HERE we have a set of two related games, both of which have seen service on other home computers for quite a while. Archon was one of the first games to appear on the Amiga 1000, but early versions were not compatible with Kickstart 1.2.
Archon II has also been available for a while, but by making them both run on the A500 and 2000 EA has been able to introduce new Amiga owners to these fave raves.
Neither makes full use of the Amiga’s abilities – although in 1985 Archon seemed stunning – and despite their being just a mite long in the tooth, they offer some of the best strategic entertainment you could hope to find.
Each disc contains a separate chess-cum-arcade game, played out over two types of screen – a strategy board and an open battlefield. Both offer similar screens, the main difference being a change in the significance of the board squares in Archon II.
The game concerns a struggle between the forces of light and darkness, either of which may be played by human, the computer or a cyborg.
The cyborg option is a useful compromise between the other two – the human player controls the strategy board but lets the computer take over all action on the battle screen. Either side may be handicapped – the higher the handicap, the slower the movement and reloading of that player’s pieces and missiles.
The pieces have different attributes and, depending on the type, may move along the ground, fly or teleport to another square. A unicorn, wizard and phoenix are some of the light sides pieces while a sorceress, basilisk and dragon make up part of the dark team.
Certain pieces have the ability to cast spells such as heal, shift time – affecting the current luminance of the squares – exchange places, revive, imprison and summon an elemental, which is a temporary attacking piece.
All can engage in combat, which normally takes place when a piece lands on a square occupied by the enemy. At this point the display switches to the battlefield where the pieces fight it out with whatever weapons their individual type decrees they may use – fireballs, rocks, lightning bolts, eviction notices...
Pieces are initially positioned chess-like at opposite sides of the board. Some squares have special properties. In Archon I a piece ona square of its own colour is far more powerful than when it is on a square of the opposite side’s colour.
The luminance of colours ebbs and flows, but can be changed immediately by casting a shift time spell. Flashing power point squares offer faster healing and give protection against magic spells.
In Archon II each side starts with four main teleporting pieces, adepts, which can conjure up a number of creatures to assist them. The strategy board is composed of four bands representing earth, air, fire and water, the same elements as the adepts. These squares act on the occupying piece in the same way as the luminosity of the squares in Archon I.
Both games are joystick-driven and response is first rate. The sprites and animation look a little old-fashioned – chunky and stiff – and the battle scenes are fairly basic by today’s 16 bit standards. FX are similarly functional.
However, the wide variety of playing pieces, their characteristics and the combinations of moves available make Archon a game with all the strategic depth and breadth of chess.