It looks like playing chess. But it's not as deep or interesting.
The battle command portion of Defender of the Crown is probably the most boring minigame of all, which is disappointing because you'll be spending so much time doing it. Your army consists of five different types of troops: peasants, footmen, knights, archers, and catapults. The battle minigame happens in real time--you use your foot soldiers to basically run interference and attack across the screen as your ranged units fire from the back. You attack and protect down three channels on the battlefield, and the battle continues until one army is totally destroyed or retreats. Though each of the units gains some special abilities as you proceed along the campaign, the interface for doing battle is clunky and limited, and watching a battle unfold is as exciting as seeing chess pieces slide across a board and knock each other over. If you have an excess of one type of unit, there's no way of splitting them into two smaller groups to cover more channels. So in the later stages of the game you're essentially required to have all three types of foot soldiers to cover all the channels, even if you have the money to field an army entirely of the stronger footmen and knights.
If you attack a county with a stronghold built upon it, the battle game is preceded by a catapult sequence, which proves to be far better looking and more interesting than the real battles. Over four turns of siege combat, you'll be able to choose which wall of the castle you'd like to attack and knock down with your catapults. If you fire over the wall you have a chance of killing part of the standing army inside and whittling down its numbers. In the meantime, the enemy archers are firing down on you from the castle and thinning out your attacking force. The more walls you knock down prior to the battle minigame, the easier the ensuing battle will be.
Jousting tournaments can earn you money and land.
Though Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown intersperses a lot of story-based missions and cutscenes into the campaign, the game ultimately comes down to a lot of repetition. You'll play these minigames over and over again as you try to build up money, take over counties, and advance toward Prince John's castle for the final showdown. On the plus side, the graphics of the cutscenes are decent, and the quality and quantity of voice acting throughout the game are pretty good as well. Unfortunately the game proves to be all too brief--experienced strategy-game players can beat the campaign in one extended sitting of about six or seven hours.
Overall, Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown proves to be a faithful re-creation of its predecessor; the jousting interface and castle raid scenes in particular bear strong resemblance to the original. Certainly, the game is amusing and enjoyable enough to recommend for a quick rental. Unfortunately, though, the strategy genre has advanced greatly over the years, and the additions made to Defender of the Crown still don't allow it to stand up very well to its competitors. Diehard fans of the original should find a lot to like about Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown, but if you don't have any such emotional attachment, there are better alternatives.