SummaryIs this it? Unfortunately it is.
The GoodI really liked the setting of the game. The ideas concerning the world are quite nice, even though from time to time the "world-creation" felt as if it had been a bit automated. What I mean by automated is that the feeling I got was "okay, we got X in the real world - let's change that to something similar but not quite the same". This isn't per se a bad thing but when it shines through to much, as I think it does from time to time, that's not so good. The music, as always in Bioware-games was great and set a perfect mood, good enough actually, that I wouldn't be a stranger to buying a soundtrack.
The BadNow, let's get to the less fun part. What I didn't like about this game can, again unfortunately, be summed up in - the game. I found it to be for the most time boring at times really awful then at some occasions quite nice. If I would put it in numbers I suppose it'd look something like this: boring - 90%, awful - 9%, nice 1%. But why? This game has received excellent remarks everywhere and for the first time in a very long time, I am completely unable to understand why (it often happens that I don't agree but that another thing all together). To begin with, the control is, in my opinion, terrible for the most part and unbearable for the remaining part. Fighting many enemies at a time isn't difficult (another aspect I will return to later) but just frustrating, this mainly due to the way the control works. As for the enemies themselves, they're pretty much the same all through the game, slightly different looks and minor changes to the way the act, but for the most part just different on the surface. Of course there are bosses and your occasional demon here and there but that makes a very small part of the game. Concerning the bosses, they're uninteresting, both in terms of design and the way they act. I'll be getting back to the bosses soon, but first I have to say something about the overall difficulty, which wasn't there. This wasn't a difficult game at all, and I really mean at all - during the first half I died three times, I didn't remember to count the number of deaths after that, so I can't say for sure but it wasn't many times more. Now back to the bosses and the way they played in terms of difficulty. When designing a boss it is important to convey information to the player as to how s/he is supposed to act to take the boss down. In Jade Empire this was pretty much non-existent. I dare say Bioware has never really made a single good boss - and not even a difficult one (if you ask me). Sure I know Serevok takes a great deal of time for many to take down and the same goes for, say Melisan, but this isn't really, in my opinion difficulty - it's bad design. The same goes for the bosses in Jade Empire. Difficulty in games cannot be put equal to having to play over and over again, that can be a part, but it's not the whole deal. Why is this? Because even though I didn't die many times fighting with the bosses in Jade Empire, I felt the same feeling that I felt when fighting Serevok (by whom I was killed a great many times). Difficulty would be more, a case of having to really stay focused and use all of your arsenal to stay alive. Or to phrase it somewhat different, to pitch a level 40 enemy versus a level 15 isn't about difficulty, whereas pitching the level 15 versus a level 19-20 would be difficulty. The other is just... annoying. And frustrating. Now over to the role-playing aspect, which isn't there... either. If you mean role-playing in terms of action role-playing. however, it's there, but it's not very good. The system they've developed is somewhat like that in Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, but not enough like it to be good (as it is in BG:DA). It is quite uninteresting to gain more proficiency in a certain fighting style but that could be saved by the quite impressive amount of fighting styles available, but it's not. The fighting styles are also to similar and there's too little variation (this could however be partly my fault, maybe I played it the wrong way to get full satisfaction from the number of styles). There's also a feat-like system where you gain permanent modifications to your stats, however this too has far to little variation to it to be at all interesting. Further, there's an amulet that you wear in which you can put stones that give you modifications to your stats for the period of time their in the amulet. This system works the same way as the feat-like system and is also (by now maybe not quite surprising) uninteresting. Now over to the length of the game. I suppose that approximately 20 hours (give or take) could be considered short, I won't give my personal opinion, as I just wanted it to end after 10 hours already. There's also a mini-game in Jade Empire which could have been nice, at least the addition of it is. However, it is horrible, as I fan of the "space-shooter" genre I feel insulted and I will have a hard time repressing the memory of it. If, by now you start to feel that my review is boring, perhaps a bit repetitive, easy to see what is coming and so on, just substitute my review with Jade Empire and you've got it on the spot. Last of all, the story. This is a hard one. It's delivered by actors that really seem to have no idea how to act, seriously - I could do it better and no, I can't act. At all. Not once through the whole game did I get the feeling that they were actually talking to someone (me or some other character in the game) the only thing I felt was people standing in a studio reading lines - and doing a pretty bad job at it. The whole audio part, except for the music, felt really lame and uninspired. But back to the story. It's hard to say if it's good or bad. In one way, it's fairly good - even though it was pretty easy to see what was coming through out the game, but there wasn't anything special about the story. It's the same story Bioware's told in both Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic and it's been told by others a million times and many of those times better than what Bioware presents in Jade Empire. Sure there are a few twists and turns but they're about as surprising as if a person came up to you and said it hurts to be hit by a train - not at all surprising that is.
The Bottom LineNo matter what you're looking for there are many games that can do what Jade Empire does and a whole lot better. If you're looking for games that fit into roughly the same genre as Jade Empire, look for Champions of Norrath, Hunter the Reckoning or better yet, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 1&2. They're all better in terms of gameplay and you do pretty much the same thing in Jade Empire and all of the above in terms of gameplay, press one button over and over again, move around a little and then press it again - occasionally pressing another button and then start all over. Personally I'd say Baldur's Gate DA delivers a better story than Jade Empire too. If you're looking for role-playing or fighting there's many, much better games than this, you can for instance check out some of Bioware's earlier games or better yet check out anything by Black Isle/Obsidian. The only person I'd recommend this for is someone who really loves action RPG, has played ALL available AND really, really loves Chinese myth.