Saturday 23 January 2016

Conquests of the Longbow – The Hunchback of Sherwood Forest

Written by Alex

Wonder Twin powers, activate!

Conquests of the Longbow is broken up into separate days, but unlike the Quest for Glory series, the player has no control over when to end the days, nor is there any indication that time is passing. I generally have no issue with this, and Longbow moves at a brisk pace. This also makes it easier to write these posts. The only downsides of this episodic structure are narrative, in that it seems silly to do only one thing and then call it a night, and personal, in that I can’t escape the feeling that I triggered the end of the day without completing all that there is to do. I’m quite confident that Christy Marx and company have not created a game full of Sierra Walking Dead Scenarios™, so I won’t be too obsessive about saving and reloading. However, I just want to experience all that this game has to offer.

Day 2

The last post ended at the end of day one, with Robin waking up after a serious bender with the Merry Men.

Sounds like college.

“I’ll say, bro!”

To recap, Robin had a dream about Marian dancing in the sacred willow grove. She vanished and left behind half of an emerald heart, which Robin took. When he awoke, the emerald was in his hand. Outside of Robin’s cave, Will Scarlet relayed a message from a contact of his in the town of Nottingham named Lobb, a cobbler. Lobb has information about King Richard and wants Robin Hood to stop by, with the condition that Robin bring a lady’s slipper to prove his identity. Sounds like a quest to me! A rather Cinderella-esque quest, albeit, that I sure hope doesn’t end with Robin marrying Lobb the cobbler, but a quest nonetheless. Onward!

I check the usual spots: The Widow’s cabin, the archery target, the ancient oak, the Watling Street overlook, and the sacred willow grove. I’m convinced that either Marian or her slipper will be in the grove, but it is empty. I even take a trip to the monastery in the fens; not only do I find nobody there, but I cannot cross the swamp to get into the place. The only fens I know of are in Boston, and they aren’t nearly this bad.

I’m sure the monks who live here are a real cheery bunch.

There’s only one place left on my list: the town of Nottingham.

Unfortunately, without a disguise the only place Robin can visit is the pub.

SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: This screen also serves as the site of an interesting death in the VGA remake of Space Quest I, reviewed on this very site by Mr. Andy Panthro! Read it today!

All Robin can do in the pub is get arrested by the Sheriff’s men.

It’s almost as if wandering into town as the most wanted man in Nottingham without a disguise was a bad idea.

The Merry Men, of course, have a good time singing about Robin’s death like the merry bunch of men that they are.

Even in death, they bust his balls.

I thought I might have been able to filch a disguise in there, seeing as how all of my other ideas came to naught, but alas, I was mistaken. I want on the overlook like a dope for someone to come down Watling Street, thinking I could steal their clothes, but nothing happened.

Stymied, I revisited the grove, thinking that, like an insane person doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, that maybe the slipper would be there. It was not.

Pictured: insanity.

Frustrated, I left the grove and started walking west towards the edge of Sherwood Forest so I can access the map screen. At this point, much as I did with drawing arrows, I have forgotten the part in the manual that specifically tells the player about the “Map” icon in the status bar. This turned out to be a good thing, as a few screens over I encountered Marian on a horse being harassed by a monk from the fens.

Marian calls for help, and Robin, exclaiming that she is quite literally the woman of his dreams, leaps into action. I try talking to the monk, but he just tells Robin he’ll kill him too. I didn’t realize that the monks in the fens were evil, but I shouldn’t be surprised by this trope: Religious people, especially Christians, are always evil hypocrites. Haven’t you ever watched TV?

But wait! This is not true in this case! In Longbow, there’s a reason for the monks’ badness we will get to later. Trope thwarted!

Back to Marian. If you dally too long, trying to blow the horn or talk to the monk, he knocks Marian out, takes her away, and insults Robin to boot. Or should that be “to slipper,” as a dainty pink slipper falls from Marian’s foot and falls on the ground. I appreciate that the game offers you different ways of accomplishing a task, but I’m not going to let this insult stand.

“Not much of an outlaw,” he says. I’ll tell you what I am, monk! I’m an outlaw with a restore button! And, by the way, it’s OUTLAW!!!!!!!!

How you like me now?!

Marian is saved (100 points), but instead of dismounting and immediately making out with Robin, she plays it safe. While Marian remembers her manners and thanks Robin, she does not know who he is and asks to be taken to the leader of the outlaws of Sherwood. Robin identifies himself, but it isn’t enough for some sweet, sweet loving. Marian needs to know if Robin is someone she can trust, so she gives him her slipper (100) and rides off to parts unknown.

You know, depending on Robin’s particular, ah, sexual proclivities, this slipper may be all the reward he needs.

Oh boy! Proof of my identity! Let’s go see Lobb immediately! Or not. The game has other ideas.

The monk had nothing Robin could take, in case you were wondering.

Still busting your leader’s balls, I see. I can’t say I disapprove.

And so day two ends by the game’s holy decree. The only revelation to come from the Merry Men’s late-night gabfest is that Marian and Lobb are somehow linked, which isn’t really shocking if you’ve been paying attention while playing. Still, I appreciate these little recaps. They even remind the player that Robin still needs a disguise.

Hey, here’s an idea! Can’t he just, I don’t know, borrow Friar Tuck’s robes? Tuck’s a big dude, so I’m sure Robin would fit in them, and I doubt that the Sheriff’s men would recognize Tuck’s particular robes out of the hundreds of other monks that they see. But what do I know, I don’t design adventure games, nor am I an OUTLAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I only play one on the Internet.

Day 3

No dreams or mysterious gemstones, not even any Merry Men hanging out in the camp. I decide I really want to see Lobb, since time is ticking and King Richard is no closer to being rescued, so I head to the overlook. After a few moments spent enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, a hunchbacked beggar comes lurching down Watling Street.

Look at him lurch!

The old fellow asks for some alms, but Robin has other ideas. Such as “I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.” Or just your clothes.

As with Robin’s Watling Street encounter on day one, I try several things:

  • Blowing the horn informs the player that Robin doesn’t need any help with a harmless beggar. If Christy Marx were a jerk or Jim Walls, she would make the “harmless” beggar stab Robin with a broadsword produced from his undergarments or something.
  • The game will not let Robin kill the beggar. This is good, because that would be horrible.
  • You can give the beggar some money in exchange for his clothes. Robin then blows his horn to call his men and orders them to give the beggar food, more cash, and spare clothes before sending him back northward.
  • You can also give the beggar the gem in exchange for his clothes, but let’s not be ridiculous!

Safely disguised in smelly rags (100) complete with fake hunch (seriously), Robin does a little lurching of his own into the town of Nottingham.

I sure wish I got to rag on my boss with impunity.

In Nottingham, Robin can visit each location. I check them all out before visiting Lobb. Robin can:

  • Get drunk in the pub, insult some of the Sheriff’s men who make a toast to Prince John, and get taken to jail where he is soon recognized and executed. . .

  •  Go to the castle and get repeatedly kicked in the nuts while trying to bribe or sweet-talk his way in . . .

  •  Get ignored by the Abbot of St. Mary’s . . .

  •  Or quit screwing around and go to Lobb’s place.

It’s a real “up and coming” neighborhood.

There’s not much going on here. A cat and a duck wander by, and a woman standing on the street is a tailor who summarily insults Robin’s clothes. I give her some money and get no points for it, but feel a warm glow of satisfaction that I have helped my fellow pixelated human beings. Yes, I don’t get out enough.

Lobb is in the building on the right side of the street. Robin tries to introduce himself, but Lobb plays dumb. However, he changes his tune when he sees Marian’s slipper (25) and invites Robin into his back room to have a palaver.

Robin learns that Prince John and the Abbot of St. Mary’s have been colluding to divert or otherwise steal the ransom money that Queen Eleanor is trying to raise to free King Richard. A hoard of 50,000 marks is being taken from the Queen by Prince John and given to the Abbot. The treasure will be sent from York southward down Watling Street to Nottingham. Lobb asks if Robin could perhaps borrow this money and return it to its rightful owner. Hell yes Robin will! This sounds like a quest worthy of an OUTLAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lobb leaves for York to learn more about the delivery and vows to send Robin word. Before leaving, he then gives Robin a silver comb (25), instructing Robin to give it to Marian the next time he sees her to prove that Robin is in on the mission. Marian, Lobb says, acts as a demure maiden in town, but outside she is . . . something else. Regardless, Robin is to never look for her in town and instead seek her out only in the sacred willow grove. Robin decides to call it a day and head back to camp.

You know, I didn’t see YOU risking your life in Nottingham to do something useful.

Day 4

Robin gets out of bed and, horny bastard that he is, heads straight for the sacred willow grove. Will tells Robin that Little John might be at the overlook but who cares?

Not this Overlook, thank God.

Robin is in luck! Marian is there, waiting for news of his meeting with Lobb!

His weapons, not his clothes

Marian plays coy, still saying she does not know if she can fully trust Robin. Why she wouldn’t trust a dude who dresses in green tights and traipses around the forest robbing people and killing them with arrows is beyond me, but to each her own.

I try giving Marian the gemstone, but she says it is not the token she is looking for. I give her the comb (50), and that opens the floodgates.

Marian is overjoyed that Robin is willing to help. Robin says he will get the 50,000 marks, and will also raise money by other means. Marian isn’t too keen on the whole stealing thing, but Robin tells her that he only steals from the corrupt and the wicked who have taken the money from the people in the first place. Still, Robin will be recovering other people’s money and spending it on the king’s ransom. Wouldn’t those people want their own money back? Call me crazy, but it still seems like theft.

Marian also tasks Robin with another quest. It turns out that the monks in the fens are not just your typical, run-of-the-mill, evil and hypocritical religious-type people. They are all former soldiers hand-picked by Prince John who set up a phony monastic order as a cover for various shady dealings. They have stolen a scroll with a drawing of a hand on it from Marian, and she wants it back. Fetch quests are alright in Robin’s book as long as they bring him closer to Marian.

Quest accepted, Robin tries to profess his love for Marian. She’s still playing hard to get until Robin shows her the emerald (50) and tells of how he found it. It turns out that Marian has a half-heart made of diamond. They put the two together and, bam, instant love. We have perhaps the first instance of a realistic romance in an adventure game. This is exactly how I met my wife.

Their gemstone-based union is bound to last for eternity. Or until some guy comes along with a platinum heart.

To Robin’s chagrin, Marian will not consummate their apparent marriage until the King is saved. With a serious case of blue-balls, Robin heads to the overlook. Maybe something interesting will come down the street.

Something interesting.

A guard is carrying off a poacher for execution. It turns out that the guy killed one of the Prince’s deer and the penalty is death. Admittedly, the guy was starving, but the law is the law.

Oh, who am I kidding. I’m an OUTLAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As with the encounter with the captured woman, bribes don’t work and summoning the Merry Men results in no help and the Sheriff’s goon calling Robin a coward. There’s only one thing left to do.

So satisfying! And I get 100 points to boot. Robin calls for the Merry Men to fetch this guy’s deer and bring him back to his family. As he walks away, I get it in my mind to give him money. Robin forks over a few coins (100), which makes the poacher quite happy. I then remember back to day one after saving the peasant woman. There is a similar instance after the encounter where she is walking off-screen but I still had control of Robin. I remember trying to give her money the way I gave the poacher money, but the game gave a message stating “Why did you click there, IDIOT,” or something like that. Maybe I just clicked on the wrong spot? Being the points-fiend I am, I restore back to that point. Guess what: You can give her money, and you get 50 points for doing so.

I guess I’m just a really charitable individual.

Did I then play through the rest of the game up to the poacher encounter just to have those extra 50 points?

Yes.Yes I did.

Anyway, after saving the poacher, day four comes to a close with the Merry Men trying to get Robin to tell all about Maid Marian.

But Robin’s not one to kiss and tell, mainly because he didn’t get to kiss. He retires for the night with two missions: retrieve the hand scroll from the monks of the fen, and await word from Lobb regarding their upcoming heist. Should be fun!

Session Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Total Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes

Inventory: Horn, money, gem
Ransom: 300
Outlaws: 31
Score: 860 out of 7325

Corrections and Omissions: I’m a dum-dum, you’re smart. Tell me about it!
*5 CAPs for Joseph Curwen for his excellent discussion about kings and such. Read it!


  1. I also had to reload after being mocked by the monk. I wonder what happens if he gets away with Marian?

    1. I wondered that too. I imagine, given the great design of this game over all and based on Christy's past Conquest game, you have an opportunity to get her later, but that it might affect the ending.

    2. Actually, this is the one bit, where you might hit a dead end. Marian gets killed, and when you try to take the slipper to Lobb, he gets angry at you not saving Marion and kills you:

    3. @Ilmari

      Interesting! I'm glad that I didn't play this one out, then. This makes sense, though, and doesn't seem like an unfair "punishment" for acting like a hero. Nothing wrong with a game that lets you lose, as long as the loss makes logical sense and doesn't seem unfair.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Death by dead end is best death.


  3. Just to point out the obvious, here. You kill a seemingly unarmed monk? You get points. You kill a guard not for being evil, but for performing his duties as he finds someone breaking the law? Points.

    This game has one evil freaking Robin of Locksley! If he's really the marksman he purports to be, he could easily have injured the guard to let the poacher free. Much the same with the monk - he had a bloody stick in hand! (I'm also a little annoyed that you couldn't take the robes from his corpse - assuredly that would be a better disguise as far as 'accessing' places - I know you had Tuck's robes in mind, but those are literally not being used!)

    1. @Aperama

      When you search the monk, the game tells you that his robes are too blood-stained and torn to be of use. So at least the designers put some thought into the situation.

      Regarding the gory nature of this game, a little known fact is that it was this game and not Mortal Kombat that prompted US Senator Joseph Lieberman's congressional inquiry into violence in video games in the late 90s.

  4. The black monk was heavily armed with a quarterstaff, which does a solid 1d8 damage and can instakill a grown outlaw, as we'll see soon enough.

    This may have been brought up before, but it bears repeating: a few weeks ago Aubrey Hodges published a remaster of the QFG4 soundtrack, with real electric guitars and all. It's very good. What's more, he's intending to remaster the Conquests of the Longbow soundtrack as well a little ways down the line!

    1. @Kirinn

      Excellent point about the black monk. Clearly, he was a threat worthy of being skewered.

      And I have heard Aubrey Hodges's rerecorded QfG IV soundtrack and it is fantastic! I saw the link on the Hero-U forums not too long ago and listened to the whole thing. The tunes are great in-game and sound spectacular fully orchestrated. I highly recommend it.

  5. I think you should keep a running tally of "problems solved by shooting them with a longbow." What are we up to now, three?

    I mean, I guess the game is Conquests of the Longbow, but still, not really much of a puzzle, is it?

    1. I find that the game doesn't offer much in the way of traditional inventory puzzles and it leans more on the flow of the story. It's all mostly a question of exploring and attending the right events. And there seems to be some wiggle room for your actions. I have already "failed" one task and the game still goes on (this is not a dead end like letting Marian die).

    2. @Fry

      This is a great idea! Look for it in future posts. You will get credit.

    3. @Charles

      You are farther than I am, but I am inclined to agree. There are certainly some instances where an items needs to be used a certain way, but the game is big on choices more than brute-force clicking. I'll have more to say about this in the next post.

  6. This is one of my favourite Sierra games. I love all the alternate "solutions" which make the game seem less linear and restrictive. You can play as a total irresponsible monster/fool (but you get less points).

  7. Welp, I've finished my degree and gotten a new job, so hopefully I'll have more time and energy to actually catch up on the blog, so I won't be six years behind for much longer....