Amazing game! I first found this as a youngster and long regretted never completing it. I recently rediscovered it and within half an hour of playing I was COMPLETELY hooked once more. This game has truly stood the test of time with 3D isometric castles and forest settings that look gorgeous even by today's standards.
The real magic, however, is in the gameplay. Fans of stealth games such as Splinter Cell and Assassin's Creed (not to mention the very similar Commandos) will especially enjoy the mechanics of Robin Hood. Citing Robin Hood's iconic chivalrous and humane nature, there is a very strong emphasis on using less-than-lethal force, with different character archetypes equipped with various skills to accomplish this. Isolated enemies can be subdued with a punch from behind; climb onto a rooftop and knock him out from range with a slingshot; or engage in combat and club him in the head.
The AI is relatively basic but very effective. Bodies must be quickly carried out of view to avoid detection (eg. into the nearest house or guard tower), and bound with twine to prevent them raising the alarm and/or returning to their posts when they regain consciousness. If any team member is spotted, or a guard is noticed missing from his post, the enemy will initiate a search of the area and recover any downed comrades they find.
A number of more tactical options provide myriad possibilities for dealing with large groups. Bee hives can be tossed into a crowd to allow Robin's men to quickly slip by in the ensuing confusion, whistles can be used to distract and mislead, purses of gold coins can be tossed in front of underpaid or unsupervised soldiers to prompt an entertaining fight, enticing ale can be dropped in an enemy's path causing them to become drunk and disoriented, agile men can skip around enemies by jumping across rooftops and climbing vines, or a net can be cast over a close group. More skilled enemies, such as knights and commanders, however, will be unconvinced by most of tactics and may even pull their understudies into line.
Lethal force can be used when necessary. Stealth approaches can allow enemies to be strangled to death, or on many occasions detection will force a swordfight. Of course, it wouldn't be a Robin Hood game without archery, and this is indeed a very effective lethal takedown from a safe range (the enemy employs many archers as well, however, and will impressively use other soldiers to shield their own archers from incoming arrows).
The relatively few main castle-based story missions are separated by a large number of targeted ambushes by Robin's crew in Sherwood Forest: the tax man, carts containing food, weapons and gold for the enemy war effort; small groups of passing soldiers; and messengers. The forest settings are not only beautiful but also filled with booby-traps the player can exploit to get the jump on unsuspecting enemy soldiers. I cannot emphasise enough how fantastic these are; the levels are jam-packed with hidden holes in the forest floor, piles of logs that can be pushed over, broad nets that can be triggered to capture anyone standing over them, and groups of friendly NPCs hiding amongst the trees waiting for Robin's signal.
In between missions, a treehouse camp in Sherwood serves as base for the Merry Men. Here, idle NPCs can be instructed to create all of the consumables the player requires during missions (eg. arrows) or trained and sent off to assist in the war.
The castle missions that drive the story forward are, at times, spectacular. The settings are gorgeous, the buildings are grand, and the level design is brilliant. Without spoiling anything, there are several missions later in the story where Robin must sneak around the castle to lower drawbridges, subdue generals and clear enemy archers to allow the rightful king's troops to invade the castle with minimal resistance. On that note, the story is basically about dethroning the king's brother who exploited an opportunity to have the true king kidnapped, thereafter resolving to drive the people into poverty and submission with extreme taxes and harsh discipline.
On a final note, this is a game where the player is truly responsible for creating their own fun. With instant quicksaves and quickloads, it is convenient and appealing to replay the same confrontation many times over to achieve the perfect result. Just as one probably could plough through a mission in Splinter Cell in minutes with an assault rifle, it would be a great shame to so abruptly betray the point of the game: elegant success, rather than simply completing the objective. I found myself replaying some parts MANY times to complete it to my standard of stealth and perfection, or even to maintain the illusion of realism at times where I felt the AI had been a bit incompetent. The game allows up to three planned actions per character to be coordinated simultaneously, which complements the style of the game perfectly (eg. if able to sneak up behind two enemies, you can plan two characters to simultaneously subdue one soldier each, and simply press a button to execute the plan when ready).
It was only towards the end that several of the intermediate missions become slightly tedious and repetitive, and it is great testament to the game that this is true. The maps and objectives differ little, in truth, but the gameplay is so fantastic that there are infinite ways to complete a mission, which is the core reason for the longevity of the entertainment on offer. This is a fantastic game in any era; it comes highly recommended by myself after thoroughly enjoying it- now one of my favourite games of all time.