When you think of Robin Hood, you’re probably more likely to imagine Mel Brooks and a band of merry men than dark fantasy or Game of Thrones. But Hood: Outlaws and Legends seeks to redefine this classic tale by marrying multiplayer heist action with a grim and bloody aesthetic, a combination that thoroughly impressed me over the course of my hands-on session with the game. It’s unique, it’s deep, and it could well be one of the intriguing multiplayer releases of 2021.
In Hood: Outlaws and Legends, you take on the role of Robin Hood and his band as they attempt to rob from the rich and give to the poor. Over the course of three PvPvE phrases you infiltrate a keep, break into the vault, and attempt to escape with the treasure within. If you’re lucky, you’ll escape without ever alerting the guards. If you’re unlucky, you will have to fight to escape with your freshly stolen chest of gold.
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Opposing you is not just a keep full of knights, soldiers, and archers, but another group of thieves trying to steal the gold for themselves. This makes the heist an exciting race as the two teams battle the guards and each other in the course of trying to make off with the treasure, with a combination of stealth, communication, and smart map management being the key to victory.
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It makes for a fresh and exciting multiplayer experience, one featuring elements like medieval melee combat that aren’t often seen in competitive multiplayer games. It clicks almost immediately as you scurry with your teammates through the courtyard, stealthily assassinating opposing guards as you search for The Sheriff – a hulking knight holding the key to the vault. Anyone who has played a third-person action game in the past decade will immediately feel at home in these opening moments, making Hood: Outlaws and Legends more accessible than you’d expect given its large number of moving parts.
Matches move very quickly, sometimes running smoothly as one team quickly and quietly grabs the key from the Sheriff, opens the vault, and winches away the treasure, but more often than not devolving into chaos as the two teams repeatedly ambush one another on the way to the extraction point. Once the chest is attached to the winch, the team in control of the chest will earn gold with each successive turn of the crank until the treasure is eventually lifted away from the battlefield. The close-quarters battles that rage around the extraction point makes for a ferocious and thrilling finale to the match, with The Sheriff popping in to smash the head of any unfortunate player who gets too close.
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All of this may sound messy and complicated in theory, but in practice it all comes together rather nicely. Elements like opening and closing gates, controlling spawn points, and utilizing the various shortcuts scattered throughout the map serve to further deepen the strategy. When the match is over, money earned from the heist can be invested in buying new costumes and unique character perks, or in building out your hideout. Developer Sumo Digital is promising a continuous flow of new content throughout the coming year, including a battle pass, with all gameplay-related additions including new maps being available for free. Next-gen console owners, meanwhile, will be able to enjoy real-time ray tracing and 60fps framerates.
High-quality multiplayer games based on medieval combat are very rare, not the least because it’s extremely hard to balance melee fighters with ranged attackers. Sumo Digital has clearly worked hard to strike that balance, and so far the results are extremely promising. Hood: Outlaws and Legends has the makings of a fast, fun and deep experience that neatly melds the gameplay of popular third-person action games like Assassin’s Creed with team-based multiplayer games like Payday. If it succeeds, it won’t just be the coolest Robin Hood game to date – it will be one of the best multiplayer games of 2021. We’ll be able to see for ourselves when it arrives on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, and PC on May 10th.
Kat Bailey is a games media veteran, most recently as the editor-in-chief of USgamer. Talk games with her on Twitter at @The_Katbot and don’t miss her RPG podcast, The Axe of the Blood God.