Eragon is a game based on the movie based on the book about a simple farm boy who chances upon a dragon egg and finds that he is destined to be a dragon rider and save the kingdom from its evil despot of a king. The movie’s plot is already a simple version of the generic “reluctant hero saves princess and fights evil usurper” cliché, but the game manages to take this one step further by removing most of the story elements altogether. What you’re left with is a simple brawler that sets you against a steady stream of cloned generic enemies until you reach the end of the brief game.
Eragon is quite obviously a quickie port of a console game that was itself rushed to market to take advantage of the film’s release in theaters before it had a chance to be panned by the critics and largely ignored by moviegoers. Any hopes that you may have harbored that the game was developed specifically for the PC or at least was given a thorough working over during the port will be dashed from the very beginning when you see the warning screen informing you that you should really, really play the game with an Xbox 360 controller. Seriously. Making matters worse is the fact that this warning is right. Trying to play the game on the PC without an Xbox 360 controller is akin to medieval torture. First off there’s no mouse support, which is unforgivable for an action game on the PC. The next sacrilege is the absence of any kind of keyboard customization support. You better like the controls the developers (er, porters) picked for you because those are the controls that you’re going to use.
Once you get into the game itself things don’t get much better, even with an Xbox 360 controller in hand. The problems start with the game’s camera which is fixed in place and not always in the best place at that. It’s annoying to have enemies lurking just outside of view or to take hits from enemies just off-screen, but that’s just part of the problem. The fixed camera can make it difficult to see staircases or doorways in the backs of rooms or to distinguish the regular scenery from features that you need to jump onto or shimmy along. This leads endless circling, jumping, and bumping into things until you can find your way to the next area – and in a game this linear you have to find that one exit or you won’t go anywhere.
The action itself is a mix of bow, sword, and magic attacks. The bow uses an auto-targeting system that ensures that you never miss, and if you hold the fire button for a few seconds before releasing it you’ll improve your aim and score one-hit kill shots. There’s no need to even see your enemy as the game will let you know when you’re targeting an enemy that’s off screen. Each time you enter a new area you simply need to bring up your bow, hold down the fire button, and then release it to score a few kills before the enemies can even make it to the area.
The swordplay is controlled by two attack buttons which are combined into various attack combos. There are knockback, sweep, and similar moves that are supposed to be used at the right times for the appropriate enemies, but you need not bother with any of that. There’s a jump/slam stun move that is basically unblockable, knocks shields from the hands of your enemies, and often puts foes flat on their backs. Not since the early days on online shooters have I done so much bunny hopping in a game. Want to know how to get through 90% of your battles? Bunny hop and slam the opponents around you until dead, run to the opposite side of the screen from the action, and then pull out your bow and kill off your enemies with head shots until someone wises up and charges you. This is especially easy since you play the game with a computer-controlled companion who can distract the enemies while you pick them off with your bow.