Reviewed by Jim Short


Issue 18

Nov/Dec 85

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Electronic Arts/ Ariolasoft
48k cassette 11.95
48k disk 14.95
1/2 players


ARCHON has been available for quite some time on import, at import prices, but is now being marketed in the UK by Ariolasoft on both cassette {previously unavailable) and disk so it is worthwhile taking another look at it.

ARCHON is a unique sort of game. Whilst the basic theme has been borrowed from mythical folklore, the game itself offers a whole new concept in computer programs combining the strategy of conventional board games such as chess with the high speed action associated with arcade style games.

There are two sides - the Light and the Dark - each containing 18 pieces or 'icons'. These take the form of legendary creatures such as dragons, unicorns, basilisks, manticores, trolls, banshees and shapeshifters. The sides are balanced in strength but are not identical. Each icon has its own distinct weaponry and attacking strength and therefore some icons are superior to others. The most powerful icons are the Wizard, who leads the white side and the evil Sorceress who commands the forces of the Dark side.

The board layout is very similar to that of a chessboard with certain interesting differences. Whilst some of the board squares retain their normal black or white colouring for the duration of the game, other 'luminance' squares alternate back and forth between varying shades of black, grey and white. As icons have a power advantage on squares of their own colour, the luminance cycle must be closely monitored so that you can attack your opponent when the square is in your favour.

There are 5 red 'power points' situated at strategic places on the luminance squares. These heal injured icons and also protect them from the effects of magic spells. To win the game, a player must destroy all of his opponent's icons or occupy all 5 power points with his own icons. In practice, the latter option is the more difficult of the two.

All movement is joystick controlled. The icons are moved with the aid of a 'target frame' and their movement from square to square is along the same lines as chess but also depends on whether the icon involved is a 'Ground' mover or 'Fly' mover. Fly movers can jump over occupied squares whilst Ground movers cannot.

Sounds fairly routine, maybe even a little boring so why has Archon received so much praise? Well, ARCHON didn't gain its reputation by being a mere chess clone. The fun begins when you invade a square occupied by an opposing icon. You don't automatically claim that square as you do in chess, you must fight for it first!

When two icons come face to face on any square on the strategy board, that square immediately pans out to fill the entire screen and forms the Combat Arena. It is now a fight to the death with the victor gaining the right to occupy that square on the board. Various moving obstacles add interest to the arena battles but they are also pretty useful for dodging behind in order to escape your opponent's missiles. The Wizard and the Sorceress can call up a number of different spells in order to enhance the enjoyment and playability of the game. The individual spells can only be cast once, so it is best to use them wisely.

The graphics in ARCHON are truly outstanding, particularly in the combat arena where the icons fairly 'come alive'. A word must also be said here about the packaging which is of a very high standard and includes a well written and thoroughly absorbing instruction booklet, complete with many game diagrams and drawings.

ARCHON can be played either against the computer or a human opponent. The computer plays a reasonable game but tends to be somewhat predictable and, after a short while, becomes rather easy to beat. An 'adept' version is now available in the States where the computer plays a much slicker game, however the game only really comes alive when you play against a friend. Two player ARCHON is the meanest head-to-head confrontation this side of Middle Earth. If you haven't already bought it, then do so now. You won't regret it.