I’ve reviewed several third-person console games that have been ported to PC so far in my tenure at e-AAGH.net, like Fable and San Andreas, and this one falls right in line with what I’ve learned in the past. Sharper graphics, shorter load times and a workable keyboard/mouse control setup. Jade Empire is allot of fun to play for anyone who appreciates a good beat-em-up with a few moral complications tossed in.
Jade Empire, like any good martial arts tale, starts with your character – one of about six that you pick from the start and can only customize a little – training at a secluded training school. It doesn’t take long for you to find out that you’re ‘special,’ and that you have a mysterious destiny to fulfill (of course). Before long, the village is gone, almost everyone is dead, and you’re free of any responsibilities and are able to go seek out that mysterious destiny you’ve heard you had.
I like to describe Jade Empire as Fable meets Final Fantasy VII, with a little Shenmue 2 tossed in. The game plays out allot like an oriental Fable, with you picking your path as either good or evil (or, in this case, following the open palm or closed fist paths. Same thing), and then setting out across a fairly linier story line to the end. I assosiate it with FFVII because you pick up partners along the way who join you in combat, plus you plug materia-like gems into an idol you carry around for attribute bonuses. The Shenmue 2 reference was a stroke of nostalgia I got upon entering the Imperial City. I felt I was back in Aberdeen all over again.
Combat is rather lack-luster, feeling a bit like a 3D Final Fight. You do get to pick between a number of weapons and styles (my favorite is Mirabelle the musket, which functions like a Get out of Jail Free card allot of the time), but you can’t really perfect them all, so you settle on a few you like and put all of your levelling-up points into them. Some techniques are only available to Good players, some only to Evil players. I found a few I really don’t like much (Storm Dragon, Paralyzing Palm), while others were good for key situations (like Mirabelle. I’ve lost count of how many times that gun has bailed me out of trouble), and some – like Spirit Thief – are fairly non-aggressive. I did like matching up with different fighters style-for-style.
Your partners are, for the most part, fairly pro-active. My favorite was Black Whirlwind. His comments during my adventures were usually good for a laugh. Dawn Star is the only one to escape from the training school at the start with you, but is fairly laid-back and has little personality. Some characters don’t have offensive abilities, like Henpecked Hau, who just tosses you liquor so you can use the Drunken Master fighting style.
This game is fairly easy, and anyone with any experience should play on at least normal difficulty, and probably higher. With fun characters, a straight-forward but entertaining story, and good, is monotonous, action, Jade Empire is fun for all. Now, if I can just get over my urge to rename Furious Ming to Ming the Merciless, it’ll be even better. Alphasim out.