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Jade Empire
game: Jade Empire
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
date posted: 12:00 AM Sat Jul 10th, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Sat Jul 10th, 2004

By Eric Bodrero

I like RPG's. In fact, I love them. The only thing I love better than an RPG is a really good RPG. That's exactly where Jade Empire comes in. After playing Knights of the Old Republic (still playing it as a matter of fact) I couldn't wait to hear what Bioware had up its sleeves for their next project.

My trigger was tripped as soon as I first learned that Bioware would be making a mythological RPG set in China. Mythology, demons, magic, creature morphing, and the mysterious Chinese landscape seems to be the perfect concoction for a strong, story-driven, character-focused, action/adventure/role-playing game, and leave it to Bioware to pull it off (so far) nearly perfectly.

From the demo I played at E3, this is going to be one action packed, sweet playing game with plenty to do and see, and piles of magic spells to toss around. As soon as I started playing Jade Empire I knew Bioware had a masterpiece on their hands, and it will really have players salivating for it, if it doesn't already.

I really could just leave it at that and say amen. Bioware has had a seemingly perfect track record with the release of such titles as Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate, MDK: Armageddon, and the aforementioned Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. These titles continue to fly off shelves and sell millions of copies, and continuing this trend looks promising with the release of Jade Empire.

Enough babbling. What's the game like? Well, it didn't take long to get into some battles with enemies, and the first thing I noticed was how smoothly my character moved. Bioware has really done their homework with the animation and frame rate, which was running at a constant 30fps. Can you say no slow down? My first battle was with a horde of Chinese warriors, complete with magical explosions and particle effects shooting in all directions, and I witnessed not a single burp or stall whatsoever.

The graphics are beautifully rendered with bright, vivid colors and crisp, clean environments that were alive with movement and activity. It really brings the game to life and get you involved in the story.

The second thing I noticed was the incredible amount of moves I had available to fight with. This is like two games in one: You have an incredible RPG/adventure style game, then you have a very deep, involved fighting game as well. You can switch fighting styles right in the middle of a battle, using whatever is most effective on any given type of enemy. For instance, just kicking and punching a particularly strong warrior master using kung fu wasn't quite working out. However, as soon as I switched to Paralyzing Palm, I was able to kick some tail by freezing him, then wailing on him with some magic, dropping him like a bag of laundry. There is quite a bit of strategy involved here, which serves to deepen the gameplay and further enrich your playing experience. We're just scratching the surface though. Unlike in KOTOR, which had you punching in commands before hand then sitting back and watching the battles, Jade Empire is all real-time combat, in which you use the A and X buttons for your primary attacks, the B button to dodge, and the Y button to go into Focus Mode, which is absolutely awesome! Focus Mode equals slow-motion mode, which concentrates your chi for a limited time via a timer that counts down in the upper right corner and, of course, puts everybody in slow motion. However, it's incredibly well done here, looking even better than anything you've seen in the Matrix or Max Payne. Enemies will also drop blue orbs, which can be collected to lengthen the time you can stay in Focus Mode. There are 30 different real martial art styles to learn and use in the game, and by combining different styles (which is as easy as a button punch away) you can achieve what are called harmonic combos? which do severe damage. Of course, what would be a game based on Chinese mythology without creatures? Your combat abilities aren't limited to just punches and kicks. You're also able to transform into big, powerful monsters if you so choose. It's as simple as a punch of a button, and the transformation happens instantaneously. There is no pre-rendered cut scene to miserably sit through every time you morph. The number of beast's you can morph into isn't known at this time, but it's fair to say at least a half-dozen. One boss battle I encountered was with a particularly nasty creature. It cannot be hurt by your normal attacks. Even morphing into a creature was useless. What to do? Well, all around me I see huge rock pillars holding up the ceiling. So I approach one of the pillars, knock it down, go to the next one, knock it down and so forth, until part of the roof collapses on the creature, destroying it. This use of the environment is a very neat feature that will be just one of a number of ways to destroy enemies or solve puzzles. As is true with any RPG, there will be several hundred NPC's to interact with throughout the game, and all dialog is spoken voice-over, which I'm a huge fan of. As is to be expected, there will be different conversation choices to make, ranging from good to very poor, and things like side quests and Chi will depend upon the choices you make. Finally, what would be an RPG without being able to level up? Expect a full assortment of skills and attributes. Throw in some very well done cut-scenes, and you could have one of the most thought out and feature-packed RPG's to come along is some time. If Jade Empire fulfills its potential, KOTOR's reign is mere months away from being over. The release date will be sometime in early 2005, which would normally be a pretty hefty haul, but with the likes of Fable coming out very shortly, it will make the wait that much less painful. Prepare for Jade Empire to completely blow you out of the water. I certainly was.