Commodore 64
Electronic Arts
Anne Westfall, Jon Freeman and Paul Reiche III
Imagine a game of chess where the pieces are living creatures. Now imagine if those creatures were mythical, magical beasts such as unicorns, banshees and golems. Add a spell-wielding leader to each side, furious battles for territory and you have the basic idea behind Archon. And what a winning idea it is!

Set on a modified chess board, Archon is a strategic battle for territory between two opposing sides - Light and Dark - with either side controlled by a human opponent or the CPU. Although initially Archon looks very similar to chess there are some ingenious twists. The first difference you'll notice is the assortment of creatures on both sides. No creature on one side is identical to a creature on the other although both sides are evenly matched. The creatures are made up of various mythical beasts with the Light Side led by a wizard and the Dark Side led by a sorceress. The board, although similar to a chess board has a few significant differences. There are 5 power points on the board and the game is won when one side occupies all 5 power point squares. Alternatively, the game can be won by destroying the opponent's entire army.

Unlike chess, when a character moves onto a square already occupied by an opponent, a battle ensues for possession of the square. This takes place in the combat arena. Each piece has it's own form of combat - for example the banshee uses her piercing scream - and a differing amount of energy.

During the game, some squares change colour from light to dark and vice versa. The colour of a square has a significant effect on combat abilities during a battle. For example, if a battle takes place on a dark square, the combatant from the dark side will be stronger. In addition, the wizard and sorceress have various spells at their disposal. Each spell can only be used once and can not be used on a character occupying a power point square. Spells include Teleport, Imprison, and my personal favourite - Summon Elemental. This spell summons into battle an elemental made of fire, earth, air or water.

Look!! There!! Bottom right - it's Orco from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe!!

And they said Intellivision emulation on the C64 couldn't be done ...

Throughout the game, the board changes colour which affects energy levels during battles

Visually, Archon is very sparse and the graphics would best be described as functional. The character's sprites are all well-defined and easily distinguishable but lack any real flair and look flat. The sounds, also, are very basic - simple sound effects during the game and an average tune at the title screen. What this game does have though is playability by the truckload - especially in two-player mode. The well-designed mix of strategy and arcade-style combat gives Archon it's unique appeal. The gameplay is very well-balanced and both sides are evenly matched. The computer opponent offers a fair challenge and the colour-changing squares and magic spells add to the gameplay and prolong the game's longevity. During two-player sessions expect heated exchanges as the most perfectly-executed strategies are demolished by a few swift swipes from the sword of a pawn-like minion. Archon is a perfect example of gameplay over presentation and is in my opinion an unquestionable classic.

Graphics: 42%

Sound: 13%

Gameplay: 92%

Overall: 90%
Functional but bland. A basic chequerboard as background, populated by unremarkable but unique characters. Similarly, the combat scenes are very basic and simply contain a few odd shapes as obstructions. A mediocre tune on the title screen and very basic sound effects throughout. Still highly playable 15 years after it's original release, Archon provides entertainment of the purest kind. Visually and sonically Archon has not aged gracefully. However, persevere beyond the weak aesthetics and you will discover an absolute gem of a game dripping in playability.
R E C O M M E N D E D   A L T E R N A T I V E S
Archon II • Archon III

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