Engrosing RPG action from the makers of Knights of the Old Republic
I hate to admit it, but the more I play RPG’s the more I seem to be getting into them. Of late I have had more than my fair share of good RPG’s to review, so I am feeling more than a little spoiled. I have noticed that they tend to fall into one of 2 categories. The first is the quest driven RPG. Games like World of Warcraft or Dawn of Magic, where you can go from quest to quest in a very open ended way. The other is the story driven RPG, where the game is much more linear but often better for the single player. Jade Empire falls firmly into this second category.
Jade Empire first saw the light of day on the XBOX about 2 years ago. At the time it blew people away with it’s strong mix of martial arts action, strong characters and engrossing mythological story line. Now BioWare, possibly best known for the superb Knights of the Old Republic games, has produced a tweaked Special Edition for the PC.
Having never played the original, it would be unfair to try and compare these version, so I will concentrate on just the PC version own merits. And what a lot of merits there are!
Jade Empire is a smart game from start to finish.
Starting off in good old fashioned RPG style, you must choose from a set of characters. Once you are set up, you are thrown into the story. As the top student in a martial arts school, you are both looked up to and envied in equal measure. Before long you find yourself in a sparring contest, to prove your worth! Straight away the real time fighting system feels natural. Click the left mouse button to perform basic combos and the right to charge up a more powerful attack. You can also switch fighting styles during the fight. You will learn more as the game progresses, everything from open hand methods, to magical demon toad transformations and everything in between! Along the way you will also be able to collect stones that can be used in various combinations to enhance your characters abilities.
Once you have finished off your opponent you are taken into the story proper. Jade Empire is driven by a well written narrative. When talking to NPCs you will be given several reply options. These normally have a positive answer and a negative answer. So once you win the fight, you can either congratulate your opponent on the fight, or belittle their abilities. Obviously this affects how people will deal with you through out the game. You can choose to be nice to people, or just go about abusing them! At times you will also be able to try and intimidate people or charm them to get your own way. This can help you get out of some fights and is very handy!
As is the way with this style of game, you have a destiny to fulfil. This of course involves wandering around talking to people and killing stuff! All great fun. Although the structure is fairly linear, the journey you take looks stunning. The graphics really do impress. With lush and varied environments and well realised characters this is a treat for the eyes throughout.
And it is not just your eyes that get a treat, the game sounds great too. For once there is some decent voice acting here. On your travels you will meet various characters who will join you on your travels. Each of them has a deep and well thought out back story that you unravel as you talk to them.
Jade Empire is a smart game from start to finish. With a huge story line that will keep you hooked all the way and characters that you will really care about! The real-time combat, though a little shallow, is a nice change from turn based fighting that helps you get drawn into the overall action. If you never played the XBOX version then this is a must for your PC collection! Also keep an eye out for the cheeky Galaga homage!!
The Bad: Combat is a little shallow. Not much here if you played the Xbox original.