Defender of the Crown - Amiga Review

Defender Of The Crown
Amiga, 1986
Master Designer Software, A Cinemaware Production
Originally published May 28th, 2016
*This Review And Its Companion Video Dedicated To Artist Jim Sachs*

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I’m pretty sure you all know this one; I’m pretty sure you “should” anyway. It was the first killer app game for the Amiga. The game that made you grab all your friends by their shirt and drag them to your Amiga. Seeing the awe on their face, your decision was justified. This was the first must have Amiga game, sadly replaced with a much lesser game, Shadow of the Beast, later on.

^Talking To Robin - Screenshot From My Actual Amiga

All games given the “Cinemaware” label were designed to feel like a movie. Defender of the Crown (hereby referred to as DOC) was the first in the Cinemaware line, and it delivers on its promise. My child self would surely agree… Running into a corner of the basement to watch my dad joust or sword fight, running to the other corner where I pretending to do the same. I lived this movie.

The game is combination strategy/action game. The main bit of the game features a strategic bird’s eye view of the land where you build armies and conquer lands. There are several action sequences which “can” take place. Can is in quotes because unlike most hybrid style games of this era and for so long after, DOC does not require you to participate in most of these action scenes. Perhaps some of you remember certain Sierra action scenes featured in their Adventure games? In their games the scenes were required, and they were always stupidly out of place and difficult. This is how you successfully combine genres.

^Main Game Screen - Pic Of My CRT Monitor

I even feel it gives off a bit of an RPG vibe. Not in the traditional build stats/grind/quest way, but in the literal definition of role playing. You are a friend of Robin Of Loxley, you are a Saxon looking to overturn Norman oppression! You are put in the role of these characters.

Should you be short of gold while attempting to conquer land, a good strategy would be to find the person with the most gold and raid their castle. One of many beautifully designed scenes, the raid scene features your men and the enemies in dueling sword fights underneath the night sky. Upon winning outside you find yourself inside the castle walls, beautifully lit for night and your shadows along with the enemies in the background moving along with you.

^Raiding A Castle - Screenshot From My Actual Amiga

These sword fighting contents can be a frustrating part of the game, luckily, they’re not required to win. It’s mostly a click the mouse fest, with some backing up and going forward helping along the way. It’s simple, but it successfully puts you into that world. Should you manage to win you will go into the castles inner sanctum and get the treasures within.

You may hold a tournament or be called to a tournament on any turn. Despite a great “show” given, these action scenes were always the worst in my eyes. I never won a single match in all my years of playing…Well… Until now… I managed to win a match 3 times in my playthrough and you’ll never hear me more excited…

^Jousting - Pic Of My CRT Monitor

Is there a strategy for the joust? I really don’t know… When I won twice in a row I kind of felt like moving your mouse down and to the left while holding the left mouse button a second before impact is what got me to win. But it always goes by so fast and before you know it you’re on your ass. The fanfare with the music and graphics does make it a scene you’ll wish to see at least once per playthough, but I can’t recommend anyone waste a turn hosting one.

Once you've assembled a large enough army and bought yourself a catapult, you are now able to lay siege to an enemy castle. If you’re just starting out and are nearby Sherwood Forest, stop in to get Robin’s help. You may go to him three times during the game, where he will give you more men and knights which should make the next battle a little easier.

^Attacking A Castle - Pic Of My CRT Monitor

The catapult action scene is the only one really required to win the game. It requires precision movement with your mouse. If any of you remember the Amiga’s original tank mouse, you know what a bitch this scene can be. There is a trick to it, once you score your first hit on the castle walls, keep that mouse steady and move down one or two notches each time. There were a couple times in my playthrough where I didn’t miss a single shot.

It’s an action scene but it’s extremely fitting and it’s very satisfying when you tear down that wall. Once the wall has been taken care of a text battle screen appears, the dice are rolled, and the outcome decided. You may stand and fight, attacking ferociously, or retreat. If you win, that castle and all lands controlled by it are now yours.

^The Greatest Treasure - Pic Of My CRT Monitor

Along the way those bastard Normans may kidnap a Saxon lady… Will you rescue you? Well of course you’re going to try! Upon rescue you are given what do truly believe is the Amiga’s Mona Lisa. An entire scene of the most beautifully done pieces of art you’ve ever seen on a computer. This stuff holds up today. Love and passion were given to these pictures and it shows.

^The Amiga's Mona Lisa - Pic Of My CRT Monitor

I can remember being a kid and seeing that scene… Any “icky” feelings I had about girls vanished instantly. I didn’t know what you were supposed to do with them, but I knew I wanted to do it! The scene goes by too fast and you just want to see it again… Several different women were drawn by artist Jim Sachs, which one is your favorite? I believe mine is the brunette but I didn’t manage to get her on this playthrough. She will join your character on the loading screen and increase your troops morale.

^End Story - Pic Of My CRT Monitor

Upon taking the final castle you will see one of the first examples of a great game ending. Story is read, and it’s a great story, a final beautifully drawn screen is shown to you and The End appears along with an overture of the games intro music. You’ll stare at the screen until the music ends.

^End Screen - Pic Of My CRT Monitor

This is a great game and I believe it still holds up. As a strategy game it could be described as easy, but it’s certainly harder than what most people choose to play on their Amiga’s these days. If you take it for face value, a title meant to get you in and out of the movie theater, it’s every bit as good as it was the day it came out. I feel there are too many reviews these days not giving this one enough credit. You will have fun everytime you play it, the artwork and music will bring you back, and because it’s short there’s no issue with investing your time in it. In terms of games with strategy elements, that’s a breath of fresh air. Not needing to devote over a month to the game is a nice thing to have once in awhile. I play it once a year and I never regret a moment of it.

Jim Sachs, art director for Defender of the Crown, did an interview several months ago where you could see the pain on his face when discussing how people show his games. Including, quite sadly, the person doing the interview. All he wanted was for people to just “consider” how it was meant to be seen, but he lamented that nobody ever seems to. I have been showing American Amiga games correctly since I started making videos over a year ago. I have even already done a Jim Sachs game, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Ports of Call is also on my list. But of course I’m small, nobody gives a damn about me… and according to recent posts from some top Amiga forums, well, I’m an obnoxious, arrogant, and annoying bastard. I can’t do it by myself… I need your help. If you’re a European and you remember these games looking widescreen back in the day… Please understand there’s plenty of footage showing that. You have a chance to experience an old game in a new way, a way that just might be better.

You have the chance to create new memories. Try it out. Put a smile on Jim’s face and experience his artwork as he wanted you to. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

I'd like to point out just how much care and love went into this game. Here is a screenshot I took from my actual Amiga showing another screenshot I took of the game in Personal Paint. The game uses 32 colors and if you look closely... They're all used... Almost every pixel is changed in some way. Every picture has a new set of 32 colors used. There was true care and dedication in this artwork.

A very passionate video review here. It just might be my best review yet. And, given how I don’t seem to be convincing a damn soul to even try out NTSC mode in their Amiga emulators… Given how people on those top Amiga forums might agree with me, but they won’t change anything, and they have no respect for what I’m doing… Well, it might be the last video for awhile… Because this is tiring and I’m getting no thanks for it.

Thank you Jim, for all of your beautiful artwork that I appreciated as a kid and today. And thank you for caring about aspect ratios on these old machines and talking about it. I hope you talk about it more, I hope others will ask you about it and not just need you to bring it up.

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