Have You Played… Conquests Of The Longbow?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

When you think Sierra, chances are you think King’s Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest… something with both ‘quest’ in the name and many, many deaths. The thing is though, most of their most interesting games were buried a little deeper, and they don’t get much better than Conquests of the Longbow. Which I literally just noticed has ‘quest’ in the name. Just like The Colonel’s Bequest. Still, I’m going to say it counts!

It was the work of Christy Marx, who put the same kind of research into her two games, the other one being Conquests of Camelot, that Jane Jensen would later put into the New Orleans voodoo scene. Conquests of Camelot was of course based on King Arthur, featuring one of my favourite deaths in all of Sierra’s catalogue (God himself dropping a portcullis on your head for not showing suitable piety before going out in search of the Holy Grail). Longbow however is one of my ‘games to still be inspired by’ list, with action that didn’t always quite work, but rarely stopped being clever.

In particular, while you played as Robin Hood, many of the actual puzzles and all of the days of the story involved hanging out with your Merry Men and acting as their leader. You called them in for backup, you worked out plans with them, and when you died… which would happen… they’d toast your legend as it was before getting on with business. All of the major moments of the story were included, from the archery contest, to Robin’s love for Marion (here more of a forest priestess type), to a few new ones, like druidic magic performed through one of roughly seventeen thousand manual look-up checks. This really was Copy Protection: The Game, even by 90s standards.

My favourite thing about it though is the Trial. As with most Robin Hood stories, Longbow ends with the return of King Richard… largely in this case helped by Robin having paid off his ransom to bring him home. The catch is that he walks in on a Robin whose luck has run out, and who is about to be hanged for his crimes. Cue a sequence where every decision you’ve made in the game comes back, as the game sits back and rates whether or not you actually were a noble hero or just a common bandit, with a range of outcomes leading from complete exoneration to Richard just going “Actually, you’re right. Hang him. He’s more full of shit than an unattended colostomy bag.”

Admittedly, it’s all but impossible to get that outcome unless you actively try, but the simple concept always stuck with me. A similar courtroom sequence in #notpc RPG Chrono Trigger would do the same. Marx created a world where heroism was expected, but with the freedom to fall short of the standards you knew from the start you were meant to embody. That was a fascinating approach to alternate endings for me, and still one of my favourite last minute twists in any game’s morality system.

And probably the second best ending to a Robin Hood story ever.

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  1. wundertunge says:

    I used to love this game, along with the other Conquest game. Does anyone know where we can find these games? Are they available through GOG? Just looked – the answer is no.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      She actually has it on her website, though IIRC it’s a slightly older version than you’d get on the abandonware sites, so I’d suggest looking that way instead. link to christymarx.com

      • phlebas says:

        File not found (ditto for Conquests of Camelot). I wonder why they haven’t shown up on GOG when various other Sierra games have.

    • Sabbatai says:

      Edit: Never mind I actually read the article lol.

      Conquest of Camelot was a bit over my head when I was a kid. Looked pretty and I beat it, but it was trial and error the whole way.

      Conquest of the Longbow is right up there with Space Quest and Police Quest for me. Not quite to Colonel’s Bequest/Dagger of Amon Ra or Hero’s Quest/Quest for Glory… but still worth playing.

  2. Frank says:

    Huh, thought I was up on all the Sierra adventure games, but I’ve never even heard of this series.

    • Maxheadroom says:

      You’re not alone, and I was working in a computer shop selling these things in the late 80s / early 90s

      Maybe it had a limited release?

      • Shakes999 says:

        I just don’t think it moved the needle for most people back then. Our family was obsessive about playing every single Sierra game ever released back then and we loved it. Even so, even I’very never heard of conquests of camelot.

        That said the copy protection is just horrible. Went back and tried to play it last year and it’s just so intrusive and mixed in with a major game mechanic you use literally every chapter, sometimes multiple times. It’s still a fun game with great dialogue and puzzles (mostly) but the CP is almost bad enough to spoil all the things it did right.

      • Turkey says:

        I was working in a computer shop, late 80s one night
        When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
        A faint glow came off from a floppy drive
        And suddenly to my surprise

        It played Conquest, it played Conquest of the Longbow
        It played Conquest, an old Sierra game
        It played Conquest, it’s pretty good, I guess
        It played Conquest, never played it myself

  3. klops says:

    Yes I have! It was quite something and like mentioned in the article didn’t always work as well as perhaps it should have, I remember it very fondly. Usually Sierra games weren’t my cup of tea but CotLb worked really well. I remember to have been fascinated with the small choises you had: “Do you ambush the rich people, drive a herd of wild boars at them or shoot them with arrows?” or something like that.

    The riddles were quite hard for a young not-English me but eventually I solved them. If I remember it right even my never-playing mother and sister helped in solving them after I had translated them and written them in paper so they didn’t need to see any effort and could therefore perhaps help me in that game nonsense.

    And the satisfaction after I finally caught that tiny running leprachaun or elf or whatever it was! HA!

  4. CartonofMilk says:

    A couple of years back i’m playing AC: Black Flag and i’m playing, in the game, a board game i never heard of called Nine Men’s Morris.

    Except…oh the brain, this marvelous thing. After a minute or so this old dusty drawer of an old dusty cabinet opens up up there. Wait…wait..no..i think i know this game. I have played this game. Yes i know how to play this. But how!?!? When!?!? And it did its slow but fascinating work. Another video game? Yes it must be. But which? And it searched and it loaded and eventually i could see it. I could picture the tavern and the 256 colors scene. And i came up to me from the mists of time… Conquest of the Longbow.

    A youtube search later confirmed it. 22 years later or so. I still knew how to play, and win, at nine men’s morris.

    Fond memories of this game but don’t often enough think about it. I had thought about it 3 years before playing black flag though when i started watching Jem and the Holograms cartoons on Teletoon Retro. Where’s the link you ask? Well… i had forgotten the name of Christy Marx. But when i looked her up to see what she had done in life OTHER than scripting and essentially being responsible for most of Jem and the Holograms as a concept, i was reminded she had made the Conquest sierra games. I knew her by name back in the days but had forgot. It was kind of a nice surprise (and yes jem and the holograms is stupid but enjoyably stupid, how most of this show isn’t a meme today, i don’t know)

    Btw, history seems to have forgot that Sierra was kind of a pioneer for women game designers. Roberta Williams of course, but Christy Marx too, and Jane Jensen.

  5. dylan s says:

    My wife introduced me to this game two years ago; she had it as a kid (no idea why) and had fond memories. I was prepared to TOLERATE HER NOSTALGIA for exactly MINIMUM TIME REQUIREMENT and then move on.

    But it turns out this is a great adventure game–possibly my new favourite from that decade. It has lush artwork, good puzzles that aren’t too boggling, good characters, and a healthy dose of magic without becoming whimsical or ungrounded.

    Highly recommend Longbow to any fan of the genre and Robin Hood. Didn’t know about Camelot, though–I’ll have to look that one up.

  6. Grim Rainbow says:

    Oh yes. This is my favourite game.

    I was eleven or twelve when I got this and I was enthralled (and mostly stuck a lot). I still remember the day while standing on the Overlook, my Mum asks me if I want go shopping, I say yes then look back and there is the beggar walking along the road beneath me. I hadn’t figured out that you needed to wait more than a few seconds for someone to come by, and in talking with my Mum enough time had passed. Needless to say I didn’t go shopping. I was surprisingly rewarded Nik Naks later though for my excitement, stupidity and sloth.

    I’d never felt so captured by a world. I’d spend time in places in the game just for the atmosphere or believing the world was bigger than it was, which the game was good at – Popping to camp to see who was around, strolling through the forest etc. The art style in game and in the cut scenes fed my imagination too. I adore the character potraits. Real effort and passion seem to have been put in and this is good looking game especially so in 1991.

    I went to the real pub in this game. No Nine Men’s Morris but the bucket they used to send ale up to the castle is there.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Sam says:

    My favorite part of this game is that there are maybe two voice samples in the whole thing: monks chanting, and Robin going “Oh ho HA Ha Ha! Oh ho HA Ha Ha!”

  8. Elric666 says:

    This game is fantastic, right up there with Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis as my favorite adventure games, though its much shorter than the latter. I actually never managed to beat it as a kid, as I was missing some component to open the box, so I would always end up dying in the fire. But just one or two years ago I remembered this game, gave it another go and finally beat it.

  9. NandoCanedo says:

    So much good memories about this game. And conquests of Camelot as well.

  10. Ieolus says:

    Loved these games (Conquest of Camelot, Conquest of the Longbow)!

    I will be introducing my son to them when he is old enough, along with the KQ, SQ, and QfG series of games!

  11. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    Oh yes. It is beautiful, it is well written, I like its puzzles, the music is fantastic. It’s a pity that Sierra games are so buggy.

  12. Mandrake42 says:

    I really loved this game back in the day. I quite liked Conquests of Camelot as well, but this one was always my favourite. I too especially remember the trial ending to the game, I managed to get a moderately good ending but somewhere along the way I must have made a decision that meant I didn’t end up with maid Marion.

  13. Gramarye says:

    This was one of my favorites growing up, from a bunch of games my uncle had finished. I remember trying to figure out that damned Morris game.

    It was better than Conquests of Camelot, for sure. The only thing I remember about that game is if you disrespected either the old gods or Jesus, you’d be struck down before you left the castle. :)

  14. Karel Crombecq says:

    This is definitely one of my most favourite adventure games, and one of the games that inspired me to become a game developer myself. Lots of memorable scenes (the dressing up! the creepy monastery with the scrolls! the maze! the drunk abbot!) and so ahead of its time in terms of non-linearity and multiple endings. A classic.

  15. christymarx says:

    Thanks to everyone for the kind words on my Sierra adventure games. I had a blast making them and wish I’d hung around to make more.

    I’m currently the Narrative Director at Zynga where I’m handling the story and writing on Farmville: Tropic Escape.

    But between you and me, I’d like to be doing adventure games again.

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