#40 – Archon


                                                                                     Warning: actual game may resemble chess.



                                                                                            Well… I had a Water Elemental.


PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Activision

DEVELOPER: Bullet-Proof Software

GENRE: Chess-esque

RELEASE DATE: December 1989


Upon first glance, Archon appears to be a simple game of monster chess, Light versus Dark. On the Light side are Knights, Archers, Valkyries, Golems, Unicorns, a Djinn, Phoenixes, and a Wizard; on the Dark, Goblins, Manticores, Banshees, Trolls, Basilisks, a Shapeshifter, Dragons, and a Sorceress. All the pieces are set up like in chess, with seven Knights and Goblins acting as pawns on their respective sides, and the other pieces usually placed in order of strength and weakness. The difference between chess and Archon lies in the characters’ movesets and what happens when the characters engage each other. Almost all the monsters have similar three-position move-sets, either on the ground (Golems, Trolls, Manticores, etc) or flying (Phoenix, Dragon, etc). Positioning your pieces in a strategic way helps some, but it’s not essential like it is in chess.
What is essential, regardless of what side you’re playing, is engaging the enemy strategically. When two creatures of opposing sides clash, they enter into a battlefield and face off against each other. In these scenarios, it behooves you (if you can) to pit a creature of equal or greater value to the creature that comes against you. You wouldn’t, for example, want to pit a Troll against a Unicorn. Unicorns are fast and strong, while Trolls are strong but incredibly slow. Because of their magical abilities, the Wizard and the Sorceress are the two strongest creatures on both the light and the dark side. They can heal and revive wounded allies (if your creature takes massive damage in a battle), summon elementals to battle for them, imprison creatures from moving, and shift time. Shifting time has to do with the ever changing colors of the board. If the board’s colors are mostly light (white, cyan, green), the Light side has more health and if the board is darker (purple, dark blue, black), the Dark side has more health. If you shift time, whatever colors, darker or lighter, the board was shifting towards, reverses.



                                                                             Let the games begin!!! Oh ho ho ho ho!


Archon gives chess a more magical, bloody kick, and while it’s moderately fun for a time, it doesn’t have chess’ long-lasting appeal. The battles, in particular, feel choppy and restricted. You’re only allowed one shot/attack at a time, and how quickly that shot/attack reloads depends on the strength of your character. In my opinion, all characters should be able to attack as quickly as they want, and the strength of their attack should be the only thing that’s different (i.e. Knights/Goblins are always the weakest, since they represent pawns). Also, the Wizard and the Sorceress are way overpowered. I suppose they’re comparable to the Queen in chess, but at least the Queen has to wait for her lackeys to move out of her way before she can wreck havoc. These magicians can cast spells from the first move of the game, if you so choose. As do most games, Archon excels with a second-player. Playing against the computer is decent for a time, but you’ll either get so good, you’ll clobber the CPU time and time again or you’ll just be frustrated with how good the computer is at battling and quit. Archon‘s a unique one, and I’ll give it points for that, but it couldn’t hold me.




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  • What in the world!
    You didn’t even play the game! Archon is actually a very good game. My brothers and sisters and I LOVED playing this game back when. We still talk about it, and it goes something like this:

    “Remember Archon?”
    “Yeah, it was always so fun! It was so irritating when Paul would beat my banshee with his little pawn soldier!”
    “Yeah, but you were always pretty good with the shapeshifter…”
    “Right, but the Phoenix totally ruled!”

    I’m being serious here. Archon is actually a very fun game when playing against another human. The competition is quite fun. Against the computer, it’s still a decent game, but this game really shines as a 2-player competitive game. It’s a chess-style game, but you actually have to battle it out to win control of board squares.

    Thanks for this blog, by the way. I just discovered your blog today, and this is my first comment of what will likely be many.

  • Hi Bard Oly,

    You’re right, I didn’t play the game. I’m in the midst of re-writing some earlier reviews, and I plan on re-vising this one either today or tomorrow.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog, though! You found it in its transitional stage. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Thanks for reading and take care.

  • Anonymous

    Ah Archon…

    My brother and I loved chess, so this game naturally had our attention as children. I would love to see a remake of this some time. I think if done right it could be really popular.


  • @Anonymous: You’re right, I think Archon would be a great downloadable title for modern systems, especially if it was modernized a tad.

  • Actually, it’s on Steam. It’s called Archon Classic.

  • Alanna

    Archon was simply amazing and transcended all walks of life. Jocks to nerds and inbetween were lured into playing… and loving… this game. Whether yhe appeal was its similarities to chess and the implied strategic factor or the fact that monsters pummelimg each other in the arena was awesome… everyone seemed to want to play it and became hooked on it. This game was the star of the show for many holiday family gatherings for several years running because of it was easy to get into and fun to root for the players from the sidelines. Unlike most games from this era, its actually fun to revisit. This is a port of a computer title and has spawned sequels and several attempts to reboot it, to no avail. The original is still the best, so far.