Micro-Review: Jade Empire

Posted by | December 2, 2008

Jade Empire, by 2K Games and BioWare was a breath of fresh air between bouts of attempting to slog through old point-and-click adventure games and the mainstay of popular offerings. I had just gotten finished with Knights of the Old Republic a month earlier and nothing compared to how amazingly well that adventure/RPG had been constructed. Fortunately, BioWare to the rescue.

I have a little bit of trouble dealing with combat in adventure games, but the instant system was something that I could actually get behind. Although, most game players who are used to having more control and less-time-to-think might find it a little cumbersome. The various stances and ability decision making time certainly felt a little bit delayed each time, but it did balance nicely between mashing the same button and actually picking and choosing what I thought would work at any given moment.

The real glory of Jade Empire, however, is in the story.

It’s literally an epic tale that reminds me too much of listening in on the White Wolf: Exalted game that my roommates role play around the dinner table. Something is awry with the Celestial Bureaucracy in China, the land is parched and does not regrow, and the main character is the only one who can fix the strange malady struck into the cycle of life and death.

Something that has also caused a proliferation of undead.

Moral decisions have to be made at many junctures that drive the plot and storyline which are rather readily linear in fashion. The moral decisions are not so much stark good vs. evil decisions, either, they feel more like the different between gentle guidance and harsh castigation—the difference between the Open Palm and the Closed Fist. Both of them tend to arrive at the same place in celestial morality: what is evil is evil, good is good; but how they get there differs with great latitude, like the difference between using the strength of the enemy against him or simply pounding him into the dirt.

At the end of the day, Jade Empire really kept my attention through the story. The delicate and interesting vistas that were portrayed—and there are many—and the intricate twists and intrigue that plays through the plot. It did a very good job of peeling back the onion each time I learned more about my own past, the past of the land, and the problems accosting it.

Plus it has a sentient suit of armor that actually harasses and antagonizes your advancement, and I love those.

The twists in the plot aren’t entirely invisible either, the foreshadowing can get a little heavy handed—but only if you know what to listen for—there is so much of the story told in the dialogue that it’s difficult to tell plot from general ambiance; but that never gets in the way of actually getting there.

I would play this game again.

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