previews\ Oct 26, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Eragon - 360 - Preview

The elf courier was intercepted by the shade, Durza, but before falling, she teleported the dragon egg far into the Spine – where a young hunter, Eragon, found it. Not knowing what the strange rock was, he held on to it. The rock (the dragon egg) hatches and the dragon inside, Saphira, bonds with Eragon. She is one of the last of her kind; he is the first of the new order of dragonriders.

There are marked differences between Eragon, the novel by Christopher Paolini, and Eragon, the video game from Sierra and Stormfront. One of the first areas in which the game strays is how the dragon came to be named. In the book, Eragon is searching for an appropriate name and has already discarded many. His companion, and mentor, Brom is reciting a list of the old names and Saphira stands out. Eragon does not know, initially, whose dragon was named Saphira, but he likes the sound of the name (and yes, the dragon has blue-tinted scales). The game states it was because of the color of the dragon’s eyes that she was named.

There is, though, a marked difference between the telling of a story and how a video game must leap into the midst of the fray and thus draw gamers into the game’s content. The game begins in Carvahall, with Brom and Eragon fighting off underlings of Galboratrix in their effort to escape and join the rebels, known as the Varden.

There are strong similarities in the books with the Lucas Star Wars (Episode 4) epic, but much of that is missing from the game. The initial levels are set as stops along the way toward the Varden holding. Most of the early action is tutorial in nature, teaching gamers how to effectively wield the sword or use the bow. Then magic comes into play and Eragon will be able to manipulate objects – no life-threatening spells here, as far as Eragon is concerned.

The game moves along at a brisk pace early on with town-based missions driving some of the action. In some instances the level requires merely moving through the town while enemies try to intercept the escapees (if you want to know why they are running, either play through the game or read the book – no spoilers here), whereas other missions will have you aiding villagers in desperate battles against the forces of their king.

Therein lays one of the failings of the game. It presumes you understand why the emperor, Galboratrix, is having his soldiers and mercenaries lay waste to the towns in his domain. What the game gives you, though, are burning towns and a decided lack of explanation for what is causing the emperor to savagely turn against townships in his kingdom.

The game has an arcade feel to it, in that you will find powerups and you are scored in kills at the end of a level. It is also, in a strange way, almost a side-scroller, albeit with enemies in the background that need to be dealt with. But it seemed that the action was taking place from left to right with the fixed camera angle giving the impression of a side-scrolling game. Of course, that feeling might just be attributed to the linear nature of the game itself.

The control scheme is set up for ease of use, and gamers should not have too hard a time having Eragon use his considerable abilities in dispatching wave after wave of enemies.

Graphically the game is solid. The animations are very well done and the environments are a bit repetitive but serviceable for the tale. The sound is also done well, both in the narrative and dialogue as well as with the action and music.

Set for release in mid-November, Eragon is not a revolutionary game, but it is an action-packed adventure. Devotees of the book may take umbrage with the liberties the game developers have taken, but putting that aside will yield a game that is fun, has some entertaining aspects and could well be a solid release.

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