Hood: Outlaws & Legends PC Review
Hood has more than its fair share of problems. The lack of diversity of the operations between maps, the slow unlocking of powerful upgrades in the form of equippable perks trapped in a levelling system, and not really having a clear ‘winner’ (we’ll get into what I mean by that) can be a drag. However, this does not mean that the game is bad. It’s not. It’s actually a ton of fun and still has me jumping back in for a round or two whenever I can, despite the repetitive nature of its third-person PvPvE heist-pulling gameplay. Whether alone or with friends, nothing feels better than making a perfect shot as Robin, annihilating a group of enemies as John, healing your team at the perfect time to turn the tables in a big fight as Tooke, or doing whatever Marianne does – which I believe is annoying people to death. The goal is to race the opposing team to 1 – steal the key from the unkillable and menacing Sheriff, who is absolutely just The Undertaker in full plate armour; 2 – find the vault and open it with the key; 3 – carry the chest from the vault all the way across the map to any of the available extraction points, making sure to pull it towards your own main spawn area for a strategic advantage; and finally 4 – extract the chest slowly by winching it up to….somewhere.
The first two parts are usually done entirely in stealth, insta-killing guards from behind using the old throwing a rock to distract them trick and then assassinating close-up. This is also the part where you want to be opening doors and letting ropes down over access points to allow for quicker navigation later. By the time the chest is acquired, though, you can expect the rival pack to have discovered your location by process of elimination and then it all devolves into straight up team fights. I’ve seen a lot of people hate on this but personally I found both aspects equally enjoyable. Sure it’s awesome to approach slowly from the tall grass and get a silent takedown on unsuspecting prey but the scrappy brawls that start to take place all over the map keep the whole thing tense and exciting, especially when all kinds of NPCs become involved. Sadly it’s the direct mixing of these two elements that doesn’t work very well. Ever seen a video of two Dark Souls players fighting it out? Neither of them want to directly attack, instead attempting to simply run behind the other to try for a critical backstab. Well, assassinations can be done on anyone as long as you are crouched behind them, making for some incredibly dumb looking and utterly unengaging combat. I even found that if you pull off a parry (John and Tooke only) there’s enough time to freely execute your opponent if you’re quick enough off the mark with crouching.
But the biggest failure by far is unfortunately the foundation of the entire experience – meaning I’m not sure it will or can ever be fixed – and that is what it means to ‘win’. Technically the winners of a round are the ones who finish extracting the chest. They are the ones that receive the ‘Victory’ screen. However, that means they can potentially do absolutely nothing until the final moments of the game. Letting the other team do all the work, gain all the XP for taking down guards and actually pulling off the robbery, along with receiving most of the gold as that is rewarded per notch of the winch (of which there are six, not including the first that gets triggered automatically upon loading the goods). Even the development team have pointed out the strange system as a point of contention within the community. If you understand how it works it’s easy to see who really comes out on top but that doesn’t change the fact that a ‘Defeat’ ending after a near perfect stomp leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. It’s not something that has really bothered me but it’s definitely not good for the game overall, almost as if the creators didn’t quite understand how it should work themselves.
As it happens, that thought is rather indicative of the whole game. The lack of a log to see your previous matches, the interesting way you have to split earned gold between yourself and ‘the people’ but not having enough to do with it, and the incredibly optimistic ‘year one’ roadmap outlining a single new character alongside vague ‘major gameplay additions’ rolling out each quarter seem short-sighted at best. The title was released into a hyper-competitive market and even with its unique takes on a niche genre, I’m not convinced it will survive long enough to see this plan through to the end, especially with its ‘mixed’ rating on Steam and constant complaints from people about balance issues, which is by far the most common and ludicrous criticism I’ve seen. I sincerely hope it doesn’t go the way of some of my other favourites like Gigantic, Nosgoth, or even last year’s Bleeding Edge so quickly but, unfortunately, I believe it will, and we’ll once again have lost another indie gem that’s rough around the edges but innovative and entertaining nonetheless to the constant stream of monotonous AAA money grabs.
Right now its lifespan, that will determine the amount of continual improvements and new content to be added, lies on the fact that Hood is pretty much available everywhere and embraces crossplay. I believe it just needs the opportunity to get the ball rolling and spice up the rounds to keep players coming back for more. Right now it’s still a good time, more so with a full group of friends, but it definitely becomes mundane quickly, especially after figuring out how and when to push spawn points and prepping for fights over hurriedly trying to winch for a desperate win. Those strategies need to be constantly challenged, though, instead of feeling like a to-do list each round. The introduction of a skill ranking system would also go a long way as playing with similarly skilled groups is like a whole different game than when completely crushing a team or getting grouped with those still learning the basics. I have high hopes for Hood. I’d love nothing more than to see a steady flow of engrossing changes to help build a solid community around it but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.