Personal Computer News2nd March 1985
Published in Personal Computer News #101
Archon received rave reviews in the US when it was launched last year, and it's not hard to see why. Don't be put off by its superficial resemblance to chess. It's similar, but the differences ensure it will appeal to a much wider audience.
You can compete against another player or the computer. As the computer plays a really mean game I don't advise this, at least not when you're starting - it's depressing getting hammered so quickly.
The battlefield is a nine by nine matrix of dark and light squares, but the pattern's not as regular as a chess board. There are five 'power points' and the aim of the game is to occupy all these, or vanquish the enemy.
The major difference between Archon and chess is the pieces. Each side has 18 and there are eight different types of player in each team - but the pieces on one side are not the same as those on the other. The light side has Unicorns, Archers and Golems, while the dark has a Shapeshifter, Dragon and the Basilisk.
The 16 page manual details the characteristics of each type of piece, so you can judge whether it's worth pitting one of your Archers against a Basilisk (it usually isn't).
To move a piece (or icon as they're called), you put the yellow square over it and press fire. One minor annoyance is that once you've selected a piece you can't change your mind. However, move the piece to the square you want it to occupy, and press fire again. The yellow square stays put, marking your original position until you're done and, of course, each piece has a different range.
Moving a piece onto a square occupied by the opposing force means you're willing to do battle, and this is where the game comes into its own.
The chosen square expands to fill the screen, and you battle it out against the enemy in true shoot-'em'down style. That is, if your piece can fire.
The Phoenix, as you might expect, can turn into a blazing fireball, so attacking with this requires not a little skill as you dodge behind obstructions, waiting for a chance to catch your opponent in the flare. At each side of the screen coloured columns indicate the relative strengths of the duelling pair.
The lynchpins of the two forces are the Wizard and the Sorceress. These occupy the rear central squares and can cast spells to affect play. You can heal wounded pieces, revive a dead piece, summon an elemental to fight an enemy piece in any square and much more.
It takes a long time to work out the sort of strategies you need to play well; this is not an easy game. There is so much detail that the documentation includes two pages on questions and answers to some common problems as well as hints and tips on strategies. You'll have to discover the Luminosity Cycle, attack intervals, or Shift Time for yourself.
Archon is brilliant. There's something in it for all games addicts; arcade, adventure and strategy are all here. My only complaint is that it's best played against a human opponent - the computer's just too good and you can't give it a handicap.