Friday, 26 February 2016

Conquests of the Longbow – Won! (Plus a Surprise)

Written by Alex

Well, I did it. I have conquered Conquests of the Longbow. And for the first time in a while since I started blogging here, I enjoyed every minute of this game. My only gripe is that I wish it were longer: There were three more game days since my last post, but they came and went quickly. But at least they were consequential and chockablock with action. I’ll go through each day in a similarly swift manner.

But before I do, I want to underscore again how much this game does right. I don’t think we’ve such a game so well-constructed since The Secret of Monkey Island, although one could make a strong case for Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire. In any event, we’ll get to all of that in the forthcoming final rating post, although given the tenor of my posts it’s not surprising that Longbow will likely land near the top of the PISSED scale.

And finally, please read this post to the end because, in the grand tradition of the Adventure Gamer blog, I have a cool surprise for everybody.

“I’d say I’m ‘intrigued,’ if I knew what that word means, bro.”

Day 11: He Steals from the Rich and Gives to the . . . uh . . . Rich . . .

A day after rescuing Marian from certain death, thanks in large part to the tactical genius of Little John, Robin awakens to Friar Tuck running—yes, running—with the news that the Sheriff’s treasure train has been spotted. Finally, Robin and the Merry Men will be able to collect enough ransom to free King Richard from the evil King and/or Duke Leopold of Austria (although the coffee’s probably better in Austria, so maybe he won’t want to come back after all). This time, I don’t ignore Tuck’s comment that the men are within hearing range and run off like a dope to the Watling Street Overlook and try to overcome the treasure train myself. Nope, I’ve learned that it’s more prudent to give Robin’s horn a toot and consult with his crew.

We all know that Little John is going to present the best plan for robbing the Baron and his 40 men (20 spearmen and 20 archers . . . 34 against 40, eh? I like our odds!) of their ill-gotten booty. But Robin is a good leader and will at least give the appearance of listening to the rest of his men.

Um, actually, this time it’s Tuck’s plan that makes the most sense. John’s is actually pretty bad. Not as bad as Alan’s or Much’s plans. Wild boars, Much? Really? What do you do here, anyway? Not much, I guess!

I choose Friar Tuck’s plan since I’m smart like that, but because I care about you, the readers, I tried out all of these schemes for your enjoyment.

Each option brings up a cut-scene of the battle between the Merry Men and Baron LeFevre’s lackeys, showing how many of each perish before the treasure is finally taken, followed by a textual description of the events. What changes are the amount of Robin’s men lost and the points gained. Without further ado:

Little John: I hate to say it, John, but you didn’t bring you’re A-game here. We beat the Baron’s men (200 points) and get the treasure (500), but lose three men in the process.

Will Scarlett: Will’s ambush from the Overlook works out better than John’s plan. At least the game thinks so by giving me 400 points at the cost of two outlaws. How much is a human life worth? 100 points, apparently.

Alan: After losing four men and gaining 100 points, it’s clear that Alan should stick to music.

Much: Much’s plan, if you recall, was to confuse the Baron and his men with wild boars. There isn’t much to say about this.

Oh, who am I kidding? This is hilarious! You get 0 points, fail to capture the treasure, and lose one man. Who was gored to death. By a boar. That Much thought should be used to distract the Baron and his men.

And yet, the game lets you go on! The Merry Men return to camp, lamenting their loss, and decide that they’ll just give over whatever ransom they’ve got. But that’s not how an OUTLAW!!!!! operates. Nope. The real Robin Hood, and by extension, me, would have chosen Friar Tuck’s plan, which goes a little something like this:

This is how you do it: 500 points for the plan, 500 points for getting the treasure, zero men lost. Remember kids: When in doubt, ignore Alan or Much.

Day 12: The Queen’s Knight?

They’ve got the money, they’ve got the men, they’ve even got the Good Lord on their side. What’s a green-clad archer with 65,300 big ones and a price on his head to do? Why, hand it over and save the King!

Except the Sheriff has decided to hunt for Robin again. Little John warns Robin not to leave Sherwood until they’re gone.

I don’t have time for this! But nothing happens on Watling Street, or anywhere else, so there’s little else to do but wander through the forest and do exactly what I did on day nine.


After escaping from the Sheriff’s stupid men yet again (75), I come to the realization that I probably didn’t need to be at the Green Man to pull off this trick. Remember way back when I wrote that clicking “Eye” on certain trees in the forest brings up a picture of said tree that matches the pictures in the manual? I’ll bet you Much’s moustache that I could just spell the Druidic name of my tree of choice using the hand code and transform into my preferred deciduous or coniferous forest friend. Perhaps I’ll try this on my next playthrough.

The important thing, as with before, is that the game can move on. This feels a little like padding, although it does seem logical that the Sheriff, after losing the treasure, would have a bug up his bum about getting Robin Hood once and for all.

While Robin was out frolicking with the Sheriff’s men, Little John, Friar Tuck, and Will Scarlett—the only Merry Men worth anything, really—stop a knight on Watling Street. It must be the Queen’s trusted confidant, ready to exchange secret Druidic codes (called at the time, no fooling, “Hand Jobs”) to establish trust and hand over the ransom. How exciting!

Alas, he’s kind of a jerk. He orders Robin to send his men away, and refuses to state that he’s loyal to the Queen. Little John has a bad feeling about this. So do the rest of the guys, including Robin. But he’s the leader, and he needs to hand over the dough, so he sends his men off and proceeds with the plan.

Just don’t get too handy with him.

Instead of talking or clicking “Hand” on this brute, or giving him anything, Robin spells “RANSOM” using the hand code (50). “What were you doing with your hand?” barks the knight.

“Bro. Gross.”

“Perhaps you didn’t watch closely enough the first time,” said Robin. “Shall I do it again?”


But I don’t. I keep talking to the guy, asking for proof that he is, indeed, the Queen’s Knight, and he again balks at swearing his fealty to Queen Eleanor. “You false knight! What have you done with the true messenger?!” Robin demands. The imposter answers by drawing his sword. “Here’s your answer!” Doesn’t he know that swords have nothing on a longbow?

Arrowed! (50 points)

The guy was a fake. But this begs the question, where is the real Queen’s Knight? Searching this chump’s body provides an answer, albeit a cryptic one (50): A letter, from the Prior of the fens monastery to the Sheriff of Nottingham, sealed with the Prior’s own ring. It reads:

“I have advised the Prince that we have succeeded in our mission. The cub is taken. The Lion is caged.”

The Lion is obviously King Richard. I’m guessing that the cub is the Queen’s Knight. And judging by who sent the letter, he’s probably imprisoned in the fens. I knew that water ring would come in handy at someday!

Day 13: Checkmate

Jailbreaks have become a bit of a habit for Robin as of late. There’s been the Widow’s three sons, Fulk, and Maid Marian. Might as well cap it off with a knight and the frigginKing. Robin summons his men to tell them its do-or-die time.

And if he listened to any of their advice, he’d probably die.

No disguises. No back-up. Just a man, his tights, and a ring.

The will-o’-the-wisps know of Robin’s errand, because magic, and inform him that the one he seeks is imprisoned in a tower. They guide Robin through the fog to the shores of the monastery and the tower containing the Queen’s Knight. It’s not as romantic as rescuing, say, your future Queen, but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to dramatic tower rescues. And dramatic it is.

Remember when I discussed how Longbow does a great job of adding tension to its set pieces?

“In screenwriting there is an axiom that every scene needs conflict. In other words, the writer should never make things easy for the protagonist. Steven Spielberg was the master of this. Jurassic Park, the Back to the Future trilogy and the Indiana Jones movies keep viewers on the edge of their seats by ratcheting up the tension: Right when you think the heroes are going to get away with their latest adventure, another obstacle gets thrown in their way. It can get ridiculous, but it makes for one hell of an entertaining thrill ride.

These movies also dispensed with elaborate backstories, which are more appropriate in books than on-screen. Think about the opening text crawls of the Star Wars movies: Everything you need to know is in there, and no time gets wasted getting to the action in medias res.

These same general rules can go for any type of fiction, including computer games. And it sure seems like Christy Marx and her colleagues know what they’re doing. Not only does Conquests of the Longbow drop the player into the thick of things sans overlong flashbacks, something I praised in my first gameplay post. Robin’s missions follow suit: He wakes up, and right away there’s a conflict. And solving it is anything but a cakewalk.

The same can be said for this sequence.

First, Robin needs to get to the tower. See the plant in the screenshot above? That’s ivy, or Gort in Druidic (seriously: Gort). It’s too weak for Robin to climb, but by spelling Gort on Robin’s hand (25), the ivy grows thick and lush. Thick enough to climb, and lush enough to wet its pants uncontrollably.

I mean, it is pretty lush. Look at it!

Robin does have to climb a few screens of tower manually, but it’s nothing as hellish as that stupid beanstalk in King’s Quest I.

Robin gets to the top (25), but a couple of evil monks pace the parapets. Robin can slip in through the window when their backs are turned, but remember them for later.

Yup, through the trees at the top of A FRIGGIN’ CASTLE!

Inside is the real Queens’ Knight, Sir Not-Named-in-this-Game. There’s only one problem: He doesn’t believe Robin’s story. Even giving him the Prior’s letter (100) isn’t enough to convince him to escape with Robin, mainly because the knight cannot read. It’s only when Robin spells “RANSOM” (50) that Good Sir Illiterate agrees to climb down the tower.

Because why wouldn’t you trust a tights-wearin’, beard-sportin’, hand-jivin’, spirit-lovin’ outlaw?

Robin and the Nameless Knight start climbing down the tower when it starts to rain. Rain boulders! Thrown by the two dummies up on the tower.

It’s a pretty cool sequence where you have to move Robin back and forth to avoid the monks’ rocks as Robin slowly makes his way down to the boat (100). I died a few times, but nowhere near as many times as during the skimmer ride in Space Quest I. Seriously, Sierra games can be brutal with their arcade sequences. But not this one (admittedly, I hadn’t moved the game’s Arcade Difficulty slider from its default position).

Anyway, the game goes on autopilot after this, with Robin and the Knight making their escape to Sherwood Forest, getting the ransom money ready, and sending the Knight on his way to Austria to free the King!

This Story Is Happy End

I won’t go blow-by-blow through the ending, but suffice it to say, it’s very satisfying.

Robin and his crew wait for word about the King. At least Robin has Marian to keep him company, and presumably he spends most of his time blasting her as time ticks slowly by. But there comes a time in every outlaw’s life where they slip a little, make a mistake, and get caught by the authorities. Robin’s time comes in the spring of 1194 when, on a mission with his men to restock their supplies, they’re all captured and sentenced by the Sheriff himself to hang. But at the precise moment Robin’s about to die, King Richard returns, halts the execution, berates the Sheriff for not conducting a fair trial, and proceeds to conduct the trial of The Kingdom of England v. Robin Hood, et al. by himself. Court is now in session!

This part is awesome. Every decision Robin made comes back to either help or haunt him. In my case, since I played things so honorably that I might as well be called Saint Robin, everybody spoke out in my defense: Marian, the peasant woman, Lobb the cobbler, the poacher, Fulk, the yeoman, the Widow, the beggar, even the snarky merchant. And whenever the Abbott, the Prior, or the Sheriff spoke out against Robin, they got smacked down by the forces of good.


I can very easily imagine how different this ending would have looked if I played like a jerk, refusing to rescue anybody and in general being a nasty guy. But that’s just not in my nature.

To make a long story short, Robin is cleared of all wrongdoing, and in fact gets praised for the fact that he single-handedly raised the ransom to save the King! Shouldn’t that alone have been enough to set him free?

The following also happens, putting a neat bow on things:
  • Robin is cleared of all charges
  • Robin is declared a free man
  • The Merry Men are all granted full pardons
  • King Richard makes Robin the Earl of Huntingdon
  • The Sheriff of Nottingham is arrested for treason
  • Little John is declared the new Sheriff of Nottingham
  • The Abbott is exiled on pains of being burned alive
  • Friar Tuck is made the new Abbott of St. Mary’s
  • The Prior is exiled, and his order is disbanded for all time on pains of being slain by the new Sheriff if he is seen again
  • And last but not least, Robin marries Marian!

Great game. The end.

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

Inventory at End of Game: Money, horn, emerald, water ring, fire ring.
Ransom at End of Game: 0, but I raised a total of 65,300.
Outlaws at End of Game: 34. Everybody lived! Huzzah!
Final Score: 7190 out of 7325.

Total Problems Conquested by the Longbow – 7: “A [longbow] is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A [longbow] is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.”
Day 1: Rescued: Peasant woman. Longbowed: Sheriff’s goon.
Day 2: Rescued: Maid Marian. Longbowed: Evil fens monk.
Day 4: Rescued: Poacher. Longbowed: Sherrif’s goon.
Day 6: Threatened longbowing: Fens monk. He ended up getting quarterstaffed.
Day 8: Longbowed: Adam Bell . . . at least, in the archery competition.
Day 11: Longbowed: Baron LeFevre and his men.
Day 12: Longbowed: False knight. Hey, he threatened Robin first!

Corrections and Omissions: This game has multiple endings that depend on certain actions and solutions the player does or does not take, so have at it in the comments below.

But Wait! There’s More!

Following in the footsteps of great Adventure Gamer bloggers before me, I have reached out to the woman herself, Christy Marx, to see if she’d be willing to be interviewed for this site. And she said yes! She is a busy lady, and I am going to email her a few batches of questions at a time, but please put any questions you’d like me to send her in the comments below.

And One Last Thing
Because I know you’re all wondering, here’s a video of the bad ending to Conquests of the Longbow.



  1. Congrats on finishing the game with such a nice score. Mine wasn't nearly as good but at least I got a "good" ending, except for the fact that I ended up with no nobility title and so I was unable to marry Marian.

    All in all a much better game than I expected. I did find it a bit repetitive at times- e.g., many actions rely on you waiting out on Watling Street for something to happen- and a bit vague at others, but those are minor complaints.

    Of all the things I failed to do (which included rescuing the widow's sons and entering the Prior's quarters) probably the most intriguing is that I never used the trees. That is, I never turned into a tree to avoid the sheriff's men.

    It may be that I hit a bug, but after trying dozens of times to simply evade the hunting party by dashing madly through the forest only to eventually find myself cornered and caught, I accidentally found a "safe path". From the Widow's, I ran one screen downwards and three or so to the left until I reached Watling. At that point the game made a sound, my score went up, and Robin began walking normally. The strange thing is that I got no other feedback from the game. No notice that the forest was safe to traverse again or that I had managed to avoid the sheriff's men. This trick worked on Day 9 too.

    1. Yeah this game is really underrated. One of my favourite Sierra games. The story is nothing to write home about, but the design, execution and writing is excellent.

    2. @Charles

      I love the variation on the endings. The designers put a lot of thought into this game, which is very much appreciated.

      Re: avoiding the Sheriff's goons by running: Perhaps that is just an alternate solution? I find that both cool and odd, seeing as how the Druidic code is, presumably, a part of the game's copy protection (don't have the manual? You can't win, and all of that).

    3. @Laukuu

      Underrated now, I agree. But it did get many accolades at the time of its release.

    4. The ending variations seem like a more developed version of the morality system in Christy Marx's previous game, Conquests of Camelot.

      Speaking of avoiding Sheriff's goons, I replayed that section a few days ago and encountered a bug, where I transformed just as they were entering the screen: the lone guard passed by, the game claimed the danger was over and I returned to normal - and then died promptly afterwards!

    5. @Alex
      In fact, the hand code is required for freeing the Queen's Knight, and of course for solving the Green Man's riddles. But other than that, I kept waiting for the GM's promised "protection" throughout the whole game! XD

  2. YouTube link time!


    (Best death is talking to the black-robed monks. Also the death scream is a cut-off version of king Graham's scream from King's Quest V.)

    Ending variations:

    1. Hah! That is great! It looks like the player still has a chance to dodge the rocks, though. I wonder if Robin just escapes to the boat and leaves, thereby not saving the knight and getting an even worse ending.

  3. For those of us struggling (like I am) to come up with good questions, Christie has a Wikipedia page:

    Some ideas:

    1) How is developing a game different from your other television and film work? Which did you enjoy more and why?

    2) Is there any hope for a third "Conquest" game now that we have seen revivals of King's Quest and other properties? If there had been a third "Conquest" game, did you have any ideas what it would have been about?

    3) How did you get get started in adventure games?

    4) I was a great fan of "JEM" as a kid, despite probably not being in the target audience. Can you tell us something of your inspiration for that show and your involvement in creating the core characters and story?

    5) To the extent that you can, could you describe your current role at Zynga? How has your experience with adventure games shaped the work that you do? Are there any current or future projects that you would like to promote to your fans here?

    That's probably enough from me for now. :)

    1. I could ask specifically about the influences of the "Conquest" games. There are plenty of literary and film versions of both the Round Table and Robin Hood stories. Did you have any particular versions that you used as a source material for your games?

    2. Wow, you two, way to read a guy's mind and steal all of his questions! ;)

      Kidding aside, great questions! I'm not going to post my questions here; I'm just going to collect them all after giving the "Final Rating" post a few days.

  4. I finished it once, but that with a guide by my side since to my experience Sierra was always rather unreliable when it comes to dead-ends. Although they seemed to have learned there lesson it seems since most of the games in the 90's seemed to have gotten rid of that.

    Now looking at the story I personally would have preferred rescuing Marian in the end, a witch trial with your love on the line feels more like Ivanhoe and those medieval romance novels although I get why rescuing the Queen's knight is at the end since that is the original quest of the game, give the ransom to the Queen. Heck, why not capture him during the burning and do the court scene? Again I can guess why and that it would mean Robin spent months before Marian was captured since it probably didn't take a day or two before Richard was released and travelled back from Austria. Guess this story is more realistic than mine, kudos to them for a well thought out story.

    1. Yeah, this one is much more player-friendly, allowing for the game to go on no matter which choice made with only a few dead-ends that seem mostly for story purposes.

      I agree: Rescuing a knight isn't quite as dramatic as one would imagine, but it is a logical endpoint for this game. On the whole, the game does a great job of paying off its set-ups.

  5. Easily missed points right on the last day - showing Little John the prior's letter after dispensing with the false knight. Little John can't read either so Robin basically breaks it all down.

    1. Interesting! Thanks Mark. I never would have guessed that. Truth be told, I don't remember having control of Robin at that point.

  6. I wonder how the Queen's Knight was managed to be taught the hand code if he can't even read normal letters. Does anybody else think that's weird?

    1. Well, that depends, does he know it spells RANSOM or is he waiting for someone to show him a sequence of hand gestures? That is at least what I would guess.

    2. @Laukku: Great question.

      @Niklas: Great explanation!

  7. May I ask Christy a question about her late husband Peter Ledger's Marvel work, or would that be out of line?

    1. Hm that's a tough one Lightning. I think I might refrain, only because I approached Christy about asking her questions about her career and games and the like. What does everybody else think?

    2. My vote goes for "no". This is an interview about her good work, not her late husband's. (Unless he did games WITH her, but that's not what this question seems to be about.)

  8. As I've been playing far slower, I'm going to restart and try to have an Evil Robin playthrough score together by final rating - I figure Evil's sole aim will be to get the king on the throne so that he can unlock Marian's chastity belt (call the locksmith!)

    1. That'd be great Ape! Maybe we can work it into my Final Rating post.

  9. One question came in from Reddit so far:

    Did you have anything to do with the Conquest of the Longbow death scene in the remake of Space Quest 1?