The other day I ordered Jade Empire Special Edition which was recently released for the PC. I have a great respect for the Bioware, the developers who also created (in my opinion) the greatest RPG of them all: Baldur’s Gate II. After hearing some positive things about Jade Empire I picked it up. It got it for £17.99 which was quite reasonable, it came in a ‘steel-book’ case common with Xbox 360 limited edition games, a poster and an art book. The poster is not brilliant and the art book is a short staple bound pamphlet- Half-Life 2 Raising the Bar this isn’t.
On the whole I’d say I’m impressed with the game. There are only three core attributes: body, mind and spirit as opposed to the array available in Baldur’s Gate or Oblivion. This makes it easier to pick up and play, there isn’t much in the way of customisation to be done. It is a very different game to a traditional RPG. You don’t loot the dead for their belongings to sell to merchants, you receive silver automatically. The primary customisations are not what class of armour you buy- in fact as far as I can tell so far you will be stuck with the same paper doll that you start with – but martial art styles and spells. They all have their different powers and chaining some of them together unleashes ‘harmonic combos’. The only one I have found so far slows an opponent and with the second blow obliterates him leaving behind a health power-up. I think the general feeling I get is that it is a very streamlined RPG, revealing its Xbox origins, but a good one nonetheless. Very much more pick up and play than its larger cousins like Baldur’s Gate or Oblivion.
Graphically it has aged okay though having got this after playing Oblivion you can see the difference. After seeing the emotion conveyed in the characters of games like Dead Rising and Gears of War, the NPCs here show the game’s true age. The plot seems deep enough and there are hours of fully spoken dialogue, exposition and conversation trees. Its not however, without its faults which mainly are a result of its porting. A lot of the core assets of the game have not been updated with the port. As a widescreen user this is particularly noticeable with stretched loading screen artwork and menu screens (though it does support my screen’s resolution in true widescreen in game). My main gripe is with the frequent cut-scenes. These FMVs rendered in the game engine but saved as video files are extremely low resolution and are no doubt the same files that were on the Xbox version. The definition of analogue television would have let them get away with it then but now it is a glaring eyesore in an otherwise well produced game.
Despite these complaints its a fun game and I’m enjoying playing it. Its also quite crazy at times. I have the ability to turn into a giant frog and poison my enemies and just this evening I managed to pick up a pair of table legs and wield them like dual katanas, as you can see in the screenshot. Madness. Worth the £17.99, I can see a lot of potential for a ‘next-gen’ sequel.