Monday, January 30, 2017

"It''s a Video Game!" - Jade Empire

Next up for the month is another video game from my Xbox adventure last year. Back in 2005, Jade Empire, an action RPG, was released on the Xbox. It eventually made its way to the PC. It’s even on mobile platforms too. I had heard about the game back then but couldn’t play it for the obvious reason of I didn’t own an Xbox. I know it’s on PC as well but I’m not much of a PC gamer. I’m more of a politically incorrect gamer anyway… yes, that was a joke. I’ll show my way out now.

Anyway, Bioware developed the game. I guess this was one of the reasons they didn’t develop KOTOR 2 back then. Since I’m pretty much a seeker of anything Bioware-related and kung fu-related, I sought the game out and bought it.  I’m replaying it now to re-familiarize myself with it. From what I’ve read, the game was viewed positively back in the day. Unfortunately, those positives vibes didn’t get a sequel made. Considering what Bioware ultimately went through with franchises like Mass Effect, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Dragon Age, it’s possible they just didn’t have the time. The game also might not had sold well.
Obviously, these guys don't look like me.

Inspired by Chinese culture, Jade Empire takes place in a fictional land in Ancient China. In the game, you play as an orphan (in my playthroughs, “Chan the Endless” and “Stone Cold Larry”) who was adopted and taught by a man named Sun Li. Master Li runs a school in a small village. One day, the village comes under attack by the land’s empire and Master Li is taken. You and another student end up going on a journey to save him. On your journey, you gain more followers to the cause. The land isn’t doing well these days with spirits at unrest and the empire’s Lotus Assassins being shiftier than ever. You also learn skills, take up new weapons, and get stronger. You also have to choose between following two ways: The Way of the Open Palm or the Way of the Closed Fist.
Yes, I had fun doing this sort of thing.

I see why I’m still enjoying this game so much. I remember this being a pretty good game for the most part. The game more or less feels like a spiritual successor to Knights of the Old Republic in a lot of ways. The story is really molded after The Hero’s Journey which Star Wars takes a lot of cues from. It even reminds me of Avatar: The Last Airbender in its adherence to Chinese culture. You’re able to somewhat create your character from scratch. They’re preset looks, so you can’t go too crazy with them. You’re either male or female and you can choose what kind of style you want to use. You’ll also make a lot of decisions that will drive you down the Open Palm or the Closed Fist. It’s pretty similar to KOTOR’s Light side or Dark side. Just know I was Open Palm even though that palm was used to slap some idiots up. I was slap-happy, man!

Those are where the comparisons end though. The combat is in real-time instead of being turn-based. I doubt you could have something involve martial arts and have it be turn-based. The combat is pretty cool. Not only do you have different styles and weapons to choose from, you can even use magic to channel the elements and transform into creatures. You also only get to use one companion and the things with him/her is somewhat limited. Even if that’s the case, they have abilities that can help in battle. The story also takes an interesting plot twist toward the end. I won’t spoil it but it did catch me off guard when I saw it. I did feel something like that might happen when I got closer to that twist though.
Preset characters and companions together.

The graphics and sounds are pretty good. The areas look pretty detailed and the areas you’ll visit are big and nice. Just wait till you see Heaven and the foxes that may make men drool… yes, the foxes looked foxy. The companions are good for the most part. They all vary in personality, looks, and styles. My favorites were Sagacious Zu, Sky, Silk Fox, Dawn Star, and Henpecked Hou. Yes, they have some weird names. If you’re wondering why I gave my guys weird names, this is why. The voice-acting is also pretty good. You’ll definitely recognize some familiar voices in the cast especially this one British gent.
Yes, that's a  fox with a woman's body. Somewhere, someone on the Internet might has fainted.

While there is a lot to like, there are a couple of problems. One of the biggest things is the camera which can be cumbersome. It’s definitely like this during the combat. As for the combat, it can get repetitive at times. Luckily, there are multiple ways to take guys down. There are a couple of companions that are okay but not too fleshed out.  That could do with the game’s length. The game feels somewhat short. My first playthrough was about 20 hours which is long, but I do wish that some things got explained more. A few (not too many) more hours would have been nice.  Lastly, it kind pulls a little too much from Star Wars for me especially in the story department. Just be looking for a threatening, masked sucker.
Hmm... I find that the lack of lightsaber is disturbing.

Overall, this is a good game. I don’t think it’s the best of Bioware’s games but it has a lot of good things with it. Add the fact that the story, while familiar, does try to use original ideas. If you can check out anywhere, go for it. If you especially are looking for something similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender, then definitely check this out. You may like it. Well, I’d say I’m done but I have one more left. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and remember that sometimes, you just have to be a little silly.

You know, one of the random names from the generator was "Sweaty Hong." Let's just say I almost went a little dirty with that one.

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