Review by Mister_T
"It's no KotOR, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable"
When I first picked up Jade Empire, I was expecting something more along the lines of Knights of the Old Republic. Instead, I was met with something that, while very similar in terms of how your actions effect what forces you can wield and how you are perceived in the world, is overall very different. This time around, instead of the story being set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the plot revolves around the Jade Empire, a place very similar to ancient China, only inhabited by exceptional martial artists (of which your character is the most exceptional, of course), ghosts of the dearly departed that now bother the living, and demons, among other things. Ah, but I ramble, on to more important things, namely, the review.
To start things out, you must choose a character. Unlike in KotOR, you have only a limited amount of choices in terms of how your character looks. There is only one way for your character to look, depending on which discipline and gender you choose. Also, make sure that you like the clothes that your character is wearing, as you won't be able to change them at all during any part of the game.
Once you choose your character, it's time to start the game. You start out in a little town, called Two Rivers, on the outskirts of the Jade Empire with a martial arts school led by one Master Li as its means of protection. Of course, as the leading student of the school, you are tasked with the town's protection should the need arise, and in typical RPG fashion, it does. Indeed, what happens after is all too typical in RPGs, and while you are out on business of some sort or another (without revealing too much), your town happens to get razed to the ground (shocking!). Master Li is taken, and you vow vengeance.
In other RPGs, as you roam around the world, you happen upon different weapons that are stronger than your last weapon or you find different upgrades for it. While you may also find different weapons in Jade Empire, the main things that you will find are different martial arts styles. These are upgradeable when your levels increase, but you will not be able to upgrade them all, as you will gain around eight different types simply by completing the main quest, and you have only a limited number of upgrades available. Besides upgrading your martial arts styles, you also upgrade your health, chi (magic), and focus each time you level up. For each level, you are given three points to level these up, so you must choose wisely.
Of course, what is an RPG without random items, right? Wrong. In Jade Empire, the only items that you will receive besides quest items and the occasional random item are jewels that you use to upgrade your abilities. While these are good to have, it would also be nice to have the occasional health or chi item. However, it is very easy to regain health simply by switching to the style that allows you to regain health by hurting your opponents, and should you need more chi, the same formula applies, as there is a different style that allows you to regain your chi.
Speaking of martial arts styles, switching styles during battle is as easy as pressing the corresponding numerical key on your keyboard. As is the case in many RPGs you get to map the styles to whichever button you want as well, so you can have your favorite style ready at a moment's notice. Combat mostly consists of your character changing to a given demon style (once you gain them) and beating your opponent into submission. Even when in demon form, however, combat feels a little wonky and probably could have used a little more tweaking, but it's good enough that you'll get used to it after about an hour or so. You are hard pressed to get anywhere near death (except when you up the ante by choosing a harder difficulty) and yet the game stays just hard enough and the length seems to be just about right in order to keep your interest for the duration (go ahead and think about it).
Overall the game is good enough to warrant a purchase and a second or third play through, but how does that differ from any other Bioware RPG thus far? I haven't happened upon one that I haven't at least kept me engrossed for one go-around. So what are you waiting for? Don't go out to your favorite retailer and ask for this game, because they probably don't have it anymore. What you'll probably have to go online and to find this game at this point, but that shouldn't stop you from trying.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/07/08
Game Release: Jade Empire: Special Edition (US, 02/26/07)
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