Like Midas, anything BioWare touches turns to gold. And Jade Empire, the latest Xbox port to hit the computer scene, is no exception. It’s no Knights of the Old Republic, but it certainly reminds us of the epic RPG, with enough feudal-themed creativity added in to make for fresh moments throughout its seven chapters of gameplay.
The story line is reminiscent of a kung fu movie’s—assassins attack your martial arts school, your mentor goes missing after revealing a substantial plot device, and you’re left to pick up the pieces.
But part of the fun comes from the light side/dark side–style choices you have to make in your quest. Your morality doesn’t greatly influence your traveling companions, as it does in KOTOR 2, but it does make for some great in-game moments. We even hummed the Imperial march when Murph the Monk helped slaughter a host of slaves because they were too weak to be “worth saving.”
Mashing the attack button typically results in a surefire victory in the game’s earlier chapters, but we were pleased to see a bit of AI development as Jade Empire progressed. Sure, the red shirts still love the taste of your knuckle sandwiches, but if you try to go willy-nilly on a boss without any kind of blocking strategy, you’re apt to get served. It’s a shame said traveling companions are utterly worthless when it comes time to throw down. Their poor attack skills almost match their fairly useless “support” function. We still love their unique story lines, even though the addition of an underdeveloped merchant character who gives you a storefront no matter where you are in-game is a total cop-out.
But BioWare didn’t scrimp on cutscenes—Jade Empire has a ton. Their constant use throughout the game creates a frustrating stop-and-go effect, and their prerendered quality left us a bit disappointed. On the plus side, the voice acting is absolutely spot on, and the beautiful in-game scenery helped keep us happy even when we were fighting a challenging boss.
Jade Empire has equal parts story and smash-’em-up action. And while it’s not a perfect port, you won’t be disappointed by the combination of story and action that it delivers.
The rainbows and effects are cool. The storyline is unique as well.
Wicked Witch of the West
Traveling companions have poor attack skills. Boo.