Jade Empire - Special Edition

Posted by: Benedict

Jade Empire - Special Edition - 08/10/08 08:16 AM

This RPG game, developed by Bioware, was released on Xbox as well as on PC. The PC version was sub-titled Special Edition because it included an additional playable character, Monk Zeng. The player can between a group of male and female characters to select one to control as the main character for the game.

Game Features
The game features a virtual world based on Chinese culture. The game world is populated by Asians with authentic sounding names, wearing authentic costumes. Non-player characters appear to have jobs and roles to play and have a few rotated lines of dialogue. Players related to the main plot and side plots have fairly detailed dialogue and characterisation and are voiced by professional voice over actors.

The gamer can choose between a good path and an evil path for the main character. Dialogue and behaviour options allow the whim of the player to make his/her character into a saint, someone in between, or into an utterly despicable scoundrel. Combat in the game showcases and is a great homage to Asian Martial Arts. The main character can block, leap around, punch, use weapons, sweep a group of opponents aside, use magical fire or ice projectiles, or transform into various animal creatures. In the game, the gamer will encounter enemies ranging from thugs, kung fu masters, ghosts and animal-like "demons". Players can switch between martial arts styles by using the numerical keypad button. Combat can be done using left button for attack, right button for strong attack, both buttons for area attack, and space bar for block. There are also special tricks like Focus (F button) similar to slow-mo John Woo style, Chi-attack (E button) using extra "force" in each strike, and Chi-heal using the shift button. Combat is a joy and easy to manage using these buttons. Gamers who are familiar with adventure gaming will enjoy the various options in interacting with main quest and side quest characters. Bioware has incorporated choices into each main quest and side quest so there are often more than one quest outcome, generally a good outcome and an evil outcome depending on the good or evil "path" that you lead your character down. The character has the opportunity to engage with romance with several characters, even the freedom to choose to romance characters of the same sex or two characters or the opposite sex simultaneously. The main character gains experience from quests and combat that enable him or her to gain new martial arts techniques that enhance his or her overall abilities, or gain more power in his martial arts styles.

The Jade Empire was ruled by an Emperor who was reported to have heavenly powers. When the Empire was beset by a severe drought, he and his subjects confronted the celestial water dragon, and succeeded in bringing water back to a parched land. Your character starts out in a martial arts school in a village, a special pupil of a respected, skilled martial arts master. Disaster befalls your school and your character has to travel the game world to search for his master as well as to discover his or her destiny.

Graphics, visuals:
The game world is beautifully rendered in 3D, and is played in third-person perspective. The game world, especially in the village and in the Imperial City, is well populated by characters. Cutscenes tell the story between key story segments, and are a joy to behold. Graphics quality are not top of the line, but that means that you don't need a top range PC to be able to play this game. Cities, hills, clouds, and underground chambers look nice from afar, but unimpressive up close and are not up to par with that in action games. Water rendering looks fake, regrettably. The characters however, are very nicely rendered and have some facial movements to show their emotions. As a key feature is to be able to choose characters to play, these player characters all look different and striking and interesting, so you won't mind staing at their backs as you control them in third person movement.

Get this game if you want lots of variety in plot, and freedom to interact with all kinds of characters and the game world, if you like Asian culture, kungfu, or simply because if you feel like beating up annoying game characters. The story is considerably dark towards the final third of the game. Violence is not gory, but can get disturbing in certain parts of the game, although animated blocky character violence is considerably more bearable to most gamers. Greatly recommended for adventure gamers who yearn more interaction and are tired of pretty but empty games.
Posted by: Becky

Re: Jade Empire - Special Edition - 08/10/08 08:59 AM

Hi Benedict --

A good review! It's interesting that many of the quests have two different outcomes -- are these so different that playing the game again means little repetition?

Also, I'm curious -- how does your character engage in combat with a ghost? Are they corporeal?
Posted by: Benedict

Re: Jade Empire - Special Edition - 08/10/08 09:15 AM

Gameplay (additional points)
In dialogue with a non-player character you can choose to be kind, direct and to the point or be as nasty as a bully. In dealing with side quest characters, you can choose an action that is saintly good, or despicably bad, and gain points towards the good or bad alignment that you are developing your character towards. If you get enough "Good guy" or "evil guy" points, you can get more power when you use martial arts styles that are designed to be augmented by your alignment. If you play good, you can bring a great amount of healing to NPCs and they will name their sons after your character. If you play bad, NPCs will utter curses at your character before they die or leave. Evil or good actions determine the fate of quest characters or quest outcome in side quests - like save an NPC or condemn him to a fate worse than death, or save the village or be bribed into cause more damage to it. If you play your romance quests well, you can be rewarded with a happy ending and sealing the relationship with your target NPC. If you play bad, you can convert your loved one over to evil. The diversity of choices strenghten the illusion of a breathing virtual world and gives the player the feeling of "power" to choose the fates of others.

There are two general designs for the ghosts. One looks like a scarecrow with a sheet and the other are corporeal versions of the thugs or NPCs you meet in the game. The scarecrow-like ghosts use homing magical projectiles and need to be dealt with quickly. The corporeal ones can either use magical ice or fire projectiles or melee weapons. Engage the ghosts in combats using melee martial arts stypes or weapon styles or use magical projectiles. Fight them like you fight the other enemies.
Posted by: looney4labs

Re: Jade Empire - Special Edition - 08/10/08 10:26 AM

Thanks Benedict. I BAAGed this one the other day. Course, it'll take me forever to get around to playing it, but sounds like it is a keeper. puppy
Posted by: Becky

Re: Jade Empire - Special Edition - 08/10/08 12:18 PM

It sounds like the game has a lot of depth! Benedict -- how long would you estimate that it took you to play the game?
Posted by: Benedict

Re: Jade Empire - Special Edition - 08/10/08 02:21 PM

Tutotial Mode
The game is VERY EASY to get into. Tutorial tips are offered right at the start, when you are introduced to the fighting system in a friendly spar with a fellow martial arts student, complete with Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon style of percussion soundtrack for the fights. If you start a new game and see this, you will be hooked right on the spot. The game is way, way more attractive than the recent "Mass Effect" by the same Developer which feature weird weapon upgrades and technical inventory items, squad management, bizarre aliens and higher system requirements and online registration.

Play Length and Replayability
I am a follow-the-walkthrough type of gamer. Even that, I would have taken take 8-10 days of intensive long-hour gaming to finish such a game. If I want to enjoy the game at a leisurely pace, I would take 3-4 weeks of on-off gaming. If you want to play the game all over again to try out other characters and the evil path, or just to be a good guy or girl all over again, (the other characters have different martial arts styles) and a higher difficulty level (Jade Master difficulty allows you to keep the martial arts techniques at the current level and continue to upgrade them), you can take up to another month.

This game would not be as time-consuming and as deep as other RPGs, such as Oblivion or Might and Magic, which would take 2-4 months of on-off gaming. For Oblivion and other RPGs complete with several Expansion Packs, gaming could take 4-6 months to experience everything.

Bonus Feature
The game has a bonus feature - a minigame involving 2D arcade shooting flying ships, in the style of retro space ship shooting games like Raiden and Raptor. You can skip most of this if you are arcade game challenged, or you can play some or all of the flying shooting minigames to gain additional experience points. Who knows? Perhaps somw Boomers may actually love this feature.

If there are any staff members who would like to do a staff review for this game, you could expand on my material, and include a few screenshots. Please credit me for my work. Thanks!
Posted by: chrissie

Re: Jade Empire - Special Edition - 08/16/08 08:29 AM

Thanks for the review Benedict - you make the game sound so enticing. As it seems to be a long game I just wouldn't have time to play this in the near future but am very tempted to get it for a later date!
Posted by: Moondancer

Re: Jade Empire - Special Edition - 08/18/08 04:28 AM

Oh, how I miss this game! What a pity it was so relatively linear, else I would have replayed it by now! I will still replay it sometime - this time playing as a man following the Closed Fist path.
I feel very sad that there doesn't seem to be a sequel on the horison, as this is one of my all-time favourites.

Glad you also enjoyed the game, Benedict!
Posted by: looney4labs

Re: Jade Empire - Special Edition - 08/18/08 11:02 AM

What did you play as the first time through?
Posted by: Benedict

Re: Jade Empire - Special Edition - 08/20/08 01:55 AM

I don't feel that the game is linear compared to many other games that are on the market, unless we are talking about Oblivion or Morrowind. If we compare Jade Empire to many other RPGS out there, Jade Empire is offering quite an amount of choice in sub quests and dialogues and interactions with NPC charcters.

Oblivion has several possible futures for your character depending on whether you want to play the main quest to completion. The gamer can just satisfy himself or herself by completing any of the four or five faction quests to become the head of his guild. Oblivion is a very open game, you can still carry on and visit towns and places just to take in the scenery and kill respawned monsters for sport after you have finished what you want to do as there are many non-quest related dungeons in the game.