The original "Archon" was released in 1983, and with its unique (and excellently executed) blend of tactical board game and arcade combat mechanics, it was one of the best games of this era. "Archon Classic" shows that the even 30 years later, the game design holds up very well. On top of better graphics, this remake adds support for up to 4 players in a game, alternative board layouts, a campaign mode with 15 scenarios in each of 2 campaigns, and level-ups for creatures. All these additions are completely optional, and if you want to, you can play it in just the same way as 30 years ago - even with the graphics from back then if you're feeling nostalgic.
Archon is a battle between two wizards and their armies, which are either "light" or "dark". The game is played on a chess-like board with 9x9 tiles (in the default variant). Five tiles are "power points", controlling all of them at the same time wins you the game. Tiles are either permanently white or black, or oscillate between these two extremes in six stages. Creatures of a "light" player get bonuses the more white their tile is, and creatures of a "dark" player get bonuses the more black their tile is.
Each player starts with 18 pieces belonging to seven types. "Light" and "dark" have different creatures with different abilities, e.g. unicorns (light) or basilisks (dark). On the strategic board, each creature has its own movement speed (3-5 tiles) and its own movement type (ground units cannot move diagonally or jump across others, flying units don't have these limitations). When two units meet on the same tile, then both are taken to a combat arena. Each player takes control of his creature, and an arcade battle is fought to the death. In the combat arena, each creature has its own movement speed, attack type, projectile speed, weapon damage, attack cooldown duration, and health. Optionally, each creature also gets a second special ability. This variety leads to a multitude of possible battles. Also, obstacles will periodically appear and vanish on the battlefield, allowing creatures to take cover for a moment (or slowing down their movement).
Additionally, the wizards can cast spells on the strategic board, like teleporting a unit t a different tile, reviving a killed unit, or summon an elemental for a single battle.
"Archon Classic" adds a few additional modes, which allow creatures to improve their abilities, either through leveling up after winning battles, or through entering a tile that contains a magical rune.
In short, Archon is a game that challenges your brain (in the strategic part) as well as your arcade skills (in the battles).
The graphics are functional. Units are drawn as sprites and can look a bit pixelated on large displays, but the game does not need spectacular graphics to be enjoyable.
The sound effects do their job (like giving the player a cue when his attack cooldown has expired). The music is rather repetitive and can be a bit grating over time, though the main theme (which is an adaptation of the theme from the original game) sounds still good. There is no voice acting in the game.
The game can be played exclusively with the keyboard. Keyboard controls for up to four players are fully customizable. The mouse can optionally be used to navigate the menus and to move pieces on the board (but not for combat). Controllers appear to be supported, though I don't own any and therefore couldn't test that.
The interface is simple and efficient and provides more information than in the original game.
Task switching is supported, but unfortunately the music keeps playing even when the game loses focus.
EASE OF USE:
The game installed easily (though the installer had a bit of a problem fitting its text into the respective window). Gameplay is easy to understand but (at least against human opponents) hard to master.
There is no manual available, but an in-game help system conveys all the necessary information.
The game can handle different user profiles. Campaign process is saved automatically to the respective profile. It is not possible to save a single match in progress, but each match only takes about 20 minutes (occasionally longer, sometimes much quicker), so this feature isn't missed too much.
OTHER THINGS OF NOTE:
The AI is better than in the original game, but only poses a threat for novice to medium players. Veterans will probably be able to win the game fairly regularly, though it's still no cakewalk if you set the AI to its highest level.
The single player campaigns are fairly short, but a more difficult "Insane" mode is available after completing one, and the ranking system gives additional incentive to get to "gold" level in each scenario. The multiplayer part of the game never gets old - unfortunately it's limited to hotseat play, there is no way to connect to other players via local networks or the Internet.
Microsoft DotNet is required to play the game. It's not included in the installer, but can be downloaded for free from Microsoft.
The game is DRM-free, which is always nice.
A great remake that provides the timeless classical gameplay, as well as several optional enhancements - highly recommended for gaming veterans and newcomers alike.
Review Date: 2013-03-22
Program version: 1.1.8
Progress: about a dozen games and campaign scenarios played