THERE IS a world of difference between the intellectual precision of chess and the imaginative power of good fantasy games. All the more peculiar, then, that veteran fantasy game designers Paul Reiche and Jon Freeman should have combined the two to produce Archon.
The game is played out on a chequered board with 81 squares. The opposing armies remind one instantly of chess, with pawn-like knights and goblins, and stronger, more mobile pieces on the back row.
When two pieces clash for a square the game shifts to arcade action, and the monsters fight it out, blasting with fireballs or trying to close with fang or blade. White squares favour the forces of light, black squares darkness, and there are five power points with healing qualities and variable colour.
Although well packaged and presented, the graphics are predictable and seem old fashioned.
The problem is really that the abstract nature of the game serves to dissipate most of the creativity involved in producing interesting monsters. You rapidly lose any sense of involvement in the fantasy myths surrounding the struggle, and play the game mechanically.
The inclusion of magic spells for two of the pieces is a good idea, but again they are used merely as extra options in play, and have no real emotional force of their own.
Viewed as a board game, Archon is a competent invention, and clearly has strategic possibilities. But it is not ideally suited to the home computer, and we would have preferred to see Reiche turning the talent he used to good effect, with the creators of Dungeons and Dragons to more adventurous material.
Archon is a game for the collector of such things, not for those who want good entertainment at a fair price. The price is certainly not fair, and our rating would have been higher if Ariolasoft had charged less.
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair