Jade Empire: Special Edition


As I came down from the mountain, lost in my own thoughts, the old man nodded in my direction, as if he was already certain as to what I was going to say. Apparently, the expression on my face failed to conceal my uncertainty.

"Your mind seems clouded, young man. What is troubling you? Perhaps it is your desire to stay inside and seek the vacuous diversions of a machine while others find satisfaction in love, livelihood and the company of others."

I cursed the old man under my breath. While providing an atmosphere of respect, he had a way of keeping my weaknesses out in plain sight.

"Master, I am conflicted. I want to voice my opinion on the recent release of Jade Empire: Special Edition for the PC, but I am unsure how to go about it. On one hand, I am always cynical, focusing on the frustrations and disappointments, while forgetting the satisfying, immersive times. On the other, I'm afraid my judgment may be restrained by my own personal biases, and I'll provide a sugarcoated view of a flawed product."

"I see. But surely you can see beyond the scope of your limited mind."

"I don't know if I can, Master. I am, as they say, a BioWare fanboy. I defend them, sometimes irrationally and with ad hominem attacks on forums, even the official ones. I quote lines from Baldur's Gate to myself, finding it endlessly hilarious. I completed Knights Of The Old Republic twice, even though I have no interest in the Star Wars universe. I almost purchased an Xbox, after already selling it once, just so I could play this title in its original incarnation."

"That is a little disconcerting, my child. Even a great carpenter makes a weak shelf once in a while. Surely you can see some flaws in a designer's creations. What do you say about the original campaign in Neverwinter Nights? Surely, that was a disappointment to you as it was with most others."

As I stammered, I turned my face away, too ashamed to look at him as tears streaked across my face. "I"…I loved it, Master. I played through it several times."

"You do not need to ask me for forgiveness of your own transgressions. Speak no more of them and instead focus on your most recent experience."

I regained my composure and spoke my piece. "Well, Jade Empire is a role playing game that takes place in an original universe, which is a change from the usual for BioWare. It's loosely based on the ideas of ancient Chinese mythology, although it contains some supernatural and steampunk elements. The story involves you controlling a martial arts student trying to discover both the dark secrets of the empire and your own past after your teacher is kidnapped by a strange masked being."

"Hmmm"…" he mumbled, stroking his beard. "Always walking a familiar road leads to no chance of enlightenment, don't you agree?"

"Oh certainly, but there are some nice twists to the story, well developed characters that you meet on your journey, some excellent roleplaying choices and a satisfying conclusion. It really makes you feel like part of the world as well, as the decisions you make during some missions makes significant changes to what you can do in later quests. Basically, Jade Empire presents the superior storytelling you've come to expect from BioWare."

He furrowed his brow in discontent. "You sound like a press release. What about the way it looks? We are talking about a two-year-old port of an Xbox game, are we not?"

"True, and if you are used to your RPG titles looking like Oblivion, then you won't be blown away by this game. But it certainly isn't sore on the eyes. The artistic design is top-notch, and both the scenery and characters are quite beautiful, if a little on the blocky side. Plus, it's nice to play a game featuring fantastic visuals with the highest settings on a modest computer setup.

While we're on the subject of atmosphere, I do want to mention that as usual the voice acting is a cut above the norm, and the music is a perfect fit."

The Master seemed to be aggravated over our exchange. "You are like a blind mouse who longs for the attention of a hungry cat. What about the controls? Surely they weren't designed with a keyboard in mind?"

"I was surprised how well the keyboard worked, actually. This clearly wasn't a quick and dirty port. I used both it and a controller and both felt intuitive. Sure the bulky menu system reminds you that this was originally a console title, but it's not that bad. Please, Master, you have to help me. I can go on like this forever."

The old man sighed and reflected for a moment, then replied "You have two paths to take, dear student. One leads to BioWare fanboyism, one leads to cold-hearted rationality. You can only choose one, so choose carefully."

"But Master, why must there only be two paths? Surely I can"…" My eyes widened as I finally understood what he wanted me to notice. "Yes, that is something that bothered me. It claims that the decisions I make follow one of two philosophical doctrines, the Way of the Open Palm or the Way of the Closed Fist. However, like all their previous games it almost always amounts to either being a Mr. Goody Two-Shoes or a Sir Hates-a-lot."

"I am unaware of these men you speak of."

"I mean, there's no moral ambiguity. You're either a outrageously nice guy or a complete jerk. I wish there were more in-between choices, and I'm not talking about being a true neutral either."

"Ah, so typical of them to do so. A man who always juggles diamonds instead of glass will still get his hands cut. What about the combat? That dice rolling masquerading as real skill must be getting a little old by now."

"See, that's another good point. The combat is actually action-based this time around, and features many impressive martial styles you can learn. In some ways, it's a nice change from the usual reliance on fooling around with a hundred statistics, unless you're really into that. But despite the variety of magic and combat techniques, the battles usually devolve into a paper-scissors-rock affair. And since your opponents seem unaware of this secret, you'll eventually learn to beat them without much effort. Basically, it boils down to a slightly more complex version of a button-mashing contest."

"Well, that doesn't sound thrilling. Did it ruin the whole experience for you?"

"I think it's obvious that it didn't. Besides, I have faith in them. Maybe their new alliance with Pandemic will help flesh out the action sequences in future titles."

"But the important question is: Will it ruin it for others?"

"It depends. In some ways it reminded me of Dreamfall in the style of game you're looking for. Some will find it as a boring series of fetch quests interrupted by stale fighting sequences. But a lot of people will get turned on by a story with an amount of polish rarely achieved in a video game, inhabited by characters you might actually care about, and will love the opportunity to play it more than once just to see where different decisions lead them."

His eyes twinkled as he saw me entrenched in deep reflection. "Well, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Take a deep breath, find a place in the forest, and meditate for the rest of the afternoon. Your training for today has ended. I'm very proud of you."

The man began to shift away. I paused for a moment, then immediately called after him. "Master! Is it okay if I write my perspective in the form of our conversation together?"

He turned his face back to me, his right eyebrow arched up. "That, my child, would be ridiculous" he said, slowly disappearing into the fog.

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: 2K Games
Time Played: 20+ hours
Character Used: Mr. Goody Two-Shoes




Superb piece, kuddles. Again, welcome!

I'm still turned off by the lack of nerdy statistics and superficial combat in Jade Empire. And the story seems uninspired and cliché to me.

Heh, cute writeup. Captures Jade Empire really well... slightly wooden control and simplistic morality, but the story's so strong and the actors are so perfect that you just don't care. Like you, I'd like to see a bit more flexibility in these things, but I can suffer along with the Asshole or Saint limitations.

I have this game on the XBox, but I'm tempted now to pick it up on the PC too.

And, yes, welcome! This was an excellent piece... it's obvious that Certis and Elysium have good taste in writers.

Edit to add: yeah, it's kinda cliche'd, but the actors make it work extremely well, I thought.

Hehe, nice perspective. I really want this game and i'm not a bioware fanboy, though i did like the main campaign on NWN... am i strange?

Oh, on the:

"You're either a outrageously nice guy or a complete jerk."

That is me in real life so i have no problem with these kinds of games. I know that perhaps i should expect more but i usually find it very hard to play a non-commital, unbiased character. I'm too impassioned.


Great review! This game didn't get nearly the love it deserves. I'm glad the port was satisfactorily done.

Okay, clearly one of those screenshots seems very out of place.

Great review kuddles! I enjoyed reading it a lot. I got the PC version last week, installed, ran the game once and didn't have time to play it yet. I'm still trying to finish Zelda: TP before I start another game (I always do that). And it's good to know it's not a broken console port!

I agree, great review, definitely a good read. I played the game for all of 30 minutes, and realized that I'll probably need to devote more time to it to really enjoy it. Seems to me that the story is the main pull, and I tend to get sucked in; I'm in the middle of Zelda: TP, trying to polish off Oblivion, etc... so might jump into it in a 2 months or so, try to sink in and enjoy it.

Great perspective. I will check the game out in the near future.

Having played the Xbox version, and hearing that it is pretty much a straight port, I will get this out of the way. Jade Empire may be the worst game Bioware has ever made...but it is still better than the vast majority of other titles out there. That is a testament to how damn good Bioware is.

Not the first person to register just so I could post about a favorite game...

For me this was an easy, fast RPG to pick up. I played through it twice, once on goody-two-shoes and once on evil - something I've tried to do on Fallout 2, Arcanum, NWN, other Bioware games, and been unable to do. I just get bored with RPG-evil in general.. usually it amounts to "kill them all" without rhyme or reason.
So often RPG-evil ends up being "I'll take the most stupid, short-sighted dialogue choices available because it will give me the opportunity to kill all the good NPCs that choice will piss off."

But Jade Empire was the exemption to that rule. Why? The Closed Fist school of philosophy made perfect sense and was internally consistent. Finally an evil option that didn't make me feel stupid... I played a Closed Fist character all the way through (in like 2 days) and felt fulfilled in my choices, I was trying to improve the world by removing the weak and unworthy and it felt good.

My apologies for straying off the topic about this port. I just had to vent about Jade Empire and this seemed like a good place...

KingMob wrote:

said stuff

welcome to the boards. sounds more like a rave than a rant, glad you liked the game. i'm looking for jumping into it, i just know that i'm going to need to give it some time, rather than multi-tasking with all of the other games i'm enjoying right now.

where in NoVa are you from, I live in Arlington.

I agree with KingMob, RPG-evil always comes across as "griefer" or even "immature little punk." That's because there is never any major effect on the story based on how you play. Playing the evil guy doesn't mean you choose to ally yourself with the villain against the good guys.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

Okay, clearly one of those screenshots seems very out of place.

What, the Raiden dealy? Yeah, that's an f'ed up little mini-game, but it's well worth playing because it's one of those things where if you pursue something to its end, Something Cool happens.

That one earmark of a good RPG--2 people can play it and have 2 different experiences. My buddy Mark and I compared notes, and it impressed me how individual our narratives were.

Malor wrote:

I have this game on the XBox, but I'm tempted now to pick it up on the PC too. :)

If you already have it, you might want to wait until a price drop. Visually, it obviously looks a little better in terms of effects, anti-aliasing and resolution. But from what I've read, this isn't like Fable PC where you get a whole new chapter. It's pretty much identical. A list of changes can be found here.

Duoae wrote:

"You're either a outrageously nice guy or a complete jerk."

That is me in real life so i have no problem with these kinds of games. I know that perhaps i should expect more but i usually find it very hard to play a non-commital, unbiased character. I'm too impassioned.

Oh, I agree in a way. I'm one of those people that has no problem beating up a hooker with a bat in GTA, but cringe at a dialogue option where I threaten an old lady. But I mean more in the way that I wish the choices posed more of an interesting challenge. There was a bit of it in KOTOR or Oblivion but not enough. You know, one where there are three options and none of them are morally superior to the other. You don't choose the obvious good option, but rather the one with the negative conseqences you can handle the most. I want a Sophie's Choice in my game.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

Okay, clearly one of those screenshots seems very out of place.

Yes, there are occasional intermittent levels lasting about a minute each time clearly resembling a classic shmup. While an entertaining diversion, they weren't anything too memorable.

Wow. That's one of the best review-things I've read.

You know what I love about this review? It has almost as much to say about the bias-related challenges inherent in writing reviews as it does about the game. And it overcomes those challenges to deliver a very fair, detailed, and opinionated assessment. Kudos, kuddles. I've managed to come away from this not only knowing exactly how you feel about this game, but I'm confident that I've got a very good idea of how I'd feel about it as well. And bonus points for being entertaining.

He furrowed his brow in discontent. "You sound like a press release."

Having recently finished this game, I must say the review is spot-on. I enjoyed going through the game again on the PC, as I rented an XBox solely to play this game and Shenmue 2, as no other release for the XBox was quite as important to me... Oh, wait, I think I rented one for Fable, also. Anyway, I enjoyed it just as much the second time through after a long break. I found the story engaging and the detail of the facial expressions was quite well done, aside from the occasional unexplained "lazy eye," which was at least humorous. I can of course also see how some might be put off by the button-mashiness of this game, but overall it was a nice switch from turn-based gameplay.

Cool. I played the hot chick in the red, too. Her name was Cassandra. CASSANDRA!

Anyone? Anyone?

"She will be mine. Oh yes, she will be mine."

Very well done, kuddles.

I'm glad someone mentioned the facial animations, because the KotORs got on my nerves at about the time that the ham-fisted morality made me switch from neutral to evil in each -- about 15 minutes into them, if I had to estimate. Perhaps in Jade I won't feel George Lucas twisting the knife in my back with every tired ethical platitude. ...I will restrain myself from elaborating on this further, but we all know that Han shot first -- and (to break my own freshly forged word), I'd really like it if NPCs could sense my suppressed rage as I calmly submit to their inane desires.

I'm glad to hear that the evil path isn't slapped on, though. At least this way it may feel like an actual ethical choice and not a decision of "Do what we want or feel like an idiot." I found in previous BioWare games that the only way I could be evil and not feel like a six year old with a tantrum (as opposed to an aspiring alter boy), was to be so meaninglessly evil as to break the game. That was at least satisfying. Then I could load the game and have every character interaction founded on the smug thought that "You are only alive to speak to me because I have given you mercy." Perhaps this is a new twist on what it means to be "good." But isn't aspiring to be a god, benevolent or otherwise, rather unethical to begin with, if not at least heinously immodest?

I'd like to ask a more pointed a question while I'm here: Those of you who have played this on Xbox and are thinking of buying it for PC: Why? You've played it before. It's substantively identical. Such a choice would, as far as I can tell, be simply paying twice for the same game. Put another way, do you just hate your bank account?

I'd really like it if NPCs could sense my suppressed rage as I calmly submit to their inane desires.


I am the god of sigs. Cower before me.

How long is this game, anyway? I bought it and I'm trying to decide when the right time to start it is. I got 30 hours into KOTOR and just couldn't do it anymore. I'm not one for really long games anymore. I could read quite a few better books in that time. I've heard Jade Empire is much shorter. Is this true? I'm scared to start it if it's of similar length. I don't want to get 30 hours in and give up because I'm just tired of it.

Shouldn't you have asked that before you bought it?

Edwin wrote:

Shouldn't you have asked that before you bought it?

Nah. It was $10, I was in the middle of having a great time playing KOTOR, so it seemed like a no-brainer at the time. I didn't know I was going to get 30 hours into KOTOR and get sick of it.

That said, whether I play it or not, I will not be looking forward to Mass Effect for this very reason. I will be looking forward to the shorter games, sports games and the XBLA games.

Just started playing this on steam. I've seen few post of people not being able to get it to run on modern systems. I had no trouble running it on win 7 64 bit.

I did have a few minor problems that I worked out in about 5 minutes or so. The first problem was my xbox controller right stick didn't work. I had to go into the ini file and set Look l/R U/D to the right stick. For some reason you can do this in the controller option menu. The problem was that I couldn't set the game to my monitor resolution. The game supports my resolution but I had to again go into the ini file and set it there. The last thing I did was add a few texture packs and same sex romance options. There is a big mod I want to try but not until I play the game through once.

After about two hours I really like the game. The combat is really fun and I was really surprised about the flying part. The game is on rails for the most part but it is still a cool story.

Thanks to Baron of Hell for necroposting, because I would otherwise have missed a really cool article. Well done, Kuddles, that was a pretty neat and funny piece, I really enjoyed it.