Gameplay 8.5
Graphics 9.0
Sound 8.5
Value 8.5
Distributor: Microsoft
Review Date:
August 2005
Edwin Millheim


Jade Empire

The game plays as good as it looks. It’s not just one of those games that has great eye candy, but is a dog in its game play. No not at all. Jade Empire surprisingly has a lot going for it. Great visuals, great game play, great sound, great music, great story line, and here it is for the Xbox. What more can one ask for? If all of this was not enough there is martial arts action, interesting characters and magic abound. Ok you have me hooked. Now I have to admit, for me when I saw the demo of the game, it actually almost turned me off. It is not until playing the full game with more of its story line and options to start a character was I sold on Jade Empire.

It seems like the creative team over at BioWare never get tired of turning out some of the best games around, and I hope they continue to keep them coming.

Jumping right into the meat of the matter Jade Empire mixes Elements of Kungfu movies, mythology and aspects of role playing. The combination results in a rather intriguing game. The character you play is an orphan with a past that is shrouded from you. The character lives at a training school and the master of the school knows a lot of your past and the answers to the secrets that are far from your reach.

In no time though your character is thrust into an adventure of epic proportions. Using not only combat, and magic skills, but conversational skills as well. In the beginning you get to make the choice of a character type you want to play in the game. To kick things off you get a choice of three male or female ready made character templates. Each one of these has a different set of skills emphasizing a fighting style such as brawling, a fist stylist or a magic using character…or the ultimate in a character class a combination of the types rolled into one. While the templates are all preset, the player does get the chance to tweak the attributes a bit. The main attributes are Body which translates into total health for the character, mind which translates into magic powers, and then spirit which ties in with the characters focus abilities.

It does not stop there with the physical attributes alone; there are different fighting styles also. On top of the martial art style the character also has something called a support style. As the player moves on in the game their character is able to learn other skills such as weapon skills, and magics and transformation skills.

The fighting styles are plentiful and enough to please just about anyone’s playing preferences. The Martial styles are more direct and as the name implies is unarmed combat. The styles vary in the damage they do so choose wisely. Magic styles draw directly from the pool of Chi and will do damage to an enemy. The magic style also can cause other effects on a targeted enemy, and the effects can last longer than a conventional attack. Weapon styles use a weapon, but the down side is that this style draws on your focus. So using it in long battles is not advised. The Transformation style enables the player’s character to absorb the spirit of an enemy that they defeat and gives the character the fallen foes special attacks and abilities. Then the support style, this style does no damage to the enemy but with proper use the player can enhance the characters other styles and then they can stun or slow down an enemy o even paralyze them in their tracks.

There are a lot of things that can be done during combat, including leaping over the enemy and attacking form the other side, or even leaping into them with an attack. Rolling away or leaping and flipping backwards to avoid an attack is rather fun also. Stringing different attacks together can mean the difference between finishing off the enemy or your character laying in defeat. Harmonic combos are very useful. Using a support attack to slow the enemy down and then finish them off with a martial art attack. Mastering the system means finishing the enemy off in rather satisfying ways.

The player has a chance to choose what path they want, going with the good guys or going down that path with the bad guys. There are plenty of reasons to make Jade Empire a game to play a couple times more after finishing it the first time. Some of the missions can only be accessed by certain alignments and several of the styles are specific in what philosophy they are aligned with. As if this was not enough there are three different endings and each one of these are very different from one another. So no one is left out there is a good ending, an evil ending and one that is for the neutral.

While the first part of the game is pretty standard in the respects that it takes the player in sort of a tutorial mode, things pick up pretty darn fast soon after this. The action from one mission to the next is at break neck speed at times. Or it may just have been my eagerness to get to the next chapter of events that comes up in game play. The game intrigues you so much you almost don’t want to put it down.

Sprinkled throughout the adventure and interesting story line are hordes of enemy. Some times you just have a bad go at it and your butt is handed to you by these enemies. So, it is a good thing that throughout the game the character has the chance to pick up some followers who will aid them on these quests. Some of them fight along side, and still others provide support or sell goods to you. All of them have some sort of back story to make them a little more personal to the player’s character. This is a very welcome thing since knowing abit about other characters gives you more of a feeling of caring about what happens to them.

Voice acting in the game like most games can be a hit or miss, but for the most part the line delivery from the actors is very well done and lends itself well to the over all production of the game. Other sounds in the game such as the ambient sounds are all well done and make the world more real for the player. The fighting sounds are also well done and conjure forth memories of old kungfu movies; the sounds are all very pleasing.

Graphically Jade Empire is absolutely a site to see. It’s one of those games that if you’re not careful your character will be killed off because you’re too busy looking at how spectacular everything looks. There are a few games that have come out this year also that raise the graphic bar a bit higher, but Jade Empire certainly holds its own.

Now repeat after me, Hot graphics, awesome and entertaining game play, kick butt combat, and a story line that actually grabs hold of you and may not let go until the final quest is complete…all of it ads up to a spectacular game. Grab the special limited edition and get an extra disk with some demos and also the making of Jade Empire courtesy of G4 video game television.

Have fun, play games

Edwin Millheim


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