Taking the Empire for a Test Drive
It took a little bit of waiting to get a demo for Jade Empire, but all the waiting paid off. After the initial warning that I could potentially have a seizure, I got to drive right in.
You can pick from any of the six main characters on the demo. Of course, Monk Zeng is out of the picture for the time being. I ended up playing through with six characters, but before you choose, it will detail the benefits of each one as your choice. You can sacrifice speed for strength with Tiger Shen, find someone a little more well balanced like Wu or Lu, or choose Scholar Ling the magic user. Depending on your fighting style, you may want to choose carefully. Remember, this is a live-action RPG and the fighting system is a little bit different than playing Neverwinter Nights or Knights of the Old Republic.
The beginning starts out with a cinematic scene. Kang the Mad is taking you to the Temple of Dirge in his Marvelous Dragonfly contraption. The only precursor you get is the fact that there are some activities that need investigation. So there you go on your own down a giant staircase where you witness a horse demon frying some nameless fighter. You don’t make it on time to save the poor sap, but you do get to see your character at the bottom of the stairs in a fighting pose when the demon turns around at the end of the cut-scene.
Then it’s time to tame the horse. Depending on your character there are different forms of attack. At first, I had some trouble getting down the controls; when in doubt, press the white button because you can use your chi to refill your life meter. In this demo all your characters have the same feats. You can pull out the Leaping Tiger, use Fortune’s Favorite to shoot off chi missiles, or grab the old trusty long sword to hack your way through the horse. Whichever you choose, one the horse is defeated you absorb the ability to transform into a horse demon with all the special features of a firey-skeletal horse thing.
On a quite positive note, the graphics were very good. I felt there was a lot of thought and direction with the graphics and even with the grainy quality you get in demos, it didn’t affect it much. The controls were also easy to get a handle on. The menu screens were helpful and told you everything you needed to know to get your character running. Frankly, it leaves me excited to see the finished product.
There’s plenty more to be said about Jade Empire but frankly, if I said it all, I’d never finish this little article. With a huge cast of characters, an intriguing story and some killer graphics, I’m encouraged that Bioware is just standing up to the name that they have made for themselves. The last thing I want to see, however, is another Fable. Hype can kill a game before it ever sees daylight.
Just keep it here for our review, and if you want more information on the game before it comes out you can always stop by the Bioware Official Jade Empire Homepage.