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Review: Jade Empire 303

Posted by Zonk
from the i-know-kung-fu dept.
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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Review: Jade Empire

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  • My own thoughts... (Score:5, Informative)

    by RogueyWon (735973) * on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:34PM (#12373268) Journal
    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.
    • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Thursday April 28, 2005 @01:03PM (#12373655) Homepage

      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)
  • by BubbleSparkxx (879715) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:36PM (#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.

    • by th1ckasabr1ck (752151) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:41PM (#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.

      • 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.

        • 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
        • 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.
      • 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.
      • by BubbleSparkxx (879715) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:57PM (#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.
      • by prockcore (543967) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @01:23PM (#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.
    • by dfn5 (524972)
      Or Ultima V long. Those were the days.

      • Aah, brings back memories of the C-64 days.

        -Jesse
      • by iocat (572367) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:57PM (#12373578) Homepage Journal
        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.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 28, 2005 @01:09PM (#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
        • Ultima IV & V were by far my favorites. I still haven't finished Ultima V. If my company ever makes me loaded I'm starting over in 1983 and working my way up to [current date]. I still haven't finished the first Baldur's Gate and it's hard sometimes to get these old games to run on a more current system.
          • I realize it's kind of a repeat of the AC, but check out DosBox [sourceforge.net]. So far, nearly every old game I have tried running in it has run great. And you don't have the jumpyness of MoSlo or the like. There are versions available for both Linux and Windows.
        • I'm fine paying $40 for a game. It's those $8 (actually $9.50 where I live) movies that get me pissed off.
        • by Thenomain (537937) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @01:53PM (#12374246) Homepage
          if you don't finish the game, at least part of our effort as developers is wasted.

          I don't understand this. I am not a developer, though, so perhaps I'm just not in the loop. If you wanted to do something that every single person will have a relatively equal chance of finishing, why are you not writing novels, or movies, plays, things that are linear and their scope clearly pre-defined.

          Games, as far as I can figure out, are meant to be challanges to the player, whether through visual puzzles, word-play or hand-eye coordination. I have never once finished a game of Dragon's Lair and I doubt that the developers are all that disappointed. I would hope that they were more concerned with how I enjoyed what I did get through.

          This is somewhat beside the point, however, if people are more interested in finishing the game. This would explain the derth of games with no concrete endings like Tetris ... and Bejeweled ... and ...

          Well damn.

          Still, I'd rather a game be more concerned with the journey, not the destination.
        • $8? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by _newwave_ (265061)
          $8 for a movie? That's cheap!
      • I actually felt ultima 6 to be longer. Specially near the end when you notice that all your bad past deeds come to haunt you, your karma sucks (yes, even before slashdot was around) and you had to start over. In my opinion, the best story EVER in ANY game. A long story, a long game, with so many twists and turns. Especially when you find out who the hell the false prophet was. It would make a kick ass movie. The moral ambiguity (sp??) is great, much better than the current Hollywood (we're all good, the
        • Best story ever? It was great, but not that great. It is my favorite Ultima game though, although I flipflop between it and 7.

          Check out Grim Fandango by Lucasarts. Or the excellent (and free!) text adventure game Photopia [adamcadre.ac] .
    • 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.
    • by vincey37 (563081) <vincey37 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:48PM (#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.

      • Damn, you beat me to it.
        Its the "100 hours of gameplay" which drove me away from the FF series. Even ignoring the fact that I have a life and would take months to put in that much time, I just don't enjoy spending 90 of those 100 hours doing pointless leveling and gold collection. And that sort of thing seems endemic to the FF series and SquEnix games in general.
        You start the game, and have a long drawn out intro. You then take your character and spend a few hours leveling. Then you go through a littl
        • It depends which one though. FF6 required a ridiculous amount of leveling. 7 was better, but still required a fair bit (mostly for various bosses, the final boss wasn't too tough). FF8 was really easy. I didn't spend one minute running around killing stuff to level up in 8 (actually some people say that the game gets harder the higher level your characters are). I know some people felt the urge to have draw-fests and max out everything at 100, but that's really overkill (and the game gets EXTREMELY eas
        • I'll agree that some of the earlier ones required too much time leveling up, but I don't remember having to deal with that for FF9 or FFX. I think when I played through FFX, it seemed to be about perfectly paced so that by the time I got to some point, I was ready to handle it without leveling up. On the other hand, the long drawn out intros seem to be getting longer. I think I must have "played" almost an hour into FF9 before I really felt like I was in control and that the game wasn't going to take ove
    • 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.
    • 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 easil

    • 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.

    • by seigniory (89942) <bigfriggin@nOSPam.me.com> on Thursday April 28, 2005 @01:19PM (#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.
    • I can't find the study, but some independent group did some research for the industry a year or two back and found that a large majority of gamers never finished the games they bought.

      I'm not much of a roleplaying game guy, but the last major one I played was Fallout 2. While I loved it, frankly I just do not have the time or patience to play through something like that again. 20 hours is just about right (although I think you're being a bit generous). But I clearly recall that much of that Fallout tim
  • by arhar (773548) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:37PM (#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.
    • 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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Syncdata (596941) <syncdata71 AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:59PM (#12373591) Journal
      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.
      • Computer Gaming World has a policy that their reviewers must have finished a game prior to reviewing it.
      • Re:Thats funny (Score:3, Interesting)

        by unclethursday (664807)
        You seem to be under the impression that any reviews you read in magazines, or online are written by people who finish the game.

        It depends on the magazine and sites, really.

        I work for a review site, and I finish each and every game before I review it. My currently being out on long term disability helps; as does the fact that since we are a website, with no debug kits for any games, we have no "press time" to get the reviews out by. We have had one review that went up before the game was released, b

    • KOTOR2 (Score:3, Informative)

      by RonnyJ (651856)
      A good example of a game that could have done with the reviewers finishing the game is KOTOR2. All the reviews I read were positive, and I was looking forward to a game that lived up to the first one, and it certainly looked that way for a while. However, after a certain point in the game, it all went downhill, and now I consider it to be the most disappointing game I've played.

      It was obviously rushed by Lucasarts for a Christmas release date, and there's even unused remnants of some of the unfinished mate

    • What if there's a bug towards the end that makes the game entirely unplayable?

      That reminds me of one PC game, Slave Zero, that had a final boss that was unbeatable without cheating. Only one review site, Firing Squad [firingsquad.com] actually played through the entire game and noticed this flaw, they gave the game 30%. Every other site I read gave it mildly positive reviews. Reviews by people that haven't finished a game suck.

  • She looks cold. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:40PM (#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. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kphrak (230261) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:50PM (#12373485) Homepage

      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.

    • by PacerGuy (266595) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:55PM (#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?
      • 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. (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Morinaga (857587)
        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.

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

          * fires up VtM: Bloodlines *
          * loads up Nosferatu savegame *
          * looks closely at male avatar *

          Errr... I'll get back to you on that.

          * loads up Malkavian savegame *
          * looks closely at female avatar *

          Now THAT'S an avatar I'm happy to spend the whole duration of the game staring at the back of...

          • People frequently ask me why I (a man) always choose the female avatar in video games when there's one available. The answer:

            1) If it's a third-person game, I'd much rather spend the play time staring at a woman's ass than a man's ass.

            2) If it's a first-person game, I'd much rather hear a woman's voice than a man's voice.

            Sure it might cause problems and misunderstandings in MMORPGs, but that's my rule and I'm sticking to it.
    • by AzraelKans (697974) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @01:13PM (#12373760) Homepage
      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. (Score:3, Informative)

      by richmaine (128733)
      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).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      >> It's fucking snowing. Why the fuck is that girl running around in her panties?!

      Because she's HOT!
    • Obviously. You know she feels cold. That's why she's conjuring up a fireball thingy like Ryu/Ken in Street Fighter 2... duh!
    • Re:She looks cold. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Temposs (787432)
      I would point to Yuna in Final Fantasy X, but not X 2. I think she wore pretty decent clothes for a main female heroine.
  • arguably (Score:5, Funny)

    by dunsurfin (570404) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:41PM (#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
  • 2 complaints... (Score:4, Informative)

    by shamowfski (808477) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:45PM (#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.
  • by blackicye (760472) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @12:57PM (#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.
  • Word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spoonboy42 (146048) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @01:14PM (#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 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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, t
    • Re:Redirect THIS (Score:2, Insightful)

      by blackicye (760472)
      "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.

      Ok I'm calling Shenanigans on this.
      Btw, I am Chinese, and I speak Mandarin as well as several Chinese dialects fluently. Also I am an Anthropologist and have limited experience in the field of linguistics.

      To a na
  • 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 d
  • 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?
  • > 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.

    I would think Mind would determine Focus, and Spirit would determine Chi. But IANARM (reiki master).

  • by Foz (17040) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @01:34PM (#12374027)
    I'm having an excellent time playing JE. I have finished quite a few of the side quests in the imperial city, just took the silver championship and am OMW to infilitrate the Lotus Blossom Assassins before I work my way up to the gold championship.

    I think the game is a hell of a lot of fun, and quite a bit more engrossing than many I have played (although I did love the PC version of Morrowind and I'm also finally playing the xbox KOTR 1 and enjoying it as well). One thing that annoys me immensely about KOTR 1 is that I don't have Xbox live, and therefore can't get the bug fixes and game updates for it (why should I have to pay a subscription to get bug fixes?). Anyway, I digress...

    The dialogue *is* excellently voice acted. The whole bit with the outlander (John Cleese) was hilarious. The combat is fun, but could be a bit more challenging. It's not completely dumbed down but it's also no Soul Caliber. Using the storm dragon style coupled with any other martial style (I'm using leaping tiger) pretty much leads to a "can't lose" versus anything that's stunnable. Like another poster I read, I almost never use blocks, and I don't think I've ever purposefully done a harmonic combo. Most of the time against normal opponents I can easily win just by tossing a few storm dragon strikes to stun them, then pummel them for 5 or 6 secs before stunning them again, rinse and repeat. During the silver championship, Soldier never touched me, he spent the entire time stunned/shocked/getting his ass handed to him. The final fight in the black leopard school was a bit more challenging, until I finally managed to stun Smiling Raven or whatever his name was and then it was all over.

    I'm looking forward to playing it again from the beginning and doing a few things differently... number 1, going full closed fist instead of open palm and turning into a grade A bastard, number 2 not learning every single style I happen across and instead focusing on maxing out 3 or 4 bread and butter styles, and finally number 3 not even using Storm Dragon because it's almost like a cheat mode.

    All in all, this game was WELL worth the cash, and I can't say that too often anymore. I've spent more money on a lot shitter games.

    -- Gary F.
  • Too Bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RichiP (18379) on Thursday April 28, 2005 @01:45PM (#12374161) Homepage
    Too bad it's XBox only. I really enjoy playing Neverwinter Nights (one of the few games to run natively on Linux). Jade Empire looks like a great game that I'd play if it ran on my gaming console (Sony PS2) or even on a Linux-based machine (don't have to buy the OS to run it on).
    • I love playing NWN on linux, too. I'm disappointed that Jade Empire is XBox only.

      One of the big perks of NWN is having a whole mess of third-party modules available to play. It gives a lot more choice than the official campaigns. If I want a dark, horror-tinged story, I can get that. Or if I want something funny (Penultima comes to mind), I can have lots of fun with that, too. (I love the DreamCatcher stories, too - I'm still working on Demon.)

      If they're only releasing for XBox, I don't expect that a
    • I agree 100% and then some. XBox only is, in all honesty, completely eliminating 2/3 to 3/4 of the market for a game. I've casually watched the updates on Jade Empire from Bioware's site and read some of the reviews and, frankly, my main question is this: Imagine what could have been done with a PC version of the game?

      Included with that question should be: Imagine what could be done with a level editor or toolkit (ala NWN) for this game? Those folks who wanted 50, 100, or 200 hour games could either make t
  • by mikec (7785)
    I know this is off-topic, but my nomination for the greasiest weasle word of all time is "arguably". What the hell does

    ...it was arguably the best Star Wars tale...

    actually mean? Does it mean that the author argues that it was the best Star Wars tale? No; the author is apparently not decisive enough to actually commit himself to such a strong position. Does it mean that someone has argued that it was the best? Well, no; the author is not willing to go quite that far, either. Maybe no one has actu

  • CRPG != RPG (Score:2, Interesting)

    by C0deM0nkey (203681)
    This may be off-topic; mod as you see fit.

    I continue to be annoyed by the persistent use of the category "RPG" to describe video games. It's marketing hype. What particularly annoys me is when people equate the two:

    Player 1: "yeah, I've been playing RPGs for, like, 5 years."
    Player 2: "Really? What systems? D20? GURPS? Hero? Vampire? Shadowrun?"
    Player 1: "What? No. Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance."

    A fantasy or science fiction adventure video game is not an RPG. You are not playing a role

  • Are there any plans for a PC port of this game? It looks interesting. I haven't owned a console since Atari 2600. ;)

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

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