Jade Empire, while more action-oriented than other Bio Ware games, enables players to make choices affecting themselves and the world, and as such is a deep and enjoyable game.
The story, taking place in an empire plagued by restless spirits and corruption in the imperial court, is much more complex than it appears at first. Several twists radically change your perspective of it, and while they are quite surprising, they are also well foreshadowed. This increases replay value, as it is enjoyable to play through again and see all the subtle clues.
The characters provide a diverse array of combat specialties, and with their support abilities, they complement different playstyles. Unfortunately, while they have well developed backstories, they lack personal quests, although you can learn plot-relevant secrets by developing your relationships.
Combat is fairly easy to grasp, similar to some fighting games, yet requires thinking to win. A Rock Paper Scissors system for attacking and defense (for example, blocking defends against standard attacks, but not power attacks, and power attacks can be dodged or interrupted by regular ones) ensures that no attack is dominant, and no defensive maneuver cannot be countered. The equipment and skill system is quite flexible; while it is best to specialize, the gems enable you to modify your build as your playstyle and situation demand. While there are few non-combat skills, being able to choose between Charm, Intimidate and Persuade adds depth to dialogue, requiring you to consider which is your best skill, and which is most appropriate.
The quests are varied and interesting, ranging from battles with enemies to simply working out issues by talking with people. There are quite a few different solutions for each quest, often a standard good or evil one, but also at times, various ways to twist the situation to your advantage or reach a compromise between two people. Unfortunately, while the moral decisions offer opportunities for great compassion and cruelty, they donít quite live up to the promise of a system that enables choosing between self-reliance and charity, and instead boil down to good and evil. This is not a shortcoming in and of itself, but the advertised idea would have been better.
Jade Empire is well-designed, enjoyable, and well worth playing for those interested in Action RP Gs