Publisher: Microsoft / Developer: Bioware / Genre: Role-Playing / Release: 04-14-05
Come April, the combined efforts of Microsoft and BioWare come to final completion as the long awaited Action-RPG, Jade Empire hits store shelves. Hyped forever and critically acclaimed, is the game that’s already being touted the next killer-app for Microsoft Xbox really all it’s cracked up to be? We’ll reserve judgement until our review but there’s no denying that between BioWare’s track record and the sheer ambitiousness of this title, there’s plenty to look forward to.
Keeping with that, I believe that Jade Empire is probably one of the hardest games to preview. Not that it’s a terrible game but the sheer amount of content and things to preview is very time consuming. Every time I turned around there was something new and exciting going on. I think that Jade Empire is Bioware’s baby and after declining to work on the sequel of Knights of the Old Republic, they may be coming back with a bang.
Let’s start by looking at the game as a whole:
What’s the Story, Morning Glory?
It’s ancient China and with it is the ancient Jade Empire. The recent Emperor Sun Hai has saved the entire empire from the disaster of drought and things seem perfectly peaceful on the exterior. In a little village called Two Rivers is a school of martial arts where Master Li trains young and flexible minds. One girl called Dawn Star senses an uneasy stirring within the spirit realm as ghosts and spirits seem to awaken and travel the earth again. Could Master Li’s students be the perfect candidates to set things right?
In another part of the empire, Emperor Sun appears prosperous. His right hand man, appropriately named Death’s Hand, is in charge of the Lotus Assassins and appears to be keeping things in order. Somehow people are suspicious and rightfully scared of this masked man that seems to have as much power as the Emperor himself. What could the kingdom be coming to?
This is the beautiful thing about Jade Empire. It’s a completely new universe. There aren’t any licensing restrictions or hoops to jump through. The Bioware team can run with an idea and then continue running with it if they want to. The story and your characters continue to progress as you make your way through the game and each action will have a reaction. It all depends on how you want to develop your character. Like I’ve said, it’s a beautiful thing, but I hope that there aren’t too many things to choose from, as it may become overwhelming.
Scenes From a World Beyond.
What role playing bonanza would be complete without a large array of scenery to choose from? The Bioware team has done a great deal of work to make the world of Jade Empire as expansive as possible.
The oldest (and most water damaged) village in the Empire. It’s a legendary place because it is said that the first Emperor, Sagacious Tien, stopped here on his way eastward to chart his new empire. However, the Emperor Sun, had other plans for Tien’s Landing to help end the drought about 20 years ago by damming the Silkworm River. Apparently the town neglected to tell its least favorite townsfolk that they were being flooded and thus condemned them to a watery grave. After word got around about this shady event, Tien’s Landing failed to become the important trading hub it once was before the drought.
If only cave walls could talk. This place would tell you about the wonder days of the quarry and the massive amount stones harvested there to build the Imperial Palace. It would also talk about the worsening conditions of the place and the convicts that were brought in to chip away at the stones of the cave. Not to mention that it is now located underneath the new post-flooded Tien’s Landing and that the convicts that worked in the caves were drowned when the dam was built across the Silkworm River. But maybe the walls aren’t needed to talk. In fact, if you ask the locals, you might run into a vengeful ghost that would be more than happy to give you a tour of the place. Although, I don’t know if that would be advised.
The Temple of Dirge
If you’re beginning to see a theme of ghosts and malevolent spirits, you might be right on the button. The Temple of Dirge is more of the same vein. It used to be a monastery until a battle a few decades back wiped out all of the monks that lived there. In the Jade Empire of today if you visit the old fortress, you might catch spirits replaying the past battle over and over. You might also find yourself lost or trapped in the old building. Of course you’d probably have to make your way up the mountain and the snowy steps to get inside. But why would you be interested in going there? Only time will answer that question.
Did you ever think you would get to see another city surrounded by waterfalls outside of Dinotopia? The recent Emperor Sun Hai modified the Imperial Palace to have giant dragon mouths spouting gushing water on the land below. When I say land below, I mean it. The Palace actually floats above the exact center of the Empire which is host to the richest lands around. Can it get any better to be the Emperor?
It’s a quiet little village that even the Emperor Sun has probably not heard of… yet. The only noticeable thing about this place is the martial arts guru, Master Li. Why would he pick such an obscure place to train children who are just now making their way out of adolescence? Because everyone knows that a budding adult makes the best epic hero. Who better to slay the tyranny that has fallen over the land?