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Jade Empire

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(prices updated 9/21 9:11 AM )

Description official descriptions

A young apprentice of the old Master Li, a martial artist in the town of Two Rivers, is close to complete his or her training, when a group of ghosts led by a mysterious person attacks the town. Master Li explains that the leader was a member of the Lotus Assassins, a special force serving the Emperor of the Jade Empire, who also happens to be his brother. The student is revealed to be the last in the line of Spirit Monks, whose abode was destroyed several years ago by the Emperor's army. The student ventures into a nearby cave to retrieve a part of an ancient amulet; meanwhile, the assailants burn down the town and abduct Master Li. The student and a few companions decide to go all the way to the Imperial Capital and explore the Jade Empire in order to rescue the master, find the truth about the past, and discover the dark secrets of the Empire's rulers.

Jade Empire is a role-playing game set in a fantasy world which has strong similarities to China of the Qing dynasty (within some steampunk elements), incorporating not only classical elements of Chinese culture, but also supernatural beings and forces. Similar to other BioWare RPGs (such as Knights of the Old Republic) in general concept and features, the game has overall simpler gameplay and a somewhat smaller world.

The combat in the game is action-based, relying on various martial art techniques and moves performed by the protagonist. The player has direct control only over the main character, although other characters join the party; one of them can be selected to help the protagonist in battles, either for purely supportive purposes or as an additional combatant. The player character has three attributes: Body, Mind, and Spirit, which control the secondary parameters of Health, Focus, and Chi, as well as the conversation skills Charm, Intuition, and Intimidation. Focus energy is needed to fight with weapons (swords and staves), while Chi is used to heal the protagonist or perform supernatural attacks comparable to magic spells. Experience points are obtained from completing quests and vanquishing enemies, and allocated by the player to increase the protagonist's aforementioned attributes.

Quest and conversation system bears more similarities to previous BioWare RPGs than combat and character customization. There are many side quests in the game, some of which can be solved through dialogue, applying the main character's conversation skills. Many quests, including plot-related ones, can be solved in different ways. The protagonist may embrace either of the two major philosophies of the Jade Empire, Way of the Open Palm or Way of the Closed Fist, roughly corresponding to "good" and "evil" ideologies, respectively. Pursuing one of these ideologies rather than hesitating between the two may award the player character with various bonuses. The protagonist can also romance some of the companions, including same-sex relationships.

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Credits (Xbox version)

395 People (355 developers, 40 thanks) · View all

Lead Animator
Game Animation
Lead Cinematics Animator
Cutscene Art and Animation
Director of Animation
Motion Capture Performance and Choreography
  • The Smashcut Action Team
Motion Capture at
  • Giant Studios
  • Syncrude Center for Motion and Balance
Art Director
[ full credits ]



Average score: 88% (based on 42 ratings)


Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 31 ratings with 6 reviews)

Is this it? Unfortunately it is.

The Good
I 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 Bad
Now, 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 Line
No 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.

Xbox · by atrahasis (68) · 2005


The Good
Maybe the best part of the game are graphics and music. They fit each other so well. They graphics are really Chinese style. The music is not completely Chinese, but sounds very good.

The story is also very Chinese! Such a tale is typical for Chinese stories and movies. There is a big surprise in the middle of the game. But I could guess what this surprise will be! Because it is such a typically Chinese story. Generally, I liked the story.

I think the characters are very interesting. The princess is so beautiful! There are some parts of the story which are very touching. When people give their lives for you. Death's Hand is also a very interesting character. And there is a very beautiful story with the Water Dragon.

The story is not as simple as it looks in the beginning. Some things will happen that you will maybe not expect.

The gameplay is very simple, not so complicated. It's easy to remember your moves. There aren't so many things you should think of at the same time.

There is a very interesting "Good/Evil" system, so many times you should make different decisions that lead to different results. And there are many quests in the game.

"Jade Empire" has different endings. I love watching endings. They are very interesting and completely different. One of the endings is like Mao Zedong's time... if you know what I mean.

And there is a lot of humor! For example, how Black Whirlwind said: "When I was a child, I sucked my mom's breast, like all other men. I mean... like all other men suck THEIR OWN mothers' breasts".

The Bad
The battle system is very simple, but not very deep. There aren't so many choices in what you do during the fights.

My husband told me too many things about the game's story! So I guessed some of its surprises... or maybe I'm just too intelligent?

The Bottom Line
For people who don't understand Chinese culture and want a classic Chinese story, it's a very suitable game. I myself found the story a bit too typically Chinese. But the game is still very good and very fun to play.

Xbox · by Melody (48) · 2007

Empire? More like a little province

The Good
Like all other BioWare games, Jade Empire has charisma - you can't take that away from it. The game is set in a fresh pseudo-Chinese world, and at least the superficial elements of the culture are well-represented. Visuals, sounds, and gameplay elements such as martial arts contribute to the exotic atmosphere.

Like other BioWare products, Jade Empire has strong, witty writing. It is actually more humorous than their other games. There are amusing and comical characters (the scientist Kang and Black Whirlwind are worthy of being included in a Monkey Island game), quotes ("I find your optimism... disturbing"), and "evil" quest solution choices (to solve a love triangle situation, you can suggest that "the two women will fight to death, and the one who wins will get the man"). Most of the conversations are well-written and vivid.

Even though your companions have minimal impact on gameplay (more on that later), they don't just become static figures once they have joined you; you can talk to each one of them at any time, and they will have something new to tell you. And, true to BioWare's tradition, you can romance some of them. You can even have a gay or lesbian love relationship if you are into that sort of things. Or try romancing two characters at the same time and see how it turns out.

The main story is a bit on the simple side, but a cool plot twist comes just when you begin to think the "bunch of nobodies against an evil empire" tale has come to an unspectacular end. Jade Empire also has a few interesting antagonists, particularly Death's Hand, a character clearly influenced by Darth Vader from Star Wars movies, with a tragic past behind him.

Quests have become the "meat" of mainstream modern Western RPGs, and BioWare's games are famous for having involving sub-quests. Jade Empire, too, has quite a few memorable tasks you can tackle in different ways. Sometimes each one of those ways leads to another sub-quest, which varies depending on the choice you've made, and so on. For example, one time I was involved in a large quest which could be solved in two ways, I followed one of them, and it split into four (killing a corrupt judge, killing a weak-natured minister, ruining the career of the judge, or making the minister look ridiculous), each one with its own complications.

Other cool stuff includes arranging a marriage, comforting two spirits of children who were abandoned in an orphanage, investigating crimes for a police captain, acting in a theater, participating in a philosophical debate about Western and Oriental cultures, and more. Cleverly written dialogues with a lot of branches help to immerse the player in almost every conversation, though we are certainly not talking Baldur's Gate II quality here.

The Bad
Jade Empire is BioWare's first RPG they developed specifically for a console. I think that pretty much sums up its main deficiencies. It would be a mistake to assume that Jade Empire is just a typical BioWare RPG with a fresh setting. This game is all about style and very little substance.

Jade Empire has one of the smallest RPG words I've come across. There is one small town and one (admittedly large) capital city. That's it. It becomes even more ironic if you think about the supposedly Chinese setting. Imagine describing this game to someone who knows nothing about China; the first conclusion he will draw is that China is severely under-populated.

You could get away with lack of bustling urban life, but then you need something else to explore - the world itself, civilized or not. The shocking news here are that Jade Empire doesn't really have a world. There is nothing to connect between the game's two towns. There are a few dungeon-like areas (all obligatory), but there are no locations you can travel to just because you want to. You never feel you are exploring anything in this game, particularly since the hostile areas are as straightforward as they come.

The actual game progression is completely linear. Yes, you can choose different conversation lines, but most of them are cosmetic, and they don't change the sequence of events and the travel plan in any way. You arrive in the first town, complete the quests there, then move onto the capital, do the same, and... that's it. A short, fully streamlined sequence in the Underworld follows, after which you are taken straight to the final boss.

The Open Palm - Closed Fist ethical dualism feels contrived, artificially pasted over a game that wasn't made for it. First of all - disregarding the fact the game tries to tell you otherwise - these are just fancy names for "good" and "evil". Which would be okay if these categories were treated within the frames of an actual confrontation. In Knights of the Old Republic, the battle between the Jedi and the Sith is the actual core of the story, and hence the decisions you make as the protagonist feel integral to everything that happens around you. In Jade Empire, on the other hand, there is no large-scale conflict or any significance to the ethical ideologies besides being "nice" and "rude" to people.

One of the worst things they did here is the elimination of party-based gameplay. It is particularly irritating because the game keeps throwing colorful, interesting companions at you - but in the end, from the point of view of gameplay they are worth nothing. You can only take one companion at a time, and he or she will follow a primitive AI routine that is next to useless in direct combat and can only be marginally helpful in the benefits it provides to the protagonist (such as healing). What is the point in having fully developed characters if they are reduced to passive and very limited supportive roles? BioWare's strength has always been party-based combat systems; in Jade Empire, they tried to tread the path of action role-playing, but instead delivered little action and little role-playing.

Indeed, RPG mechanics underwent so many simplifications (such as the nearly non-existent equipment, dumbed-down character-building, etc.), that it could have just been an action title with role-playing elements. Nothing wrong with that, but then the action part should better be satisfying on its own. Unfortunately, despite all those martial moves, combat in Jade Empire is restricted, lacking in challenge, and thoroughly unexciting. Enemies pop out at pre-set locations (rather than roaming the environment), which means you fight when you are told to and cannot even leave the battle area until your foes have been vanquished. It all has a cartoony, watered-down flavor unbecoming both serious action games and RPGs.

The Bottom Line
Superficially, Jade Empire gives you much of the familiar BioWare goodness: well-written sub-quests in a refreshingly Chinese environment. However, that cannot change the fact that Jade Empire is small, short, and severely lacking role-playing depth. I had more fun with this game than with Neverwinter Nights, but for a true classic BioWare experience you should look elsewhere.

Xbox · by Unicorn Lynx (180491) · 2014

[ View all 6 player reviews ]


1001 Video Games

Jade Empire appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


Jade Empire, a Chinese-themed game with Chinese characters set in a mystical Chinese world, has no Chinese language in it whatsoever. All the signs and titles in the game have characters that look Chinese but in fact say nothing (both in modern cursive script and old disused ones). The old tongue "Tho Fan" used by certain characters (like the first weapon maker) is not Chinese but a constructed language developed by Wolf Wikeley, a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics at the University of Alberta.


  • In the town Tien's Landing, one of the commoners will tell you he doesn't foresee any trouble for the town (despite the opening of the dam which seriously threaten's the town's existence). One of the dialogue options you receive then is "I find your optimism... disturbing". This is a reference to Darth Vader's famous phrase "I find your lack of faith... disturbing" in the movie Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and a hint at Bioware's own Star Wars games, Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel.
  • During the credits of the game, the characters are talking as if they were actors. One quote is from Dawn Star, who says "There are four lights!". This is what Jean-Luc Picard yells at his captors in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Chain of Command" from season 6.
  • Some of the stories mentioned in Jade Empire are indeed myths from ancient China. One of the game characters is associated with the myth of Wan Hu. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Wan apparently constructed a chair with rockets attached to it that enabled him to fly to outer space. Other accounts treat this story as historical true but with a different outcome: Wan blew up into a thousand pieces that may or may not have made it to outer space. This story was a segment entitled "Ming Dynasty Astronaut" on the Discovery Channel show Mythbusters (Dec 5, 2004).


On June 13, 2005, Jack Wall's in-game music was released as a Audio CD of 75 minutes, divided over 31 tracks. The CD is available in select retail outlets in cooperation with Sumthing Else Music Works, Inc.

Voice acting

Even though many high-profile actors lent their voices to the game, the majority of the actors used in the game were actually actors from the Edmonton theatre community, the Canadian city where Bioware is located. It should be noted that there exists a certain amount of overlap in the case of such actors as Nathan Fillion, a well-known television star who happens to have been born in Edmonton.


  • GamePro (Germany)
    • February 23, 2006 - Best Console RPG in 2005 (Readers' Vote)
  • GameSpy
    • 2005 – #9 Xbox Game of the Year
    • 2005 – Xbox RPG of the Year

Information also contributed by lasttoblame, Nathan Taylor and NxCmp

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  • MobyGames ID: 17863


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Unicorn Lynx.

Xbox 360 added by Parf. Xbox Series, Xbox One added by andri_g.

Additional contributors: Jeanne, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack.

Game added May 29th, 2005. Last modified June 21st, 2023.