Go for Jade

As in Jade Empire. Of course, the Jade in Beyond Good and Evil truly and completely rocks, but we're talking about the Empire today.

My buddy Nelson finished Jade Empire a while back and wrote his thoughts about it. He said it was "very good, but not great." Fair enough, but I found it very awesome.

The story line was the hook. It was great to follow the story through the characters, their experiences, and the world on your screen. It was very well done. Small side stories really drew you in (e.g. concern for the girl about to be sold into servitude unless she can help her father). All of the narrative and background portrayed a very rich world, filled with history, invention, and peoples. And not only, but there are two entirely distinct stories that roughly (but not quite) map onto good or evil.

Follow that up with some very amazing graphics, fluid animations, and a responsive combat system, and the experience was great. It was well worth the 30 hours to get through the game; you could probably get through faster if you don't go for every side quest like I did.

Combat in Jade Empire is one of the best I've seen in a while, although it still doesn't beat that of Beyond Good and Evil. In Empire, you have a selected target to attack. If something gets in your way... fine. They get hit, too. It is easy to switch targets (a quick press of the left or right trigger), but it isn't as fluid as BG&E where you just push the left stick in a direction. In both games, your character does a smooth transition from wherever they are towards their new target, flowing their combat moves appropriately. The lock-on in Empire does serve a good purpose in that you can jump over your foe and immediately slice them in the back. And this is where it falls down. Combat becomes a matter of "jump over them to evade their attacks, smack 'em a few times, jump over, ..." And I never really found a need to use anything beyond a sword attack and a fist attack which I got at the beginning of the game. Other weapons and attacks come along, but it is hard to switch to them after you've invested so much in upgrading those first attacks. And those initial attacks can carry you through the game.

Jade Empire is an excellent game, and I highly recommend it. It has one of the best story lines that I've seen in a long time. While the quest variety does not match games from the Elder Scrolls series, it can provide many additional hours of fun. For RPG lovers, Jade Empire is a must-have for your collection.

No comments: