I FINALLY learn Kung Fu to review Jade Empire.

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I was starved for some martial arts action around the time that I bought Jade Empire: I was watching Kill Bill reruns on TNT like my mother watches Lifetime movies. Seeking to sate my hunger for fists of fury, I grabbed myself a copy of Jade Empire off of Steam for the low price of around 10 dollars American. And you know what? I would have been willing to pay 20 for this game: it's a lost gem, even though it's got a few glaring cracks on display.

The story in any RPG is a critical element, and in that respect Jade Empire starts out strong and never slows down. It's an engaging tale set in some sort of magical Chinese dynasty: there are constant references to Eastern mythos and folklore, with the occasional bit of steampunk thrown in to spice things up. You play as a apprentice to an aged master, who is shortly kidnapped after giving you some cryptic words about your destiny and a magic amulet. With your master taken away by the Emperor's men, and your home in flames, you set out to rescue him and figure out the secrets behind your past. In true Bioware fashion, there are incredible plot twists and shocking revelations right up to the end of the game, and you'll never find yourself bored with it. The side quests are also well-done, and the characters that you'll find throughout the game are deep, interesting, and often humorous. To give examples, some of the characters you'll have join you over time include a little girl possessed by two demons, a mad inventor, a bloodthirsty brute, a freedom fighter, and a enigmatic ninja.

image

Yeah, you meet some... interesting people on your quest.

The environments and soundtrack are also incredible. Even for being a fairly old game, Jade Empire's graphics don't fail to impress, save for the cutscenes (which can be oddly grainy). The music of the game does a good job of drawing the player into the whole experience, and the voice actors for this Bioware installment do a excellent job at giving their respective characters personality. The game worlds are fairly linear, but they still offer quite a bit of exploration. Some areas are a real blast to run through, such as a creepy, haunted forest and a large, desolate graveyard. Throughout these areas you will find shrines: places to regenerate the three meters that govern you well-being, Health, Magic, and Focus. The spacing of these never feels out of place, and keeps the difficulty at a fairly decent level. There are also traps scattered here and there inside of containers, so you'll want to be careful about just opening chests willy-nilly, an element that adds a Indiana Jones feel to treasure hunting and exploring.

The combat in the game is an interesting affair: it's completely live-action fighting that plays out like a game of rock-paper-scissors. Every style has a quick attack and a strong attack (that takes time to charge up). Blocking stops quick attacks, strong attacks crush blocks, and quick attacks beat strong ones to the punch (pun intended). There are several different types of fighting styles to choose from: martial styles (your basic damage dealers), weapon styles (drain Focus when used, but are more effective), magic styles (they use up magic for ranged and area attacks), support styles (these allow you to put status effects on enemies or leech magic), and transformative styles (give you the ability to turn into crazy demons, but magic is drained FAST when you use them). You can hotkey these styles to the number keys, and can switch between them at any time. The issue that I find with the combat is that while it's a blast to play, the styles are crazily unbalanced, or have little incentive for you to use them. The prime example is the Jade Golem transformation: if you use it, you'll stomp over almost anything in your way. The magic styles look cool, but they're ineffective most of the time, and when you consider you could be using that magic to heal your wounds they turn out to be a detriment to use. The fact that weapon-based styles drain Focus early on is also irritating, when you consider that leveling them up enough gets rid of that trait. Still, the combat gets points for visual flair, and it never ceases to be fun.

image

Somebody's about to get their pansy butt beat into the next dynasty.

You also bring one of your many companions with you into combat. The way it works is simple: you can switch them at will between attacking or supporting. While they are attacking, they can take damage, but will draw some of the heat off of you; if they're supporting, they give you various boosts and stay safely out of harm's way. I used the second option for most of the game (I wanted to fight my own battles), but it's a useful mechanic for when you can't take all the enemies on yourself. You need to be careful though: if your allies are in attack mode and are KO'd, you won't be able to use them for the remainder of the fight.

Jade Empire has some other flaws as well, the karmic system being a prime example. In Bioware's previous outing, the first KOTOR game, your good/evil status had an effect on the game by making certain powers harder to use, and giving you certain special dialogue options. If you were good, you couldn't use the evil powers that well, and vice versa. Well, in Jade Empire that (halfway decent) system was thrown out the window in favor of another one. Here, the only thing karma really affects is what styles you can learn from various trainers. It's an annoying feature, and since you can't just switch karmic states quickly, you're basically forced down one path or another if you want to get your hands on particular fighting styles. Another quirk about the karma system is how it is described. At the start of the game, a monk tells you that the two paths you can follow (Open Palm and Closed Fist) aren't just supposed to be a good/evil thing. Rather, it's about your fighting philosophies. To quote Wikipedia:

Alas, this interesting idea is dropped almost immediately. The two philosophies quickly reveal themselves to just be the old good/evil choice all over again: the Open Palm decisions have you be kind and heroic, and the Closed Fist ones have you punching babies and taking their candy. It's a real pity too: at the start of the game I was really into the idea of being a Closed Fist, but when that was shown to just be an exercise in being a total douchebag, I quickly lost interest and starting following the Open Palm instead, as I can't stand being evil for evil's sake.

image

There was apparently a rumor of a sequel at some point. I hope it turns out to be true.

The inventory system is also a bit meh. It has the virtue of being incredibly simple: you have a amulet that lets you channel your spiritual powers, and sticking stones in the slots on the amulet will give you various stat boosts. Alas, this brings up a rather weird problem: it's never a tough choice to pick which stones you want (sell the personality boosters, keep the health/magic ones), and they don't seem to have a significant impact till very late in the game. Maybe it was just me, but I could easily take on a whole horde of enemies without any gems at all. Money also feels rather contrived: all you'll ever do with it (if you're smart) is save up to buy the various permanent stat boosters, and other fighting styles. I never felt like saving up my cash was much of a benefit, and that's just wrong in a RPG.

I like Bioware games, a lot. However, they have a tendency to be just short of perfection, falling flat on one front or another: and Jade Empire is no exception. It's a truly wonderful game, but the balancing faults, flawed inventory system, and irksome karma meter drive it down. It may seem as if the majority of this review is negative: but I still would recommend it highly. The game is a good time, and well worth the current price it goes for. My verdict is that you should pick this one up if you like the Western style of RPG, or happen to be a Bioware fan. It is fun, creative, and unique: just be prepared to deal with some of the niggling flaws that keep it from achieving true excellence.

Editor's Notes:

Yeah, take that olivera. I actually wrote it. For realz.

...BOOYAH MOTHERFUCKER!

I wanted to mention how this game was the first of Bioware's titles to feature the same-sex romance option, but it felt sandwiched whenever I tried to stick it in. Also, the (very few) puzzles you'll find are sort of lame sauce... but whatever. There were several things that I just couldn't stick in, and for the sake of following KISS I omitted them.

I'm finally done with this, thank goodness: and now I can focus on the next set of reviews without feeling guilty. inFamous and L4D, here I come...

Once again, please leave something behind after you've read this review: a "nice job" or some constructive criticism really brightens up my day, and makes me feel like people actually read this as opposed to just stumbling in here by accident.

What is this? You finally did Jade Empire? Boy took you like a year!

Anyway I found an error!! MUHAHAHAHHAA!

In Bioware's previous outing, the KOTOR games...

There is only ONE! KOTOR game by Bioware! The second one was made by Obsidian so..AH! I couldn't find flaws in the Mega Man 9 review but I found on this one!

Anyway good review! You could have just filled the whole post with that Magneto picture, say nothing about the game and the review would still be awesome.

Magneto is awesome!

oliveira8:
What is this? You finally did Jade Empire? Boy took you like a year!

Anyway I found an error!! MUHAHAHAHHAA!

In Bioware's previous outing, the KOTOR games...

There is only ONE! KOTOR game by Bioware! The second one was made by Obsidian so..AH! I couldn't find flaws in the Mega Man 9 review but I found on this one!

Anyway good review! You could have just filled the whole post with that Magneto picture, say nothing about the game and the review would still be awesome.

Magneto is awesome!

The error is fixed... it's as if it was never there :D

Also, that Magneto picture is a favorite of mine. He looks like he's going for the Darth Vader force choke, doesn't he?

scotth266:
*snip*

But now I have it quoted for all eternity!

I prefer this Magneto pic.

image

It just screams "You sure you want to mess with me?" But any Ian Mckellen Magneto picture is awesome so...

Nice Job.

(Did I do it right?)

Since you asked nicely: Nice review!
Jk. Your reviews are always a pleasure.
Amazingly I haven't heard of this game. Looks cool, I've been needing a unique game. So so many gritty shooters, so little time.

I really hate myself for not picking this up when I had the chance. Well.. I know what I'll be getting when my next stroll around Gamestop occurs.

ShotgunShaman:
Since you asked nicely: Nice review!
Jk. Your reviews are always a pleasure.
Amazingly I haven't heard of this game. Looks cool, I've been needing a unique game. So so many gritty shooters, so little time.

Jade Empire is a great game. If only cause of its different setting. Feels fresh and unique. But as Scotth pointed out theres flaws on it. But its really cheap these days and its a good RPG so its worth.

Also the STEAM version is the special edition which brings shiny new stuff. And I never checked but there should be mods that fix of the annoying parts of the game.

Mrsnugglesworth:
Nice Job.

(Did I do it right?)

Yes. Everything seems to be in order.

SO FAR...

ShotgunShaman:
Since you asked nicely: Nice review!
Jk. Your reviews are always a pleasure.
Amazingly I haven't heard of this game. Looks cool, I've been needing a unique game. So so many gritty shooters, so little time.

Thanks! Hopefully you enjoy it.

xxhazyshadowsxx:
I really hate myself for not picking this up when I had the chance. Well.. I know what I'll be getting when my next stroll around Gamestop occurs.

I don't know if Gamestop would carry the PC version. However, Steam sells it, and you can find the not-special edition on Xbox Originals, I believe.

scotth266:

xxhazyshadowsxx:
I really hate myself for not picking this up when I had the chance. Well.. I know what I'll be getting when my next stroll around Gamestop occurs.

I don't know if Gamestop would carry the PC version. However, Steam sells it, and you can find the not-special edition on Xbox Originals, I believe.

Thanks! I'll check around.

I too recently found this long forgotten gem.

It was a special edition copy for 5 bucks that came with the new Conker, Mech Assault 2 and Forza Motorsport. I remember hearing about how good it was years ago so I picked it up and I must say, it's been one of the greatest games I've played in a looooong time. It made the other purchases I made that day seem a bit short, even if they too were for 5 bucks each.

Regardless, very good review, and I look forward to reading your others.

LogicNProportion:

Regardless, very good review, and I look forward to reading your others.

Why thank you.

I can has a question? (Sir I have an inquiry for you)
WIl Wurk on XBaWks 360? (Would this perchance be compatible on the Xbox 360?)

megapenguinx:
I can has a question? (Sir I have an inquiry for you)
WIl Wurk on XBaWks 360? (Would this perchance be compatible on the Xbox 360?)

They sell Jade Empire on the Xbox Originals on Live (which is where I got it) so i'm almost 100% positive that the disk would work...

MrBrightside919:

They sell Jade Empire on the Xbox Originals on Live (which is where I got it) so i'm almost 100% positive that the disk would work...

Methinks he was asking more if the Xbox version is supported by the 360 compatability updates. Gimmie a mo.

scotth266:

MrBrightside919:

They sell Jade Empire on the Xbox Originals on Live (which is where I got it) so i'm almost 100% positive that the disk would work...

Methinks he was asking more if the Xbox version is supported by the 360 compatability updates. Gimmie a mo.

Exactly, since it'd be cheaper to find the original game than to drop $15 on Live.

Nice review. Now, to dust my old XBox and play this bad boy to the end. Every time I would start this in the past, I would get distracted at about the 15 minute mark. A shame, too, from what you have to say about it.

As usual, great review.

I'm noticing a large amount of Brentalfloss videos appearing in your reviews. Was Jade Empire on original xbox? I'd love to play it, but my only computer is a Mac from 2001-ish. If it is on Xbox, would the controls carry over well? It sounds like quite a few things for a gamepad.

EDIT: oh, it seems my question was answered above.

megapenguinx:

scotth266:

MrBrightside919:

They sell Jade Empire on the Xbox Originals on Live (which is where I got it) so i'm almost 100% positive that the disk would work...

Methinks he was asking more if the Xbox version is supported by the 360 compatability updates. Gimmie a mo.

Exactly, since it'd be cheaper to find the original game than to drop $15 on Live.

Well, good and bad news alike here. Good news is it is supported, except in Widescreen format. Bad news is that it does have some glitches. From the god of information, Wikipedia:

A small number of textures in a few scenes do not show up. Old Tien's Landing ruins level stutters badly.

Given this, I'd say you'd probably have a better experience overall slapping down a few extra dollars for the PC version, or maybe the Original one... provided that it's the Special Edition.

Calobi:
Nice review. Now, to dust my old XBox and play this bad boy to the end. Every time I would start this in the past, I would get distracted at about the 15 minute mark. A shame, too, from what you have to say about it.

Hrm. I have to say that the start is sort of slow compared to the rest of the game, now that I think back on it. Still, I could say the same for KOTOR... and they both shape up over time.

CountFenring:
As usual, great review.

I'm noticing a large amount of Brentalfloss videos appearing in your reviews.

Secondly, I only used the videos because the situation was perfect. You have to admit olivera set himself up for that FF one very nicely :D

scotth266:

megapenguinx:

scotth266:

MrBrightside919:

They sell Jade Empire on the Xbox Originals on Live (which is where I got it) so i'm almost 100% positive that the disk would work...

Methinks he was asking more if the Xbox version is supported by the 360 compatability updates. Gimmie a mo.

Exactly, since it'd be cheaper to find the original game than to drop $15 on Live.

Well, good and bad news alike here. Good news is it is supported, except in Widescreen format. Bad news is that it does have some glitches. From the god of information, Wikipedia:

A small number of textures in a few scenes do not show up. Old Tien's Landing ruins level stutters badly.

Given this, I'd say you'd probably have a better experience overall slapping down a few extra dollars for the PC version, or maybe the Original one... provided that it's the Special Edition.

Thanks you good sir! Since I have a Mac (damn Macs!!), I will try hunting down the S.E, but chances are I'll end up getting it on LIVE....

scotth266:

CountFenring:
As usual, great review.

I'm noticing a large amount of Brentalfloss videos appearing in your reviews.

Secondly, I only used the videos because the situation was perfect. You have to admit olivera set himself up for that FF one very nicely :D

Yes, yes he did.

At some point, weren't you going to review either Far Cry Instincts? I completely forgot if that was you or someone else.

megapenguinx:
Thanks you good sir! Since I have a Mac (damn Macs!!), I will try hunting down the S.E, but chances are I'll end up getting it on LIVE....

If Macs can run Steam, you can get it right now for the relatively low price of 15 dollars American.

CountFenring:
[quote="scotth266" post="326.119321.2312077"]

[quote="CountFenring" post="326.119321.2312046"]

At some point, weren't you going to review either Far Cry Instincts? I completely forgot if that was you or someone else.

I did have that on my list, but since the old list got thrown out the window due to various events, right now I'm just playing things by ear. I'll probably do inFamous next... maybe LBP after that, and then it'll likely be a slew of PS2 titles. Far Cry has sadly dropped pretty far down on the list of priorities...

scotth266:

megapenguinx:
Thanks you good sir! Since I have a Mac (damn Macs!!), I will try hunting down the S.E, but chances are I'll end up getting it on LIVE....

If Macs can run Steam, you can get it right now for the relatively low price of 15 dollars American.

Macs can't, but I'll check through the crossover database to see if it's supported.

I own this game and never played it, which compliments the Xbox I own but never use quite nicely. Perhaps I should plug it in and give it a shot.

I think the fourth paragraph has too many bracketed aside sections, and actually feels as if it's two paragraphs merged together. The first half outlining the combat basics while the second half discusses combat issues. It's a pretty large paragraph as it is. If you broke it in half, you could deal with each subject in more detail without the danger of having it consume the review.

I like the review though. It actually makes me want to dig out my Xbox and give it a shot (sort of).

Maet:

I think the fourth paragraph has too many bracketed aside sections, and actually feels as if it's two paragraphs merged together. The first half outlining the combat basics while the second half discusses combat issues. It's a pretty large paragraph as it is. If you broke it in half, you could deal with each subject in more detail without the danger of having it consume the review.

I know what you mean: that paragraph was edited several times, for great justice.

It's frustrating really: I couldn't think of a good way to split them up into two paragraphs without making them both very short. Ah, well. Maybe I'll strike a good idea in the morning.

scotth266:
Alas, this interesting idea is dropped almost immediately. The two philosophies quickly reveal themselves to just be the old good/evil choice all over again: the Open Palm decisions have you be kind and heroic, and the Closed Fist ones have you punching babies and taking their candy. It's a real pity too: at the start of the game I was really into the idea of being a Closed Fist, but when that was shown to just be an exercise in being a total douchebag, I quickly lost interest and starting following the Open Palm instead, as I can't stand being evil for evil's sake.

yeah especially since the last choice of the game decides which of the 2 endings you get (no joke)

Bioware have never been very good at the whole Good/Evil thing. (Big bad dark jedi bullying a guy out of 100 credits feel the power of the dark side!)

At least in Mass Effect they gave up on pretending it was about anything other than whether you were a jerk or not.

meh my biggest problem with the alignment system is that the game itself is usally programmed with a sort of bias (either the good side or bad side get's the most usefull powers or they'll get recolors of the same skill) or one side get's more usefull items/allies

Yes, I love this game. I got it after finishing Mass Effect, and two playthroughs solidified my appreciation for it.

That being said, the morality system is just shy of of how it should be, as it often is even in Bioware's RPGs. But I did notice a tendency towards some of the minor situations to favor balance in your dialogue. Two prime examples: The Forest Shadow's riddle and your debate with the Westerner.

Excellent review. This sounds really interesting, and I would probably check it out if I had a proper computer to play it on...
Maybe I should check the Xbox version instead?

i remember buying this game on the xbox marketplace i was not dissapointed. its pretty good once you get into it.

Hm! Well, if Steam didn't cost munniez, I would check this out. If my 'puter ever gets to the point I can play Morrowind without it crashing ever fifteen minutes due to hardware overload, I'll see if Steam is supported on Linux.

EDIT: Also, the first pic? Elephant dude is a variant on Ganesh, an Indian god (not sure what of, but Wiki probably has it) and the Foxy chick is a kitsune spirit, the tricksters of the Japanese mythology, along with tanooki.

RagnorakTres:
Hm! Well, if Steam didn't cost munniez, I would check this out. If my 'puter ever gets to the point I can play Morrowind without it crashing ever fifteen minutes due to hardware overload, I'll see if Steam is supported on Linux.

EDIT: Also, the first pic? Elephant dude is a variant on Ganesh, an Indian god (not sure what of, but Wiki probably has it) and the Foxy chick is a kitsune spirit, the tricksters of the Japanese mythology, along with tanooki.

I thought that the spelling was tanuki, but that might be translators going SNAFU.

I already knew about the mythological references (big fan of mythos) but thanks anywho.

I believe that Steam doesn't work on Linux, but it never hurt to give it a shot.

really?

i didn't enjoy the game

probably because I didn't transform enough

I used my first set of moves all throughout the game and the sword... and thats it
I beat the game EASILY!

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