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on March 30, 2007
A note on my ratings and preferences:

I have never been able to come close to giving a game 5 stars. There are just way too many ways for a game to go wrong. I am not opposed, indeed I dream of encountering a 5 star game. It has just never happened. 5 stars would mean it was a work of art. 4 stars means it was a truly excellent game that I highly recommend, but it will still have problems. 3 stars is mainly positive but with notable problems- worth trying depending on your preferences. 2 stars is seriously problematic and not recommended.

I prefer storyline and character in a game. I am not terribly good at games and have a very low frustration level and so like the difficulty on the easy side, however, I will fight through difficult play if I really like the game. I read complaints sometimes about games being too short, but I have yet to find one that was too short and rarely finish the games I play. My favorite genres are rpgs and action adventure, but I will try anything.

Jade empire, a beautiful game I loved, is a classic example of the four stars above. Easily one of the best games I ever played I can still name a lot of small things wrong with it. It's funny, before I started playing computer/video games in the current 3D generation I would have assumed that a great many of these games would be much like jade empire. These would be games with strong stories, meaningful dialogue choices, intelligible character development, people to talk to, heroism, at least somewhat diverse challenges, and, yes, fighting. It is still surprising to me how rare bioware is and how rare a game like this is. I mean, I finished this excellent game about 5 minutes ago, I appreciated it, even loved it a good bit, and I really don't want to sound like a complainer, but sometimes I feel like this is the 10,000 pound elephant in the room nobody ever ever talks about and I find I just need to now, here, after this very enjoyable game. It's like this. What if you loved movies, but no one had ever made anything like, I don't know, the godfather (pick your own; what I mean is a masterpiece, Casablanca, sunset boulevard, fanny and Alexander, whatever). What if the only movies were like, oh, at best, superman returns (by this I mean a good popcorn genre movie, a good movie, a fun movie)? What if two or three movies came out a year that were even as good as superman returns and the rest were various levels of worse. That's how I feel about games, that's where I think we are with games, and sometimes I feel stupid for liking them or for believing, hoping, waiting for them to be more. And sometimes I get so tired of the hype, the games that score 100 or 5 stars or whatever, games I like but still think, yeah, but it's just a game. There are thousands and thousands of movies, songs, paintings, books, that stand in some other realm of power. Maybe a game is just different and cannot go there, but somehow I think they can and I await the people with the vision and talent and courage to take the first game over. I do think it's possible and I do think bioware, the people who made Jade Empire are probably the most likely of all the people currently making games to do this.

Okay. I will rate on these categories:

Difficulty: excellent! There are difficulty levels (which I love with a burning passion, and see no good reason not to have). I think there were three and I unlocked a fourth when I finished on easy. Easy was very very easy and I imagine on normal I would have been fine, maybe dying six or a dozen times, but I love cruising through the combat. It helps make the walking around, talking, collecting parts of the game that I so enjoy that much larger. It also alleviated some of the issues concerning sluggish, non responsive controls that, fairly speaking, had something to do with my framerates and fading computer. The rpg elements were quite clear and sensible and dialogue/puzzles and navigation were pretty simple. I actually hate to say it since it didn't bother me really, but a wee bit more challenge on dialogue and puzzles might have been okay, I'm just thinking of a little more kotor type things, just, maybe something with a little math or something. But, really, for me very high marks on this, if you like things deadly challenging, complex, obtuse, involved, you might not be so happy.

Graphics: very very nice, varied and pretty environments. It is in no way a jaw dropper like oblivion or something, but on the other hand, unlike oblivion, its environments tend to be on the wilder more inventive side which makes up for a lot. Indeed I think that is the more important to me. Also the characters look really quite good. I enjoyed walking around the world looking around, though it had its limits- mainly that the view always seemed a bit hemmed in, not a lot, I'm just saying getting to a high spot didn't really lay it all out for you. I liked the Far East setting, particularly for being modestly original. After getting a ps2 and trying some of that system's rather overrated japanese rpgs it was funny to finally play a game with actual Asian characters and have it be made in the west.

Storyline: very good, well paced, interesting and clear. The characters and character interaction in say, knights of the old republic 2, was deeper and to me better (I compare because these are both similar and the best of their kind). Also there was a section of kotor 2 that hinted at greatness and there was no moment like that in jade empire, but on the other hand jade told a whole story that was complete in itself. It made basic sense and didn't dissipate into emptiness or nonsense. This is a more rare and valuable quality than one might think in gaming. I also really liked that you really moved through the story, there weren't any big actions or sections that felt so separate, like, here's the gameplay and the story is over there. The meaningful dialogue was really important to making that happen and the more I see of that in games the happier I shall be. Of course, the lack of regenerating enemies, random fights, and leveling up also added to the pace and the immersion of the storyline. The game handled serious stuff pretty well, but the comic relief stuff was fairly weak though the crazy inventor may have had a moment or two. Everything about this game was elevated by the totally great and professional 100 percent voiced dialogue. So, if it were a book with this story, or a movie, kind of cleaned up, it might be a C or something. For a game it was great, maybe an A- (I don't know where these grades started coming from all of the sudden).

Gameplay: Sorry, this is getting ridiculously long so I'll try and move along. Let's see, loved the dialogue stuff, just talking to people and basically doing quests that involved talking. I mean, loved it. I only wish there was more of it and more complex, especially using charm or intuition which I went to some trouble to develop very highly but too rarely got a chance to employ, especially in the last third of the game. I'd read the complaints about the simplified rpg elements with stats and equipment and all so was more surprised at how much there actually was to it. But that's just expectation. In reality It was pretty slim, no clothes or armor or weapons (sort of) and you don't do anything with companions stats or anything. I think you do tend to have more money than things to buy and your development is maybe more standardized underneath than it seems. The biggest diversity in the development mainly comes in the weapon styles and it's most meaningful because you can only develop a small percentage significantly. Only one companion travels with you at a time, but that was actually better than I thought too. There are enough cutscenes and gathering spots to feel like you're a little group. Navigation is clear and pretty fun. Minigame is fun enough. Load times for everything are shortish. The amount of fighting in this game, while significant, is, thank the celestial bureaucracy, definitely less than most, and in a way that tends to leave you in the game world more and in your stat screens less (though maybe a little too much less, but barely). I will add, mainly since I've been messing some with the PS2, that there is no nonsense about fights taking place somewhere else, out of nowhere, or with load screens (god how a hate that stuff). You see an enemy, you fight it.

Okay, I rarely finish games, but I did everything possible in this game and it took me 31 hours. I really liked it and in the middle dreaded that it had to end at some point- a way I feel when I'm reading a book I like a lot, but so very rarely with games. I would rate Jade Empire on a level with maybe 4 or 5 other games ever! Everything else would rate below it. I strongly recommend it if you're at all inclined. Good luck.
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on September 29, 2015
Got this game as I had seen all the good reviews and decided to check it out. Got it in and installed it on my Win 10 Pro system without a problem. It was trying to start the game that gave me problems. First you need the CD in the drive to play. Second, the game runs the configuration utility when it starts the first time. Turns out the problems with this game ARE the configuration utility! It runs and you select you setup and then it's suppose to run the game with your settings, but it doesn't work that way. It crashes every time you run it after you've set your setup and never runs the game. You have to bypass it to run the game and make your settings in game. After you do this the game runs great. I found it to be a good looking game and from my first impressions will require a bit of work to get use to, but well worth the effort. Not Bad at all.....
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on September 20, 2009
The mighty Jade Empire spans a vast amount of territory, protected by the Wall and ruled over by the Emperor, who commands a huge army, an elite cadre of warriors known as the Lotus Assassins and a fleet of heavily-armed aircraft. In a sleepy village called Two Rivers, Master Li runs a school teaching students in the ways of martial arts. Two of his students show high promise. When the school is attacked and Master Li is captured by the Lotus Assassins, his students have to make their way to the Imperial City and learn what is going on.

Jade Empire is a relatively minor entry to the BioWare canon, although still a very good one. It was their first attempt to make an original game not reliant on any existing franchise (their earlier games were set in the Forgotten Realms or Star Wars settings). It was also a direct attempt to appeal to a wider audience. Whilst still definitely an RPG, the more stat-heavy elements and inventory management were reduced in favour of action. In fact, the game is more of a contextualised beat 'em up rather than an RPG, although still featuring all the moral choices, excellent characterisation and twisting storyline that we have come to expect from BioWare over the years.

The Eastern setting, in stark contrast to the traditional Western fantasy of the earlier Baldur's Gate games, is interesting, original and vivid. The art design in Jade Empire is fantastic, with lots of colourful backdrops and interesting architecture. Character models are also highly detailed. The Special Edition, which is exclusive to the PC, made use of an extra two years of development to radically enhance the graphics, AI and controls far beyond the original X-Box settings, resulting in a considerably stronger and far more attractive game. This turned out to be a good move, as on its release in early 2007 the PC version of Jade Empire's visuals were immediately compared to the fantastic-looking Oblivion and withstood the comparison very well.

The story is pretty good, although BioWare do dip into some of their traditional archetypes and character twists from previous games. They spin them enough to come up with something that is still quite compelling, but veterans of BioWare's previous games may find some twists and characters more than a little familiar. The characters are similarly very strong, from the huge grizzled warrior to the little girl (willingly) possessed by a friendly demon to the princess trying to restore honour to the land. As with previous BioWare games, chatting to your companions regularly will open up further conversations, reveal more secrets and may trigger entire side-missions you'd otherwise miss. Dialogue is consistently well-written and sometimes flat-out hilarious.

Combat is pretty impressive, although they fact that you directly control your actions and blows means that hardcore RPGers who prefer to just click once and leave their characters to it may not find it to their liking. Combat involves employing a number of different martial art styles, switching between them on the fly to confound the enemy. It's a very well-thought-out system that rewards experimentation and innovation.

So we've got a great story with great characters with great controls and great combat told through great graphics. So surely this should be a five starrer?

Well, it almost is, but a few problems do blight it. The RPG-lite approach works quite well and even seasoned roleplayers are likely to enjoy the story and combat system. However, the result is that you accumulate a vast amount of money through the game and have absolutely nothing to spend it on, aside from the odd stat-enhancing power-up. There is no armour to buy, only the occasional weapon (as you can only have one melee weapon with you at any time, and will rarely use it since unarmed combat is usually faster and does more damage) or stat-enhancing gems, but you find so many of them through the game anyway that it's unnecessary to buy any more. A more well-thought-out economic system or maybe just dropping the whole concept would have added more depth to the game.

In addition, the game feels truncated. At 20 hours or so, it's BioWare's shortest game (aside from Mass Effect, although you can expand that out a fair bit longer by doing repetitive and pointless side-missions). It's divided into seven chapters, but whilst you'll spend quite a long time on Chapters 3 and 4 (hub regions with lots of quests to do), you'll breeze through the last three in about two hours. Due to the game's short length (by BioWare standards, it's still longer than 90% of modern games), it's also much more difficult to get the most out of it: there isn't really enough time to talk to all your companions, use different ones on different missions and get all their side-quests. BioWare try to make this a virtue by allowing you to start over the game with your levelled-up character once you've finished it, making for a much tougher challenge, but it's a bit half-hearted.

The biggest problem, however, is that you only get to wander around with one companion at a time (as opposed to two in Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, and five of them in Baldur's Gate) and they are next to useless in combat. In the time that you take to kill nine bad guys, for example, your companion will have chipped about 20% off the health bar of one of them, leaving them for you to finish off. Your allies are better employed in 'support' mode, where they boost your own abilities in combat. The cumulative effect of this is that Jade Empire is a game where you have ten or so companions involved in the story with you, but you might as well be playing alone for the duration for all the difference they make.

Still, given these problems and limitations Jade Empire (****½) remains a cracking, fun game to play.
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on September 6, 2008
I like Jade Empire a whole lot, I won't lie. It only took me about 15 hours to beat, and the graphics and music were quite excellent! About halfway, once you start consulting your little group as a whole, the characters really shine . And let's face it, you play RPG's because you want a good story. Jade Empire delivers!

My only beef is this:

There's just too much forced dialogue. Yes, you know my name. Yes, you've probably heard of me. Yes, I assume you have a troublesome past as well. Do we have to stand around and talk about nothing for 15 minutes though?

Normally I get into RPG's with heavy dialogue, but then it usually serves to advance the plot. With just about every character I met, it felt like I was trapped in another dumb script. And obviously, if you get impatient you can earn brownie points for being evil, but tiptoeing through and staying neutral or good in conversation doesn't really affect your moral standing as much as a side quest does. And even then, you don't have to try hard to sway either way, because halfway through the plot, the game decides to shift you right into the choice you're nearest to.

The benefit of swinging good or evil, by the way, only gives you different abilities and potential power-ups. I don't think there's any way the plot will change significantly by going "the alternative route."

Also, the voice acting is great (Nathan Fillion plays Lesser Gao; geek points!), but like a bad kung-fu movie, it's hard to get over how much the voices don't fit the visual profiles of the characters. Read into that as much as you like. I just wish it was a little more authentic, if you know what I mean.

Anywho, get it! It's like $6 at the most here on Amazon, if you buy it used, which I certainly couldn't pass up.
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I don't know how I missed this game as long as I did. It's really awesome. The characters aren't as in depth and fleshed out as the Dragon Age or Mass Effect series, but they're still fun and the story and gameplay is superb.
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on May 26, 2010
The facts:
I was looking for a game similar to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, less than $40, and hopefully longer than 20 hours playing time.

This game is based on the same game engine as SW:KotOR. It was $9 for the Special Edition and it took me quite a bit longer than 20 hours to play through (mainly because I thought I was better than I was).

The game is pretty linear, it is based on sections (called Chapters because it is a story) and there are quite a few things you can do in each area, but once the area is over, you are finished and there is no going back.

Cost: 5 stars
1 time playablity: 5 stars
n times playablity: 3 stars
Graphics: 5 stars
Story: 5 stars
Leveling: 3 stars (mainly because you don't have enough points for some of the abilities you get later in the game.)
Complexity: 3 stars

Overall: 4 stars
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on October 28, 2011
Not a bad game at all. Decent storyline, gameplay, and high production values. This studio's put out better material, but if you're in the mood for a fun lil' eastern oriented RPG/Action game, it's worth $15.
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on August 31, 2013
I was looking for an older game I may have missed to hold me over till some new titles came out,found this pretty cheap picked it up,and I would say it's ok,the graphics are abit dated and sorta choppy but still playable,for me its worth it for the story is compelling and makes me want to learn styles ect....
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on January 1, 2012
This is a great game to experience.

Jade Empire is a typical Bioware game: lovable characters and great, heroic story. What really sells this game is it's environments and soundtrack. Both are fantastic and gorgeous. I really loved how vibrant the levels were. Fantastic.

Soundtrack is quite awesome. The game does a great job weaving the eastern, mythical feel to the game. It felt genuine (to me anyway). You won't be disappointed.

Sometimes there are some camera and control issues, of not being so fluid, but the overall combat is fun at the end.

The overall story kind of fell into a typical territory if you have played Bioware's Knights of the Old Republic and others before. But if you like Bioware's format of storytelling, there won't be a problem.

However at the end, what I remembered and experienced quite fondly were the environments and music. Awesome, just awesome.

If you haven't tried this game yet, play it. It's short for an (action) RPG, but you won't regret playing this game.
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on June 29, 2012
This game uses the same engine as kotor, but it seems crisper than kotor, obviously being a few years later. It didn't draw me in quite like kotor, as I have always been a huge star wars fan, but it is definitely very well done and if you enjoyed the kotor vibe, then this is the game for you. Works fine on Windows 7, but you'll probably need to run it in compatibility mode. Never experienced any freezing or problems, just a little lag but that's probably due to my older laptop although it has a decent i5 processor.
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