Eragon Multiplayer Hands-On

We climb onto a dragon and battle with VU Games as we check out a work-in-progress multiplayer version of the movie-inspired action game.

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Earlier this week, during a meeting with Vivendi Universal Games, we had an opportunity to check out a work-in-progress PlayStation Portable version of Eragon. Currently scheduled for release in December, Eragon is an aerial combat game that will purportedly follow the storyline of the upcoming Stefen Fangmeier movie (based on the books of Christopher Paolini) of the same name. Eragon is a fantasy adventure film set in the land of Alagaesia, which was protected by powerful dragon riders (think Jedi) for thousands of years until one of them (think Darth Vader) turned bad, convinced others to join him, and anointed himself king.

In Eragon, you'll assume the role of the movie's titular hero: a young farm boy (think Luke Skywalker) who goes walking in the forest and finds what he believes to be a polished blue stone. The emergence of a dragon hatchling from the stone some time later makes it clear that the stone was in fact an egg, and when Eragon realizes that he shares a telepathic bond with the dragon--named Sephira--he decides to become a dragon rider and save the empire.

While the Eragon-inspired offerings on other handheld platforms will take the form of role-playing games, the PSP version focuses entirely on aerial combat between dragon riders. The single-player portion of the game will let you relive battle sequences from the movie, and as you progress you'll unlock arenas that can be used in numerous different multiplayer games for up to four players. Single-player challenges will also give you an opportunity to unlock upgrades for your dragon and rider that carry over to the multiplayer games.

We were able to spend about 15 minutes playing multiplayer games against a VUG representative and, because we only had access to two copies of the game, two quite ruthless bots. Eragon's large mountainous environments look quite impressive already, and although those that we saw offered only limited opportunities for exploration because the mountains were too high for us to fly over, we did find a number of caves and tunnels that could be used to move between certain areas more quickly.

Our dragon's controls were good and responsive, especially when compared to other aerial combat games (perhaps because dragons are innately more maneuverable than jet fighters and the like). The X button is used to accelerate and to trigger quick bursts of speed, the square button is used to brake and perform sharp turns, and the analog stick is used to control pitch and direction. The triangle and circle buttons are used for firing arrows and for performing talon grabs, respectively, while the right shoulder button is used to breathe fire. When you get really close to an enemy, you'll also have the ability to jump onto his dragon and attack him with your sword, but we never saw this in action, unfortunately. The directional pad is used to switch between other weapons that you've picked up, which are fired using the left shoulder button. The weapons that we picked up during our brief multiplayer session included flaming arrows, ice-shard projectiles, and an area-of-effect weapon that dramatically slowed down our enemies for a short time.

Eragon will feature both individual and team-based multiplayer games that include variations on a number of popular first-person shooter gameplay types. The two modes that we checked out, for example, included a standard deathmatch and a team game in which we were tasked with grabbing a totem from the ground and holding onto it for a predetermined amount of time without being shot down. That game was made more challenging by the fact that we were unable to perform speed boosts on our dragon while it had the totem in its clutches.

We expect to receive our own copies of Eragon in the not-too-distant future, so check back for more information in the coming weeks.

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