Title: Jade Empire (Special Edition) (PC)
The Gist: I love playing the occasional RPG, I especially love playing a Bioware RPG, having said that I’ve left it way too long to get round to Jade Empire! Jade Empire is one of the lesser known RPG’s they’ve released between Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (can a get a woop woop!) and Mass Effect. You start off sparring at some sort of Japanese school of martial arts that contains slight magical undertones. You’re soon informed that the schools master wants a word, blocked by your rival for a few seconds and then rudely interupted by someone claiming the village is under attack from a nearby boat. You spring into action, grabbing a legendary weapon (sword or big stick), and introduce yourself to the invaders with a little pew-pew. Generally you’ll be playing an RPG similar to other Bioware games except that it’s a little less turn based and a little more realtime, allowing you to go all street fighter on your opponents asses, combos and all. You’ll soon discover that mere mortals arent all you’ll be contending with, further down the line you’ll be greeted with ghosts and monsters.
The PC version of Jade Empire differs from the Xbox edition by enchancing several aspects of the game including higher resolutions, improved AI/difficulty levels, extra fighting styles and a few new monsters and enemies to spice things up. For those of you cursing the thought of playing this game with a keyboard and mouse you’ll be pleased to know they’ve added gamepad support. I took advantage of this during my hour on the game and was thankfull for it when it came down the the combat! As Super Meat Boy put it, “‘Gamepad VS Keyboard, You be the Judge’ (Spoiler: Gamepad Wins!)” even though I find it fine playing Super Meat Boy with a keyboard…you have been warned!
Pros: I liked the idea of leaving guns and the depandancy on weapons behind for a litttle (you can use weapons if you wish!) and going back to basics, whoever said hand to hand combat wasn’t cool probably got roundhoused in the face a lot. The game lets you choose various forms of fighting that can be slow and heavy hitting or lightning fast and agile, allowing for a fight you like the feel of. The fantasy world around you is rather beautiful, being similar to that of the green locations in Knights of the Old Republic if the Japanese had set up shop. The fights really involve the player and quite literaly come off like you’re playing an RPG Street Fighter, further into the game you’ll be dependant on learning combos in order to combat better and more numerous enemies. The voice over work was pretty good, whilst obviously not Japanese like the characters themselves you’ll be treated by the likes of Nathan Fillion (Captain Malcom Reynolds of Firefly!) and even John Cleese!
Cons: Whilst the enemy AI has been upgraded your allie’s AI severely sucks. During my hour of gameplay I encountered three seperate situations where my AI partner got stuck behind a bit of scenery and left me to fight alone. I found that the combat was a little bizzare and that generaly felt that my character simply ignored my god like control over him, leaping in the wrong direction or simply remaining infront of an enemy instead of retreating. The combat also felt a little difficult to get to grips with as it uses three types of bars. The dependancy on focus and Chi bars during a fight, having to avoid enemies and heal up constantly using your focus or…chi…im not even sure which was which…was basically annoying (just checked…Chi can be used to replenish health).
I also found that during combat, specifically towards the end of the starting area went on too long without a break. There were basically three waves of enemies you have to fight in order to win, stats generaly die out toward the end of the first wave, are non-existant at the end of the second and get you killed during the third. The only way to survive at all was to jump out of harms way constantly, allowing your AI partner to slowly wear enemies down one by one and hoping that the idiot man in charge of these waves hit his own troops with his cannon. There was actually a very simple way to counter this insanity, set your AI partner to ‘support’ meaning some of your bars will slowly replenish over time whilst the AI parner stays out of harms way. I wouldn’t have minded doing this had it been suggested to me…and if it was it was obviously way to subtle for me to remember, either that or I’m an idiot. (e-mail your comments regarding my idiocy to firstname.lastname@example.org – Psst! Not a real e-mail!)
Musical Note: The music is somewhat generically Japanese that obviously sets the scene well but fades into the background all to easy.
Hunger Level: Even with the overcomplicated combat this game was rather fun and in fact I’m assuming after playing a bit longer it’ll be a lot easier to handle. Something I’ll get round to playing when I fancy a dash of RPG and another Bioware game I must conquer before the release of The Old Republic.
Conclusion: RPG with a different feel to most, as said comes off as Street Fighter meets an RPG and gives you a nice world to explore. Not much else to say other than give it a go as you’ll find this game fairly cheap these days, and makes a change from playing the more famous Bioware games such as KOTOR or Mass Effect. Enjoy!
One Hour, One Review, One ‘Game-A-Week’ @ Black Vinculum