Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games
Developer: Stormfront Studios
Release Date: November 15, 2006
A best-selling book, a major motion picture, and a video game based on said movie walk into a bar ....
Sadly, this joke is looking to be as bad as the video game itself, so I will spare you the failed humor and move on to other things. If you haven't heard of it, Eragon is a video game which is based on an upcoming movie, which in turn was based on a best-selling book.
Eragon is your classic model of heroism and the struggle between good and evil. The story is set in Alagaesia, a magical land which is ruled by the evil villain, King Galbatorix. Galbatorix was once a legendary Dragon Rider who angrily rebelled against the Dragon Riders council, who were considered to be keepers of peace. Galbatorix, along with the Forsworn (a group of 13 riders who also betrayed the order), began to hunt and kill dragons and their chosen elite riders, so dragons and their riders were believed to have been extinct for many years.
The player takes on the role of Eragon, a 15-year-old boy who lives with his uncle and cousin on their farm. While hunting one day, Eragon stumbles upon a shiny blue stone, which takes with him and tries to sell it to a local merchant. This is unsuccessful, so he decides to keep it; imagine is surprise when a baby dragon emerges from the "stone." Seeking council from the village elder, he is informed of the ancient ways of the Dragon Riders and names his dragon Saphira. Eragon keeps and raises the dragon in secret, until Galbatorix sends two Ra'zac (evil summoned creatures) to Carvahall to find the missing egg. Eragon manages to escape with the dragon, but his uncle is killed and the farm house destroyed; he vows to avenge his uncle's death, so over time, he learns the ways of the Dragon Rider.
Eragon consists of 16 very short and uneventful levels; the Xbox 360 version contains two more levels, but they're also pretty average. While the environment gives the appearance of an open world waiting to be explored, the reality is that it is very linear. Some levels take on a platform feel and contain various obstacles or cliffs that you have to climb or jump over. You are able to easily knock mobs of enemies from these cliffs and platforms, but you will find that Eragon has sticky tar on his boots, which makes it impossible to have him walk off the very same platforms. This drastically takes away from any realism or hopes of realism the player may have of taking on the role of the main character.
In each level, there is a hidden secret dragon egg, and collecting an egg unlocks extra content, which is unfortunately not very worthwhile (i.e., a advertisement for the book and movie Eragon). Finding the eggs will be accomplished while playing through each level for the first time, which is good, considering you cannot go back and replay levels after completing them; the game is so linear that you must move onto the next mission immediately.
As Eragon, you start with only a bow, a sword, and some basic fighting moves. Melee attacks include a basic quick strike and a powerful strike, which can be combined into sequences of three button presses to create more powerful melee combos (i.e., X, Circle, Circle; Circle, Circle, X). You also have the ability to block enemy attacks and occasionally grapple or knock down enemies, if you manage to push the corresponding button at the correct time.
Battles consist mostly of you and your AI counterpart taking on countless waves of the same enemies. The enemies take numerous strikes to kill, so you will find yourself repeatedly mashing buttons in any order as you mindlessly destroy these generic mobs. However, some enemies are tougher than others, and some require the player to perform special attacks in order to deal damage to them. You can also use the bow to pick off mobs that are further away from you; however, you will find that arrows do little damage unless you take the time to properly aim the bow by holding down the arrow button for about three seconds. When you properly aim the bow, you are sometimes able to one-shot enemies from long distances.
I grew sick of the fighting system and became bored with the gameplay very early on in the game and found myself using one attack, and one attack alone, to kill enemies. The melee move of choice is the jump attack, which is used to knock back bigger enemies so that you can whale on them with combos until they die. However, it does not take long to figure out that this attack will very easily kill mobs with one strike if you hit them and they fall off a five-foot ledge or into a small pool of water. It makes no sense that mobs can live after being hacked and slashed with a sharp blade of a sword 20+ times but not live after falling such a short distance or disappearing into less than a foot of water.
After a few levels of mind-numbing button-mashing, Eragon obtains the ability to use magic. A couple of the early "spells" you are able to use are push and pull attacks. The implementation of magic does little to liven up the repetitive battle sequences, although it is somewhat enjoyable to toss an enemy from a high ledge with the wave of your hand. Magic is also used to alter the environment to move predetermined objects to make paths for your young hero to continue his journey of revenge. The downside of using magic is that it takes away from gameplay in the sense that you can one-shot mobs with the use of the push or pull abilities to knock them off platforms to their death. Welcome to the new jump attack!
If Eragon is based on a story about dragons and the elite warriors that ride them, where on Earth, err Alagaesia, are the so-called dragons? Certain levels have your dragon flying around above you and doing absolutely nothing while you are on the ground battling the countless mobs. From time to time, Eragon will find a dragon marking, at which point the player can use magic to call the dragon to assist in battle. This, however, is not as cool as one would imagine. After calling Saphira, the game temporarily goes to an in-game cut scene that shows the dragon smashing an object or enemy in your path, and then it's back to mindless button-mashing. There are also a couple of levels where you get to fly on the back of your dragon, but the levels are very linear and poorly designed. Basically, you are able to control the dragon to go up, down, left, or right to negotiate obstacles while you speed down a predetermined path.
The button configuration and control scheme in Eragon is very basic and can be mastered by anyone in a matter of a few minutes. After all, it doesn't take a gaming master to mash some buttons over and over – just look at Marvel vs. Capcom as an example. Eragon's movement is controlled with the left analog stick, the face buttons are used for melee and magical attacks, and the shoulder buttons are used for accessing your bow. There are no options to change the layout of the controller, except for changing dragon flight controls from normal to inverted.
I found myself very angry at Eragon's horrid camera angles, so I turned to my trusty right analog stick to try and correct this problem. I pushed the right analog stick to the left and nothing happened, so I pushed it right, and again nothing happened. Thinking my controller may have been broken, I replaced it with another one that I knew was working properly because I had just used it a few days ago. It was at this time that I figured out that it was not the controller causing the bad camera angles, but the game itself – the developers had not implemented the use of the second analog stick to control camera angles. Some people would argue that set camera angles add to the presentation of the game, this is not the case with Eragon, as you are constantly finding yourself in an area and wishing you could change the angle to help maneuver a certain location or obstacle.
To wrap up Eragon in a pretty bow and give it to a kid for Christmas would be a mistake. Instead, I recommend you to go to your local game rental store and get a gift card to drop in a stocking. Eragon comes up short in just about every aspect on which a game is "graded." The graphics and sound are average, and nothing really jumps out and grabs your attention. Gameplay is very linear and built around the same engine that brought you The Two Towers. The few moves that I considered to be cool, like stabbing your sword into a fallen enemy's chest, become tiresome because each time you perform the move, the game has to cut to an in-game cinema. The story is level-driven, slow, and jumpy and comes off as though the developer anticipated that you have already read the book or seen the movie, making it near-impossible to understand if you have not. Many will find the title to be lacking in difficulty, especially with the huge icons and tips letting you know when to perform different moves or spells. Eragon feels rushed and incomplete, like something that was developed as a budget title and not something to accompany a multi-million-dollar movie release.
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