thai_jedi's Jade Empire (Xbox) review

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Jade Empire is undeniably a Knights of the Old Republic clone in terms of the aspects of its has the similar storyline of a character trying to figure out his or her past, a group of followers that represent the two sides of the moral spectrum, a potential love story to be followed, and some very powerful magical beings substituted in for the Jedi of KOTOR.

Though most of the story seems to be derived from Knights of the Old Republic, BioWare implemented a combat system that is, in my personal opinion, infinitely better than the Knights of the Old Republic combat system. The combat flows much more quickly in Jade Empire, relying on your personal manueverability and attack patterns rather than the role of the dice. However, unlike in Knights of the Old Republic, invisible barriers keep you locked in the battle; though this limitation affected me in only one battle, the option to flee would have been nice. Being stuck in a battle that you will inevitably lose is a tedious affair that inspires boredom and frustration rather then a sense of honor and bravery.

Another problem that plagued Knights of the Old Republic, the thousands of bugs missed by the dev team (and refused to be patched through Xbox Live) seems nearly entirely missing. During the entire play through, I found only a handful of bugs such as dialog boxes ending early and the camera occasionally malfunctioning during a cutscene so that the character was only half in view, which was golden compared to the glitchy mess that constituted the technical aspects of KOTOR. However, the slowdown the plagued KOTOR in large areas remains in Jade Empire - even just walking around the Imperial City I often found the frame rate chugging; not enough to significantly affect my gameplay experience, but enough to frustrate me. Luckily, in the larger fights I found very little slowdown - any latency in such a situation would have inevitably led to a cheap death.

One key complaint that I have about this game that resounds throughout most of the good versus evil morality games is the fact that my character was nearly completely good for the final half of the game. Progressing toward ultimate good and ultimate evil should be somewhat more difficult - most of the real world falls in the moral gray, why don't the characters of these games? Additionally, they have some really brilliant writers for the game...why don't they try to disguise the right and wrong choices a little more; if they are a little less apparent the player might actually get a character that mirrors their moral standing in real life. Moral realism - that's the ultimate goal here.

Though obviously derived from Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire's storyline is still inspiring and clever. Set across seven chapters, the game follows the story of your adventurer as he tries to find his kidnapped master. As you progress through the story, you begin to realize just how little you knew about yourself and the people surrounding you; plot twists abound.

Additionally, most of the characters in the game are well designed; I had no problem being stuck with any one character from my party. You can set each character in one of two styles: attack or support. In attack, the characters fight along side you, while in support they offer their assistance by replenishing one of your three power bars at the top: health (hp), chi (used for magic and enhancing your powerful attacks), and focus (used for weaponry and slowing down time). Even the party members that I chose not to use had interesting stories; it seemed worth finding out every little detail of the Jade Empire world.

What I really liked about Jade Empire was subtle manner in which many of the plot details were presented. For example, details surrounding the birth of one of the members of your party, Dawn Star, are found throughout the game, but it is left to the player to put two and two together. It's a wonderful way to present a story; don't come into Jade Empire expecting every detail to be handed to you on a silver platter.

Overall, Jade Empire was a great game. It has multiple character classes and multiple endings that add extra replayability, and each playthrough lasts upwards of twenty hours. The combat system is fresh (though begins to grow tenuous toward the end of the game), the storyline is clever (though somewhat rehashed), and the characters are likeable. With it's $20 price tag, what's not to like?

Graphics: 5 - A bit of slow down here and there and some very boring looking character models (I'm looking at you, Lost Spirit model!), but overall a very beautiful game full of lush enviornments and well done animations, especially in combat.

Sound: 5- Good quality, but other than the game's main theme (which is used frequently throughout the game), there really isn't too much that's memorable here. The voice acting was top notch, though.

Controls: 4.5- Occasional frustrations with the dodge button, but overall the controls allow for fluid combat and a relatively competent player-controlled camera.

Replayability: 3.5 - With numerous storylines to follow and numerous endings to match them, Jade Empire will keep gamers busy for a long, -long- time.

Overall: 4.5 - Jade Empire is a game that no Xbox owner should go without - the epic nature of it's story is rivaled only be the other BioWare games for the system.


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