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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » RPGWatch Feature: Jade Empire SE Review

Default RPGWatch Feature: Jade Empire SE Review

May 30th, 2007, 15:27
It took a long time to come to the PC but we've finally reviewed BioWare's first RPG based on an original IP. IGN famously awarded 9.9/10 when Jade Empire was first released - how do we see it? Here's a snip:
One of my biggest complaints about Jade Empire is the lack of exploration. The game puts us in a massive empire and yet we only see two minor villages and the Imperial City. Even the Imperial City doesn't feel an awful lot like a city, much less the largest, most impressive metropolis in the entire empire. That being said, this is a relatively short game. It took me about 20 hours to complete. I can't consider that a bad thing since some of us have demanding lives that leave us with little time to spend gaming.
Read it all here.
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May 30th, 2007, 15:27
Pros

* Polished and bug-free
I couldnt get past Kang the mads workshop as the ai was bugged there
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May 30th, 2007, 15:39
Good action adventure game for a weekend - some nice references to old Kung Fu movies - but nothing more.

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May 30th, 2007, 15:40
I remember reading Dave Long's take on the XBOX version Jade Empire in Computer Games Mag and then GamerDad - it was one of the first non-glowing reviews. Since then I didn't expect much from the game … but had a blast anyway. I agree pretty much across the board with what Korplem and Dhruin said about … well, everything.

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May 30th, 2007, 16:06
yup nothing to add what they said. The poor inventory was the biggest flaw.. collecting weapons, items. armours, clothes..eh stuff is the carrot in rpg genre, while it doesn't make a rpg game good, you can't deny it felt like something crucial was missing . an other aspect was the fact how everyone had western accent. I got used t it but in the beginning this was the biggest immersion breaker. i'd have prefered to hear more authentic accents or maybe even chinese dialog!
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May 30th, 2007, 18:09
Not much argument on my end. I know that making the game RPG-light and simple in terms of combat were two of the major decisions made my higher-ups, and that the resulting "not enough RPG for the RPG folks, not enough combat depth for the action folks" complaint is one that said higher-ups have really taken to heart. Expect to see those issues addressed in future games.

(For the record, I liked the combat — but I think that I was at exactly the right level, as someone who'd played some action games, but not enough for me to find it absurdly easy, as others did.)

I don't get the "It's KOtoR again!" complaint, personally — I liked both stories, but I didn't find them identical, except in elements that are core to the average CRPG (bad guy, hero advances to get to bad guy, large quests have to be completed in order to clear the path, and something happens to raise the tension near the end close to the lock-off point) — but I've heard it enough times not to argue it. And since I liked the company enough to apply for a job there, I'm probably a pretty bad judge of all their plots being similar.
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May 30th, 2007, 19:38
I just started on it yesterday, and it's good clean fun so far. Sort of like a nice, well-prepared little portion of dim sum in-between all those "epic" seven course meals that these days somehow never seem to manage to live up to their potential.
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May 30th, 2007, 22:42
Oh oh, shorter than mine and gets the same points across!

Good review, as usual per RPGWatch standards
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May 30th, 2007, 23:25
of the few reviews Ive read on this one so far, this one makes me want to pick this game up finally. Yes, I'm the one that still hasnt played it yet!

sounds cool tho ='.'=
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May 30th, 2007, 23:28
Best bioware game ever!

I hate the other bioware games.. so it is not to say it is a great game. But I love the ancient China setting, art, and music. Fighting is by far the best in any bioware game. Not a boring pause, click click click click, take my turn click clik, pause kind of thing, with battles so easy my mom can beat them. (KOTOR anyone?) I love turn based.. but what they tried to do.. was some kind of cheap mix that just doesn't work.. better to go all action like in Jade in that case. BTW TRY the hardest setting.. combat gets less repetitive and you acctually have to think of styles.. just not max one up and always use it. But you have to complete the game before you can unlock it.

I was surprised this was a game by bioware I've come to expect much less from them. KOTOR being on my worst games of all times list.

However it sets the bar very high from the start… and sadly it doesn't live up to what it started! So the rating 3/5 I'd agree with anyway, and the pros and cons too.
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May 31st, 2007, 00:04
I kind of feel slack making negative comments because it more or less does a good job of what they set out to do - I just think that design missed the mark. It sure was nice to play something that worked and the art direction was fabulous.

On the other hand, despite being quite short I wandered away several times and took up other games, so it clearly didn't capture my attention. I really had to say " This thing is only 20 hours…finish the damn thing!".

Originally Posted by PatrickWeekes View Post
I don't get the "It's KOtoR again!" complaint, personally — I liked both stories, but I didn't find them identical, except in elements that are core to the average CRPG (bad guy, hero advances to get to bad guy, large quests have to be completed in order to clear the path, and something happens to raise the tension near the end close to the lock-off point) — but I've heard it enough times not to argue it. And since I liked the company enough to apply for a job there, I'm probably a pretty bad judge of all their plots being similar.
Look, you're probably right. It's not just the story - it's everything. The engine is clearly an iteration, the light/dark screen is nearly identical, the basic movement feels similar, some animations are recycled (the characters just look the same standing around), the areas are better disguised but underneath the graphical jazz they are sometimes just two intersecting corridors like KotOR.

On top of that, BioWare uses certain character conventions. Ray spoke about it in an interview once…I think he even used the word "formula" or "equation" (sorry if I'm not spot-on, it's been a while) to describe your method of character creation. You're a writer, so you must have had meetings on this stuff.

BioWare likes clear-cut character archetypes - the Imoen/Mission/little sister thing, for example. When you look at KotOR2 for example, it's clear Obsidian was either more creative or had more freedom to create really different characters. Some of them annoyed the crap out of me (Kreia) and others I really liked (Bao-dur). When I play a BioWare game, I sort of feel "not Imoen again!".

I'm not trying to slam BioWare — or you as a BioWare writer — maybe this discipline is the sort of thing that makes BioWare so successful and makes average gamers love a BioWare RPG. As a "dedicated" RPG player, it feels a bit restricted to me.

And as a general comment (KotOR2 and NWN2 did this as well), I liked finding and getting to know my companions in BG2 better than KotOR / KotOR2 / NWN2 / Jade (yes, I know I'm mixing in different devs). It felt more organic - more getting to know them over a journey. I guess everyone wants a zillion companion choices these days but it feels more rushed and forced and some of those long companion "tell me what's wrong with your life" conversations really bore me.

Eh, sorry to sound like an ani-Bio rant.

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May 31st, 2007, 00:55
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
Look, you're probably right. It's not just the story - it's everything. The engine is clearly an iteration, the light/dark screen is nearly identical, the basic movement feels similar, some animations are recycled (the characters just look the same standing around), the areas are better disguised but underneath the graphical jazz they are sometimes just two intersecting corridors like KotOR.
Yep. No argument there. Doing a 1.5 version of the Aurora engine was the only way that Jade was gonna happen, and if you're a serious gamer, spotting something running the same game engine is pretty easy. "Whoah — it's a 3-D Art rendered landscape that is really 2-D because you never go over the same area at two different heights? Which engine could THAT be?"

BioWare likes clear-cut character archetypes - the Imoen/Mission/little sister thing, for example. When you look at KotOR2 for example, it's clear Obsidian was either more creative or had more freedom to create really different characters. Some of them annoyed the crap out of me (Kreia) and others I really liked (Bao-dur). When I play a BioWare game, I sort of feel "not Imoen again!".
That also makes sense — and I can see it especially bothering someone who games more. Wildflower didn't strike me as Imoission, though, and Dawn Star didn't strike me as a perfect fit, either. You can say that each had elements of the same character, which I buy without trouble, but "elements of the same character" is an implicit issue of buying games from a company that's had some of the same writers since its inception. It's awesome, because it gives the company a flavor, but it's problematic in that it can lead to, well, the same types of characters.

(Heck, I did this in Firefly — Kaylee is Willow, Simon Tam is Xander with a bit of Giles in there, and so on.)

It's interesting for me, because I disagree in part on the Obsidian stuff, and I think it ties to what I want out of the game. I remembered talking to certain characters and feeling like I had no direction. It was like I was running into this brick wall where I couldn't tell what characterization was supposed to be conveyed in that scene, or why I would choose any of the dialogue options I was presented with. I saw "muddy" where other people saw "deep".

That could mean that I'm incredibly shallow — I've got a kid at home, another on the way, and a zillion things to do, so I don't have time for immersive games that other people might like — but I've always been more interested in playing with archetypes rather than going into deep conversations with art-film logic. You have to be pretty awesome to pull off art-film logic and disjointed moments of apparent contradiction and scenes that don't serve an immediate and obvious purpose, and most of the time, the writing isn't good enough to impress me.

So for me, the archetypes are fine. I don't like all of 'em, but I don't have to have all of 'em in my party, either. (I do remember liking Bao-dur, but I also remember feeling like he wasn't finished as a character.)

I'm not trying to slam BioWare — or you as a BioWare writer — maybe this discipline is the sort of thing that makes BioWare so successful and makes average gamers love a BioWare RPG. As a "dedicated" RPG player, it feels a bit restricted to me.
Definitely. In a perfect world, you make a game with wide appeal, but with enough moments of depth and nuance to make the hardcore segment happy as well. I have no idea if Mass Effect is going to be that game. I have no idea if Dragon Age is going to be that game. I have no idea if Revolver is going to be that game. I know that everyone on those projects wants those projects to be mainstream hits and critical successes with the RPG fans, but I figure every game developer out there wants something like that.

Small companies have liberties that large companies don't. I don't think that's ever gonna change. The good news is that large companies have the resources that small companies don't. I hope that BioWare can make the most of 'em.
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May 31st, 2007, 01:04
Actually, I want more Viconia!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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May 31st, 2007, 04:26
Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
Best bioware game ever!

I hate the other bioware games.. so it is not to say it is a great game. But I love the ancient China setting, art, and music. Fighting is by far the best in any bioware game. Not a boring pause, click click click click, take my turn click clik, pause kind of thing, with battles so easy my mom can beat them. (KOTOR anyone?) I love turn based.. but what they tried to do.. was some kind of cheap mix that just doesn't work.. better to go all action like in Jade in that case. BTW TRY the hardest setting.. combat gets less repetitive and you acctually have to think of styles.. just not max one up and always use it. But you have to complete the game before you can unlock it.

I was surprised this was a game by bioware I've come to expect much less from them. KOTOR being on my worst games of all times list.

However it sets the bar very high from the start… and sadly it doesn't live up to what it started! So the rating 3/5 I'd agree with anyway, and the pros and cons too.

So you think it's Bioware's best game ever, yet you would rate it 3\5?? Sorry to hear that you didn't like the combat in other Bioware games, but you're part of a very small minority. Most Bioware games have fantastic combat, and I agree with the many people who rank the Baldur's Gate series as one of the best crpg's of all time.

I agree with you 100% about KOTOR though, I thought it was boring and extremely overrated.
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May 31st, 2007, 06:55
Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
Best bioware game ever! (…) I was surprised this was a game by bioware I've come to expect much less from them. KOTOR being on my worst games of all times list.
My sentiments exactly, just replace 'KotOR' with 'NWN'. I actually hesitated to buy Jade Empire (even though I absolutely wanted to play a game set in mythical China) just because it was by the creators of NWN and the BG series… these games were not made for me and thus lead a shadow existence on my games shelf, twice started yet never made it to gaming day three.
While I didn't like the fact that JE was far too short (and even my XBox version experienced a bug which forced me to repeat a fight about five or six times just because one enemy dropped out of sight and thus couldn't be defeated), I really liked some of the characters and the romance options. I also liked KotOR (just not as much, I actually liked KotOR II better), so perhaps it's not so much a matter of Bioware making a game but of the chosen game worlds.

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May 31st, 2007, 12:21
KotOR is on my top 10 of all time list, so there

Is it over-rated? Probably - but it captures the Star Wars experience very nicely and I have very much enjoyed it the 10 or so times I've played.

I love everything I've played by Bioware, with Jade Empire being at the bottom - NWN and BG2 are also near my tops.

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May 31st, 2007, 13:08
Interesting thread. One good thing about RPGWatch is that you get to see that your preferences are really just that: preferences. We've got people who hated KOTOR and loved KOTOR, who hated NWN and loved NWN, who think Jade Empire was great for Bioware but Bioware kinda sucks, who think Bioware has made some of the best RPG's evah but JE kinda sucks, and everything in between. :-)

If anyone cares, I never got anywhere far with the BG's, I thought NWN OC was horrible but HotU kinda rocked in a slightly cheesy Goth kind of way, I absolutely loved KOTOR and only can't decide whether I loved KOTOR2 more. And I still think JE is good clean fun in a light kind of way.

Strangely, it reminds me of one game that's not anywhere near the same genre but that I really liked a lot: Beyond Good and Evil. Something about the art direction and touchy-feely, perhaps — that game really knew how to make the most of a somewhat limited engine. Great music, too.
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May 31st, 2007, 13:55
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
One good thing about RPGWatch is that you get to see that your preferences are really just that: preferences.
But the really good thing is that there are enough people around here that
realize that

Thats what makes it a sane and pleasant place to visit…

btw I liked KOTOR too (nice emphasis on story dialog options and character
development) but the combat system was a bit dysfunctional imo.

Perhaps I should give JE a try on an idle weekend…
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May 31st, 2007, 14:52
While earlier I critized the poor inventory and lack of exploration, I want to mention that otherwise the game was solid fun. the setting in general, fighting system, intresting storyline, you don't get to see something like that too often!

Regarding kotor or kotor 2, heh I consider them to be some of the best games I've played .
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May 31st, 2007, 15:14
Originally Posted by Dez View Post
an other aspect was the fact how everyone had western accent. I got used t it but in the beginning this was the biggest immersion breaker. i'd have prefered to hear more authentic accents or maybe even chinese dialog!
I would have to disagree with this pretty strongly. I think that the dialog in the game would have sounded really dumb with fake Chinese accents. Remember Deus Ex in Hong Kong? I hate S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s English dialog because of the silly sounding Russian accents.

I did like the writing and the characters, despite how much it seems to borrow from Bioware's previous games. I have seen Kotor 2 mentioned many times as a prime example of unique characters. That's true, but you know what? The characters in that game other than Kreia were totally boring as shit (and Kreia was an annoying twat whose primary purpose in the game seems to have been to demonstrate that Good and Evil aren't black and white). I have never seen a flatter collection of personalities in a video game. Let's take the blind Sith as an example. I don't even remember what her name was, because I don't give a crap. She basically showed no emotion or back story that I could care about or meaningful motivation for joining me. Ditto for pretty much everybody else, including Bao Dur. Canderous was nowhere near as interesting in the 2nd game as he was in the first. And while we're on the subject of repeat characters in games, the outcast in Kotor 2 is quite reminiscent of The Nameless One, only about 1/10th as interesting.

I agree though with pretty much the entire review. On its own merits, Jade Empire is a very good game, but it's not even close to Bioware's best. At least it was better than NWN though. I didn't find the combat to be as easy as it is commonly criticized to be though. Some are but others are pretty tough. The last three arena battles were really hard for me.
Last edited by doctor_kaz; May 31st, 2007 at 15:47.
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