Eragon the video game is based on the movie, which itself is based on the book of the same name. It's a typical fantasy world full of dragons, wizards, and magic, which would seem to lend itself well to a video game adaptation in the vein of the very good series of Lord of the Rings action games that came out alongside those movies. In fact, the Eragon game bears a striking resemblance to those Lord of the Rings games, which only makes sense because the games were all developed by the same company. But while the Lord of the Rings games were well-polished action games, Eragon feels unfinished and lazily thrown together. It's the same basic hack-and-slash principle that's readily accessible to just about any fan of the film, but Eragon feels like a skeleton of a game that's been padded out with some licensed content. There's not nearly enough to make the game interesting or even remotely worth playing, though. The action is mindless and repetitive at best, and buggy and unresponsive at worst. In addition, the presentation ranges from bland to ugly, the game is short, the fixed camera angles are frustrating, and there is no online play. Even for a straightforward action game, Eragon has very little to offer.
Eragon is a young farm boy in the fantasy world of Alagaesia. One day while out hunting, the boy stumbles upon a glowing blue orb that he thinks is a stone. Come to find out, it's actually a dragon egg. Eventually, a dragon hatches from the egg and Eragon discovers that he shares a magical bond with the creature. Turns out Eragon has been chosen as a legendary dragon rider, which is a warrior with special magic abilities that flies around on dragons and fights the impending evil that's sweeping across the land at the behest of a ruthless tyrant. It's up to Eragon to save the day by hacking through an army of clones in several linear, uninspired, and mercifully short levels.
You control Eragon, and you start out as a relatively feeble farmer. You have a sword and a bow, and you quickly learn to use magic, as well. There are 16 levels in the game, with a couple extra levels if you're playing the Xbox 360 version. You'll spend most of your time on foot, fighting wave after wave of generic enemies. You have a quick strike, a powerful strike, and a block for melee combat. You can string together combos of the two strikes to pull off special moves like grapples or knock downs. But even with those few moves, the action still boils down to mashing buttons until your thumb (or your brain) goes numb.
The enemies are all easy to kill, but they do take quite a few hits. So you can hack away at a foe uninterrupted for several seconds before he finally goes down, only to repeat the process with a dozen more enemies. It doesn't help matters that the hit detection is spotty at best. You'll often find yourself swinging away and watching your blade go right through your foes with no effect whatsoever. You can use a bow in the game to pick off enemies from afar, but since your bow does even less damage than your sword, you'll have to spend a long time slinging arrows at an enemy before it finally dies. There are some platforming sections in each level that require you to shimmy along ledges, climb up buildings or other structures, leap small gaps, and tiptoe across narrow beams. None of it is the least bit interesting or challenging, and it ends up feeling perfunctory and pointless.
As a dragon rider, Eragon is able to use magic, which factors into the combat in the game. The magic does actually make for some enjoyable moments, such as when you light enemies on fire and watch as they run off a cliff in a panic, or when you use magic to pull enemies off a high ledge. But even though you can do some fun things with a couple of the magic spells, it does very little to liven up the combat in the long run. Aside from pushing and pulling enemies and lighting them on fire, you can shoot magic arrows and use your magic to interact with the environment. Certain objects in the environment can be moved or rearranged using your magic. It's not very interesting, though, because you can't choose what you interact with or how you do it. Instead, it's usually along the lines of moving a conveniently placed pile of loose boards to create a makeshift bridge between two platforms.
Being a dragon rider, you do get to fly around on a dragon from time to time, but it's not nearly as fun as it sounds. The few flying levels in the game play like a rail shooter, where you fly around on a predetermined path and shoot enemies with magic arrows or blast them with your dragon's fire breath. The levels are simple loops, so you fly around in circles and kill the same enemies as they respawn endlessly. It's like being on a very tedious treadmill, because you never actually get anywhere. You just kill enemies until you've met the predetermined quota for the level.
You can easily beat Eragon in six hours, and once you've done that there's no reason to go back and play it again. Perhaps the only good news is that if you're playing the Xbox 360 version of the game, you can get some easy achievement points by completing each of the short levels on normal and hard difficulty settings. Other than that, there's not much to do in Eragon. A second player can join in at any moment during the game to play cooperatively, but the co-op suffers because both characters have to move in unison to keep all the action contained within one screen. This means that unless your partner moves with you, you can't go anywhere. It's also frequently possible for one character to get stuck behind an object in the environment if the other character moves too far ahead. One solution for that would be to let you play the game online, where each player has his or her own screen, but that feature is conspicuously absent. It's not a major loss, because this game isn't any more fun cooperatively than it is solo, but it's just one more way in which Eragon comes up short.
Another way that Eragon fails to impress is in its presentation. The game looks best on the Xbox 360, but even then it doesn't look good. The character models are all blocky and undefined, and although it's common in games of this type, the fact that there are only a handful of enemies to face just makes the game look and feel cheap. You'll see the exact same mobs over and over throughout the entire game. The fact that many of the levels look quite similar also makes the game feel repetitive and shallow, as if each level is exactly the same as the one before it. The character animations are no better. The few canned animations look decent, and some of the finishing moves are pretty brutal (and bloody if you're playing the PC or Xbox 360 version), especially for a T-rated game. However, most of the time the animations are stilted and jerky, and you'll often see enemies or ally characters get stuck behind objects and twitch wildly or clip through solid parts of the environment.
Eragon also has an extremely frustrating camera. The game employs fixed camera angles, so you have no control over your perspective on the action. That means that if you're behind an object, you're left to fight blind, which happens much more often than it should. The perspective also sometimes hides the path that you need to take to progress through the level. For instance, you might have to hop up and grab a ledge and pull yourself up to the next area, but with the fixed perspective, you won't even be able to tell that ledge is there.
The sound is also disappointing. Some of the music is halfway decent, but the voice acting is stiff and often missing entirely. John Malkovich plays the main enemy in the movie but doesn't have a single speaking line in the game. The actor who plays Eragon provides some voice-over work, but none of it sounds very good, and the dialogue consists almost entirely of terrible one-liners. The sound effects are functional, but there's nothing about the tinny clink of blade against blade to give the combat any weight.
Both as an action adventure game, and a licensed work, Eragon comes across as substandard in just about every way imaginable. It feels like an unfinished game that was rushed through to release in time for the movie to appear in theaters. The combat is repetitive, the presentation is dull and lifeless, and the entire game suffers from an apparent lack of effort.