#119 Defender of the Crown

Posted: 10th January 2012 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , ,

114th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1986
Developer: Kellyn Beck
Publisher: Cinemaware

Here’s a bit of a blast from the past for me. You see, Defender of the Crown is one of those games I played lots on the NES (borrowing it several times) and one of the games I finished several times over – it was fast and simple enough for that.

The story is simple. You’re a Saxon lord and you have to work together with other Saxon lords to drive the Normans out of medieval England, conquering their territories and so on. In the mean time, to accomplish that cause you go on raids, joust in tournaments and rescue damsels in distress. All very honourable and knightly.

Our Thoughts

As a teacher I have to stick my factual hat on and greatly shout out against the abominable use of English history in this game. While I will happily acknowledge the existence of Robin of Locksley (I mean he must have in some form even if he was nowhere near the heroic outlaw Kevin Costner would have us believe he was) but what the hell is going on about this assassinated king and a stolen crown. Also, this game would like to lead us to believe that the Saxons were able to drive out the Normans… well have a look at the current British royal family and you will see this storyline is a load of rot. When you look at other games like this, this seems a bit of a mild complaint though – if in Civilization you can invent Horseback Riding and Pottery before the Wheel, a few wrong names is a fairly small thing. Even so, changing a few names around could have been better. On the other hand, perhaps you’re supposed to root for the Saxons, to create an alternative history.

The historical inaccuracies aside, as well as the existence of an enemy whose name literally translates as ‘head of beef’, I really did enjoy this game… and I did not expect to.

When you are presented with a strategy game from the eighties with the name Defender of The Crown I can hope you can understand the knot of dread in my stomach since I really was not a fan of Dune II. However, the moment the quaint music began to play I was well on the course to being won over. As said, I’ve played this before, and I was expecting a few negative surprises compared to my memory. Luckily I remembered how crap NES graphics were…

Okay, the graphics are fairly basic in many of the scenes but the gameplay is so delightfully easy to pick up (except for the aiming system when storming the castle but I think that was more down to us not reading the instruction manual or having a PC that’s simply too fast) that I can see exactly why this has become available on the iOS since a touchscreen would really bring so much to the jousting and fencing mini games as well as some cool map navigation. It would also have allowed for a graphics update. Still, it didn’t feel like much was needed there – they’re very effective and look nice enough, and yeah, a higher resolution would be nice, but it’s far from unplayable.

It’s worth mentioning the sounds a bit more. They are the usual beeps of games of the area, but they work! There’s a song of sorts in there you wanted to hum along to and it creates a wonderful atmosphere. It’s far more enjoyable than what you’d expect from the era.

However, there are some definite issues with the AI in this game. There are many times when you are able to take over territories and that’s all hunky dory but in one turn you are able to buy new soldiers, take over land, hold a tournament or raid a castle. You can only do one thing per turn and therefore there is a definite cap on how many soldiers you can buy since you really do want to have a large area of influence. Then suddenly you get attacked by an opponent who not only has many territories but also six times the number of soldiers that you have…I did the calculation and it appears that whilst we get one move per turn they get about two. Still, this really ramps up the difficulty level of the game and that is not always a bad thing.

In a way, the big theme of the game, in gameplay, is a war of attrition. Get the larger army, make sure it stays so, until the smaller armies are defeated, so you can get more income and get bigger armies… It really is a matter of getting there first. The difference in AI, and the additional skill a human brings in (especially during the action sequences) seem to need to make up for it.

Final Thoughts

 Strategy games have moved on quite a bit since this game was released, with using one army to control a territory almost being the domain of board games nowadays and per-unit control, such as seen in Dune II, being more common. Still, if anything, that makes this game simpler and easier to play.

It was a lovely game back in the day, as said I lost a lot of time to it in the past. But with it still holding up these days, it has more or less become a casual game that can be played on phones or is downloadable. And even those games can be brilliant.

  1. […] enjoying playing around with history. We mentioned this in our look at Defender of the Crown and considering the liberties taken here this is something that warrants mentioning. I am not even […]