The tragic dragon.
In a brazen attempt to cash in on this year’s lackluster movie about giant lizards and the men who love them, Sierra has created Eragon games for every platform you can think of. Considering only about twelve people who saw the movie actually liked it, I bet they’re regretting their decision. Or, given the quality of the games they produced, maybe they should be thankful the movie was about as successful as One Night at McCool’s.
In the DS adventure version, you are Eragon, the precocious young boy with emo hair who dresses like a hobbit and communes with dragons. It should come as no shock to anyone that the boy is somehow able to become a dragon rider. After all, look at his name! Eragon! It’s only one letter off from dragon! Get it?! Sadly, I spent most of my time playing this game wishing Eragon’s parents had named him Olatypus, so he could have quietly kept to himself and communed with his duck-billed friends, and nobody would have ever thought to create this godforsaken game.
Because Eragon, apparently, is something of a safety-conscious worry-wart. Despite the fact that he has an awesome giant blue dragon to carry him around, do his bidding, and set things on fire, he seems to want to save that experience for emergencies only, and prefers running around the countryside doing errands for townspeople and getting attacked by the evil Urgals.
Of these two things, it’s hard to say which is more lame and annoying. The quests generally fall into the “Find ten of these things and I’ll give you something” variety. They’re extremely un-challenging, and at the end you are usually rewarded with: Weak Concept Art! Oh boy! I can’t wait to play with that! After a while I found myself telling the townspeople to find their own dang missing socks or whatever and leave me out of it.
The enemies you face are equally lame. It’s hard to imagine why anyone is afraid of these Urgals, when they possess about as much brain power as a Jessica Simpson fan club
meeting. Apparently the Urgal tribe has not yet grasped the concept of ranged weaponry. As long as you keep yourself stocked up on arrows, you can rain pointy death upon your adversaries from afar without risking a hair on your perfectly coiffed head. Even if you stand about eight feet away from them, the only thing they can think to do is wave their arms menacingly as you loose shaft after shaft into their leathery faces.
If you get bored, you can actually enter into hand-to-hand combat with these brutes, which is only slightly harder. Killing baddies with your dagger increases your experience with that weapon, which in turn helps you learn new and more effective moves. The moves can be kind of cool looking, but why get your hands dirty?
The game mostly relies on the directional buttons, though it forces you to switch to the stylus and touch screen just often enough to irritate you. The various spells you learn, like using your healing herbs, require you to draw the appropriate symbol on the touch screen. That’s all well and good, but it’s a little complicated to find your stylus and draw your healing spell while simultaneously trying to button mash your way through a bunch of enemies. It’s just not very intuitive.
You also use the stylus in certain moments to communicate with your dragon by drawing certain symbols on the touch screen to continue the conversation. The reason for this isn’t entirely clear. Unless Eragon is secretly an educational game trying to teach improved penmanship to youngsters, I don’t really understand the point of this part of the game. It certainly isn’t fun.
I’m not sure if this was the intention, but visually the game seems to be going for something of a gothic, brooding approach to the fantasy genre. Kind of Dragonheart meets The Cure or something. I suppose the scenery is supposed to be dark and foreboding, but it ends up looking just drab and boring. Even worse, everything looks the same, so it’s really easy to get turned around.
It makes you wish that you were, oh, I don’t know, riding on a giant dragon or something, so that you could set it all on fire and make it look actually interesting. No such luck. The music and sound are actually okay in this game, and manage to achieve some of the mood that the graphics only hint at. Sadly, this may be the only feature of the game that succeeds in what it attempts.
If you’re wondering what it would be like to ride on the back of a giant dragon, crushing those who would dare to oppose you, go out and rent The Neverending Story
. You’ll have a better time than you would playing Eragon