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.