Jade Empire

Moby ID: 17863
Xbox Specs

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 41 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

A good game that actually was still ok compared to the glory of BioWare's KOTOR

The Good
The story line was very fun and the twist in the plot got the story going. The graphics and sound of the game were second to none. The different combat styles made the game fun to play. The characters were very fun to play with and kept the game going. The areas were large to explore and made the game interesting. The interesting plot made the game replayable.

The Bad
The combat got a little repetitive since some creatures would all go down to the same combat moves. This games storyline seemed a bit too short compared to KOTOR. The music was ok but i think they could have done a bit better. There weren't a lot of weapons to choose from and the weapons that were there weren't that good. if they made another one of this (i wouldn't expect them to) they should add more weapons.

The Bottom Line
Defiantly for all BioWare fans, RPG fans and people who want a game that goes along with Chinese mythology.

Xbox · by Todd Bello (28) · 2006

Welcome To The Jade Empire

The Good
Long in development for the Xbox, Jade Empire finally was released in 2005. It marks a first for Bioware as their first original IP. Jade Empire is an action/RPG, set in a mythical version of ancient China. Jade Empire, came in two variety, a regular, and a limited edition, being a fan of Bioware’s RPGS, I got the limited edition. Which includes the kickass Monk Zheng, perhaps the best character. And Jade Empire is quite possibly Bioware’s best game.

In Jade Empire, you are a student at a quaint martial arts school. Under the tutelage of Master Li, you have become the most promising student of the school. You were orphaned at a young age, and made friends with another orphan Dawn Star. One fateful day, the school is attacked by pirates. Fighting of the corsairs, you learn to your dismay that they were after you. Master Li, sends you off to meditate, where you learn that you are actually the last of the “Spirit Monks”. A group responsible for shepherding lost souls to the after life.

After your emergence you learn that Dawn Star has been abducted. From here the plot thickens, and as per RPG fashion, and your school is burned down by the Empire, and you are introduced to Death’s Hand, the personal body guard of the Empire. The tale continues, with lost souls, turned to madness, as they are unable, to find eternal rest, and a corrupt Empire, that nearly destroyed the world.

In Jade Empire, you can be good, open palm, evil, closed fist, or even neutral. There are also multiple endings. You also have an array of fighting styles to master. From weapons, to hand-to-hand, to magics. As per Bioware’s games, the player can help their party members solve various problems. And even have a romance with some. If you are a male you can romance Dawn Star, Silk Fox, or both. You can pursue a gay relationship with Skye. If you are a female, you can also pursue Skye, as well as Silk Fox, sorry ladies Dawn Star only likes men.

Fights are in real time. Where you can switch styles on the fly. And have up to one follower or party member with you at a time. They can either help you fight, or support you in various ways, from healing you, to my favorite throwing bottles of wine, so that you can use drunken master style.

In JE, you do not wear any armor, likely because you are a martial artist. Instead, you equip a medallion, that has slots for gems, that have various effects, from boosting stats, to helping you become more well-spoken.

As per most RPGS, there are various side-quests to under take, from gambling, to helping out citizens. It is wise to finish any and all quests before moving on, as there is a point in the game in which you cannot return to previous areas.

The Graphics in Jade Empire, are amazing. As one would expect as a late run Xbox game, and one from Bioware. The areas and inhabitants of the Jade Empire are all very convincing. It is very refreshing to see an RPG set in mythical China, instead of sci-fi, or more traditional fantasy.

The sound department soars as well. Voice acting is top notch, the kind of quality we have come to expect from Bioware. There is even a fictional language used in the Empire, sorta of like the alien languages of KOTOR. The sound effects are great, which is often neglected in RPGS. The music is excellent, and conveys a Asian world very well.

The Bad
Jade Empire is a short RPG, even by short RPG standards. You can finish it off in about 15 hours, less if you do not undertake the side quests.

It is also a very easy game, even on the harder settings. But at least it does not have a shitty plot twist like KOTOR. Actually the plot twist in Jade Empire is awesome. Usually in RPGS I can see the plot twist coming a mile away, this was not the case here.

The Bottom Line
Jade Empire is perhaps, Bioware’s finest game to date. Yes even toppling the mighty SW:KOTOR. RPG and Xbox enthusiasts will love this game. And can now find it for about $20, and usually you can still find the limited edition, so you have no excuse not to play this game.

Xbox · by MasterMegid (723) · 2006

[ 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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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 October 9th, 2023.