Sunday, July 24, 2005

Jade Empire Completed

I won Jade Empire last night; roughly 48 hours of play time and I followed the Path of the Open Palm (essentially the "light side").

I really enjoyed the game. It has a solid story, good quests and side quests, some interesting characters (some better than others), and fun real-time combat.

The game ramped up towards the end from the last time I posted about it, so overall it has a good begining, smeh-middle, and great ending. Some of the final battles were intense, though I found a combination of Styles that allowed me to really cheap some of the more powerful enemies. Go, go, Storm Dragon Support Style.

The game's worlds and environments look beautiful, the voice acting and music are excellent (though I found Sagacious Zu and Sky sounded too much alike), the controls simple to use, and the game has an overall smooth presentation.

The mythical Chinese setting is also a background I've never explored before, so it was refreshing to see similar game monsters (Ogres, Demons, Golems) presented from the perspective of a completely different culture, as most RPGs are medieval based.

I found the ending suitable to the game, it didn't feel anti-climatic, tied things up nicely, and even lets you know what happens to all of your surviving followers. Actually, in many respects, I find Jade Empire feels a lot like Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords without the influence system and with a more closed and complete ending.

It is rumoured that BioWare Corp is developing Jade Empire 2 for the Xbox 360, however assuming the sequal takes place roughly several years or less after the ending of the original (as most sequals do), I'm not sure how they could do so based off the Open Palm Ending. I don't want to spoil anything, but let's say at least with the Open Palm, things to wrap up in a rather positive fashion.

I'll be playing through following the Way of the Closed Fist next (the "dark side"), so perhaps that ending will lend itself better to a sequal.

Anyway, a solid RPG experience, though the game does have a few short comings:

- Too Linear
You can travel to several different locations, but you really only have a few options at a time and you're often forced/guided to a specific one. You really don't get to travel about as you could in the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series

- Followers (Party Members)
I found a few Followers should have been developed better to allow more attachment for the player. When a few big things happen (not necessarily Follower death), I really didn't care much

- Duration
If you simply followed the game's critical path (ignoring side quests basically) and really focused/rushed on it, I can easily see players beating the game in under 20 hours. For an RPG I find that very, very short. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords took me roughly 79 hours on my first play through, though granted I take my time exploring everything, completing all Quests, and taking to many by-standers as I play.

Still though, for the amount of replayability that it's going to have, roughly 25 Styles in the game (you can really only master 4 to 6 per game), moral paths that affect Side Quests and character relations, Follower romances, and I also expect different Follower outcomes, such as who lives and dies, Jade Empire is well worth the $39.99 price tag it's now sporting.

If you're looking for a great Xbox RPG, pick this one up.

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