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Review: Jade Empire

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the i-know-kung-fu dept.

Games 303

Neverwinter Nights introduced a new generation of gamers to D&D style roleplaying. When Knights of the Old Republic was released it was arguably the best Star Wars tale told since the end of the original trilogy. Given the chance to create their own world, Bioware has produced an immersive action/RPG with a compelling plot, memorable characters, and entertaining gameplay. Jade Empire is a most worthy addition to Bioware's library of games. Read on for my take on one of the most original RPG's in recent memory.

  • Title: Jade Empire
  • Developer: Bioware
  • Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
  • System: Xbox (only)
  • Reviewer: Zonk
  • Score: 9

Jade Empire begins with another day in the simple life of a martial arts student in the town of Two Rivers. You get to pick who that martial arts student is, and can choose from among several different characters with distinct styles and kung-fu names. Whether you pick Wu the Lotus Blossum or Furious Ming, you'll be introduced to Two Rivers and the Jade Empire combat system via sparring and talking with your fellow students. The idyllic scene is broken by the sneers of a bully and, more seriously, a pirate attack. The aftermath of the pirate attack thrusts you and a few followers onto a path to discover your destiny, rescue a friend, and unravel the truth behind the history of the Jade Empire.

The story-based gameplay, then, is very similar to the Xbox version of KOTOR. You move around the world through various maps people with NPCs, and talk (and talk, and talk) to them. What could have been a frustration is a joy in Jade Empire, as every character's lines are voice acted and the quality of the voice acting is almost universally high. Even minor NPCs get performers with heart assigned to them, and the result is very engaging. By default the entire game is subtitled, but I found that the subtitles were distracting me from the quality vocal performances and I switched them off. The Tho Fan language, made specifically for the game, is subtitled to allow you to follow along with the traditionalists who don't speak english. Without subtitles in most of the conversations Jade Empire is a cinematic experience with you as the protagonist.

The cinema of the game is brought to the fore by the impressive graphical presentation Bioware wrings from the Xbox. The graphics are not groundbreaking or extraordinarily realistic, but evoke the world with soft tones, slightly exaggerated character designs, smooth looking animation, and beautiful effects. Much like KOTOR the beauty of the game is occasionally marred by slowdowns, but I found these technical hitches to be relatively rare. Given the story, cinema, and quality voice acting, Jade Empire evokes a well made wire-fu film.

Where there is wire-fu there is combat, and Jade Empire balances the preponderance of storytelling with a thoroughly enjoyable real-time combat system. Unlike Neverwinter Nights or Knights of the Old Republic, you actively control your protagonist character and your reflexes determine the success or failure of the Jade Empire saga. The basics of the combat gameplay, despite this innovation, remain firmly rooted in the d20-like systems of past games. Defeating enemies results in experience gains, and at certain intervals you gain levels. At each level gain you are given points to slot into your attributes to permanently increase them, and points to slot into your martial arts forms to improve their damage, speed, etc.

Your character has three attributes: Body, Mind, and Spirit. In turn, these attributes help determine your consumable personal resources. Body determines Health, Mind determines Chi, and Spirit determines Focus. You also have three social skills: Charm, Intuition, and Intimidate. Bonuses to your attributes affect these skills as well, with a higher Body resulting in more affective Intimidation and a higher Mind resulting in better Intuition. Your attributes, your resource pools, and your social skills can all be modified by amulet jewels. The amulet the protagonist possesses is given to her near the beginning of her quest, a powerful legacy from her mysterious past. By slotting jewels into the amulet you can customize your character beyond the levels you gain. Every jewel modifies one or more attribute or social skill in a specific way. The stones themselves are found at regular intervals throughout the game, and with only a limited number of slots you'll constantly be shifting the stones in your inventory looking for a good combination for combat and social situations.

Every character starts with a pair of martial arts styles, and as you move through the game you acquire more through combat, purchasing them, and questing. Every form, in turn, has a specific purpose. Ghosts are unaffected by weapon forms, demons turn aside magic forms, and other forms have supporting roles, such as stunning or blinding opponents. Some forms are pure support, draining chi or focus from your opponents to refill your own bars. Combat itself uses the martial forms in several basic ways, and even small fights tend to be varied enough to keep you on your toes. The basic martial arts forms have three moves: hit, block, and power attack. In the classic rock/paper/scissors style basic hits disrupt power attacks, blocks deflect hits, and power attacks destroy blocks. Each form uses the same moves, with their own variations. Long Sword's power attacks is a sweeping slash, for example, while Spirit Thief (a support/draining form) uses a power attack that fills almost half of your chi bar in one blast. The most visually impressive forms are the shapechanger forms, which allow you to take on the appearance and attacks of a demon or monster. The combat drama unfolds, then, with you switching between four pre-chosen forms (on the D-pad) in such a way as to take advantage of the situation. The flexibility of the combat system makes it rewarding to use, and rarely a chore to work through a battle.

The other element that enters into combat, and ties the combat system into the fully realized story of the game, is your companion. As you move through the game (much like KOTOR) you pick up fellow travelers and miscreants who have something to add to your tale. These individuals range from a fellow student and friend from your days at the 2 rivers school to a little girl possessed by a demon to a mad inventor who maintains the airship you travel in. Each of them has a well fleshed out backstory and as events unfold you have the opportunity to delve into their pasts and fish out interesting information and personal insights. The characters are well written and in some cases downright funny. Kang the Mad, in particular, gets some choice lines.

Next time I hide something, I'm packing explosives around it. Explosives shaped like silver bananas! Stops thieves, monkeys and monkey thieves in one fell swoop. - Kang the Mad

Besides talking with them, you are allowed to choose one to travel with you as you explore, and when you enter combat your companion fights alongside you. The AI is usually effective in their tactical choices. The companion picks a target and stays with it until it's down, countering the baddies moves as best they can. While they do occasionally take out enemies, as is befitting of a game where you are the hero, for the most part they engage supporting characters while you move in on more important targets. If you don't want them mucking up your battlefield you can also choose to place them in support mode. In support mode your companion doesn't fight, but each individual aids you in some specific way over the course of a battle. One companion regenerates your focus as you fight, for example, while another does so with your chi. The added complexity a companion brings to a fight allows for even more options on the field of combat.

Each companion has their own outlook on life. Some tend more towards a gentle disposition, while others have a harder edge to them. These outlooks reflect the two opposing points of view that your character will choose between as you move through the game. The Way of the Open Palm and the Way of the Closed Fist correlate, roughly, to the light and dark sides of the force as explored in KOTOR. As in those titles, moral choices are presented to you in nearly every conversation and situation. The more you tend towards kindness and understanding, the more enlightened you become towards the way of the Open Palm. The more you tend towards cruelty and indifference, the more accepting you become towards the way of the Closed Fist. Your physical appearance begins to change as you reach a choice along either path, and different martial art forms open up to you as well. In the end, your choice along the two paths determines what your role in the Jade Empire becomes.

Jade Empire, then, is a complicated game. It's a long story (I'm well over 30 hours into it and no where near done), well written, with impressive graphics and memorable characters. The only two real complaints I can lay at the game's feet are occasional slowdowns during combat, and (as with all Xbox Bioware games) sometimes abominably long load times between map areas. Neither of these minor technical hurdles was annoying enough for me to become frustrated by my play experience. Jade Empire is a new high water line for console RPG titles, and in my opinion is Bioware's best work to date. If you enjoy an engaging story, have gotten into Bioware titles in the past, or have a love of well crafted martial arts tales don't let Jade Empire pass you by.

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303 comments

Drok (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373251)

Dork

Re:Drok (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373744)

You people are so into your fucking fantasy games!! Here is a fantasy for you - a world without niggers and kikes!!

First Post (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373260)

Xbox only WHY?

Re:First Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373381)

How do you expect them to take over the world by releasing cross-platform games? Next thing you know you are going to want M$ to release a Mac compatable version of Longhorn.

Re:First Post (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373430)

"Next thing you know you are going to want M$ to release a Mac compatable version of Longhorn."

Not likely. It looks like no one even wants an x86 compatible version of Longhorn.

Re:First Post (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373389)

Xbox only WHY?

"Publisher: Microsoft"

Does that answer your question?

Re:First Post (1)

proc_tarry (704097) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373564)

Don't worry, it will be on PC within a year.

Makes me wish I never purchased my XBox, as all the games I want to play eventually end up on the PC.

Re:First Post (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373709)

With horrible copy protection, and requiring video cards that are several times more expensive than just getting an XBox (heck, the Windows license is almost as much as an XBox, more if it's not an OEM copy)

Copy protection? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373847)

Really?

If you buy the game, what's your beef with copy protection?

Re:First Post (4, Insightful)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373553)

I suspect it's a combination of Microsoft throwing large amounts of money for Bioware and the fact that it's so much easier to develop a game for X-Box only, rather than X-Box and PC. The X-Box at least has fixed hardware; for a PC version, you need to ensure that your game works on umpteen billion combinations of hardware and, at the very least, several versions of Windows.

Can't really blame Bioware on either count. Console games are where most of the sales are anyway.

Re:First Post (3, Insightful)

FatherOfONe (515801) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373864)

I agree with everything you said until your last sentence.

"Can't really blame Bioware on either count. Console games are where most of the sales are anyway."

Would you back this up? Around 90 Million PS2's out there. Tons of PC's and how many Xboxes?

I believe the real answer to the question was that Microsoft gave them a lot of money.

Re:First Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373940)

you need to ensure that your game works on umpteen billion combinations of hardware and, at the very least, several versions of Windows.

See this is what I don't get. Why don't people make games for the mac? Surely with only one OS, and with 'apple' parts, it would alot easier to make? That and the OS isn't Windows?

My own thoughts... (4, Informative)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373268)

Jade Empire is the best game I've played in a long time; certainly over the last year, quite possibly a good bit longer.

I've got a bit of an erratic history with Bioware games. The first Baldur's Gate left me a bit cold... it felt like a good idea badly executed and hindered by a determination to be a bit nastier to the player than was strictly necessary. Baldur's Gate 2, on the other hand, felt a lot more polished and I must have played it through half a dozen times. Neverwinter Nights was a huge let-down for me; the toolkit demanded more time and effort to use properly than I was willing to put in and the campaign basically sucked. KOTOR, on the other hand, was awesome. Then KOTOR 2 came along (yes, I know it's not strictly Bioware) and it just felt flat. The writing in particular was pretty horrible and the total bugfest didn't help either.

To be blunt, though, Jade Empire beats anything else Bioware have done into the ground. I'm about 15 hours into my first playthrough of it now and it's an incredible experience. It feels odd at first to be controlling the combat so directly in a game which obviously shares such a strong technical base with KOTOR, but the controls and combat system are pretty much flawlessly implemented. There's a superb learning curve; you can button-mash the first few fights, but successive enemies need increasingly sophisticated tactics.

I must admit I wasn't enthusiastic when I heard Jade Empire would be an action RPG. In my experience, most of these tend to degenerate into either boring button-mashing fests like the Dark Alliance games or tedious movement-puzzle crawls like Zelda. Kingdom Hearts pulled the genre off reasonably well, but even that had some real annoyances. However, one of the most striking things about Jade Empire so far is the relative scarcity of combat. Rather than being attacked constantly as you move around the map, or having to get past the same group of infinitely-respawning monsters every time you pass through a particular area, the vast majority of fights in the game actually seem to be tied into a specific plot point. You don't get randomly attacked by bandits or monsters; there's actually a *reason* for almost every encounter. Moreover, as in earlier Bioware games, it's possible (and sometimes preferable) to talk your way out of fighting.

Graphics are generally excellent. You can occasonally detect that the game is based on a now-aging engine, but the quality of the character and location designs is more than good enough to mask this. Sounds are excellent, particularly voice-acting. John Cleese's cameo (as an "English" explorer, come to enlighten the oriental savages) actually had me laughing out loud. The dialogue is back up to the high-standard of that in KOTOR.

If I'd add one complaint to the two in the review, it would be that the in-game journal doesn't always do a very good job of recording quest objectives. A few times now I've come back to the game after a break and had to think quite hard about where I needed to meet a character in connection with a subquest. Overall, though, it's a stunning game. The X-Box may have had a crap first year or two, but it's got to be the strongest late-cycle performer of the current generation by quite a margin.

Re:My own thoughts... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373325)

"The X-Box may have had a crap first year or two, but it's got to be the strongest late-cycle performer of the current generation by quite a margin."

Way to make yourself sound like a pathetic fanboy.

Xbox, your personal invitation to gayness.

Re:My own thoughts... (1)

tratch (877620) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373393)

Did Bioware have anything to do with KOTOR 2? I thought it was all Obsidian.

Re:My own thoughts... (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373478)

Yes, you're probably right, although I've not read up on the specifics.

Although the technology is basically the same as that used for KOTOR 1, I found 2 to be a far inferior game. Not only is there a general shabbiness and laziness in terms of location and character designs, the game just feels unfinished. Dialogue is often badly written and contains a number of typos (yeah, I'm sure my slashdot posts do to, but I'm not selling these). The PC version in particular is plagued by some pretty horrible bugs, including a number of seemingly hardware-independent crash-to-desktop bugs. Even the X-Box version had a few dialogue trees and quests that just didn't work properly. Moreover, the general pace and tone of the game put me less in mind of the original Star Wars trilogy, as KOTOR 1 did, and more in mind of some of the badly-written and overly-geeky areas of the Extended Universe. I swear I could spy the hand of Kevin J. Anderson at work in a few places...

Re:My own thoughts... (4, Informative)

MattW (97290) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373655)


I've got a bit of an erratic history with Bioware games. The first Baldur's Gate left me a bit cold... it felt like a good idea badly executed and hindered by a determination to be a bit nastier to the player than was strictly necessary. Baldur's Gate 2, on the other hand, felt a lot more polished and I must have played it through half a dozen times. Neverwinter Nights was a huge let-down for me; the toolkit demanded more time and effort to use properly than I was willing to put in and the campaign basically sucked. KOTOR, on the other hand, was awesome. Then KOTOR 2 came along (yes, I know it's not strictly Bioware) and it just felt flat. The writing in particular was pretty horrible and the total bugfest didn't help either.


FYI, Bioware *really* had almost nothing to do with KotoR2; it just used their engine. I'm sure obsidian GOT the job because they're in good with Greg & Ray from the days when Black Isle (run by Feargus, who's now running Obsidian) was their publisher/partner. But it wasn't "co-developed"; it was just a double licensing deal with Lucas and Bioware for the IP and Engine, respectively.

Likewise, Obsidian is developing NWN2, but again, Bioware is only "periodically advising", and the deal is with Bioware for the engine (which, unlike KotoR2, is getting a HUGE revamp) and Atari for the D&D license and publication.

That said, I think Baldur's Gate was largely an attempt to simulate this huge, mostly nonlinear PnP game we always wished we could play, and in that, it succeeded. It does a great job of giving you a LOT to explore and do and slowly send you through a plot, without dragging you from place to place. The nonlinearity and the robust implementation of D&D play was the best part. Certainly, BG2 was better, far better, with a great story, it was larger, it was grander, the NPC dialogue was even more priceless, and so on.

NWN has become a "love it or hate it" affair; Bioware did botch the NWN OC in many ways. Everyone had their objections, from "uncompelling story" to just "too many boxes/chests to open". People apparently were not real fond of the 1 character+1 henchman setup. I certainly enjoyed it but it was nowhere near as compelling as BG2. However, where NWN shined was in the toolset. You may not have liked the learning curve on it, but there were a lot of very talented community designers who have produced *amazing* work. Adam Miller stands out in my mind for his work on the Dreamcatcher modules, but there are many great Persistent Worlds and dozens of great modules that rival the quality of a professional game. Adam's work was noticable largely because a lot of people considered it *better* than the OCs that had come out at the time. If you didn't play it, I'd recommend the Hordes of the Underdark expansion and campaign; it was the best of the 3, whereas the original was the worst of the 3. But I've probably played 15-20 home-grown modules and put a lot of hours into a particular persistent world. I think Bioware deserves a *lot* of credit for creating a game that was so immensely customizable. The best parts of the toolset require some programming ability, but otherwise, it's pretty amazing. (Also, note that they introduced a 'plot wizard' in a patch that helped a great deal, because it would autogenerate scripts for a lot of stuff, and someone in the community did a 'script generator' that did pretty good stuff)

Re:My own thoughts... (1)

segal_loves_pandas (849758) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373699)

tedious movement-puzzle crawls like Zelda

Are you on crack?

But seriously, I've always thought Zelda has always had really inventive and varied puzzles - but you do make JA sound like a lot of fun - I too hate it when action-rpgs go down the button bash route. I'll put it on my "when I get an X-box for a pitance in 2yrs list".

This certainly explains the dupe last story (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373269)

Zonk was too busy writing this crap to read his email.

Sick (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373272)

Sick

KOTOR Was Boring Compared To Baldur (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373278)

The only reason it was hyped so much was because it was on the xbox with its dearth of titles. Just like Halo. Overhyped and boring.

Sure its a great RPG.... (5, Interesting)

BubbleSparkxx (879715) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373288)

...for the 20 hours it takes to complete. Whatever happened to RPGs that offered 80-100 hours of gameplay the first time thru? I'm not necessarily talking Xenosaga length, but certainly at least FFX long.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (1)

Reignking (832642) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373340)

20? What kind of character development can be done in 20 hours??

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (2, Informative)

myheroBobHope (842869) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373931)

RTFR... he is twenty hours in, and not done with the game... Really we should be commenting on a review done before the game was finished...

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (3, Insightful)

th1ckasabr1ck (752151) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373351)

So then go play Dragon Warrior 7 or Morrowind or a game that let's you mess around for 100 hours.

I guess I don't see your point. If you're disappointed that the game isn't long enough, there are plenty of games that are longer. Personally I think that games becoming shorter is a blessing. Thinking back about the games I've played in the past few years, one thing that most of them have in common is that they are too long-winded. It's a good thing for games to be tighter and more 'efficient'.

Also, I spent roughly the same amount of time playing through Xenosaga as I did FFX.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373408)

It's called sequels. FFX and FFXI could have all been the same game. Square-enix of course is known for milking sequels. I agree, overall the industry makes shorter and shorter RPGs.

But the games aren't more efficient or tighter. Look at FFX. It wasn't all 100% RPGs, they make you spent countless hours in those maze. And they were impossible without gamefaqs.com.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373748)

Milking sequels? Thats Square, of course.

Remember, before the merger, that Enix was making RPG's before Square.

Enix KNEW that if you 'milk', you lose customers buying.

For example, look at the Dragon Quests 1-3. 1 Opens the idea of "Roto", the next one is 100 years ahead of #1, and #3 shows where the 'legendary character Roto' was really from. 3 is the end of the epic.

DQ4 opened the new "Island in the sky" saga, which comprises DQ4-7. Im unsure about #8.

Of all Ive played, DQ3 and 4 are probably the best. DQ7 was realllly dumbed down for US appeal here. For story, DQ 4 is one of the best stories hands down.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (1)

rekenner (849871) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373913)

What the hell are you going on about? Just about everything you said is wrong or makes no sense.

First... 4-6 is the 'Island in the sky' story, as you call it. But... Why the hell are you bringing this up? How is Enix doing that any better or worse than Square? The links between the games are there, but mostly in name. But... Isn't that still milking for sequals?

And... Uh... DW7 was dumbed down? No? Unless you mean changes in translation (that weren't censoring, as DW7 didn't have any, AFAIK)...

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (2, Insightful)

rekenner (849871) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373881)

FFX and FFXI were totally different games. One was offline and one was an MMORPG.

Wait, you mean FFX-2?

Then you're still VERY wrong. FFX and FFX-2 were VERY different games. Making them one game would NOT have worked.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (1)

Zangief (461457) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373545)

I don't like RPGs that are too short. I enjoyed a lot Lunar, but, basically, I could finish it in a couple of days (on my non-working days).

But, I played Tales of Symphonia for more than a month (an hour here, a couple of hours there, not everyday), and it was a total blast. Due to the length of the game, it felt like a real travel.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (4, Informative)

BubbleSparkxx (879715) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373574)

JE feels very linear, despite the effort spent by the development time devoted to the sidequests. Even if you were to complete every sidequest available, you would still wind up only clocking in at about 20 hours. For most harcore RPG gamers, this lack of gameplay hurts the title more than it helps.

Remember, the standard for RPGs have been set by games like the Final Fantasy series, the Star Oceans, and XenoGears/Sagas. Unfortunately short play RPGs like JE and Fable doesn't do anything but support the fact that American development houses still can't compete with Japanese ones.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373727)

Actually, I think Americans were doing great RPGs back in the 70's and 80's. Bard's Tale and Ultima spring to mind. Japanese RPGs often seem to scripted compared to some of my favorites, and the combat is often more about flash than real substance. (This is all opinion, of course, you may have had a different experience).

It's not that the Japanese-style games aren't good, but they seem like a slightly different genre. Being more scripted, they can do an elaborate story, but it becomes more linear. Anyway, I usually end up playing them all.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (4, Funny)

prockcore (543967) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373877)

So then go play Dragon Warrior 7 or Morrowind or a game that let's you mess around for 100 hours.

Yeah, but with Morrowind, half of that is spent rebooting your machine.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (2, Interesting)

dfn5 (524972) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373373)

Or Ultima V long. Those were the days.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373528)

WHAT? I haven't finished it yet :(

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (5, Insightful)

iocat (572367) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373578)

Those were the days because I was 15, and had time for long games! These days, with a job and a kid, I'll take an 12 hour God of War or an 8 hour Ico over a long game any time. Thank you, higher development costs, for making my game experience awesomer but shorter.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373719)

We caught a lot of grief from players for making Ultima V so long, actually. There was just too much vacant real estate (e.g., most of the Underworld) in the game.

What I personally don't understand is why people who are fine paying $8 for tickets to a 2-hour movie will bitch at spending $40 for a 20-hour gameplay experience. Not everybody *has* 200 hours to play games these days, and if you don't finish the game, at least part of our effort as developers is wasted.

-- Anonymous U5 developer

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373374)

I think part of the difference comes from the approach to battles. Don't get me wrong, I loved FFX, but like other Final Fantasy games, it had the random-encounter system, which ensures near-constant interruptions for combat as you move around. Combat in Jade Empire is scarcer and generally tied in to a specific plot point. I'd say the content of the games in terms of plot/dialogue/locations is about the same.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373449)

I would have preferred FFX to have been only 20 hours long if they had just made it less linear and dull.

You guys are part of the problem with the gaming audience. First of all, where did you find 100 hours to spend just playing a SINGLE game? Second, why on earth would you want 100 mediocre hours when you could have 10 or 20 AWESOME hours instead?

Movies can fully develop characters in under 2 hours. You don't need 100 to do it in a game.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (5, Insightful)

vincey37 (563081) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373451)

You have to take into account that "FFX long" is at least half random battles and leveling up enough so you can beat the next boss.

I'd say there is almost as much content in Jade Empire as FFX, especially considering there are two ways to approach most situations (Open vs Closed fist, or Good vs Evil), and probably more dialog considering all the branching conversation possibilities.

To see most of the game, you'd have to play through it at least twice, which could provide similar time as a Japanese RPG.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373458)

Ain't nothin' wrong with making a game that's only as long as the story you want to tell. Better than stretchin' it out and having players get bored halfway through.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (2, Interesting)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373576)

A great deal of the time in longer RPGs is in the combat, which is turn-based and takes much longer.

Similarly, combat is based on random encounters, rather than specific spots. For example, backtracking through an area in Final Fantasy will take a good half hour as you fight every other minute or so. In Jade Empire, it takes about 3 minutes, with 1 minute spent loading the area.

Add all those times up and it's easy to see that if Jade Empire had turn-based combat with random encounters, it would easily take at least twice as long.

As it is, it's a well-fleshed RPG without a great deal of padding -- most of the options and accessories deal more with choices you make for your character, rather than simply collecting everything. In fact, collecting everything will result in a shortage of money and an inability to max out the power of your styles.

It's an interesting approach to it and it works quite well for this game.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373706)

Well, there IS the Final Fantasy series.

Keep in mind that if a game is too short for you, its probably not targeted at your demographic. Why is it that everybody around here gets insulted at the possibility that THEY MAY NOT BE THE TARGET AUDIENCE?!

I don't have 80-100 hours to sink into a game, in fact, I get bored before 50 and move on to a different game. This game length is perfect for me as it lets me get some resolution, and not lose a significant portion of my life to it.

Re:Sure its a great RPG.... (4, Insightful)

seigniory (89942) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373829)

I don't understand all the people that are disappointed that it's taking only 20 hours to finish. I'm not even done with Chapter 2 yet, and I'm at 9 hours already.

If you don't take the time to enjoy the sidequests and the story itself, did you really play the game? Seems to me that there are some types out there that try to "speed read" their way through the game only to bitch about how short it was.

Write a review without finishing the game? (4, Insightful)

arhar (773548) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373305)

How can you write a review without finishing the game? What if there's a bug towards the end that makes the game entirely unplayable? Or the plot suddenly takes turn for the worse and it just becomes boring. There's been plenty of games that are very interesting in the beginning, and then just lose steam or you run out of interesting things to do.

Re:Write a review without finishing the game? (1)

Zangief (461457) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373588)

Mod parent up. This is even more true, given that KOTOR 2 was an OK game until the end, where the ending was completely rushed.

If someone reviewed KOTOR 2 without finishing it, he would think it was a great game. Go talk with anyone who finished it, and you will get a very different impression.

Thats funny (3, Insightful)

Syncdata (596941) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373591)

You seem to be under the impression that any reviews you read in magazines, or online are written by people who finish the game.

Allow me to disabuse you of this notion. Reviewers can't spend 30 hours beating X number of games before hitting press. There isn't enough time. The few times they actually do are with A list titles, which are going to get steller reviews anyhow.

Also, you seem to be under the impression that if there was a bug which crashed the game, it would be specifically noted in any review. When was the last time you read a review noting bugs? The last I knew of was an arstechnica review for "Pirates!", and that's hardly a games site. With previous, all you get are "I had a few glitches, but that's probably going to be cleaned up before release."

I actually thought this was a nicely done writeup.

Re:Write a review without finishing the game? (1)

Morinaga (857587) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373623)

Very good question. However, is this any more legitimate than a review of Fable and it's 8 hours of gameplay or whatever it was?

Or what about 50 hours in to Morrowind? Can a reviewer then reasonably write a review? Does the progress through a game's linear structure (if it has one unlike morrowind) prevent a reviewer from writing such a review? I don't think so. Of course it's arbitrary but if someone plays for 30 hours on a game I think they have every right to post a review as long as they clearly document that they have not completed the whole game if that game in fact has that "end" if you will.

What the hell is this doing on the front page? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373326)

This isn't news.

If I want to read a review, I'll check out a good games site.

If Zonk wants to write reviews, he can write for a games site.

She looks cold. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373349)

So when, oh when, will someone give me an RPG heroine who actually wears suitable clothing? The first screenshot in this review is a perfect example of what I object to. It's clearly winter. It's fucking snowing. Why the fuck is that girl running around in her panties?!

Re:She looks cold. (4, Insightful)

Kphrak (230261) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373485)

So when, oh when, will someone give me an RPG heroine who actually wears suitable clothing?

When the adolescent, videogame-playing male demographic ceases to exist.

You've got a long wait.

Re:She looks cold. (5, Funny)

PacerGuy (266595) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373543)

Yeah, what the hell man? And why don't the characters ever stop to go to the bathroom? Or get tired from running everywhere? Or get dirty? Or lose chunks of flesh from being repeatedly hit with bladed weapons?

Come on, how am I supposed to escape reality if these games aren't totally realistic?

Still sexist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373627)

Well, the fact remains that such depiction of supposedly strong women is still highly sexist and demeaning and only serves to satisfy the sexual needs of teenager males.

At least the games should have a parental warning.

Re:She looks cold. (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373697)

MGS2 (I haven't played any of the others) almost made it there. You could get sick from being outside too long, and you would start coughing. You could also smoke as well, damaging yourself of course ;)

Re:She looks cold. (2, Interesting)

Morinaga (857587) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373698)

Yet every male Avatar depicted in games can play the xylaphone on his abs.

Perhaps players don't care to depict Rosanne Barr nor John Madden when they wish to depict themselves in a fantasy world.

I could be wrong.

Re:She looks cold. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373916)

Or, heaven help us, someone like Ron Jeremy.

Re:She looks cold. (5, Funny)

AzraelKans (697974) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373760)

Well... to balance things out, theres a guy running around with no shirt too! (and is snowing!)

-Master: So what do you want to master the Ice or the fire chi?

-Shirtless guy freezing in the snow: Ar-ee y-ouuuu F--ffucking ki-kiiid-dd-ing? (teeth rattling)

-Master: Ok, fire it is!

Re:She looks cold. (2, Informative)

richmaine (128733) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373779)

Geneforge. My 14-year-old daughter won't touch most computer RPGs (and she chides me when I play them :-)), partly because of this issue. Geneforge passes her test on this score (and the fact that it has a Mac version doesn't hurt either, as she prefers her Mac to her XP box).

Re:She looks cold. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373825)

>> It's fucking snowing. Why the fuck is that girl running around in her panties?!

Because she's HOT!

Re:She looks cold. (2, Funny)

Le'BottomEh (750785) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373834)

Obviously. You know she feels cold. That's why she's conjuring up a fireball thingy like Ryu/Ken in Street Fighter 2... duh!

arguably (5, Funny)

dunsurfin (570404) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373354)

When Knights of the Old Republic was released it was arguably the best Star Wars tale told since the end of the original trilogy

arguably

You are on Slashdot here, everything here is arguable including statements like:

  • Water is wet
  • Sky is blue
  • Pope is Catholic

Re:arguably (1, Troll)

jasonmicron (807603) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373416)

You are on Slashdot here, Yes, and this is the anti-lucas capital of the world. If you like anything Star Wars besides the original trilogy then you are either:

1) Troll
2) Overrated
3) Flamebait

Re:arguably (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373803)

I think you have proven your point , although i have been moded down for saying "the acting in Ep 1 & 2 was on par with that of 'The young and the Restless' without the skillfull plot to keep them going"(The young and the restless is a truely awfull soap-opera type show from the USA that gets put on daytime tv in a few places)

Re:everything here is arguable including statement (5, Funny)

mike77 (519751) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373517)

Water is wet
This is not always true. water has multiple phases. For instance, ice is not wet if kept cold, nor is steam wet per se.


Sky is Blue
Are we talking sky of earth here? if not, that is an over broad statement. If so, the sky is not always blue, different weather patterns and polution in the air can and does change this regularly


Pope is Catholic
Define "is" please.


Keeping the flamewars alive, one post at a time :)

Re:everything here is arguable including statement (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373677)

Pope is Catholic
Define "is" please.

Heh, thats a LOW blow. Where IS he now? 'Sleeping'.

He WAS Catholic ;P

Re:everything here is arguable including statement (1)

Garion911 (10618) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373685)


When there's no Pope, "Pope is Catholic" is not a true statment, now is it?

Re:everything here is arguable including statement (1)

ZimZamBillaBam (778329) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373806)

I would argue that water does not have multiple phases. H2O has multiple phases; water being one of them. Steam is also not a phase of water, it is the gas phase of H2O. As for whether the Pope is Catholic or not, I suppose it depends on who you ask. Some Catholics may not agree with his interpretation of the bible, that he is not upholding God's will. They might say that he is not a true Catholic. That being said, I'm not Catholic, so that might all be BS.

Re:arguably (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373962)

Is a bear catholic?
Does the pope shit in the woods?

Not as great.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373371)

The reviewer has some very good points, but personally I found the game horribly boring. Long dialogue that never seems to end, parts that are extremely linear, and repetitious fights that only happen at staged parts of the storyline.

The graphics are great, and some parts of it are very enjoyable, but on the whole I found it more of a chore than a fun game.

2 complaints... (4, Informative)

shamowfski (808477) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373413)

I just played through this twice and I only have 2 complaints. Both times doing most of the side quests, I beat it in around 15 hours. After KOTOR's 30+ hours I found it to be a bit of a let down. My other problem was the load times. They really chopped up the story in my opinion. Other than those 2 small complaints, this is my favorite RPG of the year...so far.

NWN vs. BG. (1)

Schion65 (581281) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373425)

I think the two games that recently introduced rpg'ers to D&D were the Baldur's Gate games. I mean, the reason that Never Winter Nights release was so big is because of the following generated by the first two games (and Torment and Icewind Dale). I always thought of NWN as more of an experiment in user created D&D sessions, than as a true stand-alone game. There are probably a lot of people who disagree with that last statement.

I say these things not to disparage NWN, but rather to highlight the excellent work that came before it. In fact, I believe Torment to be, arguably, the best rpg to date. Bioware has done a lot of trully top-notch work, and I hope it continues. The ONLY gripe I have with their latest work, is how often the KOTORs would beat pud and destroy a save game.

KOTR with Swords (0)

webzombie (262030) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373426)

Please this game is hardly ground breaking or original.

The game play is very similar to KOTR and the storytelling eventually just gets in the way and slows an already plodding game down even further.

It's a weekend rental at best.

Since when did trolls start writing articles on /.!

Re:KOTR with Swords (1)

fat man with a monke (869132) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373713)

And KOTOR is just DnD with lightsabers instead of swords. So what makes KOTOR so ground-breaking and original? Is it the D20 system? That's been used by many games before it? Or is it the Star Wars part, which has been around longer than I have?

Re:KOTR with Swords (2, Insightful)

jtpalinmajere (627101) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373714)

I haven't played the game, but I thought I might like to mention that games don't have to be ground breaking or original to be fun. Also, not all games are intended to be fast paced dungeon crawl zergfests that never let up on intensity. There are TONS of games that are in fact just the opposite and still fun to their target audience... the Myst games come to mind.

As to trolls writing articles on /., its been happening since day one... I usually only find one or two pearls a day amidst a pile of irrelevant junk or otherwise propaganda material. See ya next time on the latest, greatest /. troll article challenge extravaganza!

Slow news day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373472)

Move along, nothing to see here.

[Cue the sound of shuffling and then screams as thousands of broken nerds emerge into the daylight, driven by a lack of slashdot content and curious at what life might hold for them... outside]

Graphics and sound (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373497)

All that graphics and sound is so unnecessary and wrong!

That's what I've been trying to tell my niece. You are ruining your ability to imagine things if everything's served to you on a veritable silver platter.

No graphics or surround sound can compete with Zork, Ultima 3 on C64 or Chaos on a Sinclair. to my mind, the youth of today are being corrupted by the game companies.

Re:Graphics and sound (2, Funny)

CoffeeJedi (90936) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373739)

and in my day we had to manually load the cassette tape into the drive by hand, then code our own keyboard driver and character generator uphill both ways in the snow!

Re:Graphics and sound (3, Interesting)

Inebrius (715009) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373927)

I would pay for Ultima 1-5 redone with updated graphics, slightly better interaction, and the story left completely intact.

I wish companies would bring back some of the great games of the past with updated graphics, sound, and interfaces - and designed to work on modern systems without running in turbo blur mode.

best starwars story?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373535)

When Knights of the Old Republic was released it was arguably the best Star Wars tale told since the end of the original trilogy.

You have *got* to be kidding. Have you read any of the books? Timothy Zahns trilogy is way better then KotOR - heck, some (myself included) would say it's better then the original 3 movies. Even the mediochre books were better then the storyline in KotOR. Not saying it was a bad game, but the story was nothing special.

Re:best starwars story?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373635)

But the swords were really shiny, just like the shiny green metal in Halo.

What more could you possibly want from a game?

From what I've seen so far, I'd rate this average (3, Interesting)

blackicye (760472) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373569)

I estimate I'm slightly past halfway into the game at present time. Everything I've seen so far I'd consider about par, its not a great game, but it doesn't totally suck.

It also appears that most of the time, regardless of the multiple dialogue options offered, the NPCs will reply with identical messages.

*warning possible spoilers follow*

The combat system seems a bit shallow, case in point, I've gotten up to the Imperial City and up to the second tier of battles in the Gold Division of the Arena, Without using the block move a single time (on Master [normal] Difficulty)

I am using Legendary Strike as my primary Hand to Hand combat style, and it is close to fully mastered, its not only a bit boring to play, its boring to look at too.

I think maybe 2 attack buttons, a punch and a kick, as opposed to the single attack button, as well as some form of button combo system in addition to the silly (IMO) "Harmonic Combo" system would have added a great deal of depth to the game.

Re:From what I've seen so far, I'd rate this avera (1)

gentlemen_loser (817960) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373903)

I am in about the same place you are and am also using Legendary Strike as my primary.

I've tried other styles like white demon. Trust me - depending on what style you are playing, you WILL need to block from time to time. I think what you are running in to is that Legendary Strike is somewhat similar to Thousand Cuts in its speed. Therefore you are on the offensive more often than not and intercepting enemy attacks with your own attacks rather than blocking them.

My 2 cents.

The Dreamcast Effect (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373610)

Back when the Dreamcast was in well on its way to a much deserved dirtnap, the fanboys would desperately claim any random piece of crap put out for the walking corpse of a system was TEH BEST EVAH!!!! hoping to negate the public perception that the system was stone cold dead with nothing worth playing.

All those same people bought xboxes, do they have some sort of bizzaro attraction to failed consoles?, and are now writing the very same type of reviews.

Article text (in case of slashdotting (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373626)

Neverwinter Nights introduced a new generation of gamers to D&D style roleplaying. When Knights of the Old Republic was released it was arguably the best Star Wars tale told since the end of the original trilogy. Given the chance to create their own world, Bioware has produced an immersive action/RPG with a compelling plot, memorable characters, and entertaining gameplay. Jade Empire is a most worthy addition to Bioware's library of games. Read on for my take on one of the most original RPG's in recent memory.

* Title: Jade Empire
* Developer: Bioware
* Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
* System: Xbox (only)
* Reviewer: Zonk
* Score: 9

Jade Empire begins with another day in the simple life of a martial arts student in the town of Two Rivers. You get to pick who that martial arts student is, and can choose from among several different characters with distinct styles and kung-fu names. Whether you pick Wu the Lotus Blossum or Furious Ming, you'll be introduced to Two Rivers and the Jade Empire combat system via sparring and talking with your fellow students. The idyllic scene is broken by the sneers of a bully and, more seriously, a pirate attack. The aftermath of the pirate attack thrusts you and a few followers onto a path to discover your destiny, rescue a friend, and unravel the truth behind the history of the Jade Empire.

Wu the Lotus Blossum
The story-based gameplay, then, is very similar to the Xbox version of KOTOR. You move around the world through various maps people with NPCs, and talk (and talk, and talk) to them. What could have been a frustration is a joy in Jade Empire, as every character's lines are voice acted and the quality of the voice acting is almost universally high. Even minor NPCs get performers with heart assigned to them, and the result is very engaging. By default the entire game is subtitled, but I found that the subtitles were distracting me from the quality vocal performances and I switched them off. The Tho Fan language, made specifically for the game, is subtitled to allow you to follow along with the traditionalists who don't speak english. Without subtitles in most of the conversations Jade Empire is a cinematic experience with you as the protagonist.

The cinema of the game is brought to the fore by the impressive graphical presentation Bioware wrings from the Xbox. The graphics are not groundbreaking or extraordinarily realistic, but evoke the world with soft tones, slightly exaggerated character designs, smooth looking animation, and beautiful effects. Much like KOTOR the beauty of the game is occasionally marred by slowdowns, but I found these technical hitches to be relatively rare. Given the story, cinema, and quality voice acting, Jade Empire evokes a well made wire-fu film.

Where there is wire-fu there is combat, and Jade Empire balances the preponderance of storytelling with a thoroughly enjoyable real-time combat system. Unlike Neverwinter Nights or Knights of the Old Republic, you actively control your protagonist character and your reflexes determine the success or failure of the Jade Empire saga. The basics of the combat gameplay, despite this innovation, remain firmly rooted in the d20-like systems of past games. Defeating enemies results in experience gains, and at certain intervals you gain levels. At each level gain you are given points to slot into your attributes to permanently increase them, and points to slot into your martial arts forms to improve their damage, speed, etc.

Zapping a Demon
Your character has three attributes: Body, Mind, and Spirit. In turn, these attributes help determine your consumable personal resources. Body determines Health, Mind determines Chi, and Spirit determines Focus. You also have three social skills: Charm, Intuition, and Intimidate. Bonuses to your attributes affect these skills as well, with a higher Body resulting in more affective Intimidation and a higher Mind resulting in better Intuition. Your attributes, your resource pools, and your social skills can all be modified by amulet jewels. The amulet the protagonist possesses is given to her near the beginning of her quest, a powerful legacy from her mysterious past. By slotting jewels into the amulet you can customize your character beyond the levels you gain. Every jewel modifies one or more attribute or social skill in a specific way. The stones themselves are found at regular intervals throughout the game, and with only a limited number of slots you'll constantly be shifting the stones in your inventory looking for a good combination for combat and social situations.

Friendly Demon
Every character starts with a pair of martial arts styles, and as you move through the game you acquire more through combat, purchasing them, and questing. Every form, in turn, has a specific purpose. Ghosts are unaffected by weapon forms, demons turn aside magic forms, and other forms have supporting roles, such as stunning or blinding opponents. Some forms are pure support, draining chi or focus from your opponents to refill your own bars. Combat itself uses the martial forms in several basic ways, and even small fights tend to be varied enough to keep you on your toes. The basic martial arts forms have three moves: hit, block, and power attack. In the classic rock/paper/scissors style basic hits disrupt power attacks, blocks deflect hits, and power attacks destroy blocks. Each form uses the same moves, with their own variations. Long Sword's power attacks is a sweeping slash, for example, while Spirit Thief (a support/draining form) uses a power attack that fills almost half of your chi bar in one blast. The most visually impressive forms are the shapechanger forms, which allow you to take on the appearance and attacks of a demon or monster. The combat drama unfolds, then, with you switching between four pre-chosen forms (on the D-pad) in such a way as to take advantage of the situation. The flexibility of the combat system makes it rewarding to use, and rarely a chore to work through a battle.

The other element that enters into combat, and ties the combat system into the fully realized story of the game, is your companion. As you move through the game (much like KOTOR) you pick up fellow travelers and miscreants who have something to add to your tale. These individuals range from a fellow student and friend from your days at the 2 rivers school to a little girl possessed by a demon to a mad inventor who maintains the airship you travel in. Each of them has a well fleshed out backstory and as events unfold you have the opportunity to delve into their pasts and fish out interesting information and personal insights. The characters are well written and in some cases downright funny. Kang the Mad, in particular, gets some choice lines.

Next time I hide something, I'm packing explosives around it. Explosives shaped like silver bananas! Stops thieves, monkeys and monkey thieves in one fell swoop. - Kang the Mad

Fire Combat
Besides talking with them, you are allowed to choose one to travel with you as you explore, and when you enter combat your companion fights alongside you. The AI is usually effective in their tactical choices. The companion picks a target and stays with it until it's down, countering the baddies moves as best they can. While they do occasionally take out enemies, as is befitting of a game where you are the hero, for the most part they engage supporting characters while you move in on more important targets. If you don't want them mucking up your battlefield you can also choose to place them in support mode. In support mode your companion doesn't fight, but each individual aids you in some specific way over the course of a battle. One companion regenerates your focus as you fight, for example, while another does so with your chi. The added complexity a companion brings to a fight allows for even more options on the field of combat.

Each companion has their own outlook on life. Some tend more towards a gentle disposition, while others have a harder edge to them. These outlooks reflect the two opposing points of view that your character will choose between as you move through the game. The Way of the Open Palm and the Way of the Closed Fist correlate, roughly, to the light and dark sides of the force as explored in KOTOR. As in those titles, moral choices are presented to you in nearly every conversation and situation. The more you tend towards kindness and understanding, the more enlightened you become towards the way of the Open Palm. The more you tend towards cruelty and indifference, the more accepting you become towards the way of the Closed Fist. Your physical appearance begins to change as you reach a choice along either path, and different martial art forms open up to you as well. In the end, your choice along the two paths determines what your role in the Jade Empire becomes.

Jade Empire, then, is a complicated game. It's a long story (I'm well over 30 hours into it and no where near done), well written, with impressive graphics and memorable characters. The only two real complaints I can lay at the game's feet are occasional slowdowns during combat, and (as with all Xbox Bioware games) sometimes abominably long load times between map areas. Neither of these minor technical hurdles was annoying enough for me to become frustrated by my play experience. Jade Empire is a new high water line for console RPG titles, and in my opinion is Bioware's best work to date. If you enjoy an engaging story, have gotten into Bioware titles in the past, or have a love of well crafted martial arts tales don't let Jade Empire pass you by.

Re:Article text (in case of slashdotting (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373871)

Informative??? You're an idiot. It is redundant and/or funny.

No mention of the load times? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373754)

I'm currently playing Jade Empire, and am up to the part where it dissolves into a slow-moving, linear mess... but although I like the game, it's got some flaws.

The most prominent one is the load times - the arena is a prime offender in this case. As you have to spend up to 30 seconds loading the fight (which in most cases can be beaten fairly quickly), then another 30 seconds loading the arena back up again. Areas have a lot of backtracking as you try to complete subquests, with each area have lots of loading.

The combat is also really broken, and it's possible to defeat most bosses by powering up White Demon, hitting the weak attack button a few times, then hitting the guard breaker button when the enemy starts guarding (usually the enemy will just stand still and guard when its health is low).

These two flaws mar what otherwise is probably the best Xbox game out.

Word (4, Insightful)

spoonboy42 (146048) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373776)

I have to agree with the poster, this is one of the best RPGs I've played in a very long time. I'd like to add a few of my thoughts to the review however...

Firstly, the game's setting is absolutely fantastic. Bioware have put an enormous amount of creativity into creating their fictional gameworld, and it definitely shows. There are abundant references to Chinese literature and mythology, which are a treat if you already have familiarity with them, but which are so organically woven into the gameworld that even people without familiarity with the Chinese classics will love discovering them. I particularly enjoyed how each of the game's "chapters" opens with 3 lines of foreshadowing (a la Monkey a.k.a. Journey to the West), the rich "celestial beaurocracy" glimpsed so often in Chinese literature, and the numerous historical allusions (the northern horselords clearly refer to the Mongol hordes, while the land of the six sacred scrolls in the west seems to be a reference to Bhuddist Tibet). Actually, the background universe is so vast that it almost seems dissapointing that you don't get to travel to some of the more famed cities like Pheonix Gate (sequel, anyone? please?).

Secondly, there is the utterly fantastic story. The main plot is epic to say the least, and contains some excellent twists (one about 2/3 of the way through the game just blew me away). The numerous interesting side quests keep the game interesting as well, and if you spend the time to really explore the world and get to know the characters, you'll be rewarded greatly (did I mention that a certain Monty Python alum makes a hillarious appearance as the game's only European character?). Interactions with members of your party are interesting as well, with possibilities for friendship, rivalry, and romance. This is a slight spoiler, but if you're a male character and you play your cards EXACTLY right, it is actually possible to arrange a threesome of sorts with the game's two female lead NPCs. I'm not certain if something similar is possible playing as female, but I just started a run as Wu the Lotus Blossum, so I guess I'll have the chance to find out.

Finally, the game is pretty much perfectly streamlined. While you can learn numerous styles and techniques, the fighting is always easily controllable through the 3 basic moves: fast attack, strong attack, and block (area attack is also available by pressing fast and strong at the same time). Having only 3 basic character attributes makes character customization a much less taxing experience (don't get me wrong, I love the depth of the D20 system, but this is a nice change of pace), and the fact that equipable inventory is limited to your amulet and the single-follower system all combine to make a very accessable system. Basically, the typical RPG elements are there, but they never get in your way. You won't ever spend 5 minutes equipping before a battle, you'll pretty much always be directly engaged in the story. And when the combat and story are as good as they are in Jade Empire, this is definitely a very good thing.

Redirect THIS (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12373846)

Expired my ass!

'Jade Empire' for Xbox speaks language all its own

The language Tho Fan sounds ancient and distinctly Asian. Its "sh" sounds come from the back of the throat, as they do in Chinese. Its "r" sounds are made with a tap of the tongue, echoing Mongolian.

But Tho Fan comes from Canada and was invented only last year. Created in four months, for just over $2,000, it is a real language spoken by unreal people in the Xbox game "Jade Empire," released this week. Perhaps it is a sign that, these days, languages are not so much discovered as invented.

Early last year, developers at the game maker BioWare were working on a heroic role-playing game set in a mythical Asia and began thinking about language. "We were sort of writing a love song to the history of China," said Jim Bishop, "Jade Empire's" producer.

Still, they wanted to avoid using Chinese or any other Asian language that might shackle their invented universe to actual historical events. At the same time, they did not want to resort to unintelligible nonsense.

"We wanted to make this world seem as real as possible," Bishop said.

Ultimately, more than 90 percent of "Jade Empire's" 15,000 lines of recorded dialogue were in English, but Bishop's team, based in Edmonton, Alberta, also decided to add the exotic aural flair of an Asian-sounding language, subtitled in English.

The attempt to create a language from scratch is rare in modern fiction. J. R. R. Tolkien, a linguist as well as a writer, created several for the "Lord of the Rings" saga. In 1985, another linguist, Mark Okrand, codified the "Star Trek" language Klingon in a published dictionary, which in turn led to Klingon editions of "Hamlet" and the ancient Babylonian epic "Gilgamesh."

But these were exceptions. The alien languages in science fiction and fantasy books and movies largely consist of nonsense: grunts and chirps arranged to convey the illusion of exotic intelligence. Occasionally, as in the "Star Wars" films, writers will introduce a few alien words to which they have given meanings but that don't constitute a working language. "You could use them to find a bathroom and that's about it," Bishop said.

Games have even fewer functional tongues. The denizens of the hit computer game "The Sims," for example, speak in Simlish, a caffeinated warble that is more mood-appropriate gibberish than real language.

In its quest for a new language, BioWare contacted the linguistics department at the nearby University of Alberta and came across Wolf Wikeley, 32, a Ph.D. candidate with a weakness for Japanese animation and first-person-shooter video games. He seemed like a find.

"Not many people have funny anecdotes about Klingon," Bishop said.

Wikeley had grown up in a language-rich household. His parents taught German, French and Italian and could speak several other languages. Japanese lessons had played on the family phonograph. And then there was the linguistic influence of Wikeley's favorite fiction.

"A huge event in my life was seeing 'Star Wars' when I was 4," he said. "Probably a lot of my ear came from that." He said he took to mimicking the film's alien languages, noting that at least one seemed to consist of just three overused words.

If one set of fictional characters had given him his ear, he was eager to answer BioWare's call to give others their voice. He set about asking Bishop's team questions. He wanted to know the speakers' physiology. If they had no teeth, they wouldn't be able to make a "t" or "th" sound. They had teeth.

He wanted to know the speakers' demeanor. In a willful violation of a fundamental tenet of linguistics, his invented language would reflect its speakers' cultural character.

"If they're a violent race, I'm going to give them a lot of really harsh sounds," he said. "If they're an ethereal race like elves, I'm going to give them a whispering, hushing sound."

According to the initial plan, speakers of Tho Fan (pronounced THOH-fan) would be a servant class. Wikeley made their speech soft and deferential.

He invented an alphabet and began making words, 50 a day and then 200. "Person" would be "uyu" (pronounced OO-yoo). Blood was "kawisrihr" (caw-wee-SHEER). Some words were inside jokes: Rabbit was "punihrapith" (POO-knee-raw-peeth). Similarly, the word for "director" was "wankaawayi," sounding somewhat like Wong Kar-wai, the Hong Kong film director.

As the words took shape, Wikeley set about bonding them into sentences. Here he saw a rare opportunity. He could invent grammar and rules that had never been used before. That way Tho Fan wouldn't completely match the rhythm of existing languages, which, he said, is an easy way to spot a fake language. In a twist, Tho Fan would do without the verb "to be"; instead, articles--words like "a" and "the"--would be used to mark tense.

After testing his new language's functionality by translating the first chapter of John's Gospel, he delivered a 2,500-word language to BioWare. Then a plot change recast the speakers of Tho Fan as imperialists. The language's deferential softness would no longer imply servile humility, but rather the elegance of the elite.

Since then, Wikeley has created four more languages for another BioWare game, Dragon Age. In the interest of a verisimilitude that perhaps only a linguist would notice, he has invented a history that explains how and when each tongue borrowed or modified a word from another, across thousands of fictional years.

Bishop reflected on whether the effort was worth it for "Jade Empire." He said new languages help make the creative process feel more real; it helps the game's makers feel as if they had rich, existing culture resources from which to draw.

But would players notice?

"I can hear the difference," Bishop said. "But I don't know if anyone can tell the difference between this and gibberish."

Entire contents, Copyright © 2005 The New York Times. All rights reserved.

Some Critiques of JE (1)

Mantrid (250133) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373904)

Bottom line I loved this game and had fun, and I'll probably go through it again following the way of the closed fist. The cinematics, production values, and story are all top notch.

Really JE only has one huge problem:

Load Times....just plain awful load times. I found myself "cheating" (switching to easy) just to avoid having to reload yet again. I think about three times I did this; just before boss battles that had UNSKIPPABLE CUTSCENES plus the loading, just plain frustrating.

It felt like the C64 days at times...

But the reset of the game is just so good that I was able to look past it. The PC version may help in this regard.

But to Blizzard: *NEVER NEVER NEVER* MAKE ME WATCH A CUTSCENE EVER NO EXCEPTIONS! If I miss something important, TS for me, but if it's the third time through it just annoys me. The loading, well they could've had some scenes instantly reloadable, other than that I'm not sure what choice they had.

But lest you think otherwise, this game is awesome.

how does it compare to Planescape: Torment? (1)

t1nman33 (248342) | more than 8 years ago | (#12373944)

I know Planescape: Torment wasn't a Bioware game, but it still stands out to me as probably the best computer RPG I've played...how does Jade Empire compare to it?
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