Review by Eric43

Reviewed: 06/24/08

Movie-to-game achievement point fodder, what else did you expect?

Video games based off of movies nowadays are seldom described as deep and engrossing, and recent examples include Peter Jackson’s King Kong, Open Season, Shrek the Third, and Surf’s Up. Having just finished King Kong in my quest to attain the highest Gamerscore possible, I had a bad taste in my mouth and knew I was in for more of the same in Eragon, but nonetheless I swallowed my thoughts and went in for another achievement point extravaganza.

Like King Kong, these games don’t necessarily have to be short and simple, but they are anyway. And even if they are simple, they could at least be fun. But Eragon didn’t really fulfill either requirement. Not necessarily that Eragon is a bad game, but almost everything in this game has been done better in other games, and once you are done, you could probably care less about it.

Eragon is based off a feature-length film with the same name. Having not seen the original movie, I was somewhat uncertain as to what expect. The film follows the adventures of the self-titled Eragon, the blonde young man from the crazy Lord of the Rings-like world where an army of trolls (the Urgals) are invading his homeworld whilst the humans fight amongst themselves in some silly little civil war. What on earth do we do? Eragon is the man—his sword and bow-and-arrow skills will come in handy in dispatching legions of evil-doers, along with his cohorts, Saphira, the fire-breathing dragon, and Brom, the fancy-pants Ben Kenobi-type old guy mentor who will assist you on foot as well. This is the plot in a nutshell as you play through eighteen levels following the film’s plot. Anyone who has seen the movie before will probably appreciate the progression, but it’s not necessary to play this game.

Anyway, Eragon is a hack-and-slash adventure by heart. A majority of the game has you playing as Eragon on foot, running around cutting up noobie medieval soldiers and big ugly trolls. With all the combat you will do, he’s obviously trying out for the next Soul Calibur game. Attacking is quite simple. Mashing the A and B buttons allows you to execute vertical and horizontal swipes with your blade. You can press certain buttons in order to execute wrestling-style moves or even use additional buttons to jump and block attacks, but for the most part, executing melee attacks is mindlessly simple. Bow-and-arrow attacks, on the other hand, are as simple as holding X, locking onto a target, and shooting the poor sucker.

Some games, particularly the infamous Zelda: Ocarina of Time, have set milestones in weapon-oriented combat. On the other hand, Eragon’s combat feels somewhat broken and flimsy. As stated, almost any melee attack will do against enemies, and if surrounded by multiple enemies, you’ll get knocked down over and over again. Advanced techniques are not really necessary, so button mash if you want. When you slash at enemies, you have some trouble trying to lock on to enemies to actually damage them. On the other hand, the bow and arrow are borderline broken. When you hold X for a few seconds, you’ll execute a “Precision Shot” that’ll automatically kill almost all enemies. The only problem is that, thanks to the basic enemy AI of just running up and trying to kill you, this can be a pain in the ass sometimes. But if enemies come in a slow stream, you’ll never need to use your sword ever.

There’s a few additional features, such as the ability to use a few “magic” attacks or alter objects around you to progress (you’d swear Eragon was a jedi knight, minus the lightsaber). You can also gain “Fury” by killing enemies and collecting items in treasure chests which, when activated, will make you super-strong for a short period of time. But aside from this, the combat feels rather boring and forced. Speaking of forced, some sections of the game will progress purely by running from point A to B instead of killing X enemies, which means if you know what you’re doing, you can sprint past most enemies at times. Level design feels too formulaic as there’s few side-paths out there, which thankfully keeps the game from being more complicated than it should. And thanks to Eragon’s resilience to hundreds of knife stabs and foot stomps, the hardest difficulties are made much, much easier. Whoopee!!

There are four levels dedicated to Eragon’s dragon, Saphira. They are somewhat of a relief compared to the on-foot sections. Saphira flies forward automatically as you move around, shoot magic arrows, and burn stuff. Two levels are dedicated to killing as many Urgals as you can, but it didn’t help that it was ridiculously easy to get hit, making these levels much more difficult than necessary. But frying hundred of soldiers at once was one of the highlights of my experience.

The main culprit behind the game is that the combat is not mindnumbingly awful. As a matter of fact, it can be a little fun to pick off dopes from a distance. It’s that the variety feels absent. Level design is almost identical, with long sections of fighting near-identical enemies, progressing to the next room, rinse and repeat. And you will take out those enemies by mashing A/B or by hitting them with arrows. There’s a puzzle or two but nothing overwhelming. The few bosses are simple to defeat, too. The few Saphira levels are just there—a little surreal but nothing great. This game does tease with multiplayer play—the second player can jump in at any time as your cohort (such as Brom) and add a little value to the package. You’re also stuck with the same characters with the same moves throughout the whole game. I recall seeing a black swordsman in a black dress (he’s a player) that would’ve been lol-worthy to play as, but no, you’re stuck as pretty boy Eragon the whole game.

The visuals in this game are rather crude, demonstrating some vastness but nothing that takes advantage of the 360’s hardware. Environments such as medieval towns, desert valleys, huge forests are rather intrinsic, featuring waving grass and dust kicked in the air. Otherwise, the textures and the dimness of the environments make most levels somewhat uninteresting to look at. Enjoy walking through a pale-gray castle? Me neither. Character animations are okay but somewhat choppy. The framerate remains mostly steady but drops like a rock when many enemies appear on screen at once. Cutscenes aren’t that great, particularly because they look like poorly-rendered in-game footage and every character has that “pointy lips” effect that I can’t stand. Most of the sound consists of thuds and slashes. Orchestrated music plays during tense moments but it’s hardly anything to remember. Voice acting is run-of-the-mill, with characters making semi-oblivious comments during the action. Nothing remarkable whatsoever, unless you like when Eragon says silly little magic phrases like "Scuddylah" or when a wise, old voice inserts as many accents as he can into the phrase "Gilead's Keep."

With only eightteen levels, rudimentary gameplay, and limited replay value, Eragon shoots itself with a precise arrow to the foot. This game thrives as rental fodder, and rental fodder only. If you want some easy achievement points, this is a decent game to check out. But, like flavorless ramen noodles, you consume it and forget about what happened soon afterwards.

Presentation: 7/10 – Clearly a movie cash-in, but it does an okay job of trying to present the film in this alternate form of media.
Gameplay: 5/10 – Combat is mediocre but not terrible. This is made worse because it is repeated so much against mindless drones.
Graphics: 6/10 – Feels like an Xbox game. Most elements look rough around the edges.
Sound: 6/10 – So average, you’ll forget what everything sounds like when you’re done.
Replay Value: 4/10 – Game takes a few hours and it’s over. All the achievements are unlocked quickly, then there’s not much left to do.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Product Release: Eragon (US, 11/14/06)

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