Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy
April 27th 2005

Introduction: I'm proud to introduce Extreme Gamer's review of the highly anticipated epic, Jade Empire. The Canadian based Bioware team proved they can get it done one more time with their second impressive Xbox RPG.

The Game: The world of Jade Empire is rightfully on a grand scale, and from the moment you start the adventure that you will be hearing praise for your character. Either humbled or egotistical everyone will tell mention that you're destined for great things and that couldn't be further from the truth. Jade Empire is one of those 'epic' RPG's which makes the player feel larger then life. It's great for gamers with low self esteem or who love boasting because you'll be constantly bombarded with compliments on your superior wisdom and fighting skills.

It doesn't take long before you're venturing out of your little village of Two Rivers into the sprawling metropolis of Empire City. Well, by not long I mean ten hours. Jade Empire plays off similar to BioWares first RPG triumph Knights of the Old Republic * (KOTOR) and you'll be in for a lengthy dialog driven adventure. I finished my quest as Furious Ming running close to 23hrs playing at a moderate pace. I'm sure if I explored a little bit more I could have squeezed another few hours out of the game. In some gamers mind 23hrs isn't long enough for a role-playing game, but when the combat is real time things tend to run a little faster then the traditional turn based combat.

Now that I mentioned the combat we'll get into the action part of Jade Empire. I'm glad Jade Empire went with the real time fighting, even though I usually prefer turn based combat. In the G4Tech TV feature the Bioware team explains why they chose this path, and how it was the only way to properly convey the feeling of being of martial arts expert. Bioware also motioned captured all the moves from some of the top martial art experts from around the world, but for some reason in the final product the combat ends up being a little choppy. This coarse feeling is caused by the delays in combat when you have to use your strong attack [x] which breaks up the flow of combat. In the strong attacks you're usually gathering your force to strike down a big blow, but it's kind of silly how the AI will just stand beside you waiting to get hit while blocking for a weak attack. Obviously when the enemy comes at me with a strong attack I will doge, in most cases they won't do the same. The strong attack delay can be overlooked, but if they had a quicker response on the strong attack and a little better AI the little things might have gone unnoticed. Overall the combat is fairly easy in Jade Empire and I suggest you increase the difficulty if you want to get a greater experience combat wise. I never lost a single battle during the whole game and my the most challenging battle wasn't even fought near the end of the game, which was a little disappointing.

There are some other cool elements to Jade Empire, one is the addition the flying machine called the Dragonfly. You acquire the Marvelous Dragonfly before you reach Tien's Landing which introduces you to the flying shooter mini-game. The Dragonfly mini-game is like any 1980's top down space shooter. It's kind of pointless, but it's a nice diversion from the regular gameplay. I only wish the flyer was more integrated like Skies of Arcadia or the Final Fantasy Series, well I can always hope for more flyer action in Jade Empire II.

The only problem that I found in the gameplay, besides the small combat issue is that it's gameplay is a tad linear. There are a bunch of side quests which help shake the main quest up, but it really doesn't open up to where you can free roam across the world. Maybe we are all spoiled from Morrowinds vast exploration quality, Jade would really stand out if you could travel freely across the landscapes. The exploration is limited within the few locations where the story takes place, so you'll have to be satisfied with a slight restricted feeling. In the end Jade Empire is almost flawlessly good and defiantly worth the investment of your time. Bioware has done an excellent job created a rich experience that will keep you entertained.

*KOTOR is Extreme Gamer's Game of the Year for 2003

Graphics & Sound: Jade Empire takes us on a bold artistic ride by bringing in the influences of ancient orient combined with excellent graphics. The art direction is superb and can boast on of the most original fantastic fantasy worlds we have seen. From the streets and graveyards of Empire City to the mystic Temple of Dirge there are plenty of diverse landscapes to view. The characters are even more inspiring then the environments with some great designs in the villain demons and playable characters. Each character is distinct and animated well. Jade Empire looks gorgeous considering the scale of the game they have done an excellent job, surpassing the huge spectrum in Knights of the Old Republic.

The soundtrack in Jade brings all the visuals in to really impact the overall ambience of the game. The bare bone drumming tracks are amazing in the game, and you can tell how the audio department worked extra hard trying to bring in an eastern flair. The voiceover's for the most part are excellent and they even put in the time to develop their own language. Jade Empire embodies what an adventure games sound should reflect. In the graphics and sound department Jade Empire does everything right in from beginning presentation to the end product. Bravo!

Innovation: Bioware had a hard job making another innovated RPG that wasn't a mere clone of their Star Wars hit. I'm glad to say that innovation flourishes in the realm of Jade Empire. There are several things that stand out and first I have to mention the supporting characters, or followers as there are labeled in the game. During your travels your influence will inspire others to walk beside you and risk their soul for you cause. It's a great feeling to have power over others and especially in this diverse cast of followers.

The followers interact in the story in different ways according to their personality or skills. You can select one member to travel with you in the game and which will chance the dynamics of the mission not only in dialog options, but in combat. Some characters are more colourful like The Black Whirlwind and Kang the Mad, and then others are mysterious, comedic and stealthy. In regards to combat most have the option to either support or attack. If a follower supports your character in combat you will receive a bonus, usually in regenerating your stats. On the other side if a follower is set on attack they will fight along side of your character, note that some characters can don't have the option to do both. I really liked the follower system although they don't let you take control of the other characters like the KOTOR games.

Jade Empire also innovates in a major way by creating their own language to add to the original feeling of their universe. The language is used throughout the game and much like Canada it seems that the nation is split between two languages English and their own. Luckily the game is subtitled so you won't have to figure it out, but if the game becomes a popular franchise I could see people indulging to the Klingon level. The language wasn't really necessary for the game considering they could have used any Asian dialect, but in the end it gives jade another edge towards creating an original unparagoned experience.

The last innovative feature is the adaptation of three different fighting categories with a number of styles for each. The categories are split up into Martial Arts, Magic and Weapon. In each of these categories you have a number of styles and supporting styles for you character to learn through their adventure. Some of the martial art styles are Legendary Strike (the one I used the most), Hidden Fist, White Demon and Storm Dragon then it leaps into magic which allows you to turn into demons, and control elementals. The demon factor is pretty cool although in my game I didn't use them much. Lastly is the weapon division in which you focus your combat around swords, axes or staffs. Your character can learn as many styles as they want, but when it comes to combat they can only use four which is controlled by the D-Pad. In combat you will usually switch it up between styles and by doing this you can create some harmonic combos which will give you a bonus power up.

Jade Empire isn't all new since other innovative RPG titles have been recently released like the KOTOR series and Microsoft's other action role playing game Fable. Jade does bring a bunch of new features which are more ambitious then most titles an it helps pull them away from a standardized group of role playing clones.

Mojo: Jade Empire has the mojo in abundance. This is a great RPG which gives you the option of playing the good or bad guy to a degree. I loved the characters and almost all they impacted the story just the right way. On the evil side I was marking out for Death's Hand, and I couldn't help digging those little Rat Demons. On the lighter side the Fox Spirit, Wild Flower's split personality and the big wine drinking Black Whirlwind is a blast. The combat is pretty cool, falling right behind Fable. The mojo grows more with the sweet variety of martial arts you can learn and characters you can play. How cool is Furious Ming's back tattoo! Jade Empire has an empire of mojo. No excuses for all those who get in your way, behead all who oppose and claim your destiny!

Lowdown: Bioware has bestowed another classic story for all Xbox gamers. Balancing elements of role playing, adventure and combat. You will be in vigilantly enthralled until the very end of the epic quest. Jade Empire is a great experience that ever gamer should explore.

Gameplay: 8, Graphics/Sound: 10, Innovation: 9, Mojo: 10. Final: 9

  • Epic story set in a world inspired by mythical China: Step into a deep, rich story in the tradition of BioWare games. Sinister events upset the peaceful harmony of an isolated Martial Srts school and draw you into a story that unfolds with drama, action, and adventure. Confront lawless bandits, evil magicians, demonic incarnations, and other foul villains that protect the Jade Empire's darkest secrets. Stare in awe at the sweeping views of the lush environments, sheer vertical drops, and overpowering scale that provide the visual backdrop to the story.
  • The chance to be a Martial Arts master: Choose a character with a unique appearance and a powerful combination of ability scores and fighting styles. Choose to act for good or evil, and lead with an iron fist or a velvet glove. Your decisions will affect your reputation-a reputation that precedes you throughout the land, changing the course of interaction with other characters and followers. Take the role of a master of Martial Arts, build and develop a fortress, regale the populace with tales of bravery and honor, and recruit followers to your cause in an interactive, living world.

  • Innovative fighting system: Master fighting styles and mystical powers in a tale that matches the tempo and fury found in Hong Kong cinema favorites like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the Bruce Lee classics. As you journey through Jade Empire , you can upgrade your combat style or learn entirely new styles to tailor a character to your specific gameplay preferences. Select from more than 20 different fighting styles, each with its own unique moves, speed, power, and form, ranging from punches and kicks to weapon strikes, mystical powers, and even transformations into supernatural monsters!

Jade Empire
April 2005

Dawn Star

Furious Ming