Although a few years old, Bioware’s 2005 action-RPG Jade Empire stands majestically against the test of time.
Jade Empire places the player in the shoes of a martial arts student in ancient China who, although still young and learning, has an epic destiny to change the fate of the world.
The game shares similarities to Bioware’s previous RPG for the Xbox, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1, such as the dialouge tree. However, Jade Empire’s combat system is real time, instead of KotOR’s turn-based system. This allows the player to fight using the various martial arts styles, chosen by the player when creating his or her character upon starting a new game, at the player’s own pace. The player can block when he or she chooses, shoot a fireball at an enemy at will, or attack using a vicious punch at any time during combat. Combat is fluid, with a variety of combos and use of the d-pad on the controller to switch between the player’s various fighting styles.
Graphically the game is still sound. Facial features on character models are surprisingly detailed for a last-gen game, which is important since a majority of the conversations with NPCs is in a first-person view. The animations on character models do not feel awkward during combat whatsoever, fluidly connecting each combo with the previous.
The only negative point to this game is the unoriginal dialogue tree when conversing with NPCs. Because of the emphasis on the player’s character being “good” or “evil”, in the form of “karma”, the way you talk to certain characters in the game directly effects this karma. The top response is always the “good” option, the middle is always the “neutral” response, and the third is always the “evil” one. This may seem easy to some gamers, so he or she always knows what option will affect the character’s karma, but it also means the player can just quickly cycle through the dialogue and not get the full effect of the game’s narrative, which is one of the selling points of most Bioware games.
Overall, this game is great for anyone looking for a solid action-RPG where the player’s choices create the narrative. The wide availability of this title, it is backwards compatible on the XBox 360 and downloadable on the XBox Marketplace and Steam, make it incredibly easy to find. Graphically the game still looks good, but nothing close to its current-gen counterparts. For those not hindered by last-gen graphics, this is a must have.