Syl's Blog

Adventure and Nostalgia - Conquests of the Longbow

Conquests of the Longbow title card

Upon finishing Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood, I felt a part of me receding that had resurfaced again while playing. Classic adventure games just hit different. They tap into parts of your brain that games don't often require of you anymore, and there's a coziness to them that comes with nostalgia, which I've spoken of enough times before that I won't dwell on it here. When I played this game as a kid, I mostly just wandered around listening to the MIDI soundtrack because I didn't quite know what to do. Now I can say I've played it thoroughly, and it was like finally opening a box that I had only admired the surface of for years and discovering all the treasures within.

First, a little background. Conquests of the Longbow is a Sierra Entertainment game that was directed, designed, and written by Christy Marx. Before it, she held the same roles on the similar adventure game Conquests of Camelot. She's also known for creating the '80s cartoon Jem and the Holograms and writing comics, among other creative endeavors. She's become a personal hero of mine since I looked into her while playing Conquests of the Longbow, as all women in the early games industry tend to be. Sierra and the development team behind Conquests had several women onboard, including Roberta Williams, who co-founded the studio with her husband, Ken.

Conquests of the Longbow uses Sierra's typical icon-based system, where you have an interface of icons that you click on and then interact with the environment in some way, such as talking to someone or picking up an object. There are a few arcade minigames scattered throughout, including archery and Nine Men's Morris, but it's mostly point-and-click. The beautiful manual requires consulting to help solve the game's many and varied puzzles -- something that's a bit unheard of now. I miss the days when perusing a game's manual was almost as much a part of the experience as actually playing the game. They were little pieces of art in and of themselves.

Let me tell you, old-school adventure games are hard. I used the Universal Hint System a couple of times, but when I did stick it out and finally solve a puzzle on my own, it felt really good. Back when the game first came out, I would've had to call the Sierra hints line to help me get through any puzzles that put me at a standstill. It's easy to take for granted the fact that now we can just look that stuff up on the Internet. I tried very hard not to resort to the Internet, though, and I'm proud to say that for most of the game I didn't. There were only three moments when I turned to outside help: opening the puzzle box, escaping from the Sheriff's soldiers in Sherwood, and proving my loyalty to the Queen's knight. That should give you a pretty good example of the kinds of puzzles you're faced with in Conquests of the Longbow.

Conquests of the Longbow screenshot

My favorite part of the game was the Nottingham Fair. You have to disguise yourself as a yeoman and enter the archery tournament to earn money to help pay the king's ransom. Along the way to the tournament grounds, you'll encounter all the glories of the fair, various merchants, and other attendees, and you can talk to most of them. This part of the game is full of Easter eggs, including a reference to the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which I watched over and over again growing up as a kid who was obsessed with all things Robin Hood.

The developers made some lovely stylistic choices with Conquests of the Longbow. They used an Old English-style font and character portraits that look like they came straight out of a medieval tome. There's a point in the game where you have to find a particular scroll in a library, and it's tucked away amongst other scrolls that you can actually read if you're interested in some time-period-specific history and science. These little details, along with the ability to interact with nearly everything, fleshed out the game to a level that was pleasantly surprising. Conquests of the Longbow tapped into both my childhood love of Robin Hood and my desire to revisit a true installment of a genre I have always loved, and I already miss it dearly.

#video games