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Defender of the Crown

Defender of the Crown

Amiga cover art

Developer(s) Kellyn Beck
Publisher(s) Cinemaware
Platform(s) DOS, NES, Apple IIGS, Atari ST, Apple Macintosh, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, Commodore CDTV, CD-i, Windows, Game Boy Advance, iOS
Release date(s) 1986
Genre(s) Strategy game
Mode(s) Single-player

Defender of the Crown is a strategy computer game designed by Kellyn Beck. It was Cinemaware's first game, and was originally released for the Commodore Amiga in 1986, setting a new standard for graphic quality in home computer games.

In 1987 it was ported to DOS, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Macintosh and finally, the Apple IIGS in 1988. It was later ported to the CD-i.


  • Gameplay 1
  • Reception 2
  • Cover art 3
  • Ports 4
  • Remakes 5
  • Legacy 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The game is set in England in 1149 during the Middle Ages where, following the death of the king, different factions are fighting for territorial control.

The fighting screen was one of the features added to the Atari ST version

The player assumes the role of a Saxon (Wilfred of Ivanhoe, Cedric of Rotherwood, Geoffrey Longsword or Wolfric the Wild) and tries to fight off the Norman hordes and wrestle for control of England. Eventually, the player must fight for control of all territories, and potentially those controlled by other Saxons, if they have become antagonistic. The player must amass armies and fight for control of opponents' castles. The player may engage enemy armies in battle, loot or lay siege to opposing castles. Territories can also be won in the periodic jousting contests. From time to time the player may attempt to rescue a damsel in distress and can appeal for help from the legendary bandit Robin Hood.

The game's strategy boils down to a war of attrition as the player tries to amass larger armies than his opponents and manages to attack their territories at the right time.

Due to financial strains, Cinemaware decided to release the initial version without all the features originally planned for because of their need for revenue. Some features were partially implemented, but were removed so the game could be shipped. Some additional features completed but never seen in the shipped game include flaming fireballs (launched via the catapult), more locations (more varied castles to attack) and more in-depth strategy. Some of these features were implemented in the ports of the game.

Jim Sachs, the primary artist for the game, showcased some of these features on the Amiga during interviews after the release of the game.


The first public demonstration of Defender of the Crown occurred at the Los Angeles Commodore Show in September 1986, before its November release, and attracted a huge crowd.[1] An excerpt from Brian Bagnall's On the Edge: the Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore[2] captures the effect that seeing the game for the first time had on users:

Screenshot of a raid with graphics in the 1986 (Amiga version).
Mical saw artist Jim Sachs push the Amiga to its full potential. "Jim Sachs, what a god he is," marvels Mical. "Jim Sachs is amazing. These days everyone sees graphics like that because there are a lot of really good computer graphics artists now, but back then, 20 years ago, it was astonishing to have someone that good." The final game was a landmark in video game production values. As game designer Bob Lindstrom recalls, "The shock of seeing Defender for the first time was one of those experiences that changed the gaming stakes for all of us." Compared to other video games of the time, Defender of the Crown established a new level of quality. IBM had Kings Quest by Sierra On-Line, a decent but primitive adventure game. The Macintosh had games like Checkers or Backgammon, or board games like Risk. Defender of the Crown had richer graphics than any computer, console, or even arcade game could boast in 1986. It was a revelation.

Historian Jimmy Maher wrote in 2015 that Defender of the Crown "caused a sensation ... Amiga owners treated it as something like a prophecy fulfilled; this was the game they’d all known the Amiga was capable of, the one they’d been waiting for, tangible proof of their chosen platform’s superiority over all others." It became a best seller, selling 20,000 copies by the end of 1986 and 250,000 copies overall.[1]

Defender of the Crown received very positive reviews; The Australian Commodore Review gave the Commodore 64 version of the game a total score of 96 out of 100,[3] while Commodore User said that it was "totally brilliant and one of the best games to date on the 64."[4] Computer Gaming World praised the Amiga version of Defender of the Crown's graphics and animation, calling the game "a showcase program to demonstrate the power of the Amiga to your friends." Although the gameplay was not as complex as other strategy games of the time, the reviewer was still exceptionally pleased with Cinemaware's first game.[5] In 1987 the magazine gave it a special award for "Artistic Achievement in a Computer Game",[6] but in 1990 and 1993 surveys of wargames in the magazine gave the game two-plus stars out of five.[7][8] Compute! also stated that Defender of the Crown effectively demonstrated the Amiga's graphics but stated that its gameplay was oversimplified.[9] CU Amiga stated that "there are not many areas in which Defender of the Crown could be improved...the graphics are sophisticated with lush colours and visual effects."[10] Amiga Format were less kind to the CD rerelease of the game, stating that it "hasn't stood the test of time simply because the gameplay is somewhat weak."[11]

Maher praised the game's graphics, but criticized the gameplay of the original Amiga version as being "both too hard and too easy", stating that the minigames "feel peculiarly disconnected ... I’m not sure anyone has ever entirely figured out how the jousting or swordfighting games are even supposed to work". He nonetheless concluded that the game successfully let players experience "the England of the movies": "Commercial and kind of crass as it sometimes is, we can see Defender of the Crown straining toward becoming an embodied, interactive, moving, beautiful, fictional experience rather than being just the really bad take on Risk it unquestionably also is."[1]

Cover art

The cover art of Defender of the Crown was put together by Peter Green Design and painted by Ezra Tucker.

Randy McDonald was in charge of art direction, design, and production for Cinemaware's first four games, and he explains in an interview that "Peter Greene or I would do a sketch of generally what we wanted for each cover. I went to Western Costume in Hollywood, which for many decades was the giant in the costume industry there, and rented costumes for the types of "look" we had settled on for each cover. We hired models and brought them into Peter’s large photo studio, where we set them up in the costumes I had rented, posed as closely as possible to the way we wanted them to be illustrated."[12]

The initial artist, according to Randy McDonald, was supposed to be Greg Winter, but the cover eventually went to Ezra Tucker.


The ports of Defender of the Crown, notably for DOS and the NES, resulted in an enormous loss in graphic and audio quality due to those systems' inferior abilities compared to the Amiga. But these ports featured more in-depth strategic elements compared to the unfinished original version. The Apple IIGS, Atari ST and Commodore 64 versions were ported with better success, the IIGS, Macintosh and ST versions' graphics coming quite close to the Amiga version.

All ports:

In 1989 the game became the second game to ship on CD-ROM, after The Manhole.[15]


After a string of successful games and game series, Cinemaware eventually went bankrupt. In 2000, however, Lars Fuhrken-Batista and Sean Vesce bought Cinemaware's name and assets, and founded Cinemaware Inc., naming a remake of Defender of the Crown for modern PCs as one of the reformed company's first projects. The new version, titled Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown was released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2 (September 30), Xbox (October 6) and Windows (October 15). The new company also created "Digitally Remastered Versions" of classic Cinemaware games, including Defender of the Crown.

In February 2007, a homage to the game called Defender of the Crown: Heroes Live Forever was released by eGames,[16] who had acquired Cinemaware in 2005. Heroes Live Forever features many of the elements of the original game, including jousting and archery tournaments, raiding castles, rescuing princesses, and laying siege to enemy fortresses via catapult. A new addition to the game involved the use of Hero and Tactic cards during battles, giving the user's army various upgrades during the on-screen melee.


Defender of the Crown II was published by Commodore International in 1993 for the CDTV and Amiga CD32.

The Danish band PRESS PLAY ON TAPE remixed the theme music of the game, replacing the instrumental tune with proper medieval-sounding lyrics.

During the second half of the 1980s, some games directly inspired by Defender of the Crown were released. Among these was for example Joan of Arc (Rainbow Arts, 1989).


  1. ^ a b c Maher, Jimmy (2015-04-16). "Defender of the Crown". The Digital Antiquarian. Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  2. ^ On the edge : the spectacular rise and fall of Commodore from
  3. ^ Gordon, Stephen; Watts, Shane (February 1987), "Defender of the Crown - page scan at Amiga Magazine Rack, issue 2, accessed December 18, 2012
  4. ^ Patterson, Mark (August 1987) "Defender of the Crown" - page scan at Amiga Magazine Rack, accessed December 18, 2012.
  5. ^ Lee, Wyatt (January–February 1987), "Defender of the Crown",  
  6. ^ "Computer Gaming World Meets Dragoncon '87". Computer Gaming World. December 1987. p. 22. 
  7. ^ Brooks, M. Evan (October 1990). "Computer Strategy and Wargames: Pre-20th Century". Computer Gaming World. p. 11. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Brooks, M. Evan (August 1993). "Wargame Survey Version 2.0". Computer Gaming World. p. 128. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  9. ^ Randall, Neil (June 1987). "Defender Of The Crown For Amiga". Compute!. p. 60. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  10. ^ Keating, Fiona (July 1991), "Defender of the Crown" - page scan at Amiga Magazine Rack, accessed December 18, 2012
  11. ^ Noonan, Damien (October 1992) "Defender of the Crown - page scan at Amiga Magazine Rack, issue 39, accessed December 18, 2012
  12. ^ This is how the cover art in Defender of the Crown was made -
  13. ^ "Defender of the Crown iOS". 
  14. ^ "Cinemaware Classic Defender of the Crown Ready for Android". 
  15. ^ Sipe, Russell (November 1992). "3900 Games Later...". Computer Gaming World. p. 8. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  16. ^ Defender of the Crown: Heroes Live Forever from eGames

External links

  • Defender of the Crown at MobyGames
  • Panda's Defender of the Crown page
  • Defender of the Crown at DMOZ
  • box, manual and screen shotsDefender of the CrownImages of at
  • Defender of the Crown on the Amiga at The Hall of Light (HOL)
  • Legally distributed recordings of the Amiga version music
  • Macintosh Plus game gallery featuring DotC screenshots
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