Review: Jade Empire

Hey Joe

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Review: Jade Empire

This precious lotus flower never fully blossoms, but it's still a sight to behold.

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Singing Gremlin

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I personally love Jade Empire. I know I'm more forgiving than most when it comes to games but I don't really get where all the negative opinion comes from. I mean, you yourself only seemed to highlight three flaws:

1) Accents are wrong.
2) Squiffy difficulty curve.
3) Crippled progression.

Which are far from game ruining, surely? And personally, I reckon the RPG that doesn't let you do everything in one run through is the good RPG. I know you did end with a recommendation, but still. Strikes me as a little funny.
 

Jhereg42

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Singing Gremlin said:
I personally love Jade Empire. I know I'm more forgiving than most when it comes to games but I don't really get where all the negative opinion comes from. I mean, you yourself only seemed to highlight three flaws:

1) Accents are wrong.
2) Squiffy difficulty curve.
3) Crippled progression.

Which are far from game ruining, surely? And personally, I reckon the RPG that doesn't let you do everything in one run through is the good RPG. I know you did end with a recommendation, but still. Strikes me as a little funny.
I kind of agree. I'm actually very forgiving with the western accents because it is an western RPG. It's similar to all of the aliens speaking english in Mass Effect. There are just some things that have to be accepted in a game for the sake of easing the general public into the game. The progression issue forced me to think very carefully about what styles I wanted to focus on and weigh their strengths carefully. To me that was a good thing.

I am in agreement with the final recomendation however. If you didn't play this on the X-Box, get on live and DL it as an X-Box original. It was great fun.
 

Dectilon

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There are just some things that have to be accepted in a game for the sake of easing the general public into the game.
You mean racist people? XD

It was a relatively amusing game, but I think they sort of failed with what they themselves set out to do with the open palm/closed fist philosophy thing. At the beginning it sounds like they've really given it a great deal of thought, but in the end it's just same good/evil as in all similar games. Sure, you can have your character now and then say crap like "I'm only bashing your fuckin' head in for your own good!" but that's a paper-thin veil, and it's not like there's an "evil" ending and a "closed fist" ending :p

Speaking of endings, the plot is possibly the most predictable in any rpg I have ever played. I mean, when you figure out most of the coming plot twists after the tutorial it's pretty weak. Don't get me wrong, I liked the premise (although the final execution of it is a bit stupid), but they hint at it way too much, even early on.
 

CoverYourHead

High Priest of C'Thulhu
Dec 7, 2008
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I love that game! The only problem is the combat is easy as all hell, you basically break it down to a simple pattern: attack, dodge, block, dodge enemy's power attack, attack, dodge...

But still a great game! I might give it another play...
 

Arrakiv

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I recently picked this one up myself - and I've been pretty sad I didn't grab it before. Amazing story, possibly my favorite from BioWare, which ought to say something. I thought that, while most of the game is easy, its largely due to an imbalance in the powers that causes it. Once you get a few of the obscenely overpowered styles (*cough* storm dragon *cough*) a lot of the game becomes a cake walk. Still fun though.
 

PopcornAvenger

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I also loved Jade Empire. I'm a fan of Bioware in general, or, at least, I buy an awful lot of their products - NWN, Mass Effect, and JE. I got it late - only last year - and also wished I'd paid attention to it long ago.

I thought the voice acting was spot on, and probably the best in any game I've played save for ME. It was intended for english-speaking audiences, sure, but also had elements of asian thought and philosophy as well as lore.

The game has problems where Bioware games often do, in the difficulty curve. Once you've learned the game's mechanics it becomes far too easy. As Arrakiv mentioned, there's also some overpowered styles that make the game a cakewalk (Storm Dragon, Paralyzing Palm).

Still, it's a bargain price these days, for a very fun game.
 

Singing Gremlin

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Plus, the xbox version has the funniest credits I've ever seen. Well, heard.

"And punch a mountain. In space."
 

CanadianWolverine

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The thing I can't help but think when I play Jade Empire is: "Why can't playing a monk in Neverwinter Nights (1 or 2) be this much fun in combat?!"
 

Loderian

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it was a good game, but why did they do a review on a game that came out in 2005? Did this game hide on the shelf for so long from these guys that it took them 4 years to find an old xbox game, or was it because JE showed up on xbox live marketplace in July 2008?

What's next on their apparently dated list of reviews? Maybe they'll take a "sneak peak" at the 1933 version of King Kong, or maybe they'll talk about that new fangled thing called electricity and how chocolate costs a nickel at the Piggly Wiggly.
 

AntiAntagonist

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Apr 17, 2008
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Loderian said:
it was a good game, but why did they do a review on a game that came out in 2005? Did this game hide on the shelf for so long from these guys that it took them 4 years to find an old xbox game, or was it because JE showed up on xbox live marketplace in July 2008?

What's next on their apparently dated list of reviews? Maybe they'll take a "sneak peak" at the 1933 version of King Kong, or maybe they'll talk about that new fangled thing called electricity and how chocolate costs a nickel at the Piggly Wiggly.
Read the title. "Guest Review"
 

Singing Gremlin

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It's a gaming site. Especially bearing in mind it's a guest review, I think they're allowed to look back at good games people might have missed. Not all gaming sites have to stay on the cutting edge. I'd say publishing reviews of old games is a good thing, and shows actual interest in gaming itself, rather than a dry contempt for anything dated.
 

Susan Arendt

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Jan 9, 2007
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We don't normally cover older games in any form, but given that this is available as an Xbox Original, I felt it was appropriate to run as a Guest Review. Your mileage may vary.
 

AntiAntagonist

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Apr 17, 2008
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Jade Empire was a fun game mechanically. Conversely the difficulty was wonky. A long stint of easiness followed by a SHORT set of good difficulty then a hard slog with dwindling resources. I gave up when I was in the spirit world (IIRC) and didn't have any healing left.

Fair review. Keep it up.
 

Headwuend

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Oct 27, 2008
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I would have liked you to mention the Way of the Open Hand and the Way of the Closed Fist, which are a nice take on the usual "alignment-o-meter" and its understanding of good or evil.

Briefly mentioning how the Open Hand follows its path in harmony with its surroundings, while the Closed Fist rather serves mainly itself and faces its challenges head-on (thank you Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jade_Empire#Philosophies] for saving me the time coming up with my own summary ;>), would have added a little something to the "typical" review and its observations.

Otherwise nice review with its fair share of debatable points. =)
 

Altorin

Jack of No Trades
May 16, 2008
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I think your recounting of the number of styles is wrong.

4 martial styles
4 support styles
4 magic styles (of which any 1 character can learn 3, depending on alignment)
Sword style
Twin Axe style
Spear style
Gun style
about 4 different transformation styles

that's 20 styles

The game has a silly amount of depth in that department.
 

Rusty Bucket

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I loved this game. People keep telling me the plot twists were ridiculously predictable, but i never saw any of them coming.
 

Lord Krunk

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I can't believe I missed this! Congrats Hey Joe, I would have done one myself if you hadn't.

For me, it was an excellent game, but had some little issues that I could nitpick. Otherwise, it comes in #2 of my favourite Bioware games, the first being KOTOR.
 

mshcherbatskaya

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*pines for Jade Empire II* I'm surprised that nobody mentioned one of my favorite features of Jade Empire - a simplified inventory system. I'm the type of person who enjoys futzing around with my stuff, but after a while, KOTOR drove me a little nuts with all the equipment and all the upgrades for all the equipment. I appreciated the attempt to get away from the "good/evil" alignment, even if they didn't succeed. I really wanted an honorable Closed Fist path, but as has been noted many times regarding many games, you still only get to chose between Noble Saint and Puppy-Stomping Asshole.

I would also consider Jade Empire to be the ancestor of Mass Effect, because it proved that BioWare could successfully integrate action into their RPGs, and that they could go with their own IPs and not remain shackled to the Lucas and Neverwinter franchises.

Oh well, it looks like Dragon Age is being resurrected in development, maybe if I'm a good girl and pray very, very hard, they will do a JE2.
 

Sennz0r

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May 25, 2008
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Good review, you brought a couple flaws out that hit home. However I have to disagree with you when you say a limit in style progression is bad. Like said before, it makes you think about what kind of character you want to create.
Though I admit, when you started maxing one of your earlier skills it may be a pain when you near the end and get a brand new skill, which would have to be boosted severely before it would be of any use. This was compensated though with the fact that lower level progression of a style was cheap, so if you're high level you can boost your new style considerably in one go.

I loved the game, and I hope BioWare will come around to making a sequel one day. If not: not too big a deal, we'll always have the memories.

Altorin said:
I think your recounting of the number of styles is wrong.

4 martial styles
4 support styles
4 magic styles (of which any 1 character can learn 3, depending on alignment)
Sword style
Twin Axe style
Spear style
Gun style
about 4 different transformation styles

that's 20 styles

The game has a silly amount of depth in that department.
There's also a Double Blade style, for the ones who played through the arena in a certain manner.

EDIT: There are also more support styles than 4. Have you been to the Black Leopard School in the capital?
 

Hey Joe

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Dec 23, 2007
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Very well done, Hey Joe, and congratulations on joining the band of Guest Reviewers.
 

uk_john

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I would say most of the problems of Jade Empire were the same as most of the problems in Mass Effect, and the same problems in most 'action-RPG's'of this type, that is that they fall between two camps. One is the deep RPG of Morrowind or Vampire Bloodlines, where because you can be so many characters you need a truly thought out world. In a simple example, you need a house that can be attacked from the front (warrior), snuck in from the back (thief), the ability to talk yourself in (speech skill) or hack your way through. All of these having to be fun. In action-RPG's you pretty much have the warrior character whether you want to or not. So whether in Jade Empire of Mass Effect, the fighting options were pretty linear in nature.

A true roleplaying game tends to have a sandbox world, an action game tends to be much more linear and structured. So when we get these two styles together, something jars.

The media, in it's supine position doesn't want see this and is therefore quite happy to still call these more action orientated games 'RPG's', when by historical standards they blatantly aren't. It has led gamers and the media to start calling games like STALKER RPG's, and any game that gives you an inventory of different armour and weapons! Mass Effect gave you in many ways an adventure game for the first 30% then a mixture of adventure and third person shooting, culminating in mostly shooting . Jade Empire, in it's own way, gave you a very light RPG with a heavy dose of arcade hand-to-hand combat. Both failed in many ways as a true RPG, and each were only slightly elevated by the action elements.

You could say that PC gaming is dying by the death of a 1,000 cuts. One was maybe for each genre lost, maybe another was going from Big Box to DVD case, and maybe another is the trend to have 'action; in every game now. Whether third or first person, with weapons or hands, with technology or magic, and anything that demands use of the brain a little more dropped. We are told resource gathering, base building, step-time, supply lines etc are now 'boring; in RTS games, leading to an RTS like World in Conflict that plays like a fast paced FPS! We get trends like Oblivion being a dumbed down Morrowind, Fallout 3 being a dumbed down Fallout 2 and GTA IV having much fewer RPG elements than San Andreas.

All these trends point toward more and more action games, and fewer adventure, RPG or simulation games, it points toward ever more shallow games with less gameplay (2009's Dead Space and Mirror's Edge (PC) both had under 12 hours of gameplay!) and dumber storylines and characters. In short, it's points towards ever lower AAA PC and video game sales and further growing interest in older games, whether through X-Box Live, Sony LIVE or through 10 million plus DOSBox downloads recently announced.

Times they are a-changing. When Bioware went from their Baldur's Gate's and Neverwinter Night's to their Jade Empire's and Mass Effects, a change was signalled. An these changes are now coming home to roost. First with the PC, and soon with the hardcore console machines 360 and PS3. There's a reason the Wii and DS are sweeping all before them. Hardcore isn't hardcore any more. Jade Empire wasn't hardcore anything.
 

Meta Like That

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Hey Joe said:
Guest Review: Jade Empire

This precious lotus flower never fully blossoms, but it's still a sight to behold.

Read Full Article
This is a pretty bare-bones review and hence, not a totally true assessment of the game. You leave out quite a bit of information and whether or not you're referencing the PC or Xbox version.

You say there's four styles, but you don't say what they are, or whether the entire set is balanced. Like Arrakiv said, storm dragon, and also paralyzing palm, pretty much make combat a real cake-walk. However, the difficulty option lets you change the pace on the fly if its getting too hard or easy for you.

And two vital pieces of gameplay, the New Game + option and alignment system, if the player wants to go back and play with different dialogue choices, along with picking up styles and items they missed.

Not sure if bare-bones was what you were going for or what.
 

ThisNewGuy

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Why would feudal China be speaking with Cantonese? That makes as much sense as Shakespeare singing "Crank Dat."