What if Robin Hood but moodier than a mid-2000s Warped Tour ticket line? That’s the premise of Hood: Outlaws and Legends, a class-based multiplayer heist game based on a dark and stormy version of the Robin Hood folk tale, officially released yesterday for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation. (Over the weekend, those who pre-ordered were able to play.) Anyone who’s played a third-person action game released in the last decade will immediately pick up on how to play: light attacks, heavy attacks, crouching in bushes, all that jazz.
Each match plays out across three phases. During the first phase, you have to pickpocket a key from the Sheriff, an invincible non-player character (NPC) who moves slowly but can kill you in one hit, the bastard. During the second phase you have to bring the key to a vault, wherein lies a chest. During the third you lug the chest to one of several extraction points and hold the position as a progress bar slowly fills. Whoever wins in the final phase wins the round, though success in prior phases can beget experience points to the individual players who pull off those tasks.
You’re split into teams of four, and can choose from one of four classes at the outset of each round. The Ranger has a bow, which he can use to shoot down ropes, creating shortcuts. The Hunter, a stealth-based class, can walk silently, turn invisible, toss smoke grenades, and open locked doors. (She’s the best one.) The Mystic wields a flail and is the only class that can heal. The Brawler carries a sledgehammer. Ideally, each team would comprise one of each class, since some classes are better suited for specific phases.
At the end of each round, you’re awarded a certain amount of gold, based on how well your team performed. You can determine how much goes into your personal coffers (which you can spend on upgrades) and how much, in classic Robin Hood fashion, is set aside “for the people” (beefing up your hub area). It’s a nice touch, and allows you some autonomy over how you progress.
Last night, I hoodwinked Kotaku’s Zack Zweizen into playing a few hours of Hood with me.
We won a few rounds. We lost some, too. We also learned that a team could do everything right — could steal the key, could open the vault, could get nine-tenths of the way toward extracting the chest — and still lose. Whichever team actually completes the final step of the extraction process wins the round. Yes, it’s total bullshit. It’s also freakin’ hilarious and so, so cool when you pull it off, one of those rare “hell yeah!” moments you can only have when playing a video game.
But, as Zack put it, “You have to earn the cool moments.”
There are definitely aspects to Hood that will prove a lot of fun for a certain type of player, particularly one looking to shake things up in their list of go-to multiplayer games. The main thing missing, for me, is an offline mode of some sort, whether that’s a brief campaign or a horde mode or whatnot. Hood’s visuals are so terrific, calling to mind what you’d imagine a thoroughly modern Fable would look like; Zack also likened it to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s genuinely stunning 9th-century England. The combat, while a bit too clunky and leaden for competitive play, works just fine against the throngs of NPC guards that roam each map. I’d love to just…do that. (The closest the game offers is a Training Mode that allows you to matchmake a team of four to go up against NPCs, with no competing team in play. These matches don’t advance your character progression unfortunately.)
Hood’s tutorial shows what such a mode would look like. Over the course of a 20-minute intro mission, you’re given a rundown of how each phase works and how each class plays. You snap between characters, not unlike you would in another heist-focused game you may have heard of: Grand Theft Auto V. You scale ramparts, sneak through bushes, throw stones to distract guards, and then stab those guards, almost like you’re playing an Assassin’s Creed from its circa-2014 stealthy era. It is such a decadent taste of what a single-player game set in this world would play like. And then you never experience that again. It’s safe to say this might be the first time I’ve ever found myself more enraptured by a game’s tutorial than by the game itself.
For those seeking a multiplayer game with a unique structure and some novel concepts, Hood might be a bullseye. But given the upward battle many team-based, multiplayer-only action games face, I have no clue how Hood: Outlaws and Legends will stick the long tightrope walk these games face, what enticing additions the developers might bring to the table, or what will happen to the playerbase. It could swell three times over, or fizzle out in six months. According to data compiled by Steamcharts, Hood: Outlaws and Legends has hovered around a modest 8,200 concurrent players so far, so it’s not out of the proverbial Sherwood Forest just yet.