Jade Empire - XB - Review
When it was announced last year that BioWare was not going to be developing the sequel to their game of the year smash hit Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, more than a few gamers took some worried notice. Fortunately, KOTOR II turned out to be a great game that more than did justice to its predecessor. When it was revealed that BioWare was instead going to work on an ancient China themed action-RPG, many more gamers began to worry whether or not the game would be up to snuff and expectations were running quite high. However, Jade Empire is finally here and the results are nothing short of astounding. The game takes a simple to learn yet difficult to master combat system and couples it with an incredible sense of atmosphere and a gripping storyline thrown into a deep and complex universe. Jade Empire is a fantastic game that not only improves upon the high bar that BioWare set with the first Knights of the Old Republic, but also sets a new standard for which all other console RPGs will be judged for years to come.
Jade Empire starts you out by having you choose your character from a group of different archetypes. You can select between quick and nimble characters or the slow and powerful ones, with a few different options in between, like characters with a primary focus on magic and so on. Another great touch is the random name generator. Similar to the one used in KOTOR (which randomly created Star Wars themed names for your character), Jade Empire’s name generator gives your character a personalized name with an Eastern flair to it. After selecting your character’s type and name, you can customize your character’s initial fighting styles. You select two to begin with, though you can gain more as you progress through the game. In an effort to add an extra level of realism, the folks at BioWare have used actual existing fighting styles from China and imported them into the action.
Similar to Knights of the Old Republic, your character’s actions and interactions with people will affect their ethics rating. If you are mean to people and refuse to help them, then this will reflect in the type of person that you are and people will react to you in kind and visa versa.
The combat system is fully real-time, which will no doubt appeal to gamers who didn’t care for the turn-based combat in Knights of the Old Republic. Each of your fighting styles has a light and fast attack and a slower more powerful attack that is capable of breaking an enemy’s block. You can also block and dodge your opponent’s attacks, getting the drop on him and gaining the upper hand. Aside from your two initial combat styles, you can also use a magic attack which involves elemental attacks like flinging fireballs across the screen, or you can use a weapon, like a sword, to dispatch your enemies. You also have access to the Focus ability, which slows down your enemies during combat at the cost of some of your Focus bar.
Aside from standard one on one fighting, you can take out a group of surrounding enemies by using the area attack and stunning them so you can refocus your plan of attack. You can also perform a “harmonic combo”, which is an awesome looking combo that can completely obliterate almost any enemy in one hit of exploding limbs and torsos.
Aside from the game’s combat and RPG elements, there are also quite a few mini-games that you can play on the side. Some of them have bearings to the game’s storyline, like the top-down arcade shooter mini-game where you try to save your village from bomber planes. Once you unlock these games in the main quest, you can access them from the game’s start up menu and play them whenever you want.
The graphics in Jade Empire are fantastic. The character models are extremely realistic, with tons of great details and facial expressions bringing them to life. The entire world of Jade Empire looks incredible and fully realized, with the attention to detail evident in everything. The whole world has an unreal feeling to it; while it does feature some realistic elements and classic Chinese architecture, there are also fantastical things like planes and mythical beasts giving the game a sense of mystery and myth. The magical and lighting effects also look excellent, as the game makes the best of the Xbox hardware in this aspect. The only possible gripe with the game’s graphical presentation is the camera, which get a little cumbersome at points.
The sound in Jade Empire is also great. The musical score accents the game’s mood very nicely, sticking with the ancient Chinese theme very nicely. The game also has a ton of recorded dialogue, which is extremely well acted. The sound effects are also quite clear and don’t sound compressed at all.
Jade Empire is a fantastic RPG game that not only lives up to its hype, but also far surpasses it by featuring some incredible gameplay, an engrossing storyline, and a huge amount of polish. Jade Empire will stand as the best Xbox RPG, and quite possibly the best RPG to hit this generation of consoles. Play it now.
Review Scoring Details for Jade Empire
Jade Empire offers up an engaging mix of action-packed combat and the polished brand of compelling RPG elements that we’ve come to expect from the team at BioWare. The combat system is extremely deep and layered, but is very easy to learn from the beginning of the game. Plus, the great story and fun mini-games will keep gamers playing this game over and over again even after they’ve mastered it.
Between the highly detailed character models, gorgeous special effects and fully realized environments, Jade Empire has a lot going for it in the graphics department. The only small qualm to be had is with the occasionally goofy camera.
Jade Empire has some truly captivating sound elements, from the great mood-setting soundtrack to the excellent voice acting and tons of recorded dialogue.
Jade Empire has a deep and engaging story that twists and turns depending on how you play the game, giving it tons of replay value. Plus, the mini-games are great and add a whole new element.
Jade Empire is a real treat, combining ancient Chinese mythology with excellent gameplay and a compelling story. This game will stand the test of time as one of the premier RPG games for many years. Even if you don’t own an Xbox, you owe it to yourself to play this game.