The plot of the novel is pretty straight forward, but consider that the book was begun when the author was only 15 years old and published when he was still only 18. The book also became an almost overnight sensation with the “tween” and teenage fantasy fan base, and even adults in many cases. Let's just say there's a reason why the book has been made into a movie and video game. My son read the book inside a week, which for a boy who doesn't like to read is really saying something. When I asked him how the game compared to reading the book, this is what he had to say:
The game is way off course from the book because in Durza's Fortress, a certain character isn't alive when Eragon is trapped there, and Murtag already knows Eragon. They'd met outside Dras-Leona already, so then Murtag and Saphira go in to Durza's Fortress and rescue Eragon. In that part of the game, it should really be you playing Murtag and Saphira being in Durza's Fortress trying to rescue Eragon. They skip important parts of the book too. For example, the only reason they go to Daret Town is to meet up with Geod. Geod tells them about the oil that the Ra'zac have been using on their swords to burn down villages and people. This is an important part of the book that isn't even in the game.From a parent's point of view, there is a reason why this game is rated “T” for Teen. It is a bloody, violent game. Eragon is fighting his way through most of the levels, beating on enemies called Urgals and Kull, as well as human enemies, and all of them tend to spray blood everywhere. Now the quality of graphics on the PS2 version isn't realistic blood, but you know that the splatters are blood none the less. If you prefer your children to not play games with blood in them, then you can stop reading now and know that Eragon isn't for you. I had to wonder why the developers, Stormfront Studios, decided to include blood in a game that would be designed for kids around ages 9 or 10. As I thought about it, I realized that it is simply because they probably didn't want to “water down” the reality of the game just to be able to market to that audience. Leaving out the blood probably wouldn't have let the game move down to an E10 rating anyway, and leaving it in gives more of an appeal to the older gamers who enjoyed Eragon (the novel), so it made sense to include it.
I do think that graphics are really good. The characters aren't what I really expected them to look like, and the sword Zar'Roc doesn't look like I expected it to either. I'd imagined Brom as a bent over old man with long gray hair, a cane and has this sword hidden under his cloak. In the game he's more like a knight with a mail shirt under his vest, and he's much younger looking than I thought he'd be. The characters only had a few things they could say, and I think they could have taken out some of those things, like when you set an enemy on fire, they say “I'm burning”. I thought “Well duh, I just set you on fire, of course you're burning.” It repeats too much and they don't say enough different things.
I like the game, but there are times when it is really hard to figure out what to do. There have been some times when I had to look at a walkthrough just to figure out exactly where I had to stand to get the magic icon to show up sometimes. This game has been so hard sometimes that I feel like I have to cheat just to get past it. The combat is pretty easy, but sometimes very long. I don't usually have to worry about Eragon dying, though, but I am playing it on easy mode.
The secret eggs are a really cool addition to the game because they let you open up special unlockables. I've liked watching the special movies about the making of the game. The game design one was neat to watch because I realized why the game was the way it was in some parts. It makes sense why the game gets harder, and why some parts of the story were left out. And I got to see why parts of the game were put in from the story that I hadn't really seen before. Even before I saw those short movies, I thought the game was great, but now I think it is even better.
The graphics are pretty average for a PS2 game, nothing that really stands out as looking amazing, but not bad either. Some of the cut scenes are pretty cool, and I appreciated that they didn't just take cut scenes from the movie, instead sticking with the stylized computer-generated models that were in the rest of the game. In the game itself you don't often get very close to the characters, so their features aren't all that detailed. The rare times you do get close to them, it is more because there's a very brief cut scene of Eragon or one of his partners pulling off a special move than the camera closing in. The one thing I will say about the graphics is that you want to play on a TV where you can raise the brightness. This game is dark in many places, often so dark that it is hard to see a grey ledge on a grey background in a dimly lit room. We found it was MUCH easier to figure out what to do when we raised the brightness and contrast on the TV so that though the colors were a bit “washed out”, we could see better. It may be more realistic to have a dreary, dark dungeon for Eragon to be crawling through, but it doesn't make for great gameplay.
Another problem with the gameplay is the camera. I can understand that because the game was designed for younger gamers who would have trouble manipulating both the camera and movement, they use a static camera rather than an adjustable one. And I understand why they didn't use the typical third person over the shoulder camera because that would make multiplayer difficult, requiring a split screen I guess, for when you play in multiplayer. What I don't understand is why the camera is stuck on some of the places it is stuck. For example, in one part of the tower you have to use magic to turn a block and then jump up on the block, shimmy along it, and climb on top of it to jump to the next level. When you turn the block, Eragon is behind it from the camera's point of view so you stand jumping at the block in hopes that you hit just the right spot, but really don't know where Eragon is most of the time. Now it turns out that you're supposed to stand on the very edge of the tower wall and jump onto the end of the block before starting to shimmy, but that's hard to figure out from how far the camera is from you.
Another part of the gameplay made more difficult by the camera angles is when you have to balance across beams. The first time I encountered this it wasn't too bad, moving slow and steady seemed to do the trick after about five tries. The second time, however, the camera was pulled out about as far as it ever is, and the start of the beams had a “fog” effect over them that made it almost impossible to tell where Eragon was stepping when he started. The camera stayed locked at that point for most of the time Eragon was criss-crossing the beam maze, making it easier as he went because he became larger on the screen it became easier to see where Eragon was in relation to the beams. There have been many times when a world object would block where the enemy was, too, making it hard to know where to swing your sword. While I understand perfectly why they chose to use the sort of camera they did for the game, I wish more thought had been given to where the static camera was locked throughout the game. Much of the frustration my son mentioned above, and the reasons he consulted a walkthrough, were due to not being able to see where he needed to move or interact because of poor camera placement.
With all that said, though, we've both found Eragon to be a fantastic game. There are frequent checkpoints in each level so that when you are defeated in battle, you rarely lose much play time having to go back. A second player can drop into and out of the game whenever they want, making it great for moms or younger brothers who have a shorter attention span for such games than their tween-aged boy. I can pop in and play with my son for a little while, letting him lead me around and helping him out with combats and he has a lot of fun. And best of all, during the time that he's playing Eragon he isn't begging me to take him to the movie as SOON as school lets out today!!
The “glory days” of computer gaming for me were when games like Spectre Supreme, Pirate’s Gold, the Might and Magic series, the original Prince of Persia… those sorts of games were coming out on a regular basis. Back then I owned a Macintosh and was a die hard Mac fan. I was one of the first in my area to buy an iMac and on it learned the joy of playing games on the internet like daily crossword puzzle and “mind bender” type puzzles. My first online RPG was given to me for Christmas the year EQ was released, and I was hooked from day one. I played EQ for about a year. I started playing DaoC during late alpha testing, and was hooked on it.. well, to be honest I still am. I’ve tried pretty much every MMORPG I can get my hands on, from big names like EQ, to more obscure ones such as Underlight. I’ve been writing for IMGS since the first DaoC guide, and find I love the challenge of learning a game and presenting what I’ve learned (and sometimes my opinions), to other players.
I’m not a very strong player as far as learning PvE or quick reaction times, so I tend to stay away from games where I’m pitted against someone else in a way that requires physical (rather than mental) response. I still enjoy story and puzzle games, and in a way that’s how I still approach online games. I would much rather spend hours working through a quest than 5 minutes in combat against another player. I still get lost in simulation type games, obsessing over them until I’ve gotten them beaten. And I like being able to sit down at the computer when I’ve got less than half an hour and playing through a few levels of a puzzle game. I tend not to like first-person shooter type games, or anything with person to person violence, so I steer away from them unless they are fantasy based settings. All in all, I enjoy computer gaming so much that my life feels incomplete somehow when my computer is down.