Archon is one of those classic games everyone should have at least heard of, and hopefully experienced playing as well. Released in 1983 I remember playing this against my friends on the Commodore 64, and we loved it immensely. It tells the battle of light versus dark raging on a board looking not unlike a chessboard. Unlike chess though Archon features an action element as well complimenting the strategy element. The squares in Archon come in grey, light and dark with the corresponding squares benefiting the corresponding armies. Grey comes in different shades with different benefits for light and dark. To win a game of Archon you have to either obliterate the enemy or capture the five power squares placed at key locations on the board. Back row, middle point and in the top and bottom middle. There are a whole lot of different pieces to learn in the game, no less than 16 unique pieces. You have 18 per team, weaker pieces come in greater number just like the pawns in chess. Pieces move differently on the board, and have different attacks, attack ratings and health points. My favourite is the Phoenix that has an area attack blasting the nearby foe. Others have swords and clubs while most units have long range attacks. You also have spell casters, Wizard and Sorceress, capable of casting a host of game altering spells. Each spell can only be used once, and expire once the caster dies.
Once a unit tries to occupy the same space as an enemy unit you go to the battle screen. This is the large difference in Archon compared to chess where you only remove the captured pieces. On the battle screen you have to fight the piece you tried to capture. As there are so many different pieces battles tend to feature different contestants most of the time. Strategically most battles look the same though with the AI trying to catch you while you try to take cheap shots before you run again. Battles were much more fun when played versus a human opponent, the AI can never replace that with the three available levels of difficulty.
The controls are either touch or a combination of touch and accelerometer. To me the accelerometer is useless when you want to turn to make diagonal attacks. The virtual joystick works well, and makes skirmish attacks easy to perform.
I think that developer React Games has managed to recreate one of my fondest memories of early gaming. The question I ask myself is whether that is enough to warrant a purchase or not. And losing out on multiplayer that made the original really great feels strange. Of course multiplayer on the same iPhone is impossible but online multiplayer should be a blast, and easy to implement.
If you are like me, and have had the chance to experience the original I think you will enjoy this recreation. If you are new to the game, wait for some sort of online multiplayer and force your friends to buy it as well.
Presentation and graphics
It looks like a recreation of a game from 1983, and heck it is. Nowhere near what the iPhone is capable of, and to me that is a good thing as I hate good games being dressed up too well making you forget what the game is all about. And as this is supposed to be paying tribute to the original I like how the developers didn’t go for some kind of 3-d FPS battles or whatnot. It is easy to distinguish the small pieces from each other, and during battle you can see how they are turned to determine when to attack.
Good music at the menu screen, otherwise it only features sound effects. I think the lack of music is too evident while playing, I miss some bombastic classical arrangements as I move my pieces into battle. Archon fades out your own music.
Archon features an excellent combination of strategy and action, and I think both the shooter fan and chess player can enjoy the game.
I think the touch controls are well implemented, and work just as well as my Tac 2 and my friends Boss did back in the day.
The AI is better at strategising on the board than battling on the battle screen, which is sad. It has to attack my weak units with really strong ones to win making most battles too easy. I remember when my friends and me played how we stood around camping, and a battle could take up to ten minutes. Now they are over in less than one minute. On the hardest level of difficulty the AI moves really quickly, and then you are in for a challenge. Still not satisfying to gloat at an AI while winning.
Archon keeps track of your stats, and there are different achievements depending on how well you perform. Other than that it is a bit thin in gamelife.
Of course the game will keep you enjoyed for some time, but to make this the game it deserves to be you have to be able to beat
your friends. There is only one game mode available now but as they have even put in a choice where you choose that only mode tells me there are more modes to come.
Archon for the iPhone is a competent comeback of one of the greats, with good touch controls. A definite lack of content forces the rating down significantly. If a future update incorporates online multiplayer I will definitely see this as a four or even above four-star game. But as it stands now a good rating of three and a half stars is all I can give it no matter how much I love it. A lite version would be great to get new gamers to try this classic before they buy it.