Wonderland Game
THE MIDNIGHT POST * December 2006
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Classic Game Spotlight:
Archon: The Light and The Dark

Perhaps inspired by the classic holo-chess scene in 1977's Star Wars, Archon was a fresh mix of strategy and action that became an instant classic. The game was designed by Free Fall Associates and released by Electronic Arts in 1983, first on the Atari 800, then on most other 8-bit computer systems.

Archon seemed - at first glance - to be a version of chess. Except for the fact that the 'light' game pieces consisted of Knights, Unicorns, Golems, and a Phoenix, and the opposing 'dark' army contained Banshees, Goblins, Trolls, and a Dragon. And the fact that the board tiles gradually changed their colours, giving light and dark pieces different advantages over time. Oh yes, and the fact that when two pieces met on a field, the outcome was decided in a one-on-one brawl, giving you direct control over your unit as it would fire arrows, fling boulders, and cast spells.

Each army was led by a spellcasting unit (a wizard and a sorceress, respectively). This unit could heal friendly pieces, teleport or imprison other units, even revive a unit lost in battle. The game was won by defeating all of the opponent's units (not just the spellcaster) or by occupying all five "power points" on the playing field. A (reasonably intelligent, for its time) computer opponent was available for one player games, but Archon really shone when played head-to-head against another human player. (On the same computer of course - this is 1983, after all. The internet wasn't even a glimmer in Al Gore's eyes!)

A second game, Archon 2: Adept, followed. Each player was now in control of four Adepts, fighting for supremacy in four elemental zones. Each Adept could summon additional units (Giants, Sirens, Juggernauts, and more) and had a "Tron"-esque projectile that could be directed during its flight.

Archon Links and Trivia

* Free Fall Associates were founded by Jon Freeman, Anne Westfall, and Paul Reiche III. After Archon and Archon 2, husband-and-wife-team Freeman and Westfall designed the mystery game Murder on the Zinderneuf, while Paul Reiche III is perhaps best known for the Star Control series (co-developed with Fred Ford).

* A third "game", Archon III: Exciter, appeared for Commodore 64. However, this was a fan-based effort and not an official Archon game. Unfortunately it was poorly designed and offered little to no gameplay value.

* An updated PC version, Archon Ultra, appeared in 1994, but did not quite live up to the playability and success of the original games.

* An all new fan-based update, Archon Evolution, looks promising, although news on its development has been quiet of late.

* Does listening to the Archon and Adept main themes bring back any memories? (music links courtesy of VGMusic.com)

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