As a folklore enthusiast, I was excited to get my hands on Hood: Outlaws & Legends. Considering its rich heritage in popular culture, with a raft of acclaimed films, books, and songs published on the subject, there haven’t been many attempts at turning the legend of Robin Hood into a game. Most adaptations were released decades ago, as film tie-in platformers or rudimentary strategy games.
Enter Sumo Digital, the developer behind Hood. Given Robin Hood’s status at the forefront of English folklore, I was glad to see that they are based in Sheffield. Could a burgeoning developer a stone’s throw from the legendary Sherwood Forest finally do justice to the myth? Sadly, the answer is no.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a terrible game by any stretch. It’s just that the essence of Robin Hood struggles to make an impact on the game itself. It seems like Sumo just used the legend as a springboard and marketing gimmick for a fairly cookie-cutter depiction of medieval England. The playable characters have a backstory but only in the form of a few paragraphs of unlockable text. There isn’t really a plot to speak of. Overall, it's a real missed opportunity.
Having said all that, I do have to admit that the concept behind the gameplay is very solid. Hood is a PvPvE heist game where two teams of four compete against each other to successfully pull off a heist by stealing a treasure chest. The computer controls The State, an assortment of knights and crossbowmen who try and thwart your larcenous machinations.
Sumo has definitely tried to do something new here and I applaud the effort. A heist game where you play as Robin Hood and his daring band of Merry Men? Sign me up! There are four playable characters: the titular sharpshooting archer, Robin; the muscle-bound brawler, John; the mace-wielding mystic Tooke; and the stealthy assassin, Marianne. The first couple of games I played were a riot: charging round, clubbing hapless guards, and getting shot in the eye by the enemy team’s Robin, who was crouching in the bushes. It was a bit confusing but a lot of fun.
The gameplay is split into distinct phases. First, you have to pickpocket a key from The Sheriff, a hulking monstrosity of a knight who’ll beat you to death with his bare hands if he catches you. You then have to find the vault containing the treasure and open it with said key. Finally, you take the chest to an extraction point and whisk it away by winding a two-man winch.
Robbin' Hood: Pauper of Thieves
There’s a marked stealth element to the initial skirmishes. The game advises you to creep from one area of cover to the next, assassinating guards silently so as not to put the AI on alert. In practice, the punishment for going in all guns blazing isn’t that significant as, by the end-game, you’ll probably be clobbering guards and other players away by the bucketload anyway. Also, it’s a team game. So, even if you try to take the stealthy approach, you’ll probably have an oafish teammate blundering around, knocking things over, and catching the attention of every enemy for miles around.
Furthermore, the last phase, where you actually winch the treasure away, is by far the most impactful. It’s here that the game is won or lost. I’ve even had games where one team has done everything up to the final bar of the progress meter in the final phase, only for the other team to swoop in and take the win. I’ve been on both sides of that situation and I can definitely say the frustration of being on the losing side strongly outweighs the delight of stealing victory from the jaws of defeat. Some adjustments are sorely needed to make it a well-rounded gameplay experience.
Rock, Paper, Longbow
The combat itself can be a little clunky at times, with Tooke’s mace suffering from a particularly janky hitbox. For the most part, though, the skirmishes you fight with other players are satisfying and varied. Different characters are strong in different areas, facilitating a rock, paper, scissors-esque equilibrium with encounters. John excels in hand-to-hand combat, battering through his enemies’ defenses with an enormous hammer but has very little ranged capability. At the other end of the spectrum, Robin is a master of felling opponents from afar, with headshots from his bow dealing instant death. Get up close and personal, though, and you’ll have him scrambling for cover.
Having played dozens of rounds, though, there do seem to be some balancing issues, with some characters stronger than others. Stealthy, versatile Marianne seems to have emerged as the preferred pick for the early meta. As players get more familiar with the game, it’s likely that tactics will change and Sumo will need to keep a close eye on it as certain characters could easily become obnoxious, such as Robin with his one-shot capabilities.
Stealing From The Poor
As I leveled up the characters and explored the Hideout, Hood’s main nexus area, I realized that that was it. You can carry out heists, competing either against other people or the computer, or you can unlock new outfits, weapon skins, and perks. Yes, there are five maps, each of which necessitates a slightly different tactical approach, but it’s all mostly the same. I was a little concerned when I read that Hood didn’t have a beta. When I played the game, though, it clicked. The launch of the game, shrewdly dubbed Season 0 by Sumo, is the beta. I hope and expect that they use the data they gather wisely: balancing the game, improving the clunkier mechanics, and adding in content. Still, there is a large part of me that resents developers using the game’s first players as guinea pigs.
Look, Hood: Outlaws & Legends isn’t a bad game. At all. It’s chaotic and exciting, with moments of genuine tension. There’s a surprising degree of tactical nuance to it, as well. But the strength of the concept - a team-based heist game based on the legend of Robin Hood - is such that the limited content and shallow story struggles to match it. A single-player, stealth-based campaign that explored the legend of Robin Hood a little more seems like a glaring and obvious omission. There’s so much to go at: you could explore the social conditions of medieval England or Robin’s relationship with Marianne. Maybe, as in other modern retellings of the legend, Robin could have been reinvented as a crusading soldier who, sickened by war and the opulence of religious fervor, returned to Sherwood Forest determined to enfranchise the landless masses.
Ultimately, it’s hard to give a definite answer on how good Hood really is (or will be). Like many games of its ilk, its longevity really depends on keeping the player base engaged and adding fresh content. It definitely has a lot of potential but the content that’s available right now is limited, to say the least. The ‘games as live service’ model has certainly brought some advantages: more content and, in theory, more balanced games. But that’s at the detriment of getting a finished game from the start. Aside from trusted developers, buying games can often feel like a lucky dip. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes not. It's a real shame as I'm keen to support up-and-coming devs with new ideas. But please, for the love of God, make sure your games are finished before shipping them.
TechRaptor reviewed Hood: Outlaws & Legends on PC using a Steam code provided by the developer.
- The Combat is Satisfying and Varied
- The Gameplay Concept is Pretty Unique
- Outside of a Single Game-Mode, There's Very Little to do
- There's no Story Beyond a few Paragraphs of Unlockable Text
- It Doesn't Feel Like a Finished Game