Archon: The Light and the Dark
|Archon: The Light and the Dark|
|Developer(s)||Free Fall Associates|
|Designer(s)||Jon Freeman, Anne Westfall, Paul Reiche III|
|Mode(s)||Single player or two player|
|Media/distribution||Floppy disk, cartridge, cassette|
Archon: The Light and the Dark is a video game developed by Free Fall Associates and distributed by Electronic Arts. It was originally developed for Atari 8-bit computers in 1983, but was later ported to several other systems of the day, including the Apple II, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Amiga, IBM PC, Apple Macintosh, PC-88, and NES. It was designed by Paul Reiche III (also created the graphics for the game) and Jon Freeman, and programmed by Anne Westfall.
On the surface, Archon appears similar to chess, but there are a number of significant changes. While the board is similar to a chessboard, and the various pieces are similarly designed to have various offsetting abilities, when one piece attempts to take another, the removal of the targeted piece is not automatic. Instead, the two pieces are placed into a full-screen 'combat arena' and must battle (action-style, with the players running the pieces) to determine who takes the square.
Generally (but not always) in combat, a stronger piece will defeat a weaker piece in either defending or capturing a square. It is also possible for the fight to result in a double-kill, in which both pieces are eliminated. This uncertainty adds a level of complexity into the game, since it is not always possible to predict if taking a square will be successful. Different pieces have different abilities in the combat phase. These include movement, lifespan, and weapon damage and attributes. The weapons vary by range, speed, rate-of-fire, and power. For example, the pawn (represented by knights on the 'light' side and goblins on the 'dark' side) attacks quickly, but has very little strength; its weapon, a sword or club, has limited reach and power. A dragon is considerably stronger and can attack from a distance, while a golem moves slowly and fires a slow but powerful boulder.
Some pieces have special abilities. The Phoenix can turn into a ball of fire, both damaging the enemy and shielding itself from enemy attacks. The shapeshifter assumes the shape and abilities of whatever piece it is up against. MikroBitti magazine once noted that the Phoenix and the shapeshifter facing each other usually end up as the most boring battle in the entire game - as both combatants' capabilities are simultaneously offensive and defensive, they tend to use it whenever they meet each other, and thus both rarely get damaged. Each side also has a spellcaster piece (the sorceress for the dark side, the wizard for the light side) that can cast seven different spells; each spell may be used only once per game by each spellcaster.
The game is usually won when either one side destroys all the opposing pieces or one of the sides is able to occupy all of the five power points. More rarely, a side may also win by imprisoning its opponent's last remaining piece. If each side has but a single piece, and the two pieces destroy each other in a double-kill, then the game ends in a tie.
|This section requires expansion. (July 2011)|
Science-fiction author Orson Scott Card reviewed Archon for COMPUTE! Magazine in November 1983. Card gave Archon (as well as two other EA games, M.U.L.E. and Worms?) a complimentary review, writing: "They are original; they do what they set out to do very, very well; they allow the player to take part in the creativity; they do things that only computers can do." In 1996, Computer Gaming World ranked it as the 20th best game of all time.
The original game was rewritten for Palm OS in 2000 and was close to the original. The creator, Carsten Magerkurth, of EmperoR Studios, contacted the members of former Free Fall Associates and, with their input, developed a new version in 2003 (v1.21) with colors and sounds even closer to the original.
Another rewrite of the game, Archon: Evolution, was developed by Curve Software. The game reached public beta status before disappearing from the Internet, but resurfaced in January 2008. The game used code from the original 8-bit version with the blessing of Jon Freeman.
In 2008, React Games acquired the license from Free Fall to develop the Archon title across multiple platforms. It released an iPhone version in June 2009. React Games was founded by Chad Lee, who had worked on the non-commercial version of the game, Archon Evolution. A follow-up title Archon: Conquest from React Games was released in September 2009 for the iPhone. It is a single-player game set in the Archon universe that features four campaigns, each with 15 quests.
Archon: Classic for Windows was released in May 2010 by React Games. It features new gameplay elements not in the original game, such as four player support, four AI settings, various new boards to choose from, pieces that level up, power-ups in combat and more.
Free Fall Associates developed a sequel to the game called Archon II: Adept in 1984 (it appeared on different systems on different dates). Not very similar to the original, it had improved graphics, different creatures, and required different strategy to win. The players in this version represented either Order or Chaos and possessed 4 adepts that could cast powerful spells. The game also featured an end-game option called the "Apocalypse spell," where one player or the other could call for a final battle to determine the outcome of the game. The Amiga version featured full stereo sound, unusual for games of the day.
The Unholy War is a PlayStation game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Eidos Interactive in 1998. It was designed by Paul Reiche III and featured a similar style of strategy and combat as Archon. An unofficial sequel, Archon III: Exciter, was produced by unknown Archon fans for the Commodore 64 in 1985.
Paul Reiche and Fred Ford went on to create the Star Control series of video games. The combat component of the first Star Control game is very similar in that each player has a group of spaceships with different abilities which they send into one-on-one combat. Paul and Fred went on to found Toys for Bob, and create many other games together.
See also 
- Kingdom Crusade, which plays in a similar fashion to this video game
- Mortal Kombat: Deception, has a Kombat Chess mini game that is very similar, with almost the same rules.
- Battle vs. Chess, has a game mode very similar but the board mode plays more like chess.
- Secrets of Archon at vintagecomputing.com - detailing mechanics of the Atari 800 version.
- "Home Computer Games Grow Up" by Orson Scott Card from Classic Computer Magazine Archive
- CGW 148: 150 Best Games of All Time
- Archon - Palm OS Apps
- Archon: Evolution
- Archived archonevolution.com website, mentioning Freeman's involvement.
- App Store - Archon
- App Store - Archon:Conquest