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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Sierra

 

Developer

Stromfront Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2006

 

 

- Will complete any "Eragon" fanboy's collection of movie tie-in stuff
- Decent performances by some of the movie's original cast
- Nice music score

 

 

- Frustrating locked camera angles for most of the game
- Uninspiring gameplay throughout, particularly on the dragon-riding levels
- "Rail-shooter-itis" combined with rushed movie tie-in
- Lackluster graphics

 

 

Review: Otogi: Myth of Demons (Xbox)

Review: Ninja Gaiden Black (Xbox)

 

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Eragon

Score: 4.0 / 10

 

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Full disclosure: I have not read the novel Eragon, nor have I seen the movie. It's one of those things I always meant to go pick up but never get around to it. That being said, details surrounding both have been researched for accuracy in this article.

 

In recent years, one of the biggest phenomena in fantasy literature was the publishing of Christopher Paolini's novel Eragon. The plot was a retelling of the usual "boy goes out and saves the world" trope but it was obviously written well enough to get it put on the bestseller lists. Once that happened, it was inevitable that Hollywood would want to make a movie out of it. And when the movie is being made, it is inevitable that a game based off the movie will be forthcoming.

 

So, how well does the game stack up? In a nutshell, I hope the movie was better and the book better still.

 

Visually, Eragon has graphics which are middling good. The likenesses of actors such as John Malkovich, Jeremy Irons, Edward Speleers, and Sienna Guillory are reproduced well enough to be recognizable, but not well enough to be convincing. I can't say if it was a rush job or a sacrifice for performance, but there's a distinct lack of detail on the character models' faces when it comes to the principal actors being recreated from the movie. Moreover, the fluidity of the characters is a little bit jerky and stilted, not fluid and lifelike. Given the Xbox's capabilities for rendering highly detailed models (such as Ninja Gaiden, Soul Calibur II, and Dead or Alive 3) that can move fluidly without a major performance hit, this seems to be a questionable decision. The environments also have a distinctly rough feel to them, a sense of being cranked out in a quick and dirty fashion rather than given the sort of attention one would expect for a game of this type. Rock formations show the points where textures merge without actually aligning properly, trees have a distinct pixelated structure in their leaves, and water seems to be a murky non-reflective color. One last complaint involves some of the cutscenes that are presented. The ones rendered in the game engine, which are usually educational regarding a new ability available to the player, are more or less all right, with the 

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aforementioned deficiencies in the character models and environments notwithstanding. But several of the pre-rendered cinematics are visually unappealing. The use of "film noise" to make the scenes look as if they are old movie footage is wholly inappropriate for the game's genre and disrupt whatever tone the developers might have set in the actual levels.

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Sound is a mixed bag in Eragon. On the one hand, actors Edward Speleers, Sienna Guillory, and Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) are around to reprise their respective roles from the film as Eragon, Arya, and Durza. The absence of Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, and Rachel Weisz, however, seems to undercut the efforts of the voice acting cast. When we see a character who looks fairly close to Jeremy Irons but doesn't sound at all like him, it weakens the impact of the performance. The game's sound effects are fairly well done and do not seem out of place in the course of play. Music is sweeping, orchestral, and generally appropriate throughout. However, there are spots here and there where the sound seems to cut out entirely, no effects, no voice, no music. It does resume after a few moments but it proves to be an annoyance that should not be in there.

 

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It is in the area of gameplay that Eragon fails to satisfy more than anywhere else. Put bluntly, you're on a rail. You can choose how fast you advance down that rail, for the most part, but it is still a rail. While I can appreciate the desire to follow the plotline from the movie, it's a constraint that ends up killing a lot of the fun. The locked camera angles are undoubtedly in there to make the game feel "more cinematic," but it only proves an aggravation that should have been dispensed with in favor of a user controlled camera. The dragon-riding levels exacerbate these issues. You don't feel like you're controlling a dragon. You feel like you're controlling a particularly ungainly airplane with a simplified control scheme. The use of magic in the game is another disappointment, turning what should be an awesome power into a gimmick, momentary bursts of power that take far too long to recharge and serve no purpose other than to be used where the developers say it can be used. Combat is not the grand sword-swinging, swashbuckling, intense melee that it is played up to be. It is more of a case of running around and performing combos which are easily interrupted and nowhere near as devastating to your opponents as they are to the landscape. The "secret eggs" in each level would be worth seeking out if there was actually something interesting associated with them. As it is, you're subjected to a bunch of short documentaries which mainly comprise of interviews with cast members from the movie who were also in the game and a great deal of self-congratulations from the developers. Should you collect all eighteen eggs, you do get a bonus level. One bonus level. With nothing but waves and waves of enemies. A weak reward for an excessive amount of effort.

 

For fans of the book and movie, Eragon might be one of those games that you pick up mainly because you've already got the book and have pre-ordered the movie on DVD, but don't expect much from this game once you actually fire it up. As for the rest of us, rent it if you're curious, but remember that you get what you pay for.

 

Axel Cushing

February 11, 2007

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