BioWare's firstparty Xbox RPG is finally here, but is it as stunning as we all thought? Our full review tells all.
By Ben S. Dutka
For the most part, BioWare has gone with quality over quantity. When they do finally produce a game, it's generally top-notch in terms of overall quality. BioWare's forte lies in the RPG realm, although accusations regarding a lack of innovation; sticking with the same formula and all so on, have recently surfaced.
Still, its contribution to this generation has been excellent. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic leads the charge, and after the second installment in that series, BioWare releases Jade Empire, another highly anticipated RPG. Jade Empire has its roots in the KOTOR format, but feels a lot fresher and more original. The typical flair we all know and love is decidedly evident, but it offers something unique that should appeal to all fans of the genre.
We start with the visuals, and after several hours, it becomes quite apparent that the design and creativity takes center stage. The technical side of the graphics is spectacular as well, but it's clear the developers wanted to immerse the player in a beautiful world of deep color and vivid imagery. There is some choppiness during cut-scenes, but while they can't be overlooked, the quality of the presentation overrides these small hiccups.
The forests, dungeons, and especially the towns are ripe with overflowing style and panache. It will take about 6-8 hours to reach the Imperial City, but when you do, you'll find it was worth the wait. The character design seems slightly uninspired - you will stumble upon new NPC's that look suspiciously identical to an NPC from a previous area - but that's only a minor complaint. As a whole, JE is a sight to behold.
While the graphical display exhibits that wonderful flair, the sound does not. For whatever reason, it appears the developers wanted to downplay the intensity of battle with repetitive and oddly muted melodies.
The classical foundation for each soundtrack works while exploring towns (to a point), but fails to bring out the action-packed power of each great battle. On the flip side, the voice-acting is fantastic, highlighted by a delightful cameo performance by John Cleese in the Imperial City. In the end, it's not as if the soundtrack isn't well-done, it just lacks punch, and the sound overall is quite good.
BioWare has historically centered their gameplay on quasi-turn-based battles that allow for both fast-paced action and strategic elements. Jade Empire doesn't necessarily feature a revolution, but perhaps it presents an evolution of the tried-and-true format. You will only control your main character, although there will be a support character to assist you in combat.
This support fighter is entirely controlled by the computer, and you only have a maximum of two options for this character: Attack or Support. Each assisting fighter has a different support style, such as increasing the attack power of your martial arts, or restoring your health or Chi.
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E3 2004: Trailer from conference (640x480, 1Mbps)
E3 2004: Direct feed gameplay (640x480, 1Mbps)
E3 2004: Showfloor gameplay footage (640x480, 1Mbps)
E3 2003: Direct feed, hi-res trailer (480x360, 1864kbps)