Saturday, 20 February 2016

Conquests of the Longbow – Burn the Witch

Written by Alex


Conquests of the Longbow does so much right, it’s difficult to pick out only one thing to discuss for each post. But one global thing I appreciate about this game is the attention to detail. Everything—each puzzle, character, inventory object, and potential player action—seems as though it has been thought through and extensively tested. Nearly every character has something unique to say about each situation, inventory object, or even disguise Robin is wearing, and these responses change as the game progresses. Further, although there really is a “best” solution for each puzzle, I appreciate the element of choice and alternate solutions, even though some are illusory. This detail creates a rich world that seems alive instead of a static backdrop for the player’s pointless clicking and brute-force puzzle “solutions.” The more I play Longbow, the more I believe it will rank rather high on the PISSED scale. Adventure game designers could learn many things from Ms. Marx and company.

Day 9

The wardrobe keeps growing!

Day nine begins like every other day in this game: Robin wakes up, takes a look around his cave, and heads out to the campsite to speak with his crew and get the news of the day. These were the pre-printing press day, after all, so spoken-word reports from eyewitnesses were really the only method of information-gathering. How did people survive? Face-to-face communication? What’s that?


Will Scarlett waits with a warning for Robin: There is unrest with the forest, there is trouble with the trees, for the maples want more sunlight, and the oaks ignore their pleas. Though he has nothing more than a vague feeling of unease, Will instructed the rest of the Merry Men to stay close to hiding places, and ominously warns Robin that “not even shortcuts will be safe today.” They work fine for me, though, as I zipped myself to the Widow’s hut. Maybe she knows more of what’s going on, being a tree-whisperer and all.

I’ve Got A Bad Feeling About This . . .


The Widow knows the scoop, warning Robin that the Sherriff’s men are scouring Sherwood, presumably on an outlaw-hunt. The powers-that-be have warned about this for a while, so it was only a matter of time. Still, I had no trouble using the quick-travel function to go from place to place. All seems quiet: Watling Street is empty, the Green Man will only help me in times of trouble, and after spelling Saille, the Druidic name for “willow” in the sacred willow grove, the trees tell me that they are waiting for Marian to return. With nothing going on, I figure I might as well stroll through the forest and see if I can talk to some more trees and hopefully get more knowledge into what is going on.


I don’t get the chance. Robin hears the Sheriff’s men and breaks into a run. They are close, and when they corner Robin, he does the only thing he can to fight back, whipping out his trusty longbow, and . . .


Oh, come on! You’re trying to tell me that the guy that can shoot an arrow through another arrow can’t take out three goons with his longbow? Couldn’t he have just shot the guards’ arrows out of the air? No? I guess the designers didn’t think of everything. Nothing left to do than take the Green Man up on his offer.

Spell “oak.”
Wait for magic sparkly stuff.

Instant tree!


This actually fooled the Sheriff’s doofuses (75 points). They’re presumably familiar with Sherwood Forest and its ancient oak tree, which must be something of a landmark. Wouldn’t they notice a tiny low-budget tree where none used to be? Or are they really that dumb? At the end of the day, does it matter?


Apparently, this is enough for the Sheriff’s men to call off their outlaw-hunt! I think the Sheriff needs to hire new men with a little more stick-to-itiveness. Oh well, not my problem. All I care about is that the game can move on. As a side note, this is the puzzle I alluded to in the introduction post that I was unable to complete my first playthrough the early days of the 21st century. I remember spelling Duir but not changing into a tree for some reason. As with Police Quest III’s puzzle from hell, this is another adventure-game dragon of mine slayed, although the less said about Police Quest III said, the better. I’m still having nightmares about that game . . .

I’m watching you . . .”

Yikes! Moving on!

Gucci of Beverly



And wouldn’t you know: After Robin’s tree-morphing adventure, another patsy comes waltzing down Watling Street, aka Honest Rob’s Watling Street Disguise Shop. Shouldn’t somebody put up a warning sign that a bizarre green-clad clothes-stealer frequents these parts?

But before stopping this fool and swiping his duds, I dress in my black robes and head to the monastery to see if I can go and steal their treasure and raise some ransom. At the end of the last day, Robin did foreshadow that he wanted to raid Prince John’s coffers, after all. Unfortunately the monastery still remains on high alert and the will-o-the-wisps won’t bring me across. Oh well. Let’s take the merchant’s clothes and look for another way to grab some cash.

He totally has troll face.


Why, look! He’s a jeweler! And kind of a dick, too! Maybe I won’t feel so bad about taking his clothes. As always with these Watling Street encounters, let’s go over the options:
  • Blow your horn, get called a wimp.
  • Talk to the guy, get nowhere.
  • Threaten with longbow, take his clothes, have him call for Robin’s eternal damnation, and lose 100 points.
Problem regrettably not conquested.
  • Trade the emerald half-heart for his clothes, which is a horrible idea, so don’t do it.
  • Keep clicking “Hand” on the merchant to search him, get his story, and eventually convince him to trade his clothes and belongings for a bunch of money and a meal with the Merry Men (100).
So what is the merchant’s story? It turns out he sells counterfeit jewelry! And get this: He’s on his way to Nottingham to swindle the Sheriff’s wife! The mind reels with the possibilities.


That’s right! Dressed as a super-spiffy merchant who looks like one of the Three Wise Men, Robin decides to con the Sheriff’s wife and raise some ransom money. Searching his new disguise, Robin finds some counterfeit women’s jewelry, as well as a small pot of a red powder. This is jeweler’s rouge, used to polish stones. On a lark, I click this on Robin, and he uses it to dye his beard and eyebrows red, thereby completing his disguise (25). I’m glad I’m a compulsive clicker then, otherwise things might have gotten ugly in town.

Enough talk. Let’s go do some grifting! I wrote the book on flim flamming, after all. They used to call me Grifty McGrift!


The Confidence Game

I like Robin’s Frank Zappa mustache.

I head into Nottingham and decide to see if anything new is happening at St. Mary’s. Robin come a-knockin’ as a door-to-door jewelry salesman, which is a good thing because the Abbott loves jewelry. Unfortunately, he also loves the fire ring Robin is wearing. Calling his men, he seizes Robin and murders him. The end! If you go in without the fire ring, the Abbott hears Robin out, but dismisses him when he sees that he is peddling women’s jewelry, recommending he instead brings it to the Sheriff’s wife Matilda. I don’t understand why the Abbott wouldn’t want this jewelry. Wasn’t he the guy hoarding women’s undergarments a few posts ago?

And what does it matter, you transphobic outlaw! Where’s my safe space?!”

I also visit Lobb. He initially doesn’t recognize Robin, making Robin more confident in his disguise. Lobb approves of Robin’s plan, mentioning in passing that the money should be coming from York “any day.” I also get a chance to flex my charitable muscles by giving some cash to the swineherd standing outside.

Thanks, Lobb.

Lastly, I head to the pub to see if the nameless bartender has any useful advice. And he actually does!


It turns out that the Sheriff’s wife knows next to nothing about jewelry. Quite how the bartender came by this information, I’m not sure, but it sounds like Robin should have an easy time bamboozling Mr. and Mrs. Sheriff.


Robin, going by the name *snicker* Gucci of Beverly, has no trouble getting into the castle (10). He presents his jewels and asks the lovely couple to make an offer. The Sheriff offers 50 marks for both pieces, which Robin is eager to take. He mentions that he has more jewels than he knows what to do with, spinning a tale about a treasure horde he stumbled upon in Sherwood in a cave containing the carcass of a dragon long dead. Robin drops that he’d love to be rid of the burden of this trove, which piques Matilda’s interest. The Sheriff too seems intrigued but not enough to take Robin up on his offer to buy the rights to it for 5,000 marks. See, the Sheriff wants proof, which Robin doesn’t have. Unable to come to a deal, Robin calls their bluff, takes his jewels and decides to go home. That’s when the Nottinghams relent.


The Sheriff agrees to Robin’s—er, Gucci’s—terms: He is to accompany Robin to Sherwood, alone, and buy the whole kit and caboodle for 5,000 marks (300). What a man won’t do to keep the missus happy . . .

Another side note: Throughout this all, Matilda calls the Sheriff “John.” Are Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham one and the same? Or were they both named John? Internet searches show that they are supposed to be different people, and since you should always trust what’s on the Internet, I’ll leave it at that.

Naked People Have Little Or No Influence On Society



Oh man, the Sheriff walked right into this ruse. Can he really be that stupid? I mean, he’s running a corrupt fiefdom, has a bunch of dangerous goons beholden to him, and has apparently done quite well for himself financially. How dumb can he be?

Very. Alone in the forest, Robin reveals himself (not like that!) much to the Sheriff’s dismay. Robin summons the Merry Men and they take the dastardly Sheriff to their camp for . . . a banquet?


That’s right! They try to kill the Sheriff with kindness! Robin gets his 5,000 marks, the Sheriff gets a meal, though he doesn’t enjoy it, peppered liberally with insults from the outlaws. After the festivities, Robin keeps his oath by sending the Sheriff safely back to Nottingham on his horse. Sans clothes.

But with his hat.

After some digitized laughter, Robin returns to camp, where Marian kept her promise to come meet the Merry Men come nightfall. They love her, of course, but she is an all-business type of woman. She gives Robin the skinny that tomorrow she will learn the password to use with the Queen’s trusted knight, who will later take what ransom Robin has raised. The money is going to be sent from York within the fortnight, so she warns Robin and his men to keep their eyes on the road. Lastly, she says that she’s been having feelings of impending doom, but I’m sure they’re nothing.

I mean, who doesn’t?

Lastly, resident dumbass and man of the cloth Friar Tuck decides to donate the cloth from Robin’s disguises to the poor in town. And Robin’s okay with this! His pretext is that his cover’s been blown so the disguises won’t be effective anymore. The only disguise I can think of that wouldn’t work anymore is the merchant’s outfit, but what do I know? At least Robin won’t ever need to sneak into town again.

Day 10

Except for the very next day, when Little John informs Robin that Marian has been kidnapped.


Sure wish I had a way to sneak into town.

Little John says that the Sheriff will be expecting a rescue attempt, and that he and the rest of the Merry Men are at Robin’s service. What to do, what to do?

Go it alone, of course! Robin’s an OUTLAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Convinced the bartender to let me use the passage! 50 points!

Hurry, hurry!

The coast is clear! Too easy!

Remembered to put the fire ring on! Yeah!

Here I come, baby!”

You mean I had no plan to deal with the Sheriff’s guards?


Oh! I should have listened to Little John! I like how the game subtly nudges you to discuss the rescue attempt with your men, but lets you fail anyway. It’s my own fault, really, not picking up on these hints. The thing to do is blow Robin’s horn to summon the crew and take their counsel like a real leader. Think Kirk consulting with Spock, Bones, and Scotty, but less Shatner.

The Counsel

Yeah, I wish you would.

Everybody’s got an idea, and they all suck except for Little John’s. Here’s the rundown:
  • Alan: Take the Abbott and the Sheriff prisoner, and trade them for Marian.
  • Friar Tuck: Gin up a mob to draw soldiers into the streets and create confusion. The Merry Men will then attack the Witch’s Court in full force while Robin sneaks inside and saves Marian.
  • Will: A strong wedge attack head-on, with Robin in the lead, to barge in and save Marian.
  • Much: Attack and taunt the soldiers, and then split up to divide the Sheriff’s forces. In the meantime, Robin and five men will go to the Court and save Marian.
  • John: Robin will sneak into the Court by whatever means he can. In the meantime, John will lead two groups of men, one from the north and one from the south, to attack through town and converge on the Court. John will take Robin’s horn, blowing it when he is about to launch the attack as a signal for Robin to enter the Court and rescue Marian.
Good, suck, suck, suck, suck!

Seriously, these ideas all blow except for Little John’s. I pick his plan and enter the Court as I did before, except this time it works! The Merry Men cover for Robin, he saves Marian (500) and escapes to the sacred willow grove, and no men are lost. Little John, you deserve a promotion. I now dub thee Medium John.

Success!

The Power Of Love (or Something)


Unfortunately, Marian is not doing so hot. Her time at the stake has rendered her near death. What’s an outlaw to do? I spell Saille, but the willows are of no use. Stupid trees! Is there anything else that can help?

Yes! A girls’ best friend: jewelry!


Marian is still in possession of her diamond half-heart. Robin, again, activates the Wonder Twin powers of love or whatever to revive Marian (300). This is . . . pretty stupid, although there was much rejoicing (yay). Marian gives Robin the password—RANSOM—before Robin takes her to the Widow’s house to recover. The Widow has a sister away in Blythe who will later watch over Marian far from the Sheriff’s grasping hands. This will also be far from Robin’s love (nudgenudgewinkwink) but it’s all for the best. The men have a somber supper, waiting agonizing days for Prince John to send the Queen’s money south from York.

That’s kind of a downer way to end this post. Here’s something to cheer you up: A picture of Robin trying to save Marian without wearing the fire ring:


Bonus: The Other Plans

Like I said, they’re all terrible, but I appreciate that they offer true alternate solutions. Each plan, save Little John’s, are all on autoplay, beginning with Robin running into the Witch’s Court amidst the flying arrows of the battle, saving Marian from the stake (provided that he is wearing the fire ring). Each course of action provides a varying amount of points (and body counts). Here’s the rundown:

Will:



Alan:



Tuck:



Much:


Interestingly, the menu several screenshots above actually lists the plans in descending order of suck. Basically, Robin should only ever seek advice from John and use the rest of his Merry Men as cannon fodder. The end.

Session Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.
Total Time: 9 hours, 10 minutes.

Inventory: Money, horn, gem, emerald, water ring, fire ring.
Ransom: 15,300
Outlaws: 34
Score: 5665 out of 7325

Problems Conquested by the Longbow (as of this post) – 5: They’ll take this longbow out of my cold, dead hands!
Day 1: Saved a peasant woman from being raped and murdered by one of the Sheriff’s goons.
Day 2: Rescued Maid Marian from an evil fens monk.
Day 4: Saved a poacher from arrest and execution.
Day 6: Initiated a quarterstaff duel with a black fens monk. I killed him, obviously.
Day 8: Won the archery contest at the Saturday Fair, netting the golden arrow and a cool 10,000 marks towards freeing King Richard.

Corrections and Omissions: What’d I miss? What’d I screw up? What’s the deal?

15 comments:

  1. Yay, the power of love makes up for lack of medical technology!

    I "love" how the designers came up with excuses to make stuff unusable for the player (monk's broken staff a few posts back, now the clothes) with suspiciously convenient timing. This game feels very tightly designed, for both good and bad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Tightly designed" is a good way of putting it. While these design choices do kind of stick out, I do at least appreciate that the designers tried to explain why Robin couldn't use this or that item; it shows that they thought things through. It's better than having no explanation whatsoever.

      Delete
  2. I have two gripes if you'd like them, Alex. (I'm finally starting to play the game - I've got to admit that it's pretty easy when I've been all but reading a walkthrough out of your posts!) Gripe #1: the fact that the same people keep falling for these disguises. I can understand once. Maybe even twice. But is Robin seriously that much the master of disguise that the same guards don't recognize the same person just because he's wearing different colored robes?

    The second is one that rightly should be handwaved, but I'd probably say that the Sheriff's men can't be working too hard. They're not looking in the giant, uncamouflaged cave that Robin lives in. I mean, not one peasant happens to have thought to mention in passing while being tortured, "Oh, well I don't know for sure, but maybe search the natural cave that has easily a fifteen foot high roof when you look for Robin Hood, please stop flaying me"? (I get that it looks better for the sake of a game, but this is otherwise a game that is quite firm in its believability - even the 'magic' side of the equation has a degree of it.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One way to get killed is to go to the castle gate (while wearing the jeweler clothes) first with normal beard colour and then with a dyed beard. The guard notices the difference and arrests you.

      Delete
    2. Hehe, I didn't realize I had to dye my beard and actually got as far as the audience with the Sheriff's wife before being greeted with a "Oh hi, Puck!" which of course immediately attracted suspicion.

      And if you visit the widow or Lobb in your jeweller's clothes, they readily recognize you as Robin, which was my clue that I was missing something.

      Delete
    3. @Aperama
      I wonder if there are better ways to write about these games, conveying the experience without being like a walk-throughs. The thing with adventure games it that there is really only one way to do things.

      I think both of your gripes have merit, especially the disguise one, although if you ask me, the merchant's disguise is pretty good. The yeoman . . . eh.

      Delete
    4. @Laukku
      Interesting! They did kind of think of everything. That sounds like a potential way to dead-end yourself, though, supposing the guard doesn't let you in if Robin did not dye his beard.

      Delete
    5. @Charles
      They think Robin is Puck! That's great!

      I did go to Lobb, but with the beard-dye. The conversation began with him unable to recognize Robin, and Robin commented to himself that he has confidence in the disguise because Lobb did not see through it. I like this subtle hint.

      Delete
  3. I think I followed the worst advice of the bunch but it was then when I decided to press on and stick to the consequences of my decisions, good or bad. As it turns out there were more of the former than of the latter.

    Do you know what happens if you give the diamond in exchange for the jeweller's disguise? I did reload that but only because warned me in no uncertain terms that it was a bad choice (apart from lowering my score). It was obvious I was heading towards a deadend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *...only because the game warned me

      Delete
    2. More good consequences from the worst plan of action . . . interesting. Also, I did not know for a fact that the game gives a warning if you go through with the emerald exchange. I just figured it's a bad idea because of it's past use in getting Robin laid. I figured he'd want to hold on to it, and it turns out I was right.

      Delete
    3. Oh sorry, I meant that later I managed to make more good decisions than bad. As for the game warnings, yes, one of your men comments that maybe you shouldn't have traded the diamond and the game text mentions you feel as if you've made a terrible choice or something like that. So you can't really miss it, but I wonder what happens down the road if you ignore the admonitions.

      Delete
    4. Got you Charles. Having just finished the game, I wonder if tvivat njnl gur trz rvgure chgf lbh va na hajvaanoyr fgngr (orpnhfr Znevna qvrf) be rafherf gung lbh trg n "onq" raqvat.

      Delete