Jade Empire: Special Edition Review

How does a two-year old PC port of an awesome Xbox RPG hold-up in today’s world? Well, if the game is from a company like Bioware, then the game may have some life. And if the game is like Jade Empire, a game in which PC gamers lost out for two years while their Xbox brethren reaped all the benefits, then the wait may have been worth it. Despite some shortcomings, the game is worthy of the other classic Bioware RPGs.

Like Bioware’s previous core Xbox release Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire utilizes several comparable elements; branching conversations, a speaking-but-not-heard and ‘destined to be great’ main character, a similar party menu, and absolutely similar interface and menu systems. While these elements worked wonders for KotOR and were perfectly fine with JE, the system is starting to get dated and repetitive now. This is in no way knocking the game’s presentation or its storyline and culture, because the game oozes immersion with the environment. The Asian culture certainly fits within Bioware’s context and the presentation is stunning. In the early level, the small town is a destined martial arts’ dream: free-flowing waterfalls, plenty of open and grassy courtyards, flying butterflies and birds, and that wonderful bloom effect.

Bioware’s signature RPG storytelling is 100% top-notch. While the game is shorter than expected lasting only around 20 hours, the game doesn’t skimp on the details. You’ll easily get your fill of meaty dialogue and backstory of your faithful companions. Like previous Bioware games, you’ll have your choice of pursuing the classic good or bad, or as it’s referred in the game "way of the open palm" or "way of the closed fist." Unlike KotOR or its sequel, pursuing either choice won’t necessarily have a tremendous affect on your companions. In fact, both paths may be easily interpreted to be good and bad but also as general philosophies, in which JE relies on through its lore. Open Palm followers could help everyone, save the village or beat some thugs up but that way can lead to arrogance and smugness. On the flip side, Closed Fist followers can be your typical evil-doer but this philosophy can shape one to be tough and ready for the real world. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to see responses to your choice all the way through to the end.

Speaking of choices, besides having some different conversational pieces or customizing your character’s moves and attacks, JE isn’t the open-ended RPG you may be looking for. From the get-go the game takes an extremely linear path, which may be a turn-off for modern RPG gamers. You’ll be traveling through paths that specifically connect to certain areas and you’ll be trotting back for the various side quests. Stuck in-between parts of in game cutscenes are FMVs, and unfortunately they are very grainy and detract from the game experience. It’s weird seeing an in-game cutscene of a fighter about to summon some ghosts in broad daylight, and then have an FMV come in with the same sequence only to have poor quality and the lighting.

Like its presentation, the combat system in JE got a major overhaul. Combining various martial arts with your chi (move power), you can recreate some fine sequences that any martial arts movie would be proud of. While it’s certainly different from other traditional RPGs, it does have its fault. For starters it gets pretty repetitive after the 100th fight, or 200th fight. It eventually boils down to button mashing, and the different dodging techniques are very generic, amounting to either hopping to the side or rolling forward or backward. You’re able to vault over an enemy, a la Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, but the timing is very off and it doesn’t help you in any way since the enemy tends to immediately turn around and meet your attack.

The voice acting is superb and you’ll definitely take the time to hear the different conversations of your peers. In relation to conversations, the camera tastefully switches to various angles, but will occasionally get stuck behind something. This was something I noticed in the KotOR series and it’s really frustrating to see it still be a problem a few years later.

Is the game worth purchasing just for the PC, or worth repurchasing if you already own the Xbox version? I love Bioware RPGs, I love their storytelling, and I love immersion, but the associated price tag of $39.99 for higher resolution, some enhanced visuals, a few moves and other little do-dads may not be the selling point most fans are looking for. I highly recommend the game for first-time players, but if you own the Xbox copy there’s no need to pick this one up. The age of the game really shows on the PC, and there are better games out now. Nevertheless, Jade Empire has what an RPG should have: excellent presentation, nice visuals, signature storytelling and memorable characters. If you don’t have an Xbox and want a good RPG, by all means pick it up. If you already own or have beaten the game, though, your money is better spent elsewhere.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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