Hood: Outlaws & Legends is a PvPvE stealth game set in a slightly fantastical version of Medieval England. It puts a grittier spin on the often-romanticised tales of legendary do-gooder Robin Hood and his band of merry men. This is a property always ripe for interpretation (and which I will argue forever has never been done better than Mel Brooke’s Men in Tights – sorry, Costner). We’ve seen modernised versions, “realistic” versions, versions with adventure, tragedy, and comedy. So how do Focus Home Interactive and SUMO Digital plan on etching their particular retelling in our minds?
Well, first of all, by tying the legend to a 4v4 stealth game with a hint of Hunt: Showdown to it. In Hood: Outlaws & Legends you pick one of four characters to build a ragtag rabble of rambunctious ruffians ready to rob the rich and, possibly, give to the poor. At launch there’s only the quartet of Robin, stealthy Ranger, Marianne, also-stealthy Hunter, Brawler John (omitting the “Little” part) who isn’t really stealthy at all, and Mystic Tooke, who is somewhat different to the lovable Friar Tuck usually present in the legends and who looks like he was possibly air-dropped in from a different game.
Hood: Outlaws & Legends – Not so merry men
With a relatively small roster you will often see teams consisting of the same character more than once, so any hint of realism is out the window. As indeed is any story, for there is none. You simply assemble a team and go on heists, all of which have identical bones upon which your style of play and teamwork (or lack thereof) will apply the flesh and blood.
At present, I have reservations about the amount of content. While there are six different maps, the actual objectives don’t change. Get in, pickpocket the key from the Sheriff (a huge, armour-plated nightmare that will kill you instantly if he catches you), and find the chest. The chest itself moves around each match, although there are multiple extraction points to take it to. Then, one or two of you will need to operate a winch to extract it… somewhere. I’m not sure where it goes or why it becomes your property and the game ends once you’ve winched it, but story here is something that would probably just get in the way.
The twist is that the opposing team always have the same objectives. Once one team gets the key, the objective switches to stealing it from the Sheriff to stealing it from them, and the laborious walk to the extraction point with a fully-laden chest is a tough stretch when the other team is pelting you with arrows and giant hammers.
For the people
See, each character has their own skillset and abilities. Robin is a ranged combatant (though has unlockable Perks to strengthen his melee capabilities a little) who can also flashbomb the enemy. Marianne can go all the way invisible for a short time, Tooke can highlight nearby enemies, and John can lift massive portcullis gates and explode heads with his enormous mallet. Aside John, the melee element is a little underdeveloped, and frankly I’ve seen a few teams comprised of two Johns and two Mariannes that are nigh impossible to beat up close.
Characters control well enough, but I found the default brightness to be too dark. Any time my internet faltered I had players and NPCs behaving strangely, dying on their feet, swaying for the duration of the match, or teleporting all over the place.
My biggest gripe right now is that there’s only one type of Heist. While two fully-coordinated, communicating teams can enjoy a dynamic experience each time, if you’re trying to play this with a silent group, you may struggle to have a lot of fun. And that’s partly because opportunities to sabotage the other team seem thin on the ground. I once spied an enemy Robin closing on the Sheriff and shot the big guy in the back to make him turn and kill the other player. It felt incredibly cool at the time, but you can’t block routes or set traps or anything like that, really. As a result, most matches I’ve played have devolved into chaos once one team gets the chest.
Who shot the Sheriff?
It stops being fun when you’re just running in and slaughtering the other team before grabbing the chest and getting as far as you can before they respawn and do the same. And there’s a huge argument for playing with people you know and really coordinating your attacks, but if you don’t have that option the whole thing feels too messy to fully enjoy. Likewise, I rarely felt there was time to go off exploring to locate the hidden collectibles, because my team always needed me to be on the ball, regardless of which character I was playing.
And yet despite the overall lack of real variety, what’s here does feel unique and atmospheric. It’s a new take on a rarely tried formula, and if nothing else sets a foundation for more game modes and more characters in the future. At present, only the unlockable items keep you grinding. Most of these are purely cosmetic and, to be honest, result in more progression bars than it needs. Only the Perks are tied to character development or build diversity. These allow for things like increased XP gains or more stamina for attack and defence. But with a Hideout level, a Character level and a Player level all affecting different elements ,as well as collectible gold, there feels like there’s too much going on.
Hood: Outlaws & Legends, then, is a pretty good craic with a group you know, or people who know what they’re doing. But a bunch of amateurs without a mic between them may struggle to have a good time. The character design, atmospheric, detailed locales and overall sense of urgency and teamwork make for an enjoyable, compelling experience, but right now the content available at launch feels a little undercooked.
Great with a group of friends
Not a lot of variety
Too many progression counters
Not great with strangers