Game name: Hood: Outlaws & Legends
Release date: May 10, 2021
Available on: Steam
Genre: PvPvsPvE heist sim
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
I’ve always been in Team Robin Hood (and I’m willing to bet most people are too) so when I heard that Sumo Digital had partnered with Focus Home Interactive to make a title based on the legendary archer and his band of merry men, I was instantly onboard. As details started to come out, I sort of lost interest (I’m not that much into PvP these days, as I’d rather spend my gaming time on cooperative or solo experiences) but as the game’s release date got closer, the Robin Hood fanboy in my mind nagged me to get my hands on it, so I ended up doing it. Of course, that means there’s yet another review for you to read now, so we all win, right?
The basic premise of Hood: Outlaws & Legends is pretty simple; a team of four outlaws sets their sights on the State’s goods (with the intention of redistributing them to the people) and they carry out heists to get as much gold as possible. The State has an assortment of guards at their disposal, commanded by the fearsome Sheriff, who’s completely clad in plate armor, and will shrug off attacks like a champion. Of course, since things are never as easy as they seem, a rival outlaw gang will also set their sights on the same treasure, meaning that all matches will be against the State (AI) and other would-be robbers (real people). It’s not a completely novel concept, but I feel that there are very few PvPvsPvE titles out there, so it’s an attractive idea in a sea of Battle Royales and Team Deathmatches.
The Outlaw team has four different classes to choose from (Robin, who, as you might have guessed, is the long range expert of the bunch, and is armed with a bow which can shoot explosive arrows once the special ability meter is full), Marianne (stealth specialist, carries a hand crossbow and can go invisible once her meter is full), Little John (melee/heavyweight specialist who can lift portcullises to create new paths, can trigger an infinite stamina mode once his meter reaches 100%) and Tooke, who acts as a melee healer (getting to 100% charge will highlight enemies who are close to your location, as well as healing fellow outlaws who are close to the player). The combat system is basic but effective, with Robin and Marianne relying on dodges and ranged attacks, and Little John and Tooke going toe to toe with parries and melee blows. On a balanced team, that adds extra strategy, as the melee characters must try to protect their ranged friends from the wrath of the opposing team’s own melee outlaws, who will be trying to ambush them in order to gain the advantage of a close quarters fight. Interestingly, teams can use any composition they desire (so, for instance, going with four Little Johns is a valid tactic). I feel this is both a blessing and a curse, as I commend the idea that no one gets forced to play a class they don’t like, but have come face to face with way too many unbalanced teams who all pick melee characters and just stunlock the opposing force in a chaotic brawl near the extraction point for the chest. Another thing that can lead to frustrating deaths is the fact that all players can assassinate opponents who have their backs turned to them, so cheap deaths during melee brawls are very common.
When things go the right way, however, Hood is an extremely engaging experience. Stealth is highly encouraged, and stealing a chest without ever raising an alarm can be a big boon for a team, as that means their ability meters will have continuously charged (abilities stop charging during alarm phases unless the player can break line of sight or kill the guard that spotted them). The AI isn’t super smart, but it does the job convincingly enough, and it’s fun to distract guards throwing stones in the purest Hitman fashion (no coins to throw though, sadly). Going full stealth can also play tricks with the opposing team’s mind, as they’ll have a harder time knowing where the sneaky players are, and will probably make mistakes such as getting too close to the Sheriff (who can instantly murder anyone careless enough to get caught). Sadly, once a team gets the chest to the extraction zone and starts winching it out, everyone knows what’s going on. This is another area where we find another instance of a mechanic that I’m not sure whether I like or loathe, as extracting our loot is done through a winching process that goes through many steps, or checkpoints. The interesting part is that a team could have winched the chest 90% of the way, and yet, if they lose control of the winch and the enemy outlaws manage to get the final 10% done, the ones who did most of the work will lose the match (but walk away with more gold). Considering that winching the loot requires at least one person manning the device (and ideally, two) this only leaves two players free to guard their partners, and gives an advantage to the attacking team. I get that it’s balanced, as the losers still get more coin than the winners, but being on the losing team feels pretty bad when it happens, especially if you were on winch duty.
The gold we get from playing matches can be pocketed (so we can purchase cosmetics such as weapons or skins) or given to the people (which increases our Hideout’s level, and in turn, unlocks more stuff that we can buy later). Aside from cosmetic unlocks, characters can also level up and obtain powerful perks (modifiers that can alter a character’s playstyle, offering such things as faster crouched movement speed, a free charged ability at the start of the match, etc.). This is something that once again can feel somewhat unbalanced to new players, as the game’s matchmaking doesn’t seem to care much for people’s levels when pairing teams.
The five maps that shipped with the launch version of the game are all very well done, featuring plenty of alternate routes and opportunities for teamwork. Sadly, since there is only one game mode on rotation, I feel that it won’t take a lot of time for these 5 maps to feel stale, so hopefully the Sumo Digital team is working on adding more, or a new game mode to spice things up a little once the playerbase starts feeling bored. There is a daily challenges system, but it features very simple tasks, designed to give players more gold an experience without having to change playstyles or anything of the sort. We can also collect trinkets and unlock lore for our favorite heroes (the trigger for this seems to be winning and only that, unless I’ve missed something). It’s a cool mechanic that adds a bit more longevity to the game, but I feel that there’s room for improvement. Aside from the tutorial, which can be played solo against the AI bots (and with no enemy Outlaws) there are no single player or cooperative modes, so all we can do is play the Heist mode over and over again. I would prefer an optional PvE only mode, to unwind after particularly hairy matches or harrowing losses.
Tech-wise, I can’t help but feel disappointed by the fact that the game seems to be locked to 60 frames per second, even though it doesn’t look particularly amazing (and isn’t particularly taxing, at least on my hardware). This is not a dealbreaker to me, but having more options is always nice, and multiplayer titles tend to benefit from higher framerates. Thankfully, I experienced no frame drops or crashes, and the servers seem to be working fine (though apparently there are no servers in my region, so I had to learn to deal with latency issues).
Hood: Outlaws & Legends is a breath of fresh air in the multiplayer arena, offering an interesting mix of PvP and cooperative action that is only let down by a few unbalanced mechanics that could have used an extra polish pass.
7.5/10 (Very good)