Given how many compelling ongoing multiplayer games there are out there right now vying for players’ attention, but Sumo Digital and Focus Home Interactive’s upcoming Hood: Outlaws and Legends seems to have enough going for it to sink its hooks into you. From its medieval setting to its blend of stealth and action, from its multi-staged match structure to its combination of PvP and PvE heists, Hood: Outlaws and Legends’ central premise has definitely piqued our curiosity. Recently, we had the chance to talk about the game with its developers and learn more about what players can expect from it. You can read our conversation with game director Andrew Willans below.
"Thematically the balance between stealth and combat is also contextualized by the multi staged objectives of a heist. Our game pillars are Tactical, Stealth and Action."
Stealth and combat are both clearly crucial parts of the central loop in Hood: Outlaws and Legends, but what kind of a balance does the game strike between the two? Is it geared more towards one than the other, or is it more about letting players decide for themselves how they want to play?
Both are key game mechanics, but ultimately it’s up to the players to decide how they want to approach things. Stealth is usually the most optimum way to play as you will meet less resistance from the AI guards that (through combat) will slow down your progress between your objectives. A smart technique is to use the AI as a weapon against the opposing team. For example – when you spot an opponent trying to remain hidden near some guards try and make noise (throw a rock, loose an arrow) that will alert that guards to their presence.
Thematically the balance between stealth and combat is also contextualized by the multi staged objectives of a heist. Our game pillars are Tactical, Stealth and Action. These have great synergy with the narratives of most heist movies – the planning phase (Tactical), cracking the safe (Stealth), the getaway (Action). Our game mode is staged in a similar structure – stealth the vault key (Tactical), open the treasure vault (Stealth), extract the treasure (Action).
Hood: Outlaws and Legends’ medieval semi-fantasy setting is one of its most fascinating prospects, both from a narrative perspective and an aesthetic one. That said, given its nature as a multiplayer-centric game, I imagine conveying those unique narrative elements poses a different kind of challenge. Can you talk about how the game approaches it and balances those two elements?
When it comes to the actual legends of Robin Hood there are many different versions of the “truth”. We took influence from many of the origin stories but wanted to preserve some mystery and resist revealing the face behind the hood. Historically, the 2 main names attached to Robins actual identity are Robin of Loxley, and Robin the Earl of Huntingdon. These became our team names. We have layered in our character backstories as collectible tapestry pieces, that, when sticked together tell our re-imaged origin stories.
The State are the real villains in our game world. An oppressive governing force that is using feudal law and the word of god to crush the spirits of the people. We use environmental storytelling to communicate this, from the imposing and brutal architecture of state building to the golden armour worn by the elite guards patrolling the fortress like strongholds.
Something else key to the legends was the notion that Robin Hoods stole from the rich to give to the poor. We wanted to give our players a little more agency in this respect, so our Outlaws are effectively stealing from the rich, to hurt the rich. What you do with your stolen wealth is then up to you when you visit the Scales of Justice after every heist to count your riches. Players are presented with 2 pots, one for the pocket and one for the people. Investing in the people will increase the number of items available to you in your forest hideout, but you will need to keep some for the pocket in order to buy those items. Mechanically you are choosing between the meta, or the more immediate rewards, thematically you are demonstrating what really incentives you.
What is the overarching meta-progression like? Are there unlockables or seasons for players to progress through, or something else of that nature?
We have a wide range of unlockable Perks that will allow you to tune your outlaws to better compliment your preferred playing style, these are gated by your characters level and the in-game currency which is used to purchase them.
Each outlaw also has a range of cosmetics which can be applied to their costumes and weapons. These will be added to with each season. There are also tons of challenges which can be completed to earn XP and currency, and seasonal events that will be regularly refreshed.
"We have a huge amount of variety in how and where each objective appears. While the main beats of the heist adhere to the 3 stages I mentioned earlier, players are free to adopt any tactics they want in order to secure the loot at the final extraction point."
Given the defined structure for matches in the game, are there going to be any randomized elements or emergent mechanics that could help stave off potential repetition?
Absolutely. The game was designed with exactly those aspects in mind. We have a huge amount of variety in how and where each objective appears. While the main beats of the heist adhere to the 3 stages I mentioned earlier, players are free to adopt any tactics they want in order to secure the loot at the final extraction point.
Even when repeating the same map there are so many unpredictable elements: The vault key needs to be stolen from the Sheriff, he has different patrol paths which are randomly determined when the map loads. We have up to 3 treasure buildings which can house the treasure vault. The treasure vault has 5 possible spawn locations within each of these 3 buildings. We have multiple extraction points on every map (which the players can choose from). There are multiple capture point locations which can be claimed by your team for respawning, and on top of all this we have randomized AI patrols and a dynamic escalation system which will react based on player positions.
How differently do each of the classes play from each other? How much of an opportunity does the game offer to players to leverage their unique strengths and weaknesses in different scenarios?
Each of the 4 classes cater to a totally different playstyle, whether that be the precision long range shots from Robins bow (akin to a sniper rifle), or the short ranged semi-auto fire from Marianne’s crossbow. The most radical difference is between what we consider our ranged and melee behaviors. While all the outlaws can engage in melee combat, both John and Tooke are configured to take advantage of this with heavy and light attacks. They also have the option to block incoming attacks rather than to evade like Robin and Marianne do when trying to avoid taking damage.
Each class excels in the different stages of the heist by utilizing their unique abilities, passive traits and collectible gear items. For example Marianne can use her invisibility ability to make pickpocketing the key from the Sheriff easier, John can lift heavy portcullis gates that block progress, Tooke can heal teammates and reveal hidden enemies, Robin can snipe from afar giving him the opportunity to headshot an opposing player as they attempt to steal the loot. But in turn, this hail-mary shot could be blocked if a Marianne drops her smoke grenade to cover her teammates as they winch the treasure to claim it.
The Sheriff is a fascinating element that promises to inject plenty of tension into matches. Can you tell us more about how the Sheriff interacts with players and how exactly he functions as a mechanic during the course of matches?
His behavior will change throughout the course of a heist, largely based on player actions. During the first stage he will stomp around his patrol path and largely functions as a mobile objective. The key must be taken from his belt without him being alerted. It’s a tense moment as he can instantly execute any player that’s within his reach. And his reach is huge!
If you are seen he will actively pursue you until you break line of sight and get back into stealth. While he never breaks into a run, his huge strides cover ground so quickly that players will need to sprint in order to escape. He also has the ability to call in reinforcements and direct them towards targets. This does create some interesting gameplay if you are brave enough to try and kite the Sheriff towards the enemy team. All the outlaws are imposters in his eyes, regardless of which team they are on.
Things usually kick up a gear during the 3rd stage of the heist. If the treasure chest is seen by any state guard on its journey to the extraction zone then a map-wide lockdown will be triggered. During lockdown all the portcullises on the map will be lowered cutting off main routes, and elite guards will be called in to track down the treasure chest. The Sheriff will also begin making his way towards the extraction point. Its at this point that you may wish you’d stayed in the shadows a little more. Defending off opposing players, elite guards and the Sheriff will be a test of any players skills. While the Sheriff can be temporarily downed after taking significant damage, he cannot be killed, so its best to keep some explosives handy for the final battle.
"We wanted to showcase a lot of visual variety, but also take influence from many historical locations within the United Kingdom. So we researched tons of castles and historic sites, but usually for their biomes rather than the actual construction of the buildings."
What has your approach been while designing the different maps? How much variety can players expect from each location?
We wanted to showcase a lot of visual variety, but also take influence from many historical locations within the United Kingdom. So we researched tons of castles and historic sites, but usually for their biomes rather than the actual construction of the buildings. What looks impressive, isn’t always the best for gameplay, so we found a nice balance between form and function.
We have small, medium and large maps, but what more important is the density of level design ingredients and routes through the environments. Players can expect to find hidden tunnels and access points which are great for avoiding detection. We have ladders, and ropes for scaling the walls as an alternative to taking the main paths.
The maps were all designed with the character classes in mind, so you can expect some objective locations to be more open (favoring ranged characters), while others are more shielded and enclosed. Perfect for any ambush as you wait in a dark corner!
Given the very nature of Hood: Outlaws and Legends as a multiplayer-focused title, post-launch support is going to be crucial for its sustained success. Can you tell us about what you have planned for the game in that area, in terms of things such as characters, modes, maps, or what have you?
There’s not a lot I can share with you right now. We have a good idea of where we would like to take the game in terms of new characters (and abilities), environments, and game modes. But these will be teased further down the line. Right now, we are entirely focused on the launch of the game.
Do you have any plans to bring the game to the Switch?
Nothing is planned right now.