Jade Empire Review: 5 Reasons to Buy

jade empire screenshot of lightning

Jade Empire Review: 5 Reasons to Buy

Jade Empire was published by Microsoft Games Studio in 2005 for Xbox. Without a doubt, Jade Empire is one of the best games to grace a console. This is an action RPG with real-time combat. Complete with a great story, plenty of characters, great animation and a combat system that incorporates weapons, magic and supernatural moves there is not a boring moment in the entire game – and it’s a long one at that.

The Feel of Jade Empire

Jade Empire screenshot
Magic powers are only one possibility in taking on your foes.

Jade Empire plays like an epic Chinese movie. Kung Fu is blended with ancient Chinese legends for a game that is unpredictable and captivating. It’s just as amazing to watch as it is to play. The moves all seem perfectly choreographed and are reminiscent of the ballet in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. The game is also full of references to old movies including those of Jackie Chan and the Wu Tang series. Having said that, players know that they can expect the unexpected. It balances situations of dire seriousness with comic relief. One character in particular is voiced by a great comedian, John Cleese, of Monty Python and Faulty Towers fame. At the start of the game players can choose from six characters, evenly split into sexes. Each has slightly different abilities, but they are customizable to the player’s specifications. Steeped in ancient Chinese philosophies players will choose their path of good, evil or neutral while nourishing their mind, body and soul with essence that is rewarded for good fighting technique.

How it All Works

jade empire screenshot of magic stuff
Fun combat and rich history in Jade Empire.

It’s amazing how this whole ancient Chinese concept fits into the classic RPG format that was originally designed for the fantasy-based dungeon and dragons. There are hack and slash weapons, warring factions, an intricate story with lots of back history, interactive characters, team play, a huge map and the ability to increase one’s skills through experience. Players could say that the RPG was invented for Jade Empire.

Beginners and veterans alike will worship the combat system which is both simple and deep. It starts out with a few basic moves allowing players to get used to it as new moves are added as they go. There are plenty of opportunities to test out new moves. Basic attacks are facilitated by the A button. The X button yields more powerful attacks but unlike the basic attacks they take time to charge and can leave you vulnerable. Two of the most fundamental and important moves are the block and the dodge. Blocking and dodging will help buy some time until players can get in a position to pull off a special attack. Dodging consists of rolling dives, backflips and other hyper-gymnastic feats that are great fun to use.

Jade Empire Character Abilities

jade empire battle screenshot
Crazy battles are matched by crazy creatures.

The targeting system allows players to take on one enemy at a time. The unwritten rule of the old Kung Fu movies states that the hero will take on one enemy at a time from a swarming horde and move on up the chain of command to finally confront the boss. By moving the cursor around players will highlight the enemy that they will fight while the others patiently wait their turn.

Although the different characters may have different abilities, they all have three main components that fuel their moves: Health; Chi and Focus. Chi is magic. It can be used in combination with fighting moves to unleash some really devastating attacks such as fireballs. It can also be used to recharge their health. Focus lets players slow down time to use weapons more effectively. By combining these moves and fighting styles they will have a vast array of combat commands available with minimum fuss. Button mashing is not encouraged but at least players don’t have to memorize a lot of combinations.

Leveling up is Easy

jade empire fight
Characters will catch you by surprise with their fighting skills.

Leveling up is fast and easy. The interface is a joy to work with. Players won’t be agonizing over each and every detail. By virtue of the path that they chose and the styles of combat that they prefer, these decisions are basically spelled out for the player. The interface is just arranged to be more user-friendly, not restrictive.

Followers are characters that comprise the player’s party. They don’t directly control them, and they can only take one into battle. The players follower will help distract enemies during a melee. They will also help charge Chi and Focus by meditating. These followers are complex characters and each one has a different motive for following, all of which is revealed through conversations. The depth of information players can glean through conversation is directly related to their charm which is upgradeable.

Great Graphics and Animations

jade empire screenshot
Amazing graphics of Jade Empire.

There are so many facets to this game which can be affected by the choices that players make that they will definitely have to replay it several times. There are three different endings. With incredible smooth animation and rich, detailed graphics the story of Jade Empire is literally brought to life. On rare occasions the camera will get stuck behind some of the scenery which is only a real problem when players are in the middle of a fight. The music elicits a range of emotion from serene calm to severe calamity. Voiceovers are equally amazing which is virtually unheard of for a game that relies on ancient China as a backdrop.

Final Thoughts

Jade Empire is more or less an interactive movie. It’s fast paced with streamlined RPG features that takes the tedium out of micro-management yet still allows for a stunning degree of choices and overall freedom for characters. The production values are second to none and the all-important story is one of the best in recent memory. It’s got great replay value with six different characters, multiple moral paths and different endings. Definitely check it out.

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