I first discovered Archon on my NES many years ago. I came to play Archon 2 on a friend’s computer as well afterward, but somehow the original Archon remained entrenched as a favorite of mine. I wound up saving my allowance to buy it for the NES and played countless matches afterward.
The game itself is an interesting hybrid of chess and simple combat. The game is billed as a struggle between light and darkness. Each side has its own pieces, and their counterparts are generally comparable. You have the basic knights and goblins (think pawns) and other mythical creatures like unicorns, basilisks and queen-like Dragons. Some units ‘fly’ others walk.
The chess-like elements are founded in the two opposing sides of the board and squares that make up the board. Some squares are forever dark, others forever light – just like chess. One differentiating element is that fluctuating tiles that change one shade lighter or darker every passing turn.
You win one of two ways – you take all the squares of power (there are 5) or you destroy the other side completely. The combat elements are two-fold. Each character has an attack: knights and goblins have very little health, and their attacks are weak, short-range melee strikes while Dragons have a powerful ranged attack with lots of life.
The color of the squares however affects the creature’s life. A dragon has considerably more life if on a dark square than a light one. Each side’s primary piece (think king or queen) has a handful of useful spells they can cast one time each.
This almost feels like a Retro Reflection as well, since it has such a long description. That said, this game does enhance upon the original. There are expanded game modes, including secondary attacks now and new rules. There are also a handful of campaign modes that create situations for you (like using two characters that are a bit stronger than the opponents and overcoming their eight units). This mode adds things like experience and level gains.
Graphics – 7:
This is not exactly top-shelf stuff, but they are a vast improvement over the original, with better textures and details across the board. The battle arenas have always felt a bit sparse, and that holds true today. The board could use a bit more of an update as well, but it does not look bad either.
Sound & Music – 5:
There are limited but effective sound effects. That said, in a longer fight, they can grow a bit repetitive, but even then the longest matches usually only take a minute or two. The music is okay and fits the action, but it is far from amazing. There is no voice work at all.
Gameplay – 7:
Menus are easy to navigate, the various mode offerings are nice. It would have been great if the game had some sort of online mode though. Two of my friends and I played quite a bit against one another before, and this game allows for local competition, but some sort of online would have been nice. Campaign mode does a nice job of giving you something to do besides the tradition even-sided match. The storyline is pretty minimal, but as a kid I was always coming up with my own sort of ‘story’ for light vs. darkness, so the effort’s appreciated. Combat plays like it did before, which is generally good and the addition of secondary skills (which can be turned off) was a nice surprise.
Intangibles – 6:
The four campaign modes do chew up some time, and the ability to play against a person or the cpu locally is fun, but there was a missed online opportunity that would have added a lot of value to the game. It has an old school feel that I can appreciate having spent soooo many hours playing it when I was younger as well.
Overall – 6.25:
The normal price for this game is $10 on steam. For me, the game has some fun nostalgia to offer, because I was such an ardent fan of the original. On top of that, I got it on discount around Christmas time for about $3, so it was easily worth it to me then. For others? It is hard to say. My son played it for a few nights and liked it, but has not really bothered with it since. I get the feeling that for most people, it will be fun for a couple of nights or so, but fall into obscurity before too long. The campaign mode adds some value, but only so much. As a note? It plays far better with a controller than a keyboard.