will leave you amazed.” The three also call the game “a fine example of superb programming skills, graphic design, and game ingenuity.” They were equally impressed by Longbow’s interface and the fairness of the arcade sequences. I find it amusing that all of the screenshots in the magazine are reversed. And also, check out the game’s price: $69.95! That’s $121.68 today!

Computer Gaming World was similarly effusive, even nominating Longbow as a game-of-the-year contender in issue 100. What did Longbow lose to? A little LucasArts title called Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. There’s no shame in that! It’s interesting to note that the other nominees were Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and, uh, Martian Memorandum. ♫ One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong . . .

Hell, even Richard Corbett of PC Gamer’s “Saturday Crapshoot” fame liked it, and he hates everything!

And that does it for one of the best, most well-designed and just flat-out fun adventure game I have played on this blog. Do yourself a favor and give Conquests of the Longbow a shot. You won’t be sorry. Unless you listen to Much. And in that case, you only have yourself to blame and may God have mercy on your soul.

“You can trust me!”

Lastly, don’t forget that Longbow’s designer, the lovely and talented Christy Marx, has been gracious enough to agree to answer reader questions! Put them in the comments below for forwarding to Ms. Marx as time allows. Thanks for going on this strange journey with me!

CAP Distribution

100 CAPs to Alex
  • Blogger Award – 100 CAPs – for playing through this game for everyone's enjoyment
55 CAPs to Joe Pranevich
  • Blogger Award – 50 points – for playing through The Hobbit for everyone's enjoyment
  • Double Dare Award – 5 CAPs – the challenge in on!
30 CAPs to Joseph Curwen
  • A.J.P Taylor Award -25 CAPs - for a fascinating discussion on English history
  • Celebrity Lookalike Award – 5 CAPs - for guessing that Fulk looked like Edward G. Robinson 
18 CAPs to Charles
  • RTFM Award - 5 CAPS - 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. 
  • Best Director Award - 3 CAPs - for correcting my spelling of “Spielburg.”
  • True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – for joining in the fun of playing Conquests of the Longbow
16 CAPs to Laukku
  • Cinematography Award – 6 CAPs - for linking to death and ending videos for the game
  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - for almost correctly guessing the score this game would have
15 CAPs to TBD
  • Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPS – for getting the closest guess to the score The Hobbit's remake received
  • Why does everyone think it was Spielberg Award - for knowing who the real director of Back to the Future was
  • Wake up and get Blogging Award - -5 CAPs – for promising to do this CAP distribution, then falling asleep and forgetting
  • Spider Sense Award - 5 CAPs- For spotting Green Goblin on the cover
  • Celebrity Lookalike Award – 5 CAPs - for guessing that Fulk looked like Inconceivable Guy
15 CAPs to Aperama
  • True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – for joining in the fun of playing Conquests of the Longbow
  • Celebrity Lookalike Award – 5 CAPs - for guessing that Fulk looked like Robert Hirschboeck 
15 CAPs to Fry
  • Conquested With Extreme Prejudice Award – 15 CAPs - for the idea of keeping a tally on problems solved by longbow
15 CAPs to Reiko
  • Unnecessary S's Award - 3 CAPs - for pointing out that coasts-of-arms are different than a coat-of-arms. 
  • Sometimes you have To Shoot a Few Guys Award - 5 CAPs - for clarifying that there are multiple responses to the day’s Watling Street encounter, but only one real solution.
  • Fashion Tips Award - 7 CAPs - for telling us why a tunic should be longer
10 CAPs to Corey Cole
  • He Had To Split Award - 5 CAPs - for reminding me that I forgot to mention the arrow-splitting as an integral part of the Robin Hood mythos
  • It's Got Groove It's got Meaning Award – 5 CAPs – for working out that Cheese is the word to answer a riddle
10 CAPs to Laertes
  • Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPS – for correctly guessing what score The Hobbit would receive
7 CAPs to Lupus Yonderboy:
  • The King of Dukes Award – 7 CAPs - Lupus Yonderboy - for pointing out that Leopold was actually the Duke of Austria, which would not become a kingdom until about a century later.
6 CAPs to Ilmari
  • Doctor Hobbit Award - 1 CAP – for his genre-bending discussion of Radagast
  • He Didn't Need to Die Award - 5 CAPs - for pointing out that you can skip the Watling Street encounter entirely.
5 CAPs to Andy_Panthro
  • Celebrity Lookalike Award – 5 CAPs - for guessing that Fulk looked like Moe Howard
5 CAPs to Rowan Lipkovits
  • Celebrity Lookalike Award – 5 CAPs - for guessing that Fulk looked like Warwick Davis
5 CAPs to Jims Walls
  • Big Balls Award - 5 CAPs – for having cojones enough to appear in the Final Rating of a game he had nothing to do with (we're unsure at this point whether or not he kidnapped Sexy Robin)
5 CAPs to Mark E.
  • Read to Me Award – 5 CAPs – for pointing out some missed points
Rankings of 1991 games

1. Conquests of the Longbow - 73 points
2. Space Quest 4 - 65 points
3. Willy Beamish - 61 points
4. Larry 1 Remake - 60 points
5. Space Quest 1 Remake - 58 points
6. Spellcasting 201 - 51 points
7. Martian Memorandum - 50 points
8.-10. Timequest, Larry 5 and Police Quest 3 - 47 points
11. Castle of Dr. Brain - 46 points
12. Free D.C.! - 30 points
13. Hugo II - 18 points

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