Reviews: Jade Empire

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My favorite Bioware game of all time.
Well, read the title!

I love this game so much. I love it enough to admit its flaws: the Karma Meter mechanic doesn't live up to its full potential, the companions aren't all as creative as they could be, and the story as a whole is rather short.

But, really, that's about it.

I love the gameplay! Quick, combo-based style-switching kung-fu fighting is fast, fun, and satisfying. Much as I appreciate their other games, most Bioware titles either rely on uninteresting click-and-wait quasi-MMO nonsense or marginally-better third-person shooting with pause. Jade Empire is more like an old-school beat-em-up, and it keeps new styles coming frequently enough to remain novel and satisfying. And the lack of "equipment" in favor of a small pool of gems and putting points into styles minimizes tedious micromanagement.

The story is great. Good overall plot, plenty of interesting backstory mingled with interesting player action, and a couple of genuinely good twists, that are neither inadequately foreshadowed nor incredibly obvious. And the sidequest stories are often creative and fun. Most of the companions are fun to talk to and learn about. The opportunities for roleplaying may not be as polished as other Bioware titles, but they still happen. Even its brevity works for it: freed of the siren song of making a franchise out of it, Bioware felt willing to give the story an appropriate and final end.

Most of all though, I love this game for the setting. Art direction is beautiful, full of color and energy that spit in the face of Real Is Brown. It has tons of character and style, everywhere and around every corner. The Chinese influence over the trappings of Medieval European Fantasy makes it unique and interesting, a joy to learn about from scrolls and books because one hasn't necessarily heard it all before. At the same time, it manages to be respectful enough to its source material to avoid outright cultural appropriation. One review made a comparison it to Avatar: The Last Airbender , and I find that apt.

This was a fine game that Needs More Love. There will probably never be a sequel, but as the game's main weaknesses arise from its lack of polish, a new game from a more-experienced studio would have been something special.
  comments: 0
An excellent Action RPG that would make a good series
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
  comments: 0
Bioware's Weakest Game
Jade Empire is a frustrating game, while it arguably processes their strongest story (save one Dethroning Moment Of Suck near the end), full of Xanatos Gambits, interesting twists, an inspired villain, and a unique amongst games art design, everything else is either mind numbingly average or....lame.

Combat: Unsatisfying, each style consists of one combo and one strong attack, despite being able to map four styles to the D-Pad, the feelings of repetition sink in fast as the rate of encounters is very high, and the variety of enemies is low, the feedback from attacks is non-existent, feeling like you're brushing a feather against a rhino, on top of that, the lousy camera makes it difficult to determine how far away you are from enemies, and on top of THAT, the majority of combat becomes a cake-walk when you nab Mirabelle.

Dialogue: For this game, Bioware decided to try and step away from the "Pure as a recently cleaned angel or as evil as Satan himself when he's in a bad mood" style of morality, instead going for more different shades of good morality as seen in Mass Effect, unfortunately, it seems the writers mistook this to mean "Make them more black and white than ever before" since all the Closed Fist dialogue is so Stupid Evil it makes my eyes hurt just looking at it, while there's no option for different ways of saying things outside these two moralities. In addition, the normal dialogue throughout the game is very stilted, with everyone speaking exactly the same, and sounding nothing like any human would speak.

Characters: The most disappointing part of the game, it's usually a sure fire bet that if nothing else, Bioware's characters will be up to scratch, so it's a shock when all the characters here turn out to have little to no personality, with waaaay too many characters to fit into a 13 hour game, the writing team clearly stretched themselves too thin and it shows, with limited backstories and either cookie cutter or non existent persona's, coupled with weak voice acting from people who should be doing better jobs, and it's unlikely you'll care about any of them, not even that little girl who speaks like an adult.

Overall: Great story, shame about everything else.
  comments: 5