I’ve been writing for GamingNexus for a little over two years now, and in that time I’ve never before been asked to review the same title on two different platforms. I really didn’t expect much from movie tie-in games, but I guess I’m lucky in a way that I had a “second chance” with Eragon for DS.
After the lousy experience I had with Sierra’s 360 version of the movie-tie in, I was a little nervous when I put the Eragon cartridge in my DS lite. Fortunately, Amaze Entertainment did a bang-up job of building one of the better movie based games I’ve played on any console.
The first thing to say about this game is that it is huge. I’ve only owned my DS Lite for about 4 months, but in that time, this I’ve played quite a few games and this is easily the most expansive. There are puzzles, quests, side missions, and of course plenty of combat across five large areas. Some of the geography, especially water, can take several minutes to cross, so you get very much the real-time feel with this game. One of the only drawbacks to this is graphically much of the background graphics and textures are pretty low-res, meaning you get to stare at some pretty boring pixels between action sequences. Additionally, you can only save game progress at locations placed seemingly randomly throughout the games landscape. These locations (displayed as small statues) are far enough apart that it can be a bit of a trek to get to one if you wanted to quit playing for a while. These are both small prices to pay for the experience of the relatively large world in which to play.
The story itself is pretty easy to follow, a young farmer finds a dragon egg he mistakes for a stone. The egg hatches, and when the baby dragon is born, our hero, Eragon, realizes he has a special bond with the creature, and comes to learn he is a dragon rider, who has the power of magic, and must fight to keep his land from certain doom. The game and movie are both adapted from the Christopher Paolini book of the same name, which I admit I have not read. But I am a huge fan of “swords and sorcery” based fantasy books and games, so I feel I have a good subject knowledge to make a comparison against.
As I alluded to above, graphically the game is somewhat of a balance between the generic often very generic almost bordering on bland landscapes and the combat and action sequences which feature fairly well-drawn chracters and animations. It’s not the best graphics I’ve seen in a DS game, but not the worst either, and for everything else the game brings, the lack of graphic quality gets a pass.
Eragons melee combat system is realtively simple to learn and use, and incorporates a few RPG features, even thought they are essentially behind the scenes. The melee combat uses either a sword or dagger, and is pretty well done. You’re usually fighting at least two baddies at the same time, and after you’ve defeated a sufficient number of them, you’ll begin to automatically learn new combat moves, that are both better looking and do more damage. Pretty much everything is the game (except spells) is controlled through the alphabet buttons, and the same button (Y) used for basic attacks also triggers combos as Eragon advances through the game.
Much like the 360 version, the ranged combat with Eragons bow left a good bit to be desired. Aiming is extremely tricky as the slightest movement on the d-pad will push the targeting cursor a good ways on the screen. It seems as if they tried to make the ranged combat intuitive, as on several occasions the cursor would lock on to the obvious moving target, but it wouldn’t do it every time. In addition, I found that if I wasn’t locked on, arrows would seemingly miss completely, even if I had it lined up on the enemy. At least arrows in this version did actual damage most of the time though, so definitely an improvement there.
Magic in the DS game is the one area where Eragon really took advantage of the touch screen, and to be honest I wish more of the game were handled the way as the magic system. You cast spells by drawing a symbol on the touch screen and the sending it to the upper screen with a flick of the stylus. It made for much more of the “casting” feeling to the spell than I’ve seen in most games, as opposed to just a different type of weapon. While most of the spells aren’t useful except in specific puzzles or situations, but some of the combat spells when used appropriately got to be pretty powerful. I found I had a little trouble with drawing the symbols, as Im not exactly Mr. Dexterity with my stylus. Thankfully, the code reading the symbols must be well written because it figured out what I was trying to cast most of the time.
I originally had planned on giving the game an 8.5 score, but it earned a half point demotion in the dragonriding levels. The dragon riding itself is essentially a rail shooter, and is quite fun, lifting you over mountains and down into the valleys to fly over villages. What earned the demotion was the way they “Sonic the Hedgehodge”-ed the flying levels by including floating rings to fly through. Why in 2006 floating loops are still a part of flying levels in games where they serve no purpose is beyond me.
I was surprised to look up and see that I had completed the game in a mere 5 hours time, which is a testament to the immersion factor of the game, and also I guess to the limitations of the DS platform. It’s definitely a fun game while it lasts, and I recommend it over the 360 version in a landslide as the platform of choice if you’re an Eragon fan. In addition, it’s a pretty easy to play title with more than expected depth, and probably good for action/adventure/RPG fans who are looking to kill a few hours.
DS should be the platform of choice for the Eragon fans looking for a good movie-tie in. While the graphics aren’t close to the other platforms, gameplay is light years ahead of the 360 version. Combat and controls are good, and the magic system gives the player a feeling of “casting” spells.
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