So when the same company announced that they were releasing "Jade Empire", an RPG set in mythic China and evoking the fantastic 'fu duels of Channel 48's Black Belt Theatre of my youth - I was as excited as a masochist at Linndie England's family reunion. I was all a-quiver with anticipation, a full two years before the game came out. I'd check the website from time to time, hoping that I'd forgotten the release date and it was actually already out. I pre-ordered the game, and carefully budgeted the money ahead of time, even though money has been really tight lately.
Man, what a let down. In the Buddhist sense, expectations are the downfall of Enlightenment, so I suppose I ought to be grateful to Bioware for helping me find my Buddha-nature. In order to help *them* get in touch with their Buddha nature, I'd like to pick up a Kyosaku and beat them retarded. And truly, beating people retarded is about the only gratifying element of "Jade Empire".
Cut for long review of "Jade Empire"
There are upsides, to be sure - visually the game is beautiful, evoking China-that-never-was-but-ought-to-have-b
But the upsides don't cancel out the negatives, which are boring gameplay, an overly simple fighting system, and a storyline that is hackneyed in the extreme and utterly predictable.
The game starts out in a remote fighting school in the hinterlands of the Jade Empire, where predictably it is revealed that the main character (you) is the last of his kind, and destined to restore order and balance to the
Okay, so immediately you're launched into a story that you've heard a million times. (And oh, by the way, you have to avenge your master. Just for good measure.) It would all be tolerable if there were good twists and turns, as there were in both KOTOR titles... but alas this is just straight-forward go-here-and-find-this-thing and then go-there-and-beat-that-bad-guy-retarded.
The magical styles are all basically the same - a bolt attack, a heavy attack with a status effect, or an area of effect attack. They all look a little different, and have slightly different effects, but are basically interchangeable. The same is true of support styles, which do something like steal chi, paralyze an opponent, or slow him down. Weapon styles are basically all exactly the same, except for the weapon you happen to be smacking people upside the head with. Transformation styles involve transforming temporarily into some kind of a demon or another.
Different enemies have immunities to different things - ghosts are immune to support and weapon styles, while demons are immune to magic and support styles. So, it's important to be competent at one of each type, except transformation styles which are useless as anything other than flavor. Fights get to be fairly repetitious, despite their different immunities, your enemies are still basically vulnerable to the jump-around-like-monkey-that-really-has-t
You do have followers, and like the KOTOR titles they all have backstories that they'll reveal over time as you get to know them. Some of them are pretty funny, and the opportunity for romancing one or another of them is amusing. In a first for Bioware, same-sex romances are actually possible, too. But the romances are cheesy and overblown. Nothing to match, for instance, the incredible power of the moment in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" when Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien are drinking tea in an abandoned hut in the middle of a bamboo hut, and with the restraint born of years of repression, Li Mu Bai admits, "This makes me happy, this place, here with you." The yearning that the two of them feel for each other is palpable, though held back by the constraints of society and their own rigid decency. In "Jade Empire" character who you're trying to romance say things like, "I feel much for you. We will speak of this later. I am excited about it." Can you feeeeel the looooove?
Unlike KOTOR or KOTORII, you don't get to level up your followers along with the main character, and only one of them will accompany you at any given time. I just put them on "support mode" and forget about them, as they're basically useless as anything other than a chi-battery. Levelling up your own character involves increasing three attributes, and then putting points into your various interchangeable styles. There's no particular items to acquire, either - just gems that will increase your stats in various combinations. Gone is the careful shopping and outfitting of KOTOR, and your character never visually changes throughout the story... regardless of whether you choose to follow the Way of the Open Palm or the Way of the Closed Fist. In Kotor, if you chose Dark Side, you became hunched and withered and pale, like Pope Benedict - whereas if you went Light Side you glowed faintly and were radiantly healthy and upright. Your choices of armor and clothing in KOTOR were reflected in-game, but in "Jade Empire" there's no such variety.
Jade Empire is a game that has the visual and sound design (the music is proto-Chinese and sometimes very effective) that is top notch, as is to be expected form Bioware, but is a creative flop. It's a tired and hackneyed storyline with flat characters, boring character-development and unthrilling gameplay. What a let down.