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Eragon (Xbox 360) artwork

Eragon (Xbox 360) review

"Even before you take to the air to take part in clumsy dogfights that put you in a continuous loop of see-off-foes-munch-respawning-health-up-see-off-respawned-foes (repeat until your sanity cracks or your thrown pad cracks your TV), young Eragon will need to slog through the basic hack-and-slash meat of the game that offers very little in the way of inventivity or even competence."

"You won't like it." My good chum, Leslie, sat on my bed as I booted up the 360 and slipped Eragon into the tray. "You hated the novel when I lent it to you, complained all the way through the film and threatened to hunt down and kill Christopher Paolini with the several tons of stolen archetypes littered through a story that you called a literacy nightmare just waiting for George Lucas' army of jedi-robed lawyers."

She was right. Eragon the book might have split its readers into two groups of those who enjoyed it for being a simple, straightforward romp and those who resented its cliché-heavy approach, and even the film seems to have its supporters. But the video game is beyond any form of defence. It suffers from everything many didn't like about the book, contains all the woodenness of the film and adds last-gen graphics, shoddy hit-detection and droning, repetitive gameplay to the already less-than-stellar formulae.

I'll start from the beginning.

Meet Luke Skywalker Eragon. [Take a moment to notice his name is only one letter away from the word 'dragon -- it'll be relevant later!] Luke Eragon is a simple farm boy living in relative isolation until he stumbles across a hidden power. With his new force magic abilities in tow, he teams up with Obi Wan a mysterious old man who always seems to know more than he wishes to let on, yet never gets around to sharing, and his dragon familiar, Saphira, who's prime in-game purpose is to torture the player with an awful fly-by shooting section that wishes it was a fraction as good as Panzer Dragoon

But isn't.

Even before you take to the air to take part in clumsy dogfights that put you in a continuous loop of see-off-foes-munch-respawning-health-up-see-off-respawned-foes (repeat until something cracks: either your sanity or your TV via a well-thrown pad), young Eragon will need to slog through the basic hack-and-slash meat of the game that offers very little in the way of inventivness or even basic competence. Slews of sword slashes are strung together using basic button combos in the typical vein of mashing A and/or B in random sequences -- but more often than not, you can just jump over the heads of enemies or breeze right past them. When you're forced to slaughter a set number of targets in order to progress (the game's way of reigning in the obvious advantages of simply hopping over fights and running away) you'll see many of your button mashed assaults slice harmlessly through your targets as the engine's shoddy hit detection kicks in.

"You smiled then." Leslie peeked over the top of her book, not even trying to keep the gloating undertone out of her voice. "It can't be all bad if you're grinning. Change your mind?"

"Nope," I replied. "The magic system isn't too bad. Using my force powers to push that orc off a cliff was pretty cool, I guess."

She sighed theatrically. "First of all, they're not orcs. They're Urgals!"

"What's the difference?"

She ignored me. "And, second of all, he uses magic, not force powers."

She was right again. Force powers are cool.

Eragon utilises a telekinetic/magic system that can provide a desperately needed break from semi-effective stabbing. You can hurl your foes from cliffs or watchtowers, giggling as they plummet for your viewing pleasure, or even tug them towards you to ineffectively slice them with your +3 sword of clumsiness. But being able to use your locations to cause lemming-like plummety doom is a rarity, and this power will often be squandered either gently nudging targets around, set-peices where you need build bridges over chasm with out-of-reach planks of wood, or telekinetically shifting pesky rocks, but the potential for hurling scenery around at attackers is sadly wasted. Even more so when your magic arsenal is upgraded to an auto-aimed fireball that causes anything it hits to run around flapping its limbs in a fashion several times more comical than was obviously intended.

Number of times auto-aim mentioned: 1

If slightly-useless slashing or unbalanced magic doesn't tickle your fancy, then Eragon also comes equipped with a bow that he flings arrows from. Bringing up his bow will have him auto-aim at his nearest target, allowing him to strike any foe from any distance with a 100% success rate. This auto-aim system, the same that presides over the pyrokenetic skills previoulsy mentioned, ensures that no target is safe, no matter where they hide. Should you need to spam these skills in a boss battle to strike at vulnerable points (like the eyes -- always the eyes!) then you may need to hold your ranged attack button down slightly longer to give the auto-aim time to lock on.

Auto-aim mention risen by 400%!

It's because the game does the work for you in this aspect that most battles become a forgone conclusion. Those that won't fall to stumbling sword strikes linked to mash-heavy combos will be easily seen off by arrows and spells you have no need to even guide. As long as you dodge and weave at the right points, even the most viscous of boss battles are already won before you charge your first bit of mana or notch your first arrow. Cheap, but effective, and sometimes the only way to work around the awful fixed camera that has enemies attacking you from off-screen. Auto-aimed strikes are important for bagging these unseen threats because you don't need to have them on-screen to put an arrow in their head, true, but it's an unwieldy solution to a problem that shouldn't exist in a competent game to begin with.

Leslie never stayed to watch me beat all of Eragon, and only briefly jumped in to join the co-op mode that allows the second player to disappear off-screen should the first stray too far away from them. After getting stuck behind a tree and slaughtered by bandits, she gave up and went home. We still bicker over the worth of Eragon's other media, whether the book is worth reading or if the film is shallow or wooden, but we're agreed that the game is a rushed, unfinished project based off the (competent) Lord of the Rings game Stormfront Studios made previously. This isn't of the same calibre; it's a painful regression and a perfect example of a rushed license.

It was gloated over that Eragon: The Game was released well before Eragon: The Film. Perhaps instead of trying to fill themselves with a hollow sense of accomplishment by beating another form of media, more time should have been taken to make the video game, you know, playable.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (December 27, 2006)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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