THE TRIBUNAL: Jade Empire (Microsoft Xbox)


Order! Order in the Tribunal Court!

*Looks for gavel*

Well it looks like I forgot to borrow the gavel from Alex. Anyway, welcome one and all to the Tribunal Hall, we gather here today to take a second and third look at the newest RPG on the Xbox. Jade Empire please step forward.

Jade Empire stands before the court today to prove it’s worth. You promise us a hands on action experience the like which no one has seen in an RPG. You promise us a role playing system that is equal or better than the already incredible games you have created in the past. You promise a game that will appeal to action gamers and role playing gamers alike. Those are some big pants to fill and today we will make sure that those pants fit. Or something.

Today your judges are Chuck Platt, Matthew Yeager and Alex Lucard. Are you ready for…THE TRIBUNAL?!


Judge #1: Matthew Yeager:

When I first heard about Jade Empire it sounded too good to be true, a Bioware RPG with an action system set inside a mythical Hong Kong universe. Personally, I’m not a big fan of traditional role playing game and really dislike turn based battles though I’ve always liked the deeper story lines and customization found in those type of games. I had only played one Bioware RPG prior to Jade Empire, Knights of the Old Republic, however the battle system in that game often felt it was playing itself to me. No matter how I felt about the battle system I couldn’t deny how much fun it was to choose how I played the game, so the prospect of having the number of choices as in previous Bioware games combined with a martial arts style of action made sure that I had this game reserved.

With the blend of action and role playing this game has it is sure to draw in some fans of action games as well as role playing fans, but there’s only one problem, the two styles work pretty well together in Jade Empire but considered on their own merits, nether one is done very well.

The action of the game is done in a rock/paper/scissors format. I’ve got no problem with rock/paper/scissors, but the problem with this system is that all the styles work exactly the same in that system. All weapon or martial art styles work in this same method making some of the various styles feel like your just using different animations than really using different styles. Any fan of action games is likely going to be disappointed by the lack of depth, not to mention how easy the game is. While the ability to have more of a hands on role in a role playing game is appreciated I was expecting a deeper combo/counter move system that would make the action sequences in the feel closer to an actual kung fu fight instead of just tapping the A button over and over again. Still the system does work, is responsive and the only major complaint that I can think of is the fact that switching styles is a pain sometimes due to the sensitivity of the Xbox D-Pad. In trying to find a balance between action games and RPG’s Jade Empire comes up with a system that might be a bit shallow for people used to more, but it works well within the game.

The combat system in Jade Empire may not be as deep as some action games but it could’ve still be an interesting fighting system if it wasn’t for the AI of the game. It’s like watching Mike Tyson beat up a palsy victim at times it’s so easy. Even at the higher settings the computer doesn’t appear to grow more aggressive as it just seems to do more damage. Imagine playing rock/paper/scissors but know that the other person is going to always chose rock, it’s like that sometimes.

Despite it’s flaws Jade Empire is a great experience and a very good action RPG for the Xbox. If you are a fan of either action games or role playing games I’d recommend at the very least going out and renting the game to see where the future of action/RPG’s is heading. With some work on the AI and smoothing out some of the minor issues of lag and switching styles a sequel to Jade Empire could be fantastic.


Judge #2: Chuck Platt

I remember the first time I was made aware of Jade Empire. It was the cover story for PLAY magazine, in the months before I realized that Dave Halverson was dead to me. The preview inside painted a world of Chinese legend, with strange demons, witchy women, ambiguous moral dilemmas, interesting followers, and various martial arts forms. I was entranced. I soon sought out all the screens and images I could, trying to contain my
excitement. And I didn’t even have my XBOX, yet. After my brother gifted me with the mighty XBOX, the only hardware with Illuminati Inside, I bought the previous Bioware epic Knights of the Old Republic, despite the mouth full of bile taste that giving George Lucas money. I hate to admit it, but I loved KOTOR. It had micromanagement, upgradable followers, and tons of dialogue choices. It was so good I was able to look past the rather flat moral ambiguities, hack until it dies combat, and inane plot twist. If only I had known that Jade Empire would throw out the likable qualities and make the problems even more pronounced. Ugh.

I pre-ordered Jade Empire from a local corporate game store and cleared my gaming schedule, figuring that I would be intoxicated by it until I could not even look at other games. I purchased the Strategy Guide, so my second trip through could be with 100% completion and proceeded to call the game store Tuesday at noon. No dice. I waited, my live a dull gray without the wonders of Jade Empire, until it finally came in on Wednesday. I awoke my beloved and we trekked across town to pick up my new mistress. What a cock tease. I got home with JE and had only two hours of play time, enough to create a character, download the bonus disc contents, and create a second character. I was also able to play up until the Lotus Assassin’s boat load of trouble arrived. I went to work ready for more.

I was busy all day Thursday, but Friday I netted two more hours of play, getting deep into Tien’s Landing. At this point, I had learned that Heavenly Wave, weapons, and magic were no match for a Martial Art with some points in it (Leaping Wolverine… I mean Tiger) and that Focus was a waste of time and energy. In Tien’s Landing, where the big “ambiguous” moral decisions were to strike, I found little of the sort. Sure, I could get some money out of the circumstance, but real power comes from leveling your character up. Besides, the Dam Site location is such a joke, anyway. Shouldn’t you character just leap across where the bridge is folded and take care of it without dealing with the ghosts? What good is it to be an ancient Chinese Neo wannabe if you cannot jump 30 feet?

Story: Truth is, the issues I have with the game started to pile up at this point. The Open Palm/Closed Fist thing was a joke, to the point that the exclusive Martial Arts they get are pretty similar. Hell, the only thing worth doing in Tien’s Landing is buying Storm Dragon style and acquiring the services of Black Whirlwind. The plot was shaping up to be the old “You are so f*cking awesome, save the world with the help of your compatriots” claptrap. It was when the first clues to Dawn Star’s identity came to light that I figured out why Alex hated this game so and why I was starting to hate it even more…


Seriously, look at the plot:

An Emperor seeking power equal to the Gods, who is cut down by a subordinate with even more evil intentions.
Final Fantasy VI! Sun Li is Kefka!

A Princess who is forced to use a disguise to go underground and find out how evil the Empire she will inherit is.
Final Fantasy IX! Dawn Star is Dagger!

A mad genius who was working for the bad guys but now works for you and has an airship?
Final Fantasy IV! Kang is any number of Cids!

The protagonist is the last inheritor of some sort of magical power that is thought dead.
Final Fantasy… well, that’s almost every god damned RPG ever.

The point is this: the plot is a pastiche of almost every lame cliche that Square has ever used. I kept waiting for the big sacrifice from a character when Sagacious Zu pulled an Aeris. Come on people! It’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Chocobo!

Usually the hardest category to score, Balance in this game can be summed up very concisely: I beat the last boss in 30 seconds. THIRTY SECONDS! I kept expecting Sun Li to rise again as some sort of evil dragon monster or something after I prison raped him, but he just lay still, even after I poked him with a stick and brought some neighborhood kids by to throw rocks at his corpse. Weaksauce.

The truth is, if I can beat your game, you are either Squaresoft, or you are making your games way to easy. I suck. I’m stupid. I made Jade Empire my bitch. If I can piece together the Storm Dragon, Focus, Jade Golem combo, then some 11 year old kid has beaten this game without even touching it. He just looked hard at the box and it was beaten. Damn kids.

Are you a masochist with no need for quality? Buy this game. Otherwise, the soul crushing plot, bland side quests, and flawed combat will be beneath your contempt. This game proves that a nice looking game with no soul is the worst blight to hit gaming since Majesco. A fine rental but do not drop $50 on this. You will regret it.

Judge #3: Alex Lucard

Jade Empire is a good game. But that’s all it is. Rent it, and play through it. If it’s your cup of tea, then for sure buy it, and especially the LE version if you’re into the extras and want to see the character you can only play as in that version. It’s better than other games that are similar to it like Fable, but other games like Dark Alliance 2 provide a better action RPG experience, and at half the cost. Like I said at the beginning, you can look at Jade Empire as very good 3D action game with a 2D vertical scrolling shooter mixed in, or an average RPG game with a 2D vertical scrolling shooter mixed in. Worth checking out, but you won’t find any challenges hidden within.

And now to the final Judgement!
Score1: 7.5

Score2: 4.5

Score3: 7.0

Final Judgement: 6.5 (ABOVE AVERAGE)

It is the decision of the Tribunal that while Jade Empire introduces some new things to the Action/RPG field, ultimately the flaws of the game, keeps Jade Empire from becoming a truly great. If you can look past the faults mentioned above, then give Jade Empire a shot, but rent before you buy.



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