Eragon is Book One in the Inheritance Trilogy, set in the mystical world of Alagaesia. Essentially, you mix dragons, magic, evil warlords, undead creatures, and a hot elf chick into one lump and you get the basis of the game. Though the book may have a deep and interesting story, the video game is very shallow and the entire game feels a little flat. There still could be hope for the game, though. Stormfront Studios, the developer, did a pretty fine job with Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. This game follows a lot in the same footsteps as LoTR: The Two Towers, but does it improve on the formula or fall into despair like many movie based adaptations do so frequently?
Eragon, the game, shares its name with a fantasy book by author Christopher Paolini. Christopher Paolini was home schooled and graduated at 15. His parents didn’t want him to start college until he was older, and that is when he started writing his book, Eragon. Since then, he was published once without a big impact, but was published a second time and became at New York Times bestseller. This second publication spawned both the movie and the video game, which were released in short order. If anything, the video game was released too quickly in order to launch with the movie.
The graphics aren’t top notch, but for a PS2 game they’re good. They don’t feel nearly as rushed or unpolished as a lot of movie-to-game adaptations do. The textures seem crisp and the animations are pretty solid. The environments are fairly lush and detailed as well, that helps with the level of immersion. Add to that a fairly consistent art style throughout the game, from menus to in-game to cut scenes. The game isn’t pushing any limits though, even for a PS2.
To further the storyline along, you’re treated with a variety of cut scenes. The style they’re presented in as a mix of pseudo in-game footage and 2d collage styles, which is actually fairly clever. Though clever, a lot of the time they’re not good, either. They seem to skip from one topic to another, quickly glossing over a lot of the details and just giving you “need to know” for killing some more enemies. Add a bit of the plastic doll effect that I’m no fan of, and the cut scenes are a pile of mediocrity. Which is too bad, because I really do like the 2d collage overlays that go along with the cut scenes.
Overall, the game has got a unique style to it that is apparent in the menus, game, and cut scenes. It’s fairly solid graphically, though a bit sketchy at times.
The voiceover work is done by the actual actors, which has become somewhat of a surprise. Normally a developer will just try to hire the best sound-a-like, which normally results in failure. Sadly, getting the actors to do their own voiceovers doesn’t mean they’ll be much good. The best thing you can say about it is there is a variety of voices in the game, which is good. However, the quality of the voice acting is pretty low, most of the dialogue seems stiff and oddly delivered. While the voice acting is mainly pretty sketchy, the narrator during the cut scenes does a pretty fine job, and it stands up above the rest.
The music is halfway decent, but nothing you’ll recognize or remember either way. The combat noises and ambient sound effects are all pretty standard as well, making no discernible difference in the gameplay. Overall, the sounds can be described as mainly mediocre.
Controlling the game isn’t too tricky. You can do a fair amount of actions, from different types of attacks, to magic, to rolls, to equipping your bow for ranged attacks, and more. X and Circle provide different attacks, with combos of them. Square gives you a block, or you can use it to roll as well. Triangle is a simple jump, but also be used with your attacks for a bit more freedom. R1 brings up bow mode, which you can use it take out your foes from a distance. Magic mode is brought up with L1, which you can do all sorts of things with. You can manipulate the environment, push or pull enemies over ledges to their death, light them on fire, and more. You also use L1 to call your dragon in on certain, scripted areas. Overall, the controls are fairly simple to get the hang of after only a short amount of playtime, and the more complex controls aren’t available straight away.
Then, there is the camera. It features a static camera from scene to scene that does little to follow your character around. While at first this doesn’t present much of a problem, once the battles get larger as well as the areas, it becomes a huge problem. You can barely make out your character in the distance, and fighting battles can become a royal pain. Thankfully, button mashing is an acceptable tactic, so you don’t really need to see what your doing in order to kill hordes of enemies.
Finally, occasionally you’ll get to ride a dragon. While it sounds fun, it’s painfully hard to control, and it’s entirely on rails. On top of that, you circle the same areas over and over, which adds to it’s repetitiveness. It’s just not that fun, and that’s mainly the fault of poor controls. It could be a lot better if flying controlled better, and you could do more damage with the dragon. As it stands, it feels like a cheap diversion more than anything.
If you played Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the game will immediately be recognizable to you. The first thing you are greeted with when you start a new game is a completion map. As you progress through the game, you follow important landmarks on the maps, tracking your progress the finish. Though you can go back and play previous missions, there isn’t much of a reason to. Though there is a collectible Secret Egg on each level, finding them is a pain more than anything. As you progress, though, you’ll unlock new abilities and upgrades that are useful throughout the game.
The combat itself is pretty simple. You’ve got a variety of combos on hand, as well as a bow for those long range situations. To be honest, it isn’t too exciting, though it isn’t terrible either. Magic livens up the combat later on, as you progress through the game. Sadly, it doesn’t keep the combat interesting for too long, and soon again the excitement of combat will dwindle away. Mainly, the best way to advance through areas is a combination of button mashing interlaced with a magic attack whenever your power recharge comes around. Not a lot of fun, nor particularly difficult.
The story could add a lot of the game, but doesn’t. You are treated to cut scenes, but nothing really worthwhile happens while you are actually playing. You get a bit of a cut scene, you play a level, get more cut scenes, play another level, and so on. They’re not really blended together particularly well. You don’t ever feel desperate to complete a task, nor do you ever feel curious about the story or characters, and you don’t connect to any of the characters. The cut scenes are mainly just to tie in with the books and movie a bit, and give you a good reason you kick some ass. Whether this is a mandate to give some uniqueness for the film, or simply a rushed product, is unknown.
Then there is AI, which isn’t too pretty to witness. Enemies are incredibly dumb and stupid, but with the small combat arenas it doesn’t hurt the game too much. Your teammate, who will also be with you, is even worse. In combat, he’s decent, but doesn’t always make the best decisions. It’s when you are climbing up ledges, crossing difficult areas, or basically doing any sort of difficult maneuver to get to a new area. Instead of your AI buddy following in your footsteps, he’ll stay back and watch you. Once you get to where you need to go, he’ll magically disappear, and reappear right next to you. Way to kill the moment, you idiot!
The game won’t last more than 7 or 8 hours. In fact, a more reasonable time frame for Eragon would be closer to 6 hours. It’s incredibly short, and there is zero reason to ever replay the game. If you enjoy the average gameplay and want to play with a friend, there’s co-op play. Sadly, co-op play is better reserved for enemies than friends. It’s not that co-op is implementation is terrible, it’s that the game is. If you’ve got a friend over, I’d load up a game that’s fun. If I had an enemy over, I’d probably load up Eragon.
The Secret Eggs mentioned above don’t really add much to the value. You unlock a few videos and development diaries of behind the scenes stuff, but nothing new for the game. There’s no real reason to seek out the Secret Eggs, as the rewards aren’t too thrilling for anyone less than the hardcore Eragon fan. Thus, once you spend your 6 hours beating this average-at-best game, you’ll likely never touch it again.