Two years have pretty much passed since Bioware’s Jade Empire hit the old Xbox and wowed console gamers with another hit RPG. Like KotoR (Knights of the Old Republic) before it Jade Empire had a certain feel and power that was distinctly Bioware and definitely something special at the time.
Now it’s the turn for the PC to experience Bioware’s martial arts and magical romp through a mystical version of pseudo Asia.
There is a limited form of character customisation present, nothing that allows you to change the actual look of your persona, but you can distribute your points between certain core attributes to give yourself more strength, health and so on. Once you’ve done this, selected an extra combat style (you always have a basic set that you cannot alter) chosen a name, it’s off to the main story.
You begin life as a student of an old master, one of the typical stories that often surround these kinds of games. Of course this being Bioware, things do not go as planned and as you delve deeper into the seemingly clichéd events it becomes apparent that the storytelling is far from that.
There’s nothing clichéd about Jade Empire’s story, it follows the same path as that of the Xbox version and is linear (sorry Oblivion fans) guiding you from point A to B without much room for deviation (there are some side quests and some places you can explore)
Bioware have built on their KotoR dialogue system for the game, offering moral choices and an alignment system. You can waver between the Closed Fist and the Open Palm, one evil and one good respectively. By doing various side quests for good or bad characters you can gain rewards, these are sometimes spiritual and will further propel you down your chosen path, unlocking a few bonuses upon the way.
The combat system works really well on the PC with keyboard, mouse support. WASD for directions and the mouse controls the camera, with various short-cut keys to switch styles and so on. There is also flawless gamepad support for those people who like the console style of control.
The PC edition of the game adds a few redesigns, and of course a couple of new styles for combat: Viper and Iron Palm. As well as a new Rhino demon boss fight. I won’t spoil any of the content by elaborating upon it, since I feel these things have to be explored by the player.
For those of you looking for a World of Warcraft combat system, Jade Empire is far from it – for those who’ve never played it, it’s an action RPG and you have direct control over your main character in a fight. You can freely switch between the various (and there are lots) of styles, including transformation styles that allow you to take on new and dire forms (Toad Demon form!)
Bioware have included a simple level-up system that lets you distribute points between styles and other areas, it’s painless and easy to use whilst allowing you a fairly finite control over the various aspects of that fighting style.