Pre-E3 06: Eragon spreads its wings

Haven't heard of Eragon yet? Don't worry. If some in-the-know teen hasn't recited the entire book - which supplanted Harry Potter's latest atop the bestseller list - to you by this summer, the commercials for the movie will surely clue you in. Or, you can just lock yourself in a closet and miss out on a swashbuckling fantasy adventure about a teenage boy (named Eragon) who fights a corrupt king with the aid of a strong sword and a pet dragon - it's your call, really.

At its heart, Eragon the game is very similar to any other hack-and-slasher. However, it does have a few things that set it apart. Namely, that dragon of yours. There are sections in which you actually ride the dragon, using its powerful fire breath and electric tail whip to charbroil enemies or destroy environmental elements like bridges.

Even when you're swinging a sword with your feet on the ground instead of riding lizard-back, the dragon figures into the action. In the level we demoed, Eragon and a human cohort - you're almost always accompanied by a cohort, who fights alongside you and whom a friend can control if you've got one - fought their way all over a mountainous area.

They shed blood across narrow passages, broad plateaus and various wooden bridges, towers and scaffolds. And regardless of whether Eragon was using swords, grapples and reversals up close or arrows or magic from a distance (you have shield, fire and "move stuff with mind power" abilities), the dragon was always around.

Sometimes, the dragon's attacks were triggered by the player, as when she'd swoop down and demolish a wooden guard tower. But other times, it would just randomly show up and grab a helpless foe in its talons, only to carry them off and out of the range of battle.

If the movie is this exciting, we are there.

May 12, 2006