Archon delivers classic gaming with a few rough spots

Posted: June 23, 2009 in Adventure, Strategy

What do you get when you throw in a pound of combat, a dash of retro gaming, and a pinch of strategy? You get Archon which does a good job of bringing back a classic, but on certain levels misses some opportunities as well. If you’re looking for a live action, loosely played chess game, Archon won’t disappoint, but it may not be for everyone.

The game involves a strategy board and epic battles between the Light and the Dark. Each side has its own set of characters with strengths and powers. The objective is to lay claim to 5 power squares or destroy all your enemies. You have the option of playing Light or Dark, and there are 3 levels of difficulty: Novice, Average and Adept. Novice and Average are easy, and if you want a real challenge, you should try your hand at Adept.

The game has two parts: the Strategy Board and the Combat Arena. The strategy board is where the characters are moved and placed while the Combat Arena is where the action takes place. Speaking of characters, here is what to expect:

Light—Wizard, Genie, Unicorn, Phoenix, Golem, Valkryie, Archer, Knight
Dark—Sorceress, Dragon, Shapeshifter, Goblin, Manticore, Banshee, Troll, Basilisk

Visually, the game looks decent with creative animations, but it can also be a somewhat lackluster especially when it comes to the combat scenes.

The controls are simple: tap the character that you want to move and then tap the square to move to. When a character moves into a square already occupied by an enemy, the game shifts to the Combat Arena. Here, the d-pad or optional accelerometer is used to maneuver, while shooting or thrusting is done via tap to the screen. A timer is also included in the game because the faster you complete a game, the higher your rank. Depending on many of your characters survive and your degree of success, Archon includes an 8-rank system where can be designated from the lowly Pawn all the way up to Archon.

Something to take note is that the Strategy Board has 3 types of squares: Light, Dark and Grey. The Light Squares provide a boost to those on the Light Team, while the Dark Squares benefit the Dark Team. The Grey Squares will alternate between light and dark during the game. Why does this matter? This has an impact on the characters in the Combat Arena. A small screen in the upper left shows a selected character along with strength statistics. Also, an area appears that can be tapped to invoke a spell when applicable…more on that shortly.

In the Combat Arena, there are two power meters: one for each combatant along with a light underneath each. When the light is green, the combatant is fully charged to use its weapon, while red means start running because it temporarily has no juice. The combat scenes are done pretty well, and you’ll find that a weaker combatant can defeat a stronger one if cunning enough. But you’ll also find that certain combatants match up better against each other, while others are disasters waiting to happen. The problem I have is that the controls can lag somewhat and have a tendency to be unresponsive. This is exacerbated by the use of a d-pad on a touch screen. I tried using the accelerometer, but it doesn’t provide the accuracy for movement.

In addition to the various characters, each has one spell caster (Wizard: light; Sorceress: dark) that can cast spells, and once that caster is destroyed, no more spells can be cast. Spells include Imprison, Shift Time, Summon, Teleport, Revive, Heal and Exchange, and each can only be used once a game. Once a spell is invoked, you select a character on which to bestow upon.

While multiplayer mode is on the way, Archon does miss in other areas. One is the use of the screen. In the Strategy Board screen, way too much real estate is wasted on the d-pad, when the reality is that most people may not even use it. As I mentioned, moving characters on the board can be done via tap which is more practical anyway. The board and the characters are small and could’ve been enlarged with a different set up. Another area is the d-pad controls, and while I think this is the most appropriate scheme, it needs to be more responsive.

I think Archon offers a good deal of entertaining play, and most people will like the concept. Others may find it a bit rough around the edges and limited with repetitive gameplay.

Albie Meter: 3.5 Stars (recommended for fans of classic Archon; for others, note my caveats and set your expectations before you take the dive)


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