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Video Game: Jade Empire

Jade Empire is an Action/RPG computer game, set in a fantasy world based on Imperial China, rather than the more usual Medieval Europe. The Jade Empire is basically what Ancient China would be like if all the myths and legends were true: ghosts and spirits litter the landscape and there's an enormous hierarchy of demons, gods and other things that make up the humorously played straight Celestial Bureaucracy (which are mostly based on Ancient Chinese legend).

The story begins in the idyllic, beautifully-rendered little town of Two Rivers, with you as the senior student in a martial-arts school run by the mysterious old Master Li. It turns out he is really Sun Li, the brother of the current Emperor, and the general who commanded the army that destroyed the temple of the mystical Spirit Monks. You also happen to be the last of said spirit monks.

The reason for the attack was that the Jade Empire was gripped by a ten-year drought. The drought was ended by killing the Water Dragon, a powerful goddess who controlled part of the cycle of life and death, but this also blocked the path to the afterlife for an ever-increasing host of angry ghosts and spirits, who now plague the world of the living. Sun Li explains that, seeing how wrong his actions were, he rescued you as a baby and raised you in secret in the obscure village of Two Rivers.

This goes swimmingly until the town is finally found by the Lotus Assassins, a secretive order of former monks that do the Emperor's bidding, and firebombed. Yes, firebombed: they have flying machines in the Jade Empire. With your home destroyed, and Master Li kidnapped, you set off for the Imperial City accompanied your childhood friend Dawn Star, and a mysterious ally who calls himself Sagacious Zu.

Although Jade Empire was Bioware's first original IP, it shares features with their earlier Knights of the Old Republic, including "light side" Open Palm and "dark side" Closed Fist paths through the story, but adds more fluid and interactive combat. It is also an experiment in including a less "Saintly/Horrifying" Karma Meter than that of most other games, an idea which would bear further fruit in one of their later series.

In early 2011, several news sources reported that a sequel had been under development in 2006-2007, as shown by the resume of a former BioWare employee. Whether it will be revived is unknown, though BioWare is always somewhat coy about the title when asked and even as late as 2011 has suggested that they still view it as a viable franchise.

This game features examples of:

  • A God Am I: Emperor Sun Hai says almost these exact words, later Emperor Sun Li and the player in the Closed Fist ending. On a lesser scale is Kang, of all people, described as a "Minor Deity".
  • Aborted Arc: The first Lotus Assassin the player encounters has the ability to summon ghosts. While the ghost theme is eventually revealed as a major part of the plot and setting, the idea that it's possible for the living to summon them was never explained or followed up on.
  • Absent-Minded Professor: Kang the Mad, with a touch of the Mad Scientist thrown in.
  • Affably Evil: Sun Li. Even after being unmasked, he's reasonably polite to you.
  • All Myths Are True: At least with regard to Chinese traditions.
  • Anachronism Stew: While the vast majority of the game’s visual influence is Chinese, thus averting the Far East trope, the developers weren’t so picky about which time period they copied things from. You get most NPCs walking around in Tang, Song or Ming dynasty-style clothes, but then there’s Dawn Star’s qipao and Qui the Promoters’ very Qing-influenced patterns, as well as guards in Han dynasty armour. There’s also a lot of gargoyle-like faces from Shang and Zhou dynasty bronzes, in architecture and armour.
  • And Call Him George: An ogre named Zhong in the Tien's Landing teahouse did one of these with an ox. Specifically, he used to play a game with the ox where he threw her up in the air and caught her. But one time he missed. And she landed on her head. He's quite upset about it.
  • An Economy Is You: Subverted with Merchant Chiu, who tries to sell you all kinds of crap you don't need.
    • Although there is a supernatural being dedicated to making sure the the things you need are available. He ends up just selling them to you directly to save time.
  • Anti-Villain: Aishi is Type I.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Closed Fist practitioners in general.
    • Gao the Lesser is probably the best example.
    • Pretty much every Lotus Assassin in the game.
    • The Player Character can be this way too, even when playing as Open Palm.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The second-most-important organizational principle of the Lotus Assassins is that the powerful lead, and murdering each other is a perfectly-acceptable path of advancement. (Loyalty to Death's Hand, however, is even more important than this.)
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Emperors Sun Hai and Sun Li
  • Ax-Crazy: Fading Moon. Given her talk of her visions, it's possible she's mentally ill.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: This is happening to everybody as a result of the Water Dragon being bound. When the game starts, twenty years worth of restless spirits have piled up, and the Empire's really starting to feel the effects.
  • Barrier Change Boss: Sun Hai can't be hit with whatever type of style (Unarmed, Weapon, Support, and Magic) he's currently using.
  • Black and White Morality: The developers don't do a good job showing that Closed Fist is not bad and Open Palm isn't always good. A lot of times, making one choice will send you flying into either the red (Closed Fist) or blue (Open Palm).
  • Blind Obedience: The defining characteristic of the Lotus Assassins is that they are honed into fanatically-loyal servants of Death's Hand. While their organization's ruthless internal politics and respect for strength and power might suggest a Closed Fist mentality, several documents in their fortress make it clear that they actually adhere to no moral philosophy whatsoever.
  • Boring, but Practical: The White Demon style is this. No flashy moves or complex combos whatsoever, just simple kicks and punches but it WILL kill things.
  • Boss Rush: If you make it to the Gold Division of the Arena, you'll have to fight all of your previously defeated opponents in the same fight. There is a ten-second pause before the entrance of each one, so beating them quickly enough will keep you from getting overwhelmed.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: Defeating the Bonus Boss in the Imperial Arena earns you the Superior Warrior Gem. Additionally, beating all of the bosses without losing once earns you a minor stat increase. Not surprisingly, this is one of the hardest challenge in the game.
  • Bullet Time: The oh-so-fun Focus Mode. This is also one of the very few games where an enemy can also use it. After all, he did teach you how to do it.
  • But Thou Must: You can't side with Kai Lan the Serpent in the arena. Before you can make a decision, Black Whirlwind bursts in and asks you to come with him so that he can tell you the truth about Kai Lan. Lucky Cho follows you down there, and you proceed to kill him, then Kai Lan decides to have you killed.
  • Came Back Wrong: On two separate occasions, the Lotus Assassins offer to resurrect the loved ones of potential allies. Both of these potential allies (Gao the Greater and Sky) refuse, as they've heard stories about how this trope is what occurs when the Assassins attempt to do this.
  • Cassandra Truth: At the end of Chapter 1, after you're informed of Master Li's backstory, you can go up to all of the students at the school and tell them exactly who he really is. None of them believe you because they think it's too outlandish. You get the same reaction from Silk Fox if you attempt to tell her during your second encounter with her.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: The trope-naming Celestial Bureaucracy. You meet a representative in the form of an accountant who lost his job keeping track of all the death and destruction you cause because he could not keep up with it. He was replaced with a department, putting you in the same category as Black Whirlwind.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several characters note upon watching the player character fight that they think they saw a flaw in the player character's fighting style. At the very least, they identify an oddity in the character's personal technique. Fast forward to the defeat of the Emperor, a reunion with Master Li, and the master killing his student in one blow by exploiting the flaw exactly as he'd planned to do all along.
    • Several characters even comment how the supposed flaw works as a highly cunning trap, in that a skilled opponent will attempt to search for the flaw and become distracted from the actual battle. They then usually compliment your master.
  • The Chessmaster. Master Li. And how.
    • His one flaw in his plan was not accounting that the Water Dragon herself was one too.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: Part of a sidequest, with the twist that the Unlucky Childhood Friend trying to collect on the promise is a gang leader. Depending on whether you're playing the Open Palm or Closed Fist path, this can end quite badly.
  • Con Lang: Tho Fan (i.e. the Old Tongue). Completely made up by a linguist to (supposedly) sound like it was from the region and time period. This was done to cover up lines that didn't need to be voiced for the story. Instead, the creator noted that most of the lines are references to cows. If you listen closely, however, most of the lines repeat themselves at various points, depending on the speaker's gender, age and tone (for example, one voiceover might be applied every time an old man makes a joke, and another might be applies to one where a young woman threatens you).
  • Crippling the Competition: An early sidequest requires you to heal an injured fellow student so she can take part in a competition against you. The Open Palm choice is to get her a medicine that actually heals her, but if you prefer the Closed Fist, you can give her an ointment that only removes the pain, resulting in her starting the fight with much less health and ending up crippled for life. For extra adherence to the Closed Fist ideology (one of the few cases when it's actually used correctly) you can reveal to her what you did afterwards, and tell her that relying on you made her weak - she should have dealt with her problem on her own.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Averted with the player character. When your health level drops low enough, you start moving notably slower and dragging your feet as an indication of the physical damage you've received. Played straight with non-player characters, though.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: In the Special Edition, obtaining one of the pieces for the new Infinity Plus One Style requires you to do one of the more darker Closed Fist paths.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Almost all of the scrolls with background information become relevant at some point in the game, except for one rather disturbing one in Tien's Landing that instead discusses what lies over the ocean to the west. This includes an endless tornado and something that sounds very much like the effects of nuclear fallout.
  • Culture Chop Suey: The presence of golems, which are from Jewish folklore, in a setting based on Imperial China. However, this is more an example of Translation Convention since the designs are based on the Terracotta Army, and golem is pretty generic in English for a magically-animated automaton.
  • Cut Scene Power To The Max: Many of your followers get an establishing cutscene when you first meet them showing them very casually demolishing every enemy in their path. Once they actually join your party, however, they are amazingly incompetent, rarely able to take down even a single enemy on their own. In higher difficulties, they're more often used to either meditate and support the player character or as bait for the player to set up Harmonic Combos.
    • In a strange twist on this trope, however, when said followers pass under your direct control for brief periods near the end game they become possibly even more deadly than in the cutscenes, causing the mooks they fight during The War Sequence to explode in showers of gore after only being hit once or twice and racking up kill counts in the dozens.
    • Gao the Lesser, an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy, manages to stun an Ogre and kick him into a cave wall, causing him to be crushed under rocks. Gao is stronger than a single Ogre, but is a fairly easy boss.
  • Dark Action Girl: You'll definitely end up as one of these if you play as female taking the Closed Fist path. A male player character can also encourage Dawn Star to follow the path of the Closed Fist and become this as well.
  • Darth Vader Clone: Death's Hand, from the armor to the characterization, comes across as one.
  • Dead All Along: Several examples. Sun Hai, Death's Hand, Aishi's father and Master Radiant. Subverted with the last escaped spirit for the Necropolis, who his son paid Gravedigger Shen to bury even though he wasn't dead yet. You can either actually kill the father, or help he and his son reconcile.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sky. And you can be too.
    Sky: I don't know how you can be so humble. Is it some kind of special training?
    Spirit Monk: Yes, years of intense meditation are required before you can say something nice.
  • Decade Dissonance: Some places, such as Two Rivers, are ancient Chinese straight out of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Others are full of magitech.
    • Truth in Television. Imperial China was very advanced in certain areas (Ming shipbuilding and medicine come to mind), but the degree of penetration varied from place to place; doubly so when Europeans made contact.
  • Deconstruction: Of pretty much every Back Story ever.
    • Old Master: Sun Li is yet another example of the Old Master stock character seen in martial arts stories, being a father figure to the Spirit Monk who is amazingly powerful to the point of sinking a ship with one blow, and is knowledgeable of the going ons of the setting, particularly in regards to the Emperor Sun Hai. Late in the game, after Sun Hai is finally defeated, Li comes into Sun Hai's throne room, grab's the Water Dragon's heart, tells the Spirit Monk that he/she made him proud, how everything has gone as it should, that the Spirit Monk remembering the basis warmed his heart...and then Li throws the water dragon's heart up into the air, and then kills the Spirit Monk after he/she is distracted with a few hits. It's later revealed that Sun Li planned the siege of Dirge (which accounts for how he knows so much of what happened in Dirge), tried to kill Sun Hai along with his other brother Sun Kin after Hai took the Water Dragon's heart, fled leaving Kin to his fate, killed the Spirit Monk's guardian and took the Spirit Monk with him into hiding, where he trained the Spirit Monk so that he/she would be strong enough to kill Sun Hai while also having a flaw that Master Li could exploit.
  • Degraded Boss: The Lotus Assassins. First chapter, Master Li himself has to come out and stop the one assassin who's been standing back and letting his flunkies attack you. Chapter 2, you fight a couple of Assassins, but they're at the center of boss fights. By Chapter 4, though, you've improved to the level where they're just another flavor of Mooks.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Judge Fang, although many characters remark that would be an insult to depraved bisexuals everywhere.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Both various people from, and books written in the Jade Empire claim that the Empire is the height of human culture, and everyone foreign is idiotic and violent. Sir Roderick Ponce Von Fondlebottom The Magnificent Bastard thinks the same of wherever he comes from.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Even though you're only given control of characters other than the PC for a minute or two each, each of them has a separate objective and, in one case, a joke, in the quests menu.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?
    • By the time you fight Sun Li, he's fully capable of backing up his A God Am I sentiments, as shown repeatedly when you fight against his proxies.
    • Another example is the demon called Mother. Defeating—but not killing—her for the first time required burning a whole forest. But the PC manages to defeat Mother one-on-one (albeit with some celestial help in the background).
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Zhong goes into a tavern after accidentally killing his master's ox, and must be talked out or killed.
  • Doomed Hometown: The hero actually has two of these. Two Rivers in the prologue and the Spirit Monk's entire monastery in the backstory.
  • Doppelgänger Spin: The Phoenix Unity style involves this. After you defeat the first enemy, six more clones spawn.
  • The Dragon: Death's Hand.
  • Drunken Master: An actual fighting style once used by Henpecked Hou and utilized by having him in your party so he can keep throwing jugs of wine to you. One of the more powerful styles in the game after the Game Breaker styles.
    • The Black Whirlwind's greatest feats were all achieved while drunk, and when you control him in the end he uses Hou's bottles as power-ups.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard during his debate has several good points about the Jade Empire. The Best one is where he is amazed that the Jade Empire doesn't use the Dragon powder to make guns.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Other you face in the Water Dragon's temple is this, a being from outside the human and spirit worlds. You never actually meet it, however; to attack you, the Other summons three clones of your character.
    • It is possibly a reference to the Chinese mythological being/concept of "Hundun", the Formless Chaos before the world took it's current shape that could take any form.
  • Enemy Civil War: Master Gang is plotting to usurp Master Shin's position in the Lotus Assassin Fortress. Jia calls out her subordinates on petty power struggling, which undermines the Assassins' mission.
  • Enigmatic Empowering Entity: The Water Dragon is a good example of this. She frequently gives the player character new powers, hints, or advice, but is doing so so that the PC can help her in return. Notable in that the reasons for her vagueness is partially because she's weakened, but mostly because her plan to help you actually requires your Master to kill you at the climax of his own plot, since if you were told what would happen you'd likely not go through all the steps needed in the first place.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Gao the Greater is grief-stricken over his son's death, and wants to kill you in revenge. Averted with Sun Li and his daughter Dawn Star. If pressured he thinks about it hard, then decides that in the end the only reason he cared that she died was because his brother dared take something of his away from him, and her survival ultimately means nothing to him emotionally.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • As depraved as Judge Fang is, he knows that the Lotus Assassins are worse and attempts to bring them down.
    • Black Whirlwind also objects to mistreating children, particularly sending them into danger to pay back a debt.
  • Evil Colonialist: Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard.
  • Evil Uncle: Sun Li and Sun Hai to Silk Fox and Dawn Star, respectively, although their own fathers weren't any better.
    • Kia Min's uncle, Kia Jong, sells slaves and deals with the Lotus Assassins. Although he might give you a discount if you inform him that Kia Min is alive, if she's dead and you tell him he won't even flinch.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Sun Li vs. Sun Hai. Sun Hai wants to keep the throne no matter what, while Sun Li thinks he could do a better job. Also Judge Fang vs. the Lotus Assassins.
  • Exact Words: Of Death's Hand "That is the armor of a man who knows no remorse, no pity." Death's Hand is wearing the speaker's armor.
  • Far East: Avoided mostly. The Jade Empire is well drawn and, aside from the deliberate fantasy setting, sticks fairly closely to Chinese culture and folklore (as well as Tibetan culture for the Land of Howling Spirits). There are dashes of Japan thrown in - Silk Fox is essentially a ninja, and Death's Hand is a samurai in style from his armour to the way he wields one big and one small sword. There's a few bits of Thai and Laotian architecture as well.
  • Flunky Boss: Deliciously parodied in a segment late in the game in which The Black Whirlwind is put up against a Jade Golem and an endless wave of soldiers. The player could theoretically kill them all day, while the game parodies Quake with an announcer narrating the kills. After you kill one hundred mooks, the narrator breaks the fourth wall and yells "Just kill the damn golem already!"
  • Foreshadowing: There is a lot of foreshadowing to notice on repeat playthroughs, main quest and otherwise. The Water Dragon has been obliquely telling you what will happen almost from the beginning.
  • Gambit Pileup: There's two Chessmasters and one honorable mention who's still running a scheme of his own. Most of the game's story is focused on untangling exactly what is going on.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Your companions' weapons can damage ghosts, but not the PC's.
  • Gay Option: One male and one female NPC can be romanced by a PC of either gender. However, if you pursue a same-sex romance, the camera cuts away before they kiss, unless you install this Game Mod in the PC version.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: The Ancient Evil is almost a lampshade. For four chapters, you're fighting Imperial intrigue the whole way, and then in Chapter 5 your enemy is some kind of being from outside reality who has nothing to do with Master Li, the Emperor, Death's Hand or the Spirit Monks.
  • God Damned Bats: Lost Spirits in particular; they have a projectile attack that is difficult to block.
  • Go Karting with Bowser: Two NPCs in the town of Tien's Landing are a teacher and his student. Both are now mortal enemies, as they now represent opposing philosophies. However, once a year, they meet in Tien's Landing to play a game similar to Go. Without pieces. Or a board. After one of them teaches you a technique similar to your philosophy, they finish their game and part, planning to meet again the next year - assuming neither dies in the interim. They do not exclude the possibility that they could well kill each other if they appear on opposite sides of a conflict, but their dialogue suggests that they're just Vitriolic Best Buds.
  • Genocide Backfire: You're the last Spirit Monk alive and now you're out to stop the guy that made you that way. As further proof of Master Li's bastardry, he's the one that ensured you would enact this trope so you'd do his dirty work for him.
  • Guns Are Useless: Oddly subverted. In a game about flashy martial arts, traditional Chinese weapons, and magic, the European musket is a borderline Game Breaker, particularly when upgraded.
  • Half Truth: The game has a visual example of this. All the events we see during Master Li's story of the Battle of Dirge did actually happen, but Master Li's words warp the way we interpret them. When Abbot Song recounts the events, we see the same scenes, but with a truthful interpretation of them. Turns out the bearded man who ran away with the baby wasn't Master Li, and the man with the red mask wasn't Death's Hand.
  • Harder Than Hard: The Jade Master difficulty level, that you can unlock on the PC version.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: A popular theme, and even one of the Multiple Endings. In-story, one of the most poignant is Sagacious Zu.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: The Black Whirlwhind. Not so much heroic as drunk and loves fighting and killing, but he's still portrayed as heroic (assuming you're Open Palm).
  • High-Pressure Blood: Oh my, is it under a lot of pressure! Any decapitated enemies will stand upright for a several seconds with a crimson geyser spouting from their necks, it even takes a moment for the splatters to start to fall around their (still standing) body.
  • Hub City: The Capital City. It is only city shown and most of the game takes place there. That being said, Jade Empire is a fairly short game for an RPG.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: How the Universe and the Water Dragon view us humans. The Spirit Monk can either redeem the human race - or prove them correct.
  • Hypocritical Humor: While preparing for the debate with Sir Roderick, you need to talk to the five judges and find out what kind of arguments they favor so you can more easily sway them. Each judge will scoff and announce that they are impartial, while naming two or three others and listing the techniques they listen for. The only exception is the Minister of Culture, who admits that he's ill-equipped to see his own flaws.
  • I Call It Vera: Sir Roderick's blunderbuss, Mirabelle.
  • Infinity+1 Sword: Tang's Vengeance, a pair of axes similar to Black Whirlwind's and the Jade Golem's. They're probably the most powerful weapon style available, but you get them by defeating the Ravager, the most deadly Bonus Boss in the game.
  • Informed Ability: Your character's subtle peculiarity in his/her fighting style. Sun Li demonstrates it quite succinctly, but we never actually get to see the weakness in play.
  • Inn of No Return: It's pretty obvious that there's something dangerous going on with the Pilgrim's Rest inn. The inn's secret is that everyone apart from the cook is actually a mutant cannibal creature disguised by magic; they keep the human cook around to make things seem more "normal."
  • Insufferable Genius: Yaoru, although he is the only one who would call him a genius.
  • Instant Expert: You can learn styles of martial arts in the space of about thirty seconds. Admittedly, already knowing one style will probably make learning another one easy, but that’s still a little fast. However, given that this is the genre where Zhang Wuji learned Heaven and Earth Great Shift in six hours and Wudang style in five minutes, it’s not that implausible.
  • In Vino Veritas: You can trick Three Sheets Dutong into admitting that the writ proving his ownership of the teahouse is a forgery by giving him alcohol. However, give him too little and he's too cheerful to want to talk about it, and give him too much, and he gets too paranoid.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: The beginning of each chapter includes a three-line "Wherein X happens" foreshadowing of what's to come.
  • Ironic Echo: Said by the PC, for a Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
  • Is That What He Told You?: Said by the Water Dragon to the player character after the player character's death at the hands of Sun Li.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: You can convince Ai Ling to pursue that route in one sidequest.
  • Jerkass:
    • Gao the Lesser. The other students and townspeople can't stand him.
    • Gravedigger Shen. He steals from the dead, is willing to accept easy solutions to his ghost problems as opposed to moral ones, and is fairly spiteful toward the spirit of his dead mother-in-law.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Gravedigger Shen. He is telling the truth when he says he didn't kill Miss Chan's baby; he died around the time he was born.
    • Gao the Lesser, although the one point he turns out to be right about in no way excuses harassing and then kidnapping Dawn Star, cheating during his sparring match with you, attempting to engineer your death by his bodyguards, successfully engineering the death of your entire village, etc. It turns out that when Gao the Lesser endlessly complained that you were Master Li's favorite student and that Master Li focused more attention on you than he did on Gao or any other students...guess what? That's true! Since Master Li was counting on you someday killing Emperor Sun Hai, Master Li really did favor you over everyone else!
  • Karma Meter: Represented by The Way of the Open Palm and The Way of the Closed Fist instead of good and evil. The game initially presents these as equally valid depending on the implementation and essentially standing in for Lawful and Chaotic. The actual practice still labels Open Palm as good and Closed Fist as evil, regardless of whether this action would make sense. Rather controversially, a choice made at the end of the game will reverse your karma meter entirely, which doesn't really make a lot of sense if both sides are supposed to have validity instead of black and white morality. Your philosophy is shown on your status screen, similar to KOTOR, and reaching the highest levels will display a symbol of your philosophy over your head when you are stationary long enough. Sufficiently CF players will also have their shadow exhibit creepy wriggling tentacles. It's subtle enough to be very unnerving when you notice it.
  • Kick Chick: If you play female and use Legendary Strike, you will be one.
  • Kick the Dog: Literally, for Closed Fist practitioners; the lapdogs in the Imperial City provide powerups.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: In order to impress the Lotus Assassin Inquisitor recruiter, you must eliminate one of their enemies. The "Open Palm" way to do it is to force Judge Fang, the Depraved Bisexual above, to resign. The trope partially applies if you impress the recruiter the "Closed Fist" way, as well: if you go that route, you have to make Minister Shen look incompetent in front of an important visitor, but Shen was intentionally designed to be an extremely annoying character, so whether or not you feel sorry for Shen may vary.
  • King Incognito: Silk Fox is Princess Sun Lian.
  • King of All Cosmos: The Celestial Bureaucracy is sometimes depicted comically; in one case, a god assigned to calculate the karmic effects of your actions throughout the game berates you for making him fall behind on the rest of his work.
  • Kissing Cousins: Indirectly. If you're male and pursue both Silk Fox and Dawn Star, you can end up in a ménage à trois with them. As Silk Fox is the daughter of the emperor, and Dawn Star is the secret daughter of the emperor's brother, you end up with this trope.
  • Kitsune: Forest Shadow and her servants are fox spirits.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Averted for a short time in the first chapter, where an NPC actually asks you about his missing money. You can still commit wanton acts of vandalism against jars in the imperial city, however.
  • Kung-Fu Wizard: Building up your chi through martial-arts, meditation etc. enables you to perform magical feats.
  • Light Is Not Good / Dark Is Not Evil: An early NPC explains the karma system this way, since Open Palm can lead to being a Knight Templar and a Closed Fist practitioner might still step in to help the weak if they are too overwhelmed to survive and grow from their challenges. In actual gameplay it is still just good and evil, although the Big Bad may be Open Palm depending on whether you believe his motives are what he says they are.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The special edition came with an extra character model, staff weapon style, and a making of video, though it cost the same as the regular edition. The PC re-release was actually called Jade Empire: Special Edition and included the extra character model but not the weapon style. It also featured gameplay tweaks and improvements. The physical copy came with an art book and a poster as well.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Inverted. You defeat the cannibal demon Mother by smashing the supports in her chamber and crushing her with her own lair.
  • A Load of Bull: The Bull Demons, among the strongest enemies in the game.
  • Love Triangle: Resolving one in which a man is engaged, but has a childhood friend he supposedly promised to marry, is the focus of a Tien's Landing sidequest.
    • Also, you, as a male protagonist, could end in one of these, too. And if you play your cards right, it might have a happy ending.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: One gets the feeling that BioWare was proud of their blood-spraying technology, and aimed to show it off as much as possible. If you don't turn the gore options off, there are a few examples:
    • Hit enemies with a harmonic combo and they explode in a shower of blood.
    • Mirabelle does it in an in-engine cutscene as well.
    • When you're given control of Black Whirlwind, he's certainly no stranger of making a fine red mist out of his enemies, either.
  • Meaningful Name: Many characters have names that are meaningful.
  • Mighty Glacier: Elephant demons are slow, but hit hard and have quite a bit of health.
  • New Game+: The only way to access the Jade Master difficulty in the PC version.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Played with. In some routes, you can find out that Dawn Star is in fact Master Li's supposedly-dead daughter. If you tell him this, he pauses, thinks about it, then casually decides that "It doesn't matter" and tries to kill you all anyway.
  • Mad Scientist: The aptly-named Kang the Mad. ("I make things explode, and I make things fly,and I am very good at both. The things I fly tend to survive. The things I explode... not so much.")
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: In the Lotus Assassin's base, you can take out two of them this way. Also invoked by Kang, who encourages you to make Gao the Greater's death look like an accident and suggests that he "fall down a flight of punches."
  • Manipulative Bastard: Sun Li The Glorious Strategist really lives up to his name.
  • Man on Fire: Talk to the Lotus Assassin sorcerer in the Lotus Assassin Fortress, and he will attempt a ritual to summon some spirits. The ritual fails and ends up turning two of his comrades into this.
  • Martial Pacifist: Most followers of the Way of the Open Palm.
  • Match Maker Quest: In one side-quest, you have to find a husband for Ai Ling.
  • Mighty Whitey: Sir Roderick. Averted in that the protagonist bests him. Played straight in that it's strongly implied he had killed dozens of challengers with his Mirabelle. And he's just some random shipwrecked guy!
  • Mirror Boss: The final boss, Sun Li.
  • Mook Chivalry: Averted; in most battles you'll have at least three people at a time ganging up on you.
  • Mook-Face Turn: Subverted after the dam. You can ask the sergeant if he's OK with what the assassins are doing, and he says that people's lives don't matter compared to the will of the Emperor. Played straight in a few other occasions, such as one mercenary who surrenders, and a soldier who was pressganged into the army to replace one whom a Lotus Assassin killed.
  • Multiple Endings: Depending on your alignment, your romances, and certain story choices, you can get a few different endings for the story and your friends.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Herod: The backstory showcases the Emperor wiping out the Spirit Monks to the last, so that none will remain to protect the Water Dragon, allowing him to enslave her for great power. However, he missed you, the Player Character, who was hidden away and raised by the Emperor's brother. This trope then turns out to be invoked and subverted; the only reason the Emperor's brother saved you was so that you would have the motivation and drive necessary to overthrow the Emperor, at which point his brother steps in, bumps you off, and sits his ass on the throne.
  • Not So Different: Certainly if you follow the Way of the Closed Fist.
  • Noodle Incident: Half of the Black Whirlwind's dialogue is about ways he got drunk, killed people, and killed people while drunk. Also, Kang has apparently run into Siege Golems before the attack on Dirge, and claims they can throw an ox “pretty damned far”.
  • No-One Could Have Survived That: Near the end of Chapter 3, Death's Hand gets buried under a pair of collapsing pillars. In an underground fortress which soon afterward collapses, but he is revived later.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: The voice actors were evidently not given one, as some characters' names are pronounced very wrong (at least from a Pinyin-Mandarin standpoint). Zhong the Ox Carrier comes to mind: it should be more like "djoong", not "jong". Similarly, Qui the Promoter should be "chwee", not "kwee".
    • Possibly intended for Qui, given that he mispronounced every other word.
  • Obviously Evil: Gao the Lesser. He's an arrogant dick, constantly talks down to you and the other students, sexually harasses Dawn Star on multiple occasions, and doesn't feel the least bit sorry for when a group of his bodyguards get drunk and try to murder the PC, nor is he at all concerned about their resultant deaths. And yet, despite all this, Master Li doesn't even consider tossing him out of the academy on his ass until he cheats during your sparring match with him. Except that Sun Li likely kept Gao around to ensure he could engineer the destruction of Two Rivers, thus forcing the PC out of the only home they know and putting them on a path to fight and kill Sun Hai.
  • Oh Crap
    • Gao the Lesser when he's cornered in the cave.
    • Three Sheets Dutong, when he finds out that he drunkenly confessed to forging the writ.
  • One Bad Mother: The Mother, the main villain of the Southern Forest storyline.
  • Only Six Faces / You ALL Look Familiar: Just about every NPC has at least three or four identical twin siblings, which gets rather confusing when even quest givers and significant story NPCs (such as your Two Rivers classmates) will share the same faces.
  • Pamphlet Shelf: All books, scrollstands, and similar text items only have a few paragraphs worth of text at most.
  • Panty Shot: Doing a forward roll as Radiant Jen Zi gives you a quick flash of her panties.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Qui the promoter is a major offender. Extra credit for actually using the phrase.
  • Perpetual Poverty: An odd example: in the Imperial City, one NPC is, in fact, a young noble with expensive tastes, who is begging nonetheless. He explains that he's doing just out of principle: working would be beneath his dignity, and stealing would be morally wrong, so he simply asks instead. If you try to give him a coin out of amusement at his antics, he rejects it as "compensation for entertainment."
  • The Plan: And a borderline roulette, if the guy weren't so GOOD at it. Master Li, really the Emperor's brother Sun Li, killed a spirit monk rescuing you in order to raise you as his prized pupil, but also ensuring to teach you a flaw in your technique that only he could exploit. That way, he'd get you to kill all the people he needed dead, in particular, his now god-like brother Emperor Sun Hai that could pretty much only be dealt with by a Spirit Monk. Then, at your moment of triumph, he would use your trust and the flaw he taught you to kill you since you couldn't defend against him.
    • On top of this, the Water Dragon herself plays one. She basically uses Sun Li's entire gambit to ensure you'll be bringing her back from the dead. How she pulls this off is a combination of My Death Is Only The Beginning with you as the guy dying and an Unexplained Recovery with a little dash of Roaring Rampage of Revenge Of course, if you're evil, you can also screw them both over.
  • Power Copying: Beat up a guy who uses Tempest, you get Tempest; Beat up a guy who uses twin axes, you get his axes as well as his axe style; Beat up a Jade Golem, you get to become a Jade Golem...
    • Actually, in most cases, you buy the abilities from unrelated characters. All of the transformation styles play this straight, however, and you do learn several styles as rewards from teachers after an honest fight.
    • But played straight if you download the "Jade Empire in Style" mod, which among many, many other changes and additions, changes how you obtain most of the fighting styles to having to defeat the enemies who practice those styles.
  • Power Crutch: The Dragon Amulet isn't strictly necessary for the Spirit Monk to use their powers, but it does make doing so a lot easier. Sun Li eventually steals the item and puts it to much better use than the Monk ever did.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The Emperor's golem army are animated by the trapped souls of the recently dead, and they have to be killed painfully for the best effects!
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Spirit Monk, aka you.
  • Punk Punk: Jade Empire ticks off a lot of the requirements for a Punk Punk story. Technology is ubiquitous? Mm-hmm. "The actual form of government varies, but it is usually somewhat sinister and oppressive"? Turns out so. "Can make people stronger, faster, more perceptive, etc"? Yes. "can create Artificial Humans, Clockwork Creatures, or Ridiculously Human Robots" and "is developed with little regard for harmful consequences to society or nature"? Hells yeah.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Sir Roderick may be a caricature, but the quest is based on an actual recorded event, despite how ridiculous it seems.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Several of the monks of Dirge betrayed their comrades, only to get executed by Sun Hai and bound to guard the fountains.
  • Royally Screwed Up
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: And how. Seeing as this is a setting based on feudal China, it's to be expected, after all, with every member of the royal family quite active. The Emperor defeated a god and seized its power, his brother hatches a gambit to strike him down with you as his main pawn, and his daughter lives a double life of being both the Imperial princess, and your companion Silk Fox.
  • Save Scumming: Defied. It's possible to farm money off of the High-Low game in the Imperial Arena. Winning too many games in a row causes Gambler Daoshen to be struck down, however.
  • Shaped Like Itself: If you ask Scholar Kongyu about his research, he will simply give a longer version of the name of the area of study.
    Kongyu: Celestial integration means that it's integrated... celestially.
  • She Who Must Not Be Seen: Henpecked Hou's wife, a monstrous woman of incredible girth that gives him nightmares. You only know of her from the stories he tells. His epilogue eventually reveals that he found a way to escape her.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Numerous to Water Margin. The hard-drinking, hard-fighting Black Whirlwind acts like Lu Zhishen and is named after Li Kui. Sagacious Zu is named after Lu Zhishen, a.k.a. "Sagacious Lu". The fact that the heroes face a father and son, Gao the Greater and Gao the Lesser, is very similar to how the outlaws in Water Margin oppose Magistrate Gao and his son Gao. One of the lines in an early area is "careful, there are outlaws in the marsh".
    • Also a couple to Austin Powers, with a straight rip-off of the master debator/cunning linguist joke, and a reference to a sketch of some dolphins with a strange apparatus on their heads and a scribbled note saying, "No, sharks!" What's the betting the the apparatus is a frickin' laser...?
    • Master Li and Henpecked Hou are both named after characters in Bridge of Birds. Of course, while Bridge of Birds’ Master Li has a flaw in his character, Jade Empire’s Master Li made sure you had a flaw in your style.
    • Lustful Lao is a parody of The Simpsons Comic Book Guy. One of the subjects you can discuss with him prompts him to say "Worst. Subject. Ever."
      • Not the only shout out to the Simpsons: Qui the Promoter has a line of 'Everything I say is perfectly cromulent, and it might do you well to embiggen your vocabulary.'
    • When talking to Qui the Promoter about fighting in the Arena, he will tell you "You are indeed mysterious, stranger", a reference to the first KOTOR, in which the main character had the option of dueling under the name "The Mysterious Stranger".
    • Leaping Tiger Style turns you into Wolverine.
    • On two separate occasions- including the very first dialogue option- you have the opportunity to tell someone they "fight with all the grace of a cow."
    • "I find your optimism... disturbing."
    • Big Tian, the farmer, and his description of marriage seems to be a reference to The Good Earth.
    • Silk Fox appears to borrow a fair chunk of her character concept and design from Jen in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as well as a small part of her motivation (at one point, she mentions that she's worried that Death's Hand might persuade the Emperor to marry her to him).
    • One of the graves in the Imperial city necropolis reads "To the Nameless One. His Torments have ended." Considering the setting, it might also serve as a reference to Jet Li's character in Hero.
    • In the tea house at Tien's Landing, there's a cook that challenges you to eat some of his meals that will damage one of your stats (depending on the meal) at the end he'll up the challenge and ask you to try a truly disgusting meal, if you don't pass out after eating he asks you to describe it and he says "...and remember, this is for posterity, so please... be honest."
    • In the epilogue: "As for Percival, he tired of being called Shirley, and returned to his village."
    • If you try to go to the outer courtyard of Dirge before talking to your party, the game tells you "You must gather your party before venturing forth."
    • Gravedigger Shen makes a pun joke and says "Eh-heh. A little graveyard humor there, see." This is a shout out to Igor's (from Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness) pun jokes and trademark Catch Phrase.
    • An early NPC in your school is named Jing Woo; Jingwu is a common romanization for Chin Woo School.
  • Shown Their Work: It is obvious that a fair amount of research has gone into the background:
    • Those motions that the students are doing in the school's courtyard at the beginning? That's not some made up wuxia stuff to look pretty. It's a section from an actual tai chi form.
    • A lot of Chinese philosophical ideas are present in this game. Master Li’s final speech reeks of Legalism, the Water Dragon tells you that the Long Drought happened because it was time for something new to take the place of the Sun Dynasty, Kang the Mad paraphrases the parable of the millipede from Zhuangzi, and so on.
  • Significant Anagram: Scholar Kongyu is Creative Yukong.
  • Simple Staff: One of your weapon choices, and used by enemies too. Especially useful in one-on-one duels against swords.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: In one town, Ai Ling is the resident gang leader, but wishes to settle down with a normal life.
  • Social Darwinist: The Closed Fist philosophy in a nutshell, at least according to Word of God. Problem is that this usually translate to Jerkass. Keep in mind this was before Mass Effect and was probably where they got the idea for Mass Effect's version of the Karma Meter. There are sometimes situations in which you can do a Jerkass move or a more Social Darwinist one. In the bandit base, you can free a slave (Open Palm), enslave her (former Closed Fist) or tell her to fight for her freedom (latter Closed Fist).
  • Statistically Speaking: You can influence aspects of the plot based on certain stats, but you're still not going to get past story-created obstacles.
  • Stop Helping Me!: In-Universe, there's a mild example of this regarding female attendants of Princess Lian a.k.a. Silk Fox. When you first meet her in her true role as the princess, you can repeatedly say rude and blunt things to her. Every time you pick that option, one of her attendants scolds you for your impropriety or even faints on the spot on Princess Lian's behalf. Princess Lian gets embarrassed at her attendants, since she feels their reaction is disproportionate to the actual scale of your offense.
  • Stripperiffic: Both men and women tend towards this. Lampshaded and justified by a loading page comment: "Ornate, flowing and even revealing clothing are seen as a sign of confidence and respect."
  • Stupid Sacrifice: The player is given this choice towards the end. Sun Li offers to kill the player without conflict to allow his perfect world to exist. Why you would do this after Sun Li has literally slaughtered your entire village, allowed a second one to die, killed you, screwed over his daughter, and shown absolutely no concern for creating any kind of good world (as the actual ending shows). If you're Open Palm, letting him live goes against everything you accomplished up to that point. If you're Closed Fist, then you don't care about the fate of the world anyway! The only reason to go through with this is for the posthumous fame Li promises (and fulfills, should you accept). Fortunately, you don't have to do this at all and if you're aggressive enough, you don't even get the option.
  • Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Fast attacks, power attacks and blocking. Fast attacks typically interrupt power attacks, power attacks break shields, and blocking protects against fast attacks.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: As in all BioWare RPGs, no matter how urgent the situation, you always have time to natter away to NPCs. Once you have explored their dialogue trees, however, they'll curtly tell you that there is no time to chat.
  • Tearjerker: The Open Palm ending to the orphanage quest in the ruins of old Tien's Landing. One of the few sidequests to get a proper cinematic, no less.
    • Wild Flower as well, since she's a dead little girl being kept alive by a demon. Her fate in the closing text, either Open or Closed, is tearjerking, whether in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming or Downer Ending way, again, depending on Open or Closed.
  • Tempting Fate: "No power in the mortal realm can save you now!" Cue Not Too Dead to Save the Day.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Played with a fair bit. For the first few chapters, it seems Death's Hand and the Lotus Assassins are the true power behind the throne, using Death's Hand's favour with the Emperor to follow their own goals. Then you discover that the Emperor is aware of everything they've done... Naturally, you go and defeat him. At which point your Master, the Emperor's brother, kills you and takes the throne for himself.
  • The War Sequence: The invasion of the army at the end of the game. Due to processing limitations, this still had to be handled in waves, but The Black Whirlwind's segment is literally an endless wave of them.
  • Third-Person Seductress: Just about averted. The female player characters are predictably attractive, and their costumes do little to hide their charms, but their slim figures don't stoop to the blatant exaggeration of some notoriously top-heavy heroines. Also has a Spear Counterpart in that two of the male PC models are constantly shirtless.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Oh, yes. Based around insects, and the better quality ones are designed by Kang the Mad. Reading about their history in one particular Pamphlet Shelf reveals that they're based around the idea that real-life Chinese bureaucrat Wan Hu had being followed up on.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Several NPC's qualify:
    • Merchant Jian, who turns up to punish you up for closing the dam when you return to Tien's Landing. Sure, let's hire a couple of mooks, and try to kill the warriors who've just defeated a horde of ghosts, demons, assassins and soldiers to complete the quest, that'll work!
    • Lucky Cho, who tries to defeat you and Black Whirlwind single-handed.
    • Pretty much standard operating procedure for Lotus Assassin acolytes.
  • Translation Convention: The cast mostly speaks English with North American accents. Bizarrely however, some NPCs speak "the Old Tongue" (Tho Fan), a weird, not-very-Chinese-sounding, Jabba-the-Hutt language invented for the game by a Canadian linguist. This was intended both for flavor (as it mimics the split between Cantonese and Mandarin in modern day China), and also to save on space as Tho Fan only has a limited number of stock sound clips and can be recycled over and over without being readily apparent.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The Marvelous Dragonfly missions emulate classic 2D flight combat games such as Galaga. Also may count as a Scrappy Level, though they can be ignored for the most part.
  • Unfinished Business: The ghosts in the graveyard of the Imperial City. Though technically all ghosts are supposed to have this - it's only that the state of things in the world now won't let anyone pass, business or no business.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Turnkey Shiji tried to save his prisoners from drowning in the flood of Old Tien's Landing. Unfortunately, the first guy he unlocked was a murderous sociopath who responded to his mercy by killing him.
  • Updated Re-release: The PC version adds content, some of which was already in the Xbox Limited Edition.
  • Unwitting Pawn: You, thanks you Master Li's manipulations.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: While the Closed Fist choices tend to be more rewarding, it's hard to not want to avoid them simply because of how much of jerkass you are in them
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Closed Fist is supposedly based on certain philosophy, but the vast majority of the choices are pretty much just about being a Jerkass. Most notably when you have to solve a problem with a love triangle, the Closed Fist choices are involve murder, the worst being killing EVERY person involved.
  • We Buy Anything: Essence Gems are your only equipment and are considered somewhat valuable, so anyone will buy and sell them (though only Spirit Monks can use them properly). This is the only non-quest item in your inventory anyway, so obviously all stores should be equipped for this.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Emperor Sun Hai destroys Dirge, slaughters the Spirit Monks and kills the Water Dragon so he can end the drought that has killed hundreds of thousands of his people. Since he goes mad with power afterwards, though, it is questionable how well-intentioned he actually is. Sun Li also claims to be one, but again, his actions don't seem to support it.
  • Wham Episode: Sun Li is really the Big Bad? Holy shit.
  • Wham Line:
    Sagacious Zu: [in reference to the Lotus Assassins] I... I was one.
    • And also:
    Sun Li: Your abilities have grown immensely. But it also does my heart good to see that you have remembered the basics of what I taught. Even the flaws."
    • At the end of Aishi the Mournful Blade's quest.
    Old Man: Aishi the Mournful Blade was my daughter.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: If you give Kia Min the medicine that heals her, she will fight off her enemies, but it is never revealed what happens to her after the fall of Two Rivers.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: On the Closed Fist path, you begin as a Jerk Ass and progress down the slippery slope from there. The more moral members of your party will complain about this. If you bind Death's Hand to your will, you must bind their wills, and if you taint the Water Dragon, most will turn on you.
  • Where It All Began: The player's Last Stand is held at the temple of Dirge, where all of the Spirit Monks were slaughtered twenty years ago.
  • Wolverine Claws: Leaping Tiger style causes claws to grow from your hands in battle.
  • Worthy Opponent: Crimson Khana considers you one if you warn her about the poison.
  • Wuxia: Probably the most notable video game example.
  • You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good: You can tell this to the Big Bad. He responds by claiming that he would find that a waste of his talents. Also subverted, since his plan is to create his idea of a utopia.
  • Zen Survivor / Shell-Shocked Senior: Sagacious Zu fits both of these marvelously.

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alternative title(s): Jade Empire
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